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It’s well known that tubes really are the heart of overdriven tones, but that’s a standard vacuum tube. What about a Xenon filled tube running at high voltages? Gamechanger thought the same thing and the results are very unusual, and very interesting. Enter the Gamechanger Audio Plasma Rack.
Opening the box, it was hard not to notice the block circuit diagram silkscreened on the top, that maps out the signal flow — yes it may look intimidating, but it gives the user an idea of how everything interacts with, well, everything else.
The front panel hosts the gain, volume, voltage (more on that later), high, mid and low EQ and clean blend knobs. There is also a tremolo with rate and depth controls. If desired it can be set to a dynamic mode, and responds to picking attack. Peppered amongst those controls are back lit push buttons that cover sustain, over saturate, clean EQ and clean gate. There’s also a front mounted Xenon tube that lights up like a lightning storm on the 4th of July, and reacts to the player’s attack. The rear panel sports all the ins and outs, and has balanced and unbalanced connections for Audio, MIDI and three effect loops, along with an expression pedal input.▼ Article continues below ▼
So, when plugging in any distortion device you expect the typical, warmer, soft clipping at lower settings, gradually getting gnarlier the further the knobs get pushed. Well, not here! This unit begins at gnarly, and just goes to insane. It starts off in the hard square wave area of signal manipulation. Guitar wise, it certainly can rip. Chord work is super modern and tight. The 3-band EQ can really dial in usable frequency space easily. The big thing that helps maintain clarity is the clean blend control, however if the gain stages are pushed, and the gate is engaged, it sounds like a broken fuzz pedal, but in a good musical way. This isn’t traditional in any way, its hyper modern, and has a big angle of attack when it comes to pairing it with guitar. The tremolo circuit is also quite mental, it can certainly do nice warm haunting pulses, up to stuttering like a laser gun. Pushing it even further it’s almost goes into ring modulation. The expression pedal output can be assigned to any control on the unit and gives real time control a great twist, especially on the tremolo or the clean blend.
One unique application on this is for drum machines and synths. It’s nothing new, using distortion devices to make even canned beats and presets unique, but running them through one of these really opens things up. This makes a lot of sense as this is rack unit, and with the knobs allowing real-time analog control, adjustments make sequences and beats a true interactive performance, not just a “press play” process.
Overall, it’s quite wild seeing that lighting arc across the front panel, but for guitar players who are going to pedals instead of rackmount gear, along with the high price tag, Gamechanger’s pedal version seem to make a lot more sense for the gigging 6-string (or bass) player. But for the synth and drum machine world, or the recording crowd, having one of these in a rack within arm’s reach, really makes a lot more sense.
hyper flexible EQ, super high gain distortions that go into infinity. Works well with synths and drum machines
Slightly pricey, might be overkill for many guitarists