First Look: Strymon Cloudburst
Fly high with a ticket to ethereal and outrageous reverbs.
The Strymon Cloudburst is a reverb pedal designed to stand out, all wrapped in a smaller form factor that houses full stereo I/O, TRS MIDI and USB-C connectors on the back panel. Coupled with the powerful ambience processing is a brand-new Ensemble engine, capable of creating pads and soundscapes that follow your playing organically - so if you change pickups or play in a different place on the neck you get different results. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard or played before, all wrapped in a smaller form factor that still manages to house full stereo I/O, TRS MIDI and USB-C connectors on the back panel. Prepare to be inspired!
Eventide TriceraChorus Review
It’s the ’80s in a box—just add hair spray.
A portable, user-friendly path to tri-stereo chorus sounds. Presets make it easy to find ’80s guitar tones. Good analog BBD-style chorus tones. Sensitive controls allow for refined tweaking.
Dual-control knobs make it difficult to visualize settings.
The 1980s were a decade of big hair, big amps, and big guitar tones. But while those stacks of cabinets certainly made things louder, behind-the-scenes rackmount chorus and in particular, the tri-stereo chorus units available under various names such as Dyno-My-Piano, Dynotronics, and Songbird, did a lot to make ’80s guitar sound bigger still. Once these rackmount units reached the rigs of guitarists such as Michael Landau and Steve Lukather, pop radio didn’t stand a chance.
After a period of relentless ubiquity, heavily chorused guitar tones went the way of Aqua Net. But chorus made a comeback, and even rare rackmount versions of the effect have been distilled into pedal form. Eventide does a swell job cramming complicated effects into compact stomps. This time around, they’ve fit the giant tones and deep functionality of rackmount tri-stereo chorus into the pedalboard-friendly TriceraChorus.
Eventide TriceraChorus Review by premierguitar
- Neck pickup, chorus mode, rate at 10 o’clock, detune at 10 o’clock, chorus levels at noon
- Same settings in swirl mode
- Neck pickup, swirl on, vibrato mode, rate at 3 o’clock/rate envelope cranked, detune at 3 o/clock, pitch at 11 o’clock
- Rhythm on bridge/middle, chorale mode, rate noon, detune noon, all three levels at 2 o’clock. Lead with same setting but with Klon KTR
- Same settings on bridge/middle, delay knob cranked (clean)
- Same settings but with Klon KTR
Is Three Better Than One?
Anyone who’s ever used a stereo chorus effect knows the depth and dimension it can add to a guitar tone. A tri-stereo chorus takes that idea and runs with it—creating three separate chorus signals and placing them across the stereo field—left, center, and right. The result is just as vast as you’d hope, evoking big-stadium vibes even with a pair of small combos.
Like the other pedals in Eventide's dot9 series, the TriceraChorus' dual-function knobs offer a wide range of control. On the TriceraChorus, users can use them to choose between three effect modes (chorus, vibrato, and chorale), tweak rate/rate envelope, detune amount and pitch, left/center/right levels, delay time, and filter settings. The complex nature of the pedal’s capabilities means specific settings are easy to forget, and first-time users face a bit of a learning curve. But the five factory presets are good jumping-off points for exploring possible extremes. And with the option to create 127 presets of your own you can create and recall many simple or radical formulas to suit your musical moment.
By cranking up the rate and detune past noon and playing around with a little micro-pitch shifting to taste, it was easy to evoke the Mike Stern-playing-with-Miles tones of my dreams.
Tracing The History of Chorus
In some ways, the TriceraChorus enables users to be tone archeologists and trace the history of the chorus effect to its early days. At its simplest settings, the TriceraChorus offers bucket brigade-inspired tones that evoke the sound of those ’70s stomps. And in chorus mode, with the rate at slow-to-moderate settings and the detune below noonish, the pedal offers warm gooey delights. Kick on the swirl switch and you unlock even warmer phase- and flange-style modulation. If it’s subtle sounds you seek, dialing back one or two of the three chorus level settings offers more vintage-variety sounds. On the other side of the coin, keeping the swirl engaged and switching into vibrato mode at high rate and detune settings creates worlds of weirdness.
