A trippy, triple-headed pitch shifter.
Many cool tones. Solid build.
Difficult to operate.
Ease of Use:
The Hedra is the latest pedal from Meris, the company Terry Burton formed a few years after launching Strymon. An ambitious pitch shifter, the Hedra stuffs vast functionality into a 5"x4" enclosure. Actually, the term “pitch shifter” doesn’t do Hedra justice. It combines transposition with a complex delay/echo network that generates everything from subtle chorusing to dizzying pitch-shifted anarchy.
The Hedra houses three pitch shifters. You can set independent transposition intervals (up to two octaves, up or down) and delay times for each. Their respective output levels are always equal, though you can specify the overall wet/dry mix. Feedback settings are also global. Delays can regenerate as long as you like, but the same regeneration setting applies to all three shifters. A tap-tempo switch defines your master delay time, and then you specify the delay time for each pitch shifter in ratio to the tapped tempo.
The transposition quality is par for the course in this price range. That is, transposed tones are clearly digital, with a “bleaty” quality when heard in isolation. But they can sound fantastic in musical contexts—especially with profuse delay and downstream reverb. Regardless of the transposition, the Hedra responds reliably only to monophonic signals. Even with simple chords played through the pitch-detection-friendly neck pickup, multiple notes yield chaos. Depending on your tastes, that may be more a feature than a bug.
Other results vary from tight harmonizations to cascading pitch/echo effects of fractal-like complexity. With patience, you can summon a cornucopia of head-spinning effects, especially when you work the 4-position modal control, which configures the delays in series, parallel, both, or a spiraling feedback loop. My demo clip is a sampler of harmonized effects, recorded via an amp modeler to showcase Hedra’s stereo sound.
TheHedra supports “smart” pitch shifting. You can choose any key from a rotary switch, and then apply one of seven scale types (major, natural minor, melodic minor, harmonic minor, double harmonic, Lydian pentatonic, and minor pentatonic) for stacked diatonic harmonies. Everything works as expected, but you may encounter issues that arise with any smart shifter: Overly tight harmonies can sound cheesy depending on your tastes, and “smart” goes out the window if you change keys or introduce accidentals. The only solution is to switch programs on the fly.
Speaking of program switching: The Hedra can store 16 patches in memory, but you can’t select them without external hardware—either a MIDI controller or Meris’ $99 4-knob Preset Switch. (Not included, though Meris sent one with our review pedal. It works great!) A single 1/4" jack accommodates MIDI control, the preset switch, or a controller pedal—but only one at a time.
Expression control is simple yet powerful: You can morph between any two stored sounds. That means dual tones on tap plus all those potentially psycho-delic transitional states. Another cool feature: Holding down the tap-tempo switch adds a slow-rise swell effect to your dry signal and, by extension, the wet one. Some players purchase stompboxes solely for this effect.
Ease of Use?
The Hedra’s functions and options far outnumber its six knobs and two footswitches. That means lots of potentially confusing multi-function controls. On the Hedra, most knobs have three roles. One set pertains to setup and preferences, which you won’t need to access often. Still, you may find yourself constantly toggling between two sets of functions: the ones with names are printed on the enclosure, and the ones accessible when you hold down the ALT button. The secondary functions aren’t described on the pedal, and they aren’t exactly intuitive.
For example, the wet/dry mix knob becomes the delay feedback control when ALT is pressed. The three pitch knobs become delay time offsets. Even the bypass switch doubles as a pitch-smoother. You’ll need to do much memorization or keep the manual nearby. Meanwhile, the text that does appear on the box employs tiny fonts in a reflective black that can be hard to read against the gray enclosure and shiny silver knobs. Those knobs don’t use detents either, which makes it tricky to dial in desired values—particularly on the pitch controls, where four octaves of transposition intervals are crammed into the compass of a half-inch knob. I found the interface difficult to work with. Your experience may differ.
The Hedra is an ambitious pitch shifter capable of many striking sounds—many of which are hard to duplicate without a higher-priced multi-effector. However, its complex features can make for a complex user experience, especially with triple-function controls and no software editor. Brains and interface tastes differ, and some players will have an easier time than I did. Chances are they’ll concoct cool things with the Hedra.
Watch the First Look:
It may not be your dad’s ’Stang from the 1960s—unless he’s from Italy—but this axe has a unique look and flavor that’s begging for surf rock.
I woke around 5 a.m. a few nights ago when my wife’s phone started buzzing with a FaceTime alert. My in-laws are visiting Italy, and not fully realizing the time difference, kindly decided to say hello in the wee hours of the morning. They’re checking out a few different areas in Italy, and as I listened to the daily vacation recap on speakerphone, I thought about visiting Italy myself someday to search out vintage guitars. Old Italian guitars are among my favorites, and I count the Galanti Grand Prix among my all-time favorite guitars, but this month, I want to talk about a lesser-known example from the 1960s.
This Meazzi Mustang (Photo 1) hailed from the “Hollywood” electric guitar line that spanned from around 1966 to 1969. I have perused a Meazzi catalog from 1967, and the guitars from the era were really something. Touches like geometric pickup covers, beautiful body lines, flashy logos, totally intriguing controls, and clear, tiered pickguards really give one the feeling of a fine Italian sports car ... or maybe one of those ultra-cool old Lambretta scooters that are still weaving through the streets of Capri (where my in-laws were broadcasting from). There’s no question that artistic Italian design has always had a stylish flair, and these guitars were certainly no exception.
