TWA DM-02 Dynamorph Review
A unique “envelope-controlled harmonic generator.”
TWA’s Dynamorph is an innovative hybrid of two familiar effects. Like an auto-wah, it responds to your playing dynamics, generating brighter tones when you play hard and warmer ones when you play softly. But instead of triggering a resonant filter (like on, say, a Mu-Tron III), your dynamics determine the amount of signal feeding an anarchic overdrive circuit with a clipping-diode array that behaves like those in Octavia-style fuzz pedals. TWA accurately dubs this effect an “envelope-controlled harmonic generator.”
Mind you, we’re not talking clean octave transpositions so much as the harmonic chaos Octavia-style circuits generate when confounded by double-stops and chords, or when starving the input using your guitar’s volume controls. Tones are clangorous, harmonically complex, and often unpredictable. They sometimes have a bell-like character reminiscent of ring modulation.
When first confronting Dynamorph’s controls, it helps to have a degree in insect biology. Odd control names such as instar, ametaboly, and holometaboly all pertain to insect metamorphosis. TWA takes the metaphor to the max: Other knobs are labeled chrysalis, gestation, and ecdysis. (Fun fact: Ecdysis refers to the way some insects and reptiles shed their outer skin, which gave us the word “ecdysiast”—a fancy term for “stripper.”)
Meanwhile, the full-frequency mode is labeled Ovid (after the classical Roman author of Metamorphoses, wherein humans get transformed into an array of animals and inanimate objects), while low-cut mode is called Kafka (after the Czech author of The Metamorphosis, in which our protagonist becomes a cockroach). At the pedal’s center is a glowing butterfly cutout whose brightness indicates your input level. Someone had fun here.
While Dynamorph’s tones can be hard to predict, the controls are more straightforward than their perplexing labels suggest. There’s a 2-stage booster in front of the clipping didoes—each stage with its own gain control. Other knobs set the master volume, wet/dry mix, and the gain level at which the diodes are triggered, and the length of time before the diodes respond. You can learn your way around in a few minutes.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll get predictable results. The dynamic controls in particular have wild, hair-trigger responses. Small knob motions produce big tonal shifts. It can be a fine line between controlled sweeps and brittle squawks. I had the most fun just spinning random knobs and surveying the wreckage.
The wet/dry blend—um, make that the ametaboly control—is crucial here. Mixing in varying amount of dry signal reins in the harmonic chaos. You can even get near-pretty chiming tones by adding small quantities of effect to a clean, dry signal. Besides “controlling” the chaos via playing dynamics, you can set the effect threshold with an expression pedal (not included). You can also switch off the triggering altogether.
Dynamorph resides in a standard B-sized enclosure, with both input and output jacks on the pedal’s right side. It runs on any standard 9V power supply, and there is no battery compartment.
It’s not easy to wring new sounds from old circuits, but TWA has accomplished just that. Dynamorph isn’t for players who fear unpredictability. But adventurous guitarists seeking unconventional tones—including willfully ugly ones—may well be inspired by this unique and imaginative effect.