ZVEX Effects Super Ringtone Review
Ring modulator meets sequencer—sonic mayhem ensues!
ZVEX introduced the Ringtone in 2006. It was heralded as “the world’s first dedicated tap-tempo sequenced ring modulator.” As the descriptor suggests, it appealed largely to the seriously adventurous stompbox tinkerer.
The new is a fully re-imagined, larger, and more powerful version of the original 8 step Ringtone: an analog, 16-step sequencing ring mod complete with MIDI ports, an expression pedal jack, and glissando control. This incarnation can achieve everything from rolling tremolo to robotic cacophony and save up to eight of your favorite settings making this feature-laden sound modifier and mangler a seriously dangerous stage weapon.
The Super Ringtone is overflowing with knobs and switches—some with multiple functions. There are four ways to control the tempo: speed knob, MIDI, expression pedal, and tap tempo. By turning the steps/preset knob, you can set the number of steps in a sequence (up to 16) when SEQ mode is selected. RND mode is a randomizer that hits different steps in scattershot fashion. STEP mode activates the selected step’s ring-mod setting, and engaging the tap/hold button will move to the next step in the sequence. With us so far?
The gliss knob controls the glissando rate between each step. Adjusting this knob changes all sequence steps to the same value. Turning this parameter clockwise smoothes out the transition into the next step, or can be turned counterclockwise for a choppy, uneven approach. Glissando levels for individual steps can be altered by using the little knobs beneath the red LEDs.
Encased in a heavy-duty box, ZVEX offers unfinished or handpainted models. The Super Ringtone ships with a 9V battery, or can power up via 9V barrel adaptor. There are two trim pots on the board that are accessed by removing the four plate screws. The right-hand pot adjusts the range of pitch for the ring modulator and the left pot is the dry/wet mix control. I’m sure ZVEX had their reasons for burying the mix control internally, but it seems like a strange choice for such a radical and complex effect where you might want to use a tamer setting more easily.
I found the most immediately usable tones in step mode. In this mode, the sequencer isn’t automated, so you only hear the steps and parameter settings you select. It’s easy to get very effective, if unusual textures here. For instance, by turning the glissando knob completely counterclockwise, I discovered a deep tremolo that changes shape, color, and speed as you turn clockwise. Once you hit about 9 o’clock, the effect turns metallic and ray-gun like. Past noon, things get more frantic still, but rich overtones start blending together—sounding something not unlike a killer cross between a cocked wah and a glockenspiel.
Delta mode is a cool time-bending function that works with the sequencer. Pressing down and releasing both tap div/delta and steps/preset knobs engages delta, which speeds up or slows down the tempo by depressing the tap/hold switch. I set the intensity of the warp by holding down and turning the tap div/delta knob. Depending on your settings, tap/hold can slow the sequence speed, delivering a cool decelerating sound, or one that rises in rate. When I release the switch, it snaps back to the original speed. This function not only sounds beautifully demented, it is exceptionally useful for a MIDI setup where you can warp the tempo for the elastic effect and then release to snap back to your external clock without missing a beat.
The features described here are a fraction of what the Super Ringtone can do. It’s a very unique and sonically potent pedal that demands a little effort if you intend to make the most of it. There’s a lot here for the experimental crowd, especially with the MIDI. At $349, it’s not priced for most in the casual let’s-give-it-whirl set. But if you commit to the pedal, it will reward that mindset plentifully.