Even the names of the guitars in the line included such doozies as the Lovely, Corsair, Jupiter, Zodiac, and Zephir. The hollowbody guitars were coined Spitfire, Old Jazz, and Supersonic, while some of the basses included the Meteor, Tiger, and Kadett. This was a fully complete guitar line for the era, and the features of the Meazzi guitars were a bit dizzying.
Many of the instruments featured over-engineered components such as a proprietary tremolo system (Photo 2), a super-groovy string damper, and an adjustable bridge, as well as quite fine-sounding pickups. Some of the guitars even had an onboard transistorized preamp, which can be pretty awesome when layered over a fuzz pedal.
The Meazzi name is the surname of the founders, and to me, the company seemed very similar to Japan’s Arai, because they both dabbled in all sorts of products and imports—not just guitars. The Hollywood guitars have all the hallmarks and quality of the builders from the famous Catelfidardo region—the birthplace of the accordion and the Polverini factory there. The Meazzi electric-guitar line ceased production in 1969, but Meazzi continued to deal in instrument distribution and amplification for several more years.
This Mustang—and all the Meazzi guitars—are very difficult to find here in the U.S. It’s a shame because they really are fine instruments with a unique feel and voice. The body of this particular Mustang sports a thin, green lacquer finish that contrasts with a slender-profile neck with a thicker, almost plasticized finish. It’s a strange contrast to be sure, but then again, this is a guitar filled with little details that most of today’s guitar makers would never consider.
Things like the string mute that almost resembles a piece of jewelry and the shapely pickguard really give this guitar a bit of sexy. The scale is typical Fender length at 25.5", and the pickups give this guitar a bright, but not overly aggressive tone when compared to the other Italian mini-humbuckers of the era, which can really bust speakers. When layered with deep reverb, this guitar is a total surf-rock machine. And like a Lambretta scooter, the controls are simple enough that it could be an everyday player—with a little work, of course. Viva l’Italia!
You don’t have to follow some social-media megalomaniac to clean up your rig. Here are some ideas, sans the photoshopped B.S.
I should be used to it by now, I guess, but I’m still mystified whenever I see social posts, self-help books, etc. that deign to be your guru on stuff like “decluttering.” Stuff that shouldn’t be that hard to figure out on your own without enduring soullessly staged glam shots and self-obsessed social-media spewings—or paying way too much for some patronizing, ghost-written POS book by someone with no profound insights or real expertise other than sociopathic dedication to elbowing their way into public consciousness for 15 seconds of notoriety. I’m not against the idea of sharing helpful tips. I’m just not going to ask you to pay anything or follow me as I pretend to live a perfect life.
So—decluttering as a guitarist. What exactly does this mean? It depends what sort of player you are, what sort of rig you play, and what your playing circumstances are. It also has both physical and meta aspects. The most obvious is to simplify and streamline your rig: Figure out which gear is indispensible to each gigging/performing situation, and then weed out what isn’t crucial—or acquire something that kills the proverbial two birds with one stone. This saves load-in time, hassle, muscle aches, and stage and vehicle space, and usually yields a clearer head on the gig, too.
As bandleader of a guitar-and-drums duo where I handle baritone guitar, vocal, and keyboard duties, I started out running both my guitars and keyboard through a bass amp and two complementarily toned guitar amps. Fortunately, I later found a single guitar amp that yielded the tones I want, so now it’s just a bass amp and a guitar amp. I’ve also consciously limited my board to medium size so I don’t have so many pedals to stomp on amidst all my other responsibilities. With all the cool stuff out there to choose from, it can be tough to rein in the tone-nerd tendencies, though. It’s all too tempting to think, “Shit, I guess it’s time for a bigger board.”
Interestingly, some of the gear I thought would help me better function in all my band capacities actually did the opposite. Case in point: To fill up sonic space in my duo, I use a fair amount of reverb and delay, and up until just a couple of months ago I viewed the expression-pedal capabilities of my MXR Reverb as a must-have for carefully tailoring how much “epic”-mode reverb is dialed in for every part of a song. Problem was, I was constantly tweaking it. I also love that my trusty Ibanez Echo Shifter lets me quickly tap in killer analog delay that matches a song’s tempo. But the more I’ve gigged and recorded within the confines of this band dynamic, the more I’ve realized these gear capabilities weren’t just unnecessarily wasting mental bandwidth that should be going toward playing and performing better, but were also causing extra stress and anxiety that made me feel and sound worse. I’ve since stopped using expression control with the MXR, and have instead dialed in a reverb level that works for all uses (what a concept, huh?). I also invested time in discovering a single echo setting that works for 90 percent of our songs. (News flash: Unless you’re the Edge, your echoes don’t need to tempo-sync—dial your feedback and mix settings right, and an off-kilter echo simply adds to the song’s atmosphere.) Meanwhile, it’s a cinch to flick the Echo Shifter’s self-oscillation switch for special occasions where I need the spacey sounds I used to get from the MXR.
When it comes to decluttering for pedalboard space considerations, I’ve found available real estate can often be optimized with various forms of stacking—from Tetris-like orientations to out-of-sight/out-of-mind attachments to very unstimulating but eminently practical box-on-box action. Examples from my board: To simultaneously use guitar and keyboard through the same pedals and amps, I have a small mixer/buffer box with dual inputs optimized for each instrument and a single output that feeds a mini tuner pedal Velcro’d to the top of the buffer. Meanwhile, sideways pedals fill in board gaps and enable me to hit two footswitches in a single stomp. And if you’ve got set-it-and-forget-it gear (like the A/B/Y box I use to send signals to multiple amps), have you considered using zip ties to mount it under your board? You may well save enough square footage for another tone toy!