october 2013

Angry, dirty, blues-rock through the fuzz of a woman scorned.

Deap Vally
Sistrionix
Cherrytree/Interscope

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An analog modulation pedal inspired by the Uni-Vibe—but with some compelling new twists.

Modern music history is littered with instruments that failed at their original mission, only to become something more interesting in creative hands. Synthesizer horns, analog drum machines, home organ banjo sounds: None of them authentically replicated the sounds that inspired them, yet all became great tools of expression on their own merits. You can make a case that the original Univox Uni-Vibe falls in that category.

Conceived to replicate the rich and complex sounds of a rotating speaker, the Uni-Vibe was charged with an unenviable task that the best DSP technology has only now tackled with real success. But if the Uni-Vibe didn’t sound exactly like a Leslie, its rich phasing and chorus effects were glorious, particularly in the hands of exploratory players like Hendrix, Trower, and Gilmour.

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An exciting wah alternative in an innovative package at a great price.

A new Electro-Harmonix pedal usually means an exciting, if not radical, twist on tradition. So while I wasn’t exactly surprised by EHX’s attempt to reshape expression pedal effects with the new Talking Pedal formant filter (and the other pedals in the company’s Next Step line), I’m thrilled by the sounds it makes and the way it makes them. Wah pedals may not have changed much since the ’60s, but the Talking Pedal feels and sounds different.

Formant Speaks EHX is attempting to tackle the inherent shortcomings of traditional wah design via an expression pedal with no moving parts. The Talking Pedal resides in a super-rugged, unibody chassis that’s rounded on the bottom. Inside is a motion sensor like those found in smartphones. And in classic EHX “why not?” spirit, there’s also an adjustable fuzz circuit. It’s a simple yet powerful combination that yields remarkable results.

The sonic differences between a wah pedal and a formant filter pedal can be subtle or extreme. Both effects employ resonant filters, but formant filter typically sound more like human voices. They usually consist of multiple filters sweeping multiple frequencies, producing a more complex, voice-like sound.

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