Spaceman Aurora Flanger Review
Wacky, wobbly flange effects and stone solid trad' flange tones to boot.
Beautifully built. Many unconventional tones and super-solid trad' flange and chorus sounds.
Some learning curve.
Spaceman Aurora Flanger
Spaceman Effects has built some of the most coveted pedals of the past decade. The company always seems guided by an exploratory design ethos that makes their boxes distinctive, and sometimes extraordinary. They tend to dig deep—into the potential of otherwise simple circuits, even into the potential of music and sound itself. They also seem to be unconstrained by the shackles of imitating classic circuits.
The adventurous impulses explain a lot about Spaceman's new Aurora Analog Flanger. It is, at times, a truly unique-sounding modulation device. It's geared unapologetically toward the experimentally minded. And while it may not be the easiest phaser in the world to wrangle, it's barrels of fun to use and spawns unusual musical ideas at many turns.
Spun at Sunrise
Like every Spaceman pedal I've ever encountered, the Aurora is built to endure. Jacks and footswitches are mounted to the enclosure independent of the circuit board. And though the board itself isn't quite as flashy or overflowing with visual Easter eggs as those in Aurora's predecessors, it's immaculately wired.
If you don't like a little homework, Aurora might not be the right flanger for you. Its control array is stacked with seven knobs and two footswitches, and the nature of their functions probably won't be immediately apparent to a flanger neophyte. That doesn't mean Aurora isn't intuitive. You can twist your way to any number of fairly conventional flanger and chorus sounds with a modicum of patience. But realizing the full potential of Aurora demands that you understand the many quirks and interrelationships among its controls, and that can be time-consuming business.
However it's employed, the trig switch is always a gas.
The heart of the Aurora is the 5-mode modulation selector. LFO 1 mode (which is most like a standard flanger pedal) and tape 1 mode (which approximates many of the sound properties of tape flanging) are both based on triangle waveforms. LFO 2 and tape 2 mode, however, produce ramp-up and ramp-down waveshapes, which change not just the modulation texture, but the functionality and relationship between certain controls. The comb filter function doesn't sweep through a waveform like a regular flanger, but it uses the Aurora's powerful filtering capabilities to generate super-focused sounds that take on pronounced metallic overtones at high regen (feedback) levels.
Mix, Match, ‘n’ Morph
While the volume, mix, and powerful regen controls work as you'd expect, the width, rate and range controls change function depending on the mode you select. In LFO 2 and Tape 2 mode, for instance, the rate controls the speed at which the wave rises, and range controls the rate at which it falls—enabling everything from hiccup-y, glitchy waveforms to metallic 12-string tones. Meanwhile, in LFO 1 and Tape 1 mode, the rate control governs speed of the triangle waves' rise and fall, while the range is dedicated to regulating waveform height.
The trigger switch also works a little differently in each mode. In most modes you can use the switch in a quick, momentary blast to warp a solo or riff, usually with a "wow" effect as it is introduced and removed. But you can also hold it down to generate dramatic, sustained sweeps. In comb mode, the trig switch toggles between frequency peaks set by the range and rate controls. However it is employed, the trig switch is always a gas. You can use it in lieu of a vibrato arm wiggle to punctuate a phrase, or fashion more chaotic concoctions with random stutters, pulses, and pitch shifts. Next time you're out of solo ideas, try this trick.
While there are more straight-ahead ways to get traditional flange sounds, the Spaceman Aurora generates effects that are more demented than the average flanger—and more subtle. There is a learning curve. And you'll have to invest time to get a feel for how the controls interact and how differently they behave in different modes. Like a lot of complex analog modulation tools without presets, Aurora might be most useful in the studio where you can leverage its flexibility and many sonic possibilities at leisure. But for more experienced and fearless flange flyers willing to invest the time into understanding the Aurora, the payoff is a boatload of rich traditional modulation colors—and heaps of uncommon and unexpected ones—that can enliven a studio or stage performance.