When it’s time to lean into ’80s vibes, you’ll want all three chorus levels to be audible. I found the most hi-fi tones in chorale mode with the swirl function off. Here, tight, single-note riffs and leads sing, especially with a touch of overdrive in front of the pedal. By cranking up the rate and detune past noon and adding a little micro-pitch shifting to taste, it was easy to evoke the Mike Stern-playing-with-Miles tones of my dreams. Cranking the delay knob can deliver the pedal’s most arena-ready tones and I had a blast faking my way through everything from Alex Lifeson-style suspensions to “Purple Rain.” Whatever the settings, with all three chorus voices activated, the TriceraChorus adds a lush sparkle to clean tones and buffs out the rough edges of distorted tones to create ’80s radio-ready majesty.
Though tri-stereo chorus was immensely popular in its heyday, its potential is still underutilized. And while I’ve never played through a vintage Dynotronics unit to know how close Eventide got to the original vibes, I’ve played through enough chorus pedals to know that the TriceraChorus does something very different. If you want quintessentially ’80s sounds, this pedal will get you there instantly. If that’s not your bag, you might not need all the extra fuss. But this Eventide has plenty of sonic rewards to offer anyone who’s even a little curious about chorus exploration and wants to embiggen their tones.
Maestro FZ-M, Comet Chorus, Invader Distortion, Discoverer Delay, and Ranger Overdrive Reviews
A classic brand’s colorful return to the stompbox fray is marked by equally vibrant sounds.
The resurrection of Maestro as a stompbox-building concern has been a real breath of fresh air. With their colorful, substantial enclosures and illuminated bugle logos, Maestro’s five new stomps recall an era when effects pedals were still, thrillingly, working through their infancy. Call them retro if you want, but they look awesome, offer practical functionality, and sound great by just about any measure.
The beauty of Maestro’s stomps runs deeper than cool, colorful enclosures. There are a lot of compelling and often distinctive sounds in these effects. And with the promise of even more new releases before the end of 2022, it’s hard to not be excited about what oddities and original sounds might lie in wait. But for now, these new cornerstone introductions suggest that Maestro is embracing the creative possibilities of an new all-analog pedal line and aiming for sounds and functionality that offer real alternatives on the more accessible side of the cost spectrum.
Maestro's Five New Pedals | First Look
Though much has been made about Maestro’s return to the fuzz space, the new FZ-M is a very different animal than the 3-volt, AA battery-powered FZ-1 that appeared in 1962. Maestro is tight-lipped about the FZ-M’s design particulars. But Craig Hockenberry, director of engineering at Maestro, says the FZ-M employs a six-transistor design. By comparison, the Maestro FZ-1 used just three transistors and an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff used four. Other than the beastly Shin-Ei Super Fuzz, few fuzzes use six.
While the FZ-M is not an FZ-1 reissue, Maestro captures a lot of the sonic essence of mid-’60s fuzzes like the FZ-1 that eludes other builders. In vintage mode, the FZ-M has the snarling top-end focus and rasp that makes mid-’60s fuzzes cut so prominently. There’s more gain and volume than an FZ-1, which makes the FZ-M’s voice more aligned with the silicon Fuzzrite, silicon Bosstone, and, to some extent, the MkIII Tone Bender. (Of the fuzzes I used for comparison, a silicon Fuzzrite was the closest match.) And though the FZ-M is hot in the treble zone, there is a cool high-midrange honk that adds a smooth, almost saxophone-like resonance and complexity that keeps it from sounding too sizzly.
