Hey guys Brian from World Music Supply here again, sorry about my absence on Monday, I was feeling a tad under the weather, but I’m back now and ready to bring you all a healthy dose of guitar and gear reviews. In today’s review, I got the chance to look at some more interesting pedals from our friends over at Electro Harmonix. Electro Harmonix is famous the world over for such treats as the Big Muff Pi, the Small Stone, the Small clone, and the Electric Mistress, but Electro Harmonix is also famous for making such weird pedals as the Talking Machine, the v256 Vocoder, and who could forget the famous P.O.G with its giant church organ tones.
Its these radical experiments that I find so amazing about Electro Harmonix, that while they could easily live off their stable of famous stomp boxes, they continue to invent and create more and more powerful little treasures, that take your sound from ordinary to extraordinary time and time again. In today’s rundown, I get to look at the Freeze Sound Retainer, the Ring Thing Ring Modulator, but before those two I want to start with one of the simplest ideas for a pedal ever, that could not have been executed any better, the Hum Debugger.
The idea was simple, get rid of the 60 cycle hum that always accompanies guitar signals, especially when that guitar is equipped with single coils. Long time readers of the blog will know that I am a big fan of telecasters, and have toured and recorded with them extensively. The problem was on bigger stages, the sound of the hum from the lights was amazingly annoying, and I always had to roll the volume on the guitar all the way off inbetween songs, and when recording, I had to stand as far away as possible from the computers just to get rid of that annoying hiss. Enter the Hum Debugger, a pedal that does exactly what it says it does. From my understanding, this pedal actually analyses the signal and removes the white noise behind the main note, without actually effecting the fundamental tone of the guitar. This is not a notch filter, or a EQ that scoops out the 60HZ frequency, this pedal just deletes the hum, but leaves everything else intact.
I’m not super sure how it works, but I know that since it’s found its way onto my pedal board, it has not moved, Its almost always on, even when I’m playing a guitar with humbuckers, putting the Debugger on the normal setting leaves me with a clean tone free of any unwanted noise. This pedal was designed to do one job, and it does that job with flying colors. The Hum Debugger gets a very well deserved 10 out of 10 for solving the problem of single coils once and for all.
Next up is a pedal that is a little more complex, the Ring Thing. The Ring Thing is a ring modulator, which uses a separate frequency to modulate the active frequency of the guitar or what ever you choose to run through the pedal. This results in rather alien sounding harmonies, strange sounding atonal clanging, and occasional Doctor Who sounding monster noises; in fact the famous Dalek Voice was produced by a ring modulator. The Ring Thing however also features an amazingly realistic pitch shifter, cool tremolo effects, chorus style sounds and you can even tune the pedal to the guitar in real time by the simple press of a foot swich, meaning all of those strange harmonies can now always be in tune with your guitar.
The Ring Thing takes a bit of getting used to, even more so than a typical ring modular thanks to the inclusion of all the extra bells and whistles. After about an hour or so of tweaking though, and a fair amount of time trolling forums and youtube for videos, I was able to make my guitar do everything from a very convincing impersonations of a baritone guitar, use it as a whammy pedal, make warbly leslie like sounds, and of course, make crazy worlds colliding, chain saw grinding, alien talking sounds that just make the sound a ring modulator so distinctive. The moving harmonies are really cool, even though their sound is very different and a tad atonal sounding to those not used to hearing them.
As far as ring modulators go, the Ring Thing is leaps and bounds above the rest, and it can easily fill the space of a chorus pedal, a tremolo, a pitch shifter, or even a whammy pedal. At the end of the day, this pedal is a great jack of all tradesv to have in your pedal board, just incase you need a tone that is a little out there, or a little less then usual. The Ring Thing easily deserves its score of 10 out of 10, and I strongly suggest any guitarist, keyboardist, bassist, or just anyone who loves experimenting with sounds to get their hands on this pedal as soon as possible.
Last up in today’s list is the Freeze Sound Retainer, which is exactly what it sounds like, it freezes the sound in place. This is strange, and difficult to learn to use in a really musical way, as most people online and in person will just strum a chord, step on it, and solo over it, but there is so much more to this. Using it in conjunction with a number of other pedals, and yet again searching through forums, and of course Electro Harmonix youtube channel, I quickly saw the power that this pedal possesses. The ability for a guitarist to create large walls of sound, and cool synth sounding pads is increased dramatically. The importance of this, is probably more visible to guitarists who either are the only guitarist in a band, or the only real chordal instrument in a band, as it allows you to cover far more musical territory than a lone strummed guitar. Using this in conjunction with a P.O.G allowed me to sound like a real organist, with one hand holding down chords, while another was playing lead lines, but all I was doing was holding the chords with the Freeze, and playing melody while it was frozen.
I was able to create large dramatic, and almost ethereal sounding sound-scapes, which were musical but subtle, which I can image would be a god send for anyone who always had to rely on multiple delay effects to achieve these kind of walls of sound. For what it does, and for the creativity it can lead to, the Freeze Sound Retainer earns itself a 9 out of 10, only because many want a pedal that just does something, rather than helping them do more creative things. If you really invest some time in the Freeze Sound Retainer however, you will find this an amazing addition to your sound.