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Review: Source Audio Soundblox Multiwave Distortion

Distortion like you''ve never heard before

Are you looking for that traditional distortion pedal with classic rock tone? If so, the new Source Audio Multiwave Distortion pedal is NOT for you.

Yep, you read it correctly. The folks at Source Audio are taking a fresh new approach to distortion and inventing some unique sounds. They’re not looking to emulate or duplicate any distortion pedals of the past — the end result is a pedal that produces a variety of tones that, chances are, you’ve never heard before. They are certainly tones that I’ve never heard before.

The Multiwave Distortion pedal is part of Source Audio’s new line of Soundblox pedals. It features the SA601 56-bit Digital Signal Processor with 24-bit A/D D/A converters that provide excellent sound quality. There are controls for Sustain, Drive, Output and Effect Selection, and this pedal can also be used with Source Audio’s innovative Hot Hand motion sensor controller (which I will get to shortly). The box itself is sleek, sporting a modern design and a cool turquoise finish. With a 4”x7” footprint, the pedal is a little larger than the average stompbox. It also features an active analog bypass, which is fully routed around the DSP and guarantees no signal loss.

Their secret recipe in this distortion pedal incorporates algorithm types that are very different from the standard set. There are 21 varieties of distortion in this pedal, offering diverse and unusual sounds. The Soundblox Multiwave distortion involves a technique that divides the guitar signal input into multiple frequency bands, distorts the bands separately, and then recombines the signal. The result is a distorted guitar tone with an incredible amount of clarity between the notes.

I was eager to try out this Multiwave technique. The traditional rock sound is typically achieved by playing fifths with a distorted tone. I have always tried to incorporate more complex chords into rock guitar playing, but often get frustrated, since these chords are usually reduced to mush when using distortion. The Multiwave Distortion definitely solves that problem. I pulled off a complex G7b13+9 chord through distortion with unbelievable clarity. Not a traditional rock chord by any means, but that’s the point — a pedal like this allows you to carve out your unique sound.

The Effect knob lets you choose effects within Multi Band and Single Band distortion setting banks, which are then divided between Normal, Foldback and Octave. The settings in the Normal section are similar to standard distortion, especially in the Single Band, while distortion in the Multi Band allows the best clarity of individual notes. Foldback is another algorithm that creates distortion differently than traditional distortion pedals. Standard distortion signals clip and hit a wall, which squares off the tips of the sound waves; this creates the character of the standard distortion sound. A foldback curve has waves that are pulsing, and the output increases and decreases. This process creates a fresh, different kind of distortion that is its own beast – it is white noisy, yet musical, with both squishy and edgy overtones that range from laser-like to phat wall-of-sound, depending on how your string attack. It also provides a lot of control over the sound which, like the Multi band settings, results in exceptional clarity.

>>> Listen to an example*

The Foldback and Octave selections offer a variety of unique unique varietites of distortion, and I had fun playing and experimenting with these sounds. Everything from heavily saturated fuzz to synth-like sounds can be achieved. In the Octave section, second order harmonics are created, with notes added an octave higher. Backing off a little on the Drive and Sustain also produced a really funky wah effect that I loved. It definitely wasn''t what you would expect from a standard distortion pedal.

>>>Listen to an example*

If all that wasn’t enough, you can have additional fun with this pedal by plugging in a Hot Hand motion sensor. Source Audio introduced the Hot Hand motion control device originally with their Wah Filters and Phaser/Flanger, which were the first effects that could be controlled by hand and body movement. The sensor itself is a ring that you wear on your picking hand (or any other part of your body!) and the movement actually works as an expression pedal. For the Multiwave distortion pedal, the Hot Hand controls the amount of Drive in the effect.

The Hot Hand sensor is sold separately, and comes in either a wired or wireless version. I have a wireless sensor that needs to be charged before use. It takes about an hour and the ring will operate for about 8 hours on a full charge. Only two additional components for the distortion pedal are needed for Hot Hand control: the sensor ring and a small RF receiver module that plugs into the pedal. After plugging the receiver into the pedal, powering up the sensor and placing it on the ring finger of my picking hand, I got the hang of the technique in no time. I had tons of fun experimenting with it. For example, after strumming a chord, I did a quick up and down motion as if I were tapping on the guitar. The sensor controlled the amount of gain and produced a really cool tremolo effect. The Drive knob on the pedal determines the maximum amount of gain you can get. I loved having the freedom to precisely control the speed of a vibrato-type effect in real time while playing, that’s something you can’t do with a standard tremolo.

>>>Listen to an example*

I continued to play around with different combinations of effect settings and motion sensor techniques, and the various sound possibilities were seemingly endless and unlike anything else. There were so many different sounds pouring out of this unit that I concluded there was only one drawback to using it: other players will think you’re using multiple effects and you’ll want to brag that all of these sounds are coming out of one box!

Source Audio has a fresh, unique approach to effects and looks to the future instead of recreating the past. I was impressed enough with the Multiwave Distortion as a stand-alone effect unit but was pleasantly floored and inspired creatively by the possibilities that are involved when you combine this pedal with the Hot Hand sensor.

* Note: The above clips were recorded with a Fender VG Stratocaster into the Source Audio Multiwave Distortion pedal into an Avalon Vt-737sp preamp through a Digidesign Digi 002 interface. It was recorded into Pro Tools on a Mac G5.

Buy if...
you want fresh new distortion never heard before
Skip if...
you don''t have an experimental bone in your body

MSRP $159.99 - Source Audio -