Need to wrangle a pile of pedals? These 10 options can put an end to your tap dancing.
Gone are the days of expensive custom controllers. It's never been easier to harness the power of MIDI to get the most out of your pedalboard.
Jet Pedals MCX
If space is a consideration, this compact 3-button setup could be the answer. It's designed around eight banks, each with a unique identifier that gives up to five presets per bank. It can be powered via USB or a standard 9V power supply.
Express yourself with this full-featured controller that houses a pair of built-in expression pedals along with 10 assignable control pedals. It can send five program-change commands simultaneously.
Morningstar MC6 MkII
Inside this modestly sized box sits a powerful MIDI control station that offers 30 banks of 12 preset slots, two omniports with TRS MIDI out, and a robust online editor.
Rocktron MIDI Mate
With three different modes (bank, instant, and controller), this slender MIDI controller allows multiple program changes on different channels. The fully editable setup can arrange presets in a setlist order, change settings on the fly, and send phantom power via MIDI.
RJM Music Technology Mastermind LT
This rugged MIDI controller can store up to 768 presets via 16 different pages that can be totally customized. Each of the seven buttons have a multi-color LED, plus it offers support for expression pedals.
Matthews Effects The Futurist
This 4-button controller is a compact way to handle a smaller stash of pedals. The accompanying online editor allows for deeper programming and the unit is expandable up to seven buttons.
Singular Sound MIDI Maestro
A sleek unit made of anodized aluminum that features customizable labels for each of the six buttons. You can have 10 active pages per preset and it works directly with Beat Buddy and Aeros Loop Studio.
Source Audio Soleman
You can easily end the tap dancing by utilizing one of the unit's three modes: scene, setlist, or panel. It can also control DAWs, virtual instruments, or plugins via the USB/MIDI interface.
Meloaudio MIDI Commander
This 10-button controller can run up to 40 hours via a pair of AAA batteries. It's compatible with a wide range of MIDI units and houses two power modes. Includes six host modes to work directly with JamUp, Bias FX, Kemper, and more.
Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro
Recalling the days of Bradshaw-designed rigs, this expansive, roadworthy controller offers 12 switches for patches, can process up to eight devices, and gives you stompbox-style control over your rig.
A classic Rat-type distortion that uses original LM308 chips.
Richland, WA (October 27, 2016) -- Adding to the company’s well-established line of boutique guitar effects, Matthews Effects has unveiled the new Harbinger Parametric Distortion. The Harbinger is a classic Rat-type distortion that uses original LM308 chips along with a pre-gain EQ shaping for a rich pallet of distortion tones. The EQ section is a parametric control that lets you sweep from 100 – 4khz and boost or cut those frequencies by 15db.
The Harbinger highlights include:
- A gain control that can go from clean boost to saturated distortion.
- A freq control that lets you sweep from 100 – 4khz
- A cut/boost that cut or boosts the selected frequency by up to 15db
- True bypass
- Top-mounted jacks
All Matthews Effects products are designed and built in the company’s Richland, WA home. Street price is $189
For more information:
This two-mode shimmer ’verb makes dramatic onstage texture shifts a breeze.
Matthews’ Astronomer isn’t the only reverb pedal that enables you to switch between two different reverb sounds. And it’s far from the only reverb to feature harmonizing, upper-octave “shimmer” textures. But it’s certainly one of the easiest and most intuitive to use. And it could be enormously appealing for players who like to move between pronounced shimmer-verb colors and mellower, more conventional reverb tones without navigating millions of presets. It’s a killer little reverb for real-world gigging.
Space (Gazing) Efficiency
While we’re only familiar with Matthews’ Conductor tremolo (reviewed in the June 2015 issue), the little company’s quality control and design standards seem pretty top flight. The board layout is clean, thoughtfully arrayed, and looks and feels solid. Input/output jacks and the two footswitches are enclosure mounted, and the board and vital components seem well insulated from shocks and jarring. Though the circuit layout is visibly efficient, the extra footswitch means there’s no room for a 9V battery.
If the six knobs and two footswitches give rise to overwhelmed-by-options anxiety, fear not. They are actually two sets of identical controls: one set for each reverb mode. Mix is a wet/dry control, glow controls the amount of upper octave content or “shimmer,” and travel sets the decay level. The potentiometers and knobs are set up perfectly—not too twitchy and just the right amount of resistance to keep settings in place as you switch between reverb modes.
The two-switch system might look like trouble at a glance, given the proximity of the two switches on the enclosure. But the “alternate” switch, as Matthews terms it, sits much higher than the regular bypass switch relative to the underside of your stomping shoe—making it surprisingly easy to navigate the switching process through strictly tactile means.
Voices from Deep Space
The Astronomer’s basic reverb voice is pleasing and versatile. There’s not a lot of spring flavor, as you might suspect, given the emphasis on shimmer tones. Instead, it has a somewhat plate-like quality that dovetails nicely with basic guitar and amplifier voices when it’s the only pedal in a line, but also sounds cool on the back end of a smooth, Muff-like fuzz or a not-too-spiky overdrive.
Because you can’t stack the two reverb voices, the most effective use of the Astronomer is to set up the two modes for very different flavors of reverb. In my own explorations of these reverb opposites, I set up the primary reverb with something as close to ’60s slapback studio reverb as I could manage: mix at about 60 percent, glow down to virtually nil, and the travel anywhere between 20 to 40 percent depending on the spaciousness of the riff. These settings produced cool tones for choppy garage rock riffage and leads. But they also revealed the one primary shortcoming of the reverb voice: you can never really dial out the upper-octave shimmer entirely. Rick Matthews tells us that the newest version of the pedal will enable users to remove the shimmer voice entirely. That’s great news, because this simple addition by subtraction would go a long way to bolstering the Astronomer’s already cool ability to juxtapose very different reverb tones.
The most extreme reverb tones will also be appetizing, depending on your orientation toward shimmer reverbs in general. The Astronomer’s upper octave voice is very vocal, evoking at times the sound of a choir-based synth pad or a synth organ. For certain applications—say, an Eno-esque, undersea film soundtrack—the voice is perfect. Other uses might leave you thirsting for a more open-ended or tunable upper-octave voice. Regardless of musical context, the shimmer tends to sound most musical when tucked away in the fading vapor trail of the tails. And speaking of tails—the range in the travel control is impressive, which helps highlight dramatic differences in two-mode setups and enables control of the octave voice when it seems excessive.
The Astronomer’s simple switching capabilities also make it a great reverb for loopers that need to move fast on stage. Using a longer reverb with heavy shimmer settings, I set up a simple loop of Richard and Linda Thompson’s “The Cavalry Cross” riff—the octave shimmer standing in for the harmonizing accordion drone—then soloed using a short verb that highlighted the concise, jabbing punctuation from my Stratocaster’s bridge pickup. A simple loop, with just the Matthews in the mix, gave this basic musical architecture an impressively spacious ensemble feel. If you’re an ambient pop artist that likes the idea of a really streamlined band, an Astronomer and a looper can solve many personnel issues.
The Astronomer is a well-made, thoughtfully executed digital shimmer ’verb that—unlike many multi-’verb monstrosities—is very easy to use in the heat of performance and won’t take up too much space. Its musical potential will largely depend on how you relate to the pronounced octave voice, which can’t be dialed out entirely, can sound excessively vocal, and, as such, almost disconnects from the very pleasing basic reverb voice. But for players with ambient and atmospheric proclivities, those very celestial colors—and the ability to switch between subdued and extreme versions of those shades—make the Astronomer a very powerful study in space efficiency.