Sunday, March 7, 2010

Electro-Harmonix Round-Up : 6 Reviews

So, I'm sort of an EHX buff, as you can probably tell.
Not that I own any stock, but their line-up is outstanding in quality and covering a wide price range.

I figured it was time for a complete review of my little collection.

First, some samples:

Small Clone (analog chorus)
A classic chorus : 1 Depth switch, 1 Rate knob, plug in a good guitar, play some major mode arpeggios and you’re back in 1990.
Like most vintage-style EHX pedals, it sure ain’t the most versatile tool, but that’s not the point. This is a straightforward, top quality, vintage analog chorus, aimed to provide instant gratification. It’s deep, musical, warm, giving depth and warmth to any sound at light settings and produces beautiful bubbley leads at heavy settings.

Memory Boy (analog delay)
This is a very fine offering from EHX to anyone looking for a reasonably priced analog delay. It’s much cheaper than the outstanding Deluxe Memory Man, but still features an interesting amount of functions.
1 Delay knob, with a 30ms to 550ms time range. That’s short compared to a digital delay, but then again, if you bought the Memory Boy, what you’re after is that special analog delay sound, the imperfect, muffled, warm echoes of an analog delay.
1 Depth knob, adding modulation to the signal, using either a triangle or a square waveform… for a regular delay effect, you’ll have this turned all the way left, but as you turn it clockwise, your guitar sound will get weirder and weirder till you happily destroy the signal. The rate of modulation is adjustable as well, from slow to medium to fast.
1 Blend knob, to mix the dry and wet signals, and finally the classic Feedback knob.
Overall, a most interesting buy, and probably a better choice than the even cheaper Memory Toy.

Big Muff (fuzz)
Now, here’s the real deal! Is there anything left to say on this mythical piece?
1 Volume knob, 1 Tone knob (from muffled, dark and warm to bright, edgy and mean), 1 Sustain knob (I guess Nigel Tufnel still is in the bathroom).
I unfortunately didn’t have much chance to record it for practical reasons, but I’ve been playing that one live on my jazzy Emperor Joe Pass hollowbody guitar and a Fender amp, and it’s pretty much the best electric guitar sound I have ever heard : deep, powerful, warm, a screaming yet mostly musical, organic, wall of sound.

Small Stone (analog phaser)
The Small Stone is a revered phase shifter pedal from Electro Harmonix, with a most distinguished pedigree, harking back to the glory days of EMS, the groundbreaking british company responsible for such electronic marvels as the VCS3. Engineer David Cockerell, first hired by EMS to work on early computer systems for music, designed in 1971 a very peculiar (and pricey according to long time user David Gilmour) guitar effect called the Synthi Hi-Fli, featuring advanced phase shifting and vibrato functions, along with that special EMS retro-futuristic look. Engaged by Electro Harmonix, Cockerell went on to create some of the best guitar effects, including the Small Stone phaser.
Very simple unit : 1 Rate knob, 1 Color switch, adding feedback to the 4 stage phasing effect. While it is mainly a guitar effect, nothing prevents you from plugging another audio source, which is precisely what French synthesist JM Jarre did, using the first 1974 version of the pedal (along with the Electric Mistress pedal, another Electro Harmonix product) on his Eminent 310U to create the astounding atmospheric pads of Oxygène (1976) and Equinoxe (1978).
My own Small Stone is the third version from 1980.

Stereo Pulsar (stereo tremolo)
While the tube-powered Wiggler is possibly the best EHX tremolo, it’s still quite expensive, and when looking for a vintage-sounding tremolo, you might want to opt for the Stereo Pulsar.
On its face, tremolo isn’t the fanciest effect, but it’s an important one nonetheless, whether you want to add depth and body to the guitar sound (light settings), create a retro fluttering lead (medium settings) or that familiar stagger that works so well with distortion (heavy settings).
What you’ve got here is:
1 Depth knob, controlling how deep the volume modulation will be.
1 Shape knob and 1 switch to select between triangle and sawtooth modulation waveforms and alter the shape of this waveform from pulse width to square.
1 Rate knob to control the modulation speed.

Electric Mistress (stereo flanger and chorus)
Here’s another recreation of a very classic 70’s pedal (which Jarre also used on synths).
It’s basically a flanger, with 1 Rate knob for speed and a couple of Depth knobs, but EHX have added a chorus to the mix, which allows for a wider array of shimmering, liquid textures.
Oh, and it’s stereo, which doesn’t hurt.

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