A new low-end effect with a treasure trove of tweakable tones.
Source Audio has been capturing the hearts and minds of effect-hungry low-enders. They’ve delivered wobble-bass and synth-like tones to devotees of dubstep and other EDM styles. And now they’ve taken things to the next phase (pardon the pun) with the Soundblox 2 Manta Bass Filter.
Ray of Hope
The Manta is a powerful multi-effector with a varied and impressive palette. Real estate is precious on any pedalboard, so I was happy to see that the Manta is only about half the size of previous Soundblox pedals. The aluminum enclosure is sturdy, and purple is the perfect color for this funkified animal.
The pedal lets you shape tones with straightforward parameters, providing a dynamic collection of useful sounds. The layout is fairly easy to navigate, though it did take time for me to figure everything out—this is not your typical two-knob filter pedal! The Manta features 12 filter effects and eight distortions. Once you select an effect, you can specify its envelope, speed, and depth. The option-select button provides additional control, including resonance, effect mix, and drive type.
The Manta supports MIDI control via both standard controllers and Source Audio’s Hot Hand controller (not included). Sound a bit daunting? It can be. But when you have so much textural control, it’s no surprise that it takes some time to get up to speed.
Make Your Mantra
The central control knob is the starting point. Here you can dial in a number of effects, organized by filter type. The pedal’s extended mode provides additional options for a total of 24 filter variations. Especially interesting is the mod-source control, which can alter the attack and decay of the envelope follower or transform the LFO wave shape from a smooth sine to a jagged sawtooth. The modulation characteristics blend as you move between settings, so you can tailor in-between tones to taste.
With so many parameters, it can be difficult to change tones mid-song, and without an external controller, you can only access two presets via the pedal’s footswitches. But with the right MIDI controller, you can have random access to 128 presets.
Running through an Eden CXC210 combo amp, the pedal paired well with both active and passive basses. (My active 5-string Warwick Streamer was my favorite vehicle for delightfully nasty lower-register experimentation.) The phaser is great, and when I added a touch of dirty drive via the option select control, I realized that the Manta could replace at least two other pedals. I particularly loved the square-wave LFO setting with tap-tempo and an inspirational delayed/dirty/phaser effect that helped me discover different places to make noise with my fretboard.
The Manta is an endless source of quirky, left-of-center tones. That said, it isn’t exactly a “scroll till you find it” pedal. It helps to know what you’re looking for, and to invest the time needed to conquer the Manta’s learning curve.
You don’t have to be a virtuoso soloist or a dubstep master blaster to enjoy this pedal. If you need a dirty boost or alternatives to keyboard bass, you’ll find plenty of options here. I like the Manta’s modernistic approach, especially in a world where everyone else seems to pine for vintage effects. I suspect that many bassists will find creative uses for the Manta, especially given its modest street price.
Watch the Review Demo: