Snazzy FX The Mini-Ark Pedal Review
October 20, 2010
A wild pitch tracker for those with the time to tweak
|Download Example 1|
Switching between the first three settings on the Magical Selector dial. Played through a Diamond Positron into an Emperor 4x12 loaded with Weber C1265s mic'ed with a Shure SM57.
|Download Example 2|
Intentionally erratic to illustrate the pedal's ability to react to input sensitivity. Square wave only sent to a B52 AT-100 and a custom 4x12 loaded with Celestion seventy-Eighties, mic'ed with a Studio Projects C1 LDC.
|Download Example 3|
Ultra-random, last setting on Magical Selector dial. Square wave only sent to a B52 AT-100 and a custom 4x12 loaded with Celestion seventy-Eighties, mic'ed with a Studio Projects C1 LDC.
|All clips recorded using a Gibson SG.|
Into the Wild
While the Mini-Ark can look and sound intimidating to the uninitiated, it’s simply a pitch-tracker. It reads your incoming pitch and uses it to control the pitch of an analog square-wave voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO).
With its large psychedelic silk-screened control surface, six knobs, three rotary switches (one is named “Magical Selector”), two footswitches, and two toggle switches, this pedal is likely to excite synth-gurus and, at least at first, scare the pants off of everyone else. But even those unfamiliar with analog modular synthesis can begin to unlock this pedal’s secrets with a modicum of effort.
The 6-position Octave selector allows you to set the VCO at different octave positions (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2, +3). The 8-position Interval knob lets you select different harmony intervals. And the Hold knob is the volume for yet another synth harmony set at a fixed octave below the input signal. Because each of these three harmony generators has a dedicated Level knob, you can mix them independently.
The Mini-Ark also has a knob for setting the balance between synth and instrument at the pedal’s Out jack. You can also divide guitar and synth signals using the Square-wave output jack. This is particularly useful when you want to send your guitar to one amp and pipe the analog synth signal in its pristine glory to a second amp or channel.
You can select various modes via the 8-position “Magical Selector” switch. The first mode is straightforward pitch tracking that can be modified with the octave, interval, and other controls. The other modes contain algorithms that launch the VCO into noise, vibrato, swells, multi-octave bends, and random pitch patterns.
Space and Beyond
Plugging in my Gibson SG, I first adjusted the pedal’s Input Sens knob, a control that allows you to optimize your instrument level for the Mini-Ark’s pitch tracking brain. This is quick and easy to determine by ear, though the manual also recommends backing off the guitar’s tone knob to allow the pedal to track without being confused by your instrument’s natural overtones.
As long as you play notes articulately and accurately, the Mini-Ark will perfectly track even speedy lead lines and subtle bends. As the pedal tracks your pitch, it also sends your playing strength to the CV output, allowing you to control any device with a CV input (including the Snazzy FX “Tracer City” analog filter box) with your dynamics.
Even in the other, more radical modes, the Mini-Ark interacts dynamically with pick attack and other playing nuances, and you can mix the synth sounds with your dry guitar signal. And though you may not always be able to predict exactly what will happen, such weirdness mixed with a sensitive touch can make the strangest sounds quite musical.
The Mini-Ark isn’t a plug-and-go pedal, particularly if you don’t have analog synth experience. But it isn’t a complete bear to decipher, and it can be very intuitive once you’ve spent some time learning how the various controls affect your tone and one another. And as radical as many of the sounds and applications can seem, there is a real expressive potential in this pedal that can enhance fairly traditional playing when used as a texture. In a feature role, the Mini-Ark can inspire whole directions for a song. However you use it, The Mini-Ark is your ticket out of the been-there-done-that sonic doldrums.
you’re excited by a musical, all-analog guitar pitch-tracker that expands your creative potential.
you’re looking to perfect Clapton’s Disraeli Gears woman tone.
Street $449 - Snazzy FX - snazzyfx.com
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