While the FZ-M, with its silicon transistors, is less responsive to guitar volume attenuation than some vintage germanium fuzzes, the FZ-M retains a surprising amount of body and bite without sounding too thin. It can’t match the fuzzy-to-clean dynamic range of, say, a germanium Fuzz Face, but there are still many medium-gain and near-clean tones accessible via your guitar volume knob. The meatier “modern” mode adds midrange to the output that makes chord overtones clearer and tighter. It also adds more of the singing sonorities that increase sustain.
The FZ-M sounds pretty distinctive, which is not easy in a flooded fuzz sphere. Players that value sustain above all things may find the FZ-M lacking compared to something like a Big Muff. But the FZ-M is rich with character, loud, and equally capable of buzzy garage-psych lines and articulate chords, depending on where you set the classic/modern switch. That combination of capabilities is no mean feat, and the FZ-M does it all at a very nice price.
Most good chorus pedals can generate a reasonable facsimile of a rotary speaker sound. The Comet Chorus, however, makes deep, rotary-like modulations the foundation of its voice. While you can generate ’70s- and ’80s-style chorus textures, there aren’t a wealth of tones here that match the liquid shimmer you associate with Roland, Boss, Ibanez, or EHX analog chorus from that era. Where the signature sounds of those units are distinguished, in part, by high harmonics that suggest ringing octave and unison strings from a 12-string, the Comet’s modulations have less sheen and excitability in the high frequencies—producing darker, pulsing, and arguably more mysterious chorus tones that evoke a Leslie or Fender Vibratone.
These modulations are an exciting alternative to canonical ’70s and ’80s chorus tones. But a lot of the Comet’s magic is its capacity to mix rotary-style sounds and vintage bucket brigade chorus to relatively unique ends. The Comet’s versatility even extends to generating cool vibrato tones at high mix and depth levels. And while I couldn’t match the queasiest, most intense textures of a dedicated vibrato unit, like a Boss VB-2, the Comet can sound like a cross between a dark vibrato and a Vibratone rotary speaker—a composite that, like actual rotary/chorus blends, can be mesmerizing.
One interesting facet of the Comet’s voice is the way that it thickens your tone and seems to add volume as you advance the mix. This can mean less defined modulations if you situate a gain source upstream. But the syrupy-thick modulations that result can sound awesome in a spare mix.
The Comet’s coolest feature might be its “orbit” mode, which adds tremolo to the already rich modulations. At modest depth and mix settings, the tremolo lends subtle complexity to the modulation waves. But at higher settings there’s more than a hint of an old Magnatone or Fender brown-panel amp’s throbby pitch wobble—sounds that lend greasy attitude to simple chord arpeggios and sass to soulful chord melodies and leads.
The Comet Chorus is a really lovely modulator—largely because it’s able to occupy unusual spaces that mix and bridge vibrato, chorus, and rotary speaker tones. Users hell-bent on nailing vintage-’80s chorus tones down to the letter may come away disappointed. For everyone else, there are a wealth of cool, even unusual modulation tones to mess with.
While arguments over overdrives and fuzz inspire no end of vitriol among guitarists, distortion pedals—in strange inverse proportion to their aggressiveness—don’t seem to ignite the same feistiness amongst their proponents. Maybe that’s because almost any half-decent distortion pedal has the potential to transform the simplest riff into a Sunset Strip smash and unleash your inner animal. And if you’re in the right mood, they’re all pretty fun! The Maestro Invader excels at delivering such thrills. But it also offers a spacious voice that leaves lots of room for detail and quick-picking nuance. It’s no less rowdy than any of the classic distortions, but it tends to color your guitar’s sound much less and, in some cases, lets your amp breathe a lot more.
I don’t own a raft of distortion pedals, but I was able to run the Invader alongside a few classics. Compared to an ancient RAT2, the Invader was much brighter and sounded a lot less compressed. Alongside a Boss DS-1, it sounded airier, fuller, and less raspy. A battered MXR Distortion+ was perhaps the closet match, but still didn’t sound quite as open or detailed as the Invader. Part of the perceived (and very relative) clarity in the Invader is down to its inherent brightness and presence, which it mostly achieves without sounding shrill. There’s also the copious headroom. The Invader is loud—it’s little wonder why Maestro included a noise gate switch—so you can be very surgical and selective about how much distortion and bite you want to add on top.
