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Going direct and getting a realistic speaker sound used to mean either using a plug-in that ate up CPU power and used banks of parameters, or a DI box-like feature that would still need a ton of processing. The new Neunaber Iconoclast Speaker Emulator has combined the idea of the box, with the adjustability of a plug-in in their new Iconoclast.
It’s the size of an average stompbox, with two 1/4” TRS inputs and outputs, giving the option of stereo operation. The usual low, mid and high EQ controls sit next to a noise gate knob. A 1/8” headphone output is also available with its own volume control. The 9v power connection uses the standard negative center pin connection, so it works with pretty much every power supply on the market.
Simply plug in a pedal (or complete pedalboard) or preamp into the input, (oddly enough, mono in is the RIGHT side input) and connect the output to a mixer or DAW. Here’s where things get interesting, though. The EQ controls do function in those sound frequency ranges, but with a different intent — more in the essence of what part of an amp and speaker really affect their sounds.
The low control acts like a speaker cabinet selector; the lower setting is like a 1×12 open back cabinet, while at maximum, it gives the response of a closed back 4×12. The mid control acts like the “sag” a power amp has and how it responds to the speakers; it’s like a dampening effect in those mid frequencies. The high knob controls the drop-off response that a guitar speaker naturally has. At the higher settings, it gets a little sizzly and bright, but on some darker sounding guitars it’s not as prominent. The noise gate does just that; with one simple control, extraneous noise can be nailed down, even with super high-gain preamps.
Now here’s where things can really get interesting; there’s a USB connection as well. Download and install Neunaber’s editing software to open up an expanded world of options, such as the response of the noise gate, and a very extensive parametric adjustment palette. There’s also a graphical representation of the EQ that works in real time, from the pedal or via the software. What’s really cool is the Stereo Enabling mode; it turns the outputs into stereo, but it doesn’t feel like a modulation or any excessive processing. Just a nice and simple stereo image that works well for guitars.
Plugging in several different preamps and pedals during our tests, the Iconoclast gave an excellent response all around. It just brings out whatever’s in the pedal or preamp that’s being used, which makes this a hyper-versatile tool. On its own, just out the box, it’s amazing and even if it’s never connected to its editing software, there’s plenty of tweakability on its own.
There are a few ways it can be used. Simply plug it into the output of a pedalboard, and then into a DAW or mixer for recording. Substitute a PA system for the DAW, and it’s an excellent way to make a pedalboard your entire fly rig. Connecting it to an amp’s line out or FX send is an excellent option, as well. Want to just practice without disturbing anyone? Plug in a set of headphones for silent rehearsal.
The only downside is the extensiveness of the editing software; experts that know their way around a parametric EQ should be able to navigate and really tweak things, but it might be a bit overwhelming and feel like crawling in the dark to less experienced users. There is the ability to save presets, and if a few presets were available to show some examples of the various settings, that would have been a nice touch. Even better would be some presets designed to work with certain pedals or pedal types.
With a street price of $249, it’s quite reasonably priced, and far more flexible than a plug-in. A player who relies on their pedalboard for their tones, will really appreciate the way it can be used live, as well as in the studio. It can really make getting a direct sound a way of getting “their” sound without an amp, easy.
Easy to use, EQ is versatile, works well with a variety of gain pedals/preamps.
Editing software might be a little overwhelming.