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Digital’s great for effects that really need to do math, like choruses, reverbs, delays and filters. Digital distortions, though, haven’t really caught on in pedals with a lot of players, because the benefit of the ability to recall sounds didn’t even out to the actual quality of drive sounds. Elektron brings that analog tone, with the benefits of digital sound recall. Problem solved.
The unit itself is slightly large, but it kind of needs to be. Eight selections of drive are available, and each version utilizes the gain, 3-band EQ, mid frequency control and level. A two-number display tells the player which setting is being used, and sits next to the “save” control. For players who just want to tweak on the fly, a manual toggle switch brings in the functionality of a traditional stomp box, where each knob is active.
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The rear panel has the usual ins and outs for analog signal, but has MIDI in and out as well, with two expression pedal outputs (one for the gain control, and the other for the mid frequency control). Despite all the options and plethora of knobs, its super intuitive to navigate, create a good drive tone, save it, and make another one. The middle foot switch engages the pedal, while the side buttons act as scroll up/down functions, cycling through the presets.
Sound-wise, it has a lot going for it. Some classics are emulated here, but with the addition of the EQ controls, you can bring out some options that the originals don’t have. Their mid-drive sounds like a TS circuit, which is known to have a mid-range hump that players love (or hate). With the extra EQ options, the EQ curve can be altered, which is great especially with at TS style sound. The same approach can be said for the harmonic fuzz settings, finding that sweet spot where the fuzziness isn’t lost in a sonic fog.
The focused distortion is based off of the classic man/horse pedal (starts with a K and ends with a LON) that now commands a ridiculous price on the used market. Speaking from experience with the originals, it really nails it. Plenty of picking response and dynamics, just like the original.
The other versions outlined in that large center knob certainly deliver; the boost is a nice bump, with gobs of headroom and clarity, while their dirty drive feels like it’s in the RAT zone, but with a much more flexible EQ, and far less noise. For the British flavors, the big distortion mode is glorious and massive. The Thick Gain and High Gain modes feel like two sides of a similar coin, with the high gain getting that sustain without fuzziness, and the thick gain bringing plenty of punch without feeling like the guitar is fighting its way through it all.
Connect an expression pedal to the gain control, and it’s great to set the drive with the pedal to where a good rhythm tone is, and use the pedal to bring it up to full. No need to jump to another patch or preset. Using an expression pedal on the mid frequency also dials in that sweet spot, enabling the player to not have to mess with gain, but find that area to poke through a mix. It can also work like a wah pedal, but the range isn’t as wide or as harsh as a conventional wah. However, it’s much quieter than most wah pedals, and in situations like wide filtery sweeps, it’s on point.
The only downside: the size. But considering how many drive pedals this could clear off your checklist, it kind of makes sense. This could easily stop some of the pedalboard madness that seems to dominate these days. One of these connected to an effects box like an Eventide HD, and/or one of Boss’s MS or ES switchers through MIDI, and with some really simple editing/programming it’s a small pedalboard with tons of options, and yet still retains an analog feel and tweakability (especially with an expression pedal or two).
Considering that just one “boo-teek” pedal could cost the same as one of these, it falls into the “it’s a no brainer” category. Get one of these and delete the phone number for your fave pedal mod shop and unsubscribe from all of those Facebook pedal pages now!