Bounce Your Way to Madness
Mad modulator? Dipsy delay? Flipped filter? Slippery sequencer? Maybe it’s a tuneful popcorn machine in a box! The PG Alexander Superball review.
Recorded via Shure SM57 and Apogee Duet to Garage Band with Guild X-175 and Fender Vibro Champ.
The first set of arpeggiated passages is played in LFO mode at various rates, depths, and filter settings.
At 0:51, the pedal’s “high” range is altered to generate a bouncier delay.
Capable of switching from conventional to demented sounds. Provokes unorthodox creative decisions.
Learning curve can be steep. It can be hard to return to identical settings without presets.
Alexander Superball Kinetic Modulator
Ease of Use:
I don’t know about you, but I think the superball is the greatest bang-for-the-buck toy value ever. Just drop a couple quarters in the gumball machine and you’ve got hours of endless hilarity, mischief, and good times—at least until it bounces across six lanes of boulevard and down the storm drain.
Alexander Pedals’ aptly named Superball often behaves with the randomness and high-energy potential of those manically elastic little spheres. At its core, the Superball is a digital delay. But its onboard sequencer and LFO make it a very unique delay—one that often sounds nothing like delay at all.
Blink ’Til Yer Batty
The Superball isn’t the kind of pedal that you plug in and get precisely the sound you expect. It can feel alternately chaotic and thrilling. But as musically freeing as the Superball can be, dialing in sounds you hear in your head can be elusive and complex without a lot of practice. In most settings, Superball is lit up like a busy international airport tarmac at night, largely because it relies on different color LEDs—some static, some blinking—to relay information about your control mode, modulation rate, wave shape, and more. It adds up to a lot of information to take in at any given time, and you really have to engage simultaneously with abstraction and logic to bend Superball to your whims.
Bouncing from Base Camp
In the included manual (and in an excellent tutorial video), Alexander prescribes a method for dialing up a baseline delay mode. It’s an effective jump-off point. And from this setting you can use the delay quite conventionally, adjusting repeats, delay time, and mix to fairly predictable ends.
As you stray from the baseline delay, it’s important to pay close attention to how the knobs affect the signal in different control modes (which you change using the small red pushbutton in the center). Two of Superball’s four basic control modes, “lo” and “hi,” determine the characteristics of the two delays that Superball modulates between. (You can think about them as the points at which a superball hits the ground and the apex of its arc.)
In LFO mode, these knob functions shift. Rate determines how fast the pedal modulates between the two delays. Depth controls the modulation intensity. Wave selects sine, square, ascending and descending saw tooth, or random modulation wave shapes. The sync knob, meanwhile, determines whether the pedal continuously modulates between the two delays, or modulates in bounce mode, in which each successive modulation loses intensity (a nice way to tuck some of the Superball’s more radical textures into more mix-friendly spaces).
In sequencer mode, the controls regulate how many steps make up a sequence and enable selections from five different sequencer patterns. You can also control the rate at which those patterns percolate and whether the sequence is continuous or activated by the bounce switch.
Given how tricky it can be to craft specific sounds, the presets are critical to returning reliably to a pattern you like. Thankfully, the set-and-recall functions are simple—involving just a few fast maneuvers with the right footswitch and center control button.
The Superball isn’t all randomness. Some LFO mode settings can deliver the smooth undulations of a rotating speaker. Delays can have a warm, round fundamental sound, and gently rise in intensity before cycling again. With the presets you can move between these more sedate sounds and weirder fare. And using the pedal in this way opens doors for conventional players that like a blast of randomness in an otherwise predictable musical setting.
The Superball is chock-full of possibilities for ambient and improvisational guitarists, and players that perform in electronic music settings, as well as aspiring Jonny Greenwoods. Given the vast variety of available sounds, it’s a shame you can’t get more presets without bringing MIDI into the picture. But the ground you can cover with just four presets, and the almost infinite number of sounds you can make, give Superball fantastic potential for sparking song and riff creation, spicing up mundane passages, and re-shaping whole musical moods.