The merits of these attributes are subjective, of course. I love the woof, compression, and darker capabilities of the RAT2, for instance. And even at its bassiest settings the Invader can’t deliver that pedal’s mysterious, cloudy sense of mass. For some players, though, the Invader will represent an ideal counterpoint to those hazier distortion tones. If you crave note articulation, massive volume, and the capacity to rise above a thick mix, the Invader is a distinctive sounding distortion alternative.
Bucket brigade delay, like copious heaps of butter, tends to make everything more delicious. So it goes with the Discoverer Delay. Fundamentally, there isn’t a ton of difference between the voice of the Discoverer and other affordable bucket brigade delays like the MXR Carbon Copy and the Ibanez Analog Delay Mini. Like those pedals, it tops out at about 600 milliseconds of delay, and a bit of clock noise is almost always present in the repeats. The Discoverer’s repeats, however, are ever-so-slightly darker and hazier than the echoes from those units. The Discover also colors the attack of an initial note in a similar way. Depending on your tastes and objectives, these are not bad, and among the attributes that draw players to bucket brigade delay in the first place.
What really distinguishes the Discoverer is its modulation. Not coincidentally, perhaps, the modulation in the Discoverer has a bit in common with the vibrato sounds in the Comet Chorus. As a result, the Discoverer’s basic architecture and functionality starts to look and sound a lot like an old EHX Deluxe Memory Man. But there are subtle differences between the modulation in the two. The DMM’s vibrato modulations, at least on my vintage unit, have a very trebly and squiggly quality. The Discoverer’s, by contrast, are throatier, smoother, and more present in the low-midrange, as well as a tiny bit faster, giving the Discoverer’s modulations a more rotary-speaker-like voice. The results are intoxicating and addictive, to say the least.
Old-school Deluxe Memory Man users that creatively utilize the scale and spacing of the original DMM’s controls for oscillation and pitch-shift effects will also be thrilled with how the Explorer’s layout facilitates many of the same moves. All three knobs can be adjusted simultaneously with an easy three-finger grip, and the knobs turn with a smooth resistance that makes fluid, improvisational moves a piece of cake.
Carving out unique sounds isn’t easy in the overdrive realm. Even among very different overdrive pedals, you’ll often find a loss of audible crossover in tonality—particularly when you add additional pedals to the mix. And because Maestro has thus far been pretty secretive about what goes on under the hood, it’s hard to say which overdrive circuit, if any, inspired this design. To my ear, however, the basic voice aligns closely in both sound and feel with that of the Klon Centaur and better Klon clones. Maestro highlights the Ranger’s blend of clean and distorted tones as a feature. This is, of course, a hallmark of Klon design, which blends an op-amp distorted signal path with second and third paths of undistorted lows and boosted near-clean sounds, then blends the dirty and clean paths via the gain knob.
Like a Klon, there is a basic high-fidelity feel to the Ranger. And compared to a vintage TS9 or a Boss SD-1, the Ranger is discernibly more oxygenated and open-sounding in many of the same ways that distinguish a Klon from those pedals. There are still obvious differences in the performance envelope of the Ranger and the Klon-type pedals I used for comparison. The EHX Soul Food and Tone Bakery Creme Brulee I used as Klon stand-ins (the latter was a near dead-ringer for the real thing in a shootout) both have more available treble than the Ranger. But this could be a good thing if you’re trying to tame spiky transients in your overdriven signal without sounding overly compressed. And, in general, the Ranger’s not-too-bright voice makes it a great partner for stacking with fuzz and other overdrives, and tends to color your amp and guitar voice a lot less.