By Scott Auld
This month I had three unique pedals hit my doorstep, and more than being just more fun noisemakers, they actually awakened that curiosity about effects that seemed to be asleep in me for a long time. I remember how excited I was in my early teen when I first got to play with distortion – it was like I had discovered fire. The new Source Audio pedals actually got me feeling that way again. Let me explain why.
In a world where every pedal seems to come in the same old boring Hammond enclosure and only the screen printed graphics change (insert cool artwork here, kids!) it was a breath of fresh air to open up the pedals from Source Audio. They’re just so … different-looking! I didn’t know it yet, but this should have been my hint that they were engineered differently. The team at Source Audio appear to be a rare breed among engineers – they seem to be futurists as much as designers. It’s as if they’ve realized that we musicians have been stuck in the same rut for 40 years, and they appear to be determined to help us get moving forward again, into a future filled with possibilities.
Source Audio sent us a Soundblox Dimension Reverb pedal, a really interestingly laid-out pedal with its sideways-rectangle control knob layout and button panel below that. With 12 different flavors of reverb (6 different room sounds, 2 plate reverb settings, 2 spring reverb settings, and a modulation or an echo setting) and a massive amount of parameters you can tweak, the Soundblox Dimension 2 is a really versatile reverb unit that should find a home on everyone’s board.
Before I even read the directions, I just messed around with the center dial, getting the various reverb types to easily show off each of their unique characteristics. And they all sound so gorgeous, I really had a hard time deciding which one I wanted to leave it on. Our contact at Source Audio recommended we pay particular attention to the Spring Reverb mode, and he’s right, it’s really special. The engineers at Source Audio auditioned many amps and reverb units to make sure they got it right, and they nailed it.
Then, as I dug into the layers of this pedal (i.e., read the directions), I discovered the ability to modify the bass, treble, pre-delay amount, modulation rate, all in addition to the wet/dry mix and time of delay controls you expect to find on any ‘verb or delay pedal. You can also add an expression pedal to the Multi-function In jack (or, control it via MIDI), and you can use Soundblox’s Multi-function-Out jack to other Soundblox pedals to get them to interact with each other.
The reverb sounds themselves are stellar. According to the website, this is thanks to the “56-bit Digital Signal Processor, the SA601, and crystal clear 24-bit converters” … but I suspect it has more to do with the work of Bob Chidlaw, the 20 year chief scientist at Kurzweil. Mr. Chidlaw’s resume speaks for itself - he not only created their legendary piano tones and reverb effects, but has been a passionate user and creator of reverbs of all sorts for over 40 years. Mr. Chidlaw created all of the reverbs in the Soundblox Dimension Reverb. You’re not just buying some sounds here. You’re buying innovation that only comes from that kind of experience. All I know is that the reverb sounds REAL. I want a reverb that makes the amp sound like it’s really in a big room, and it does just that.
This reverb is just killer, doesn’t take up very much space on the board, and has way more settings than most people have ever had access to in one floor unit … which is a good thing, because the more options we have as musicians, the more creative we can be.
Source Audio also sent us one of their Programmable EQ pedals, which is an awesome little EQ in a tiny little box. But unlike the EQ pedals we’ve used in the past, with faders that slide up and down, the Source Audio unit uses a row of electronic meters to display what your EQ settings are, and is programmable so that you can recall your specific EQ settings for various uses – set it up one way for one song, but set it up another way for the solo.
The Programmable EQ allows for boost or cut of 18dB on seven frequency bands. There is a control on the pedal called "Octave Extend" which adds control over the 62Hz range.
Being able to set and recall different EQ settings (hands free – just hold the stomp button down and it scrolls through your presets) is just a great boon for live players. I used it to add some mid-freq boost for solos, just enough to start pushing the amp into overdrive, but it was nice because the bass frequencies were not boosting, which would have muddied things up considerably in the live band situation. While an EQ pedal is really one of those stealth pedals that should be on your board. And while an EQ is not necessarily as sexy as the latest trendy OD or wildly-painted multi-delay-OD-gizmo, the Source Audio Programmable EQ deserves to be at the top of your list of considered pedals for EQ.
Last, but not least, Source Audio included a Dual Expression Pedal, which feels very smooth and extremely precise in operation. The pedal has two outputs, so you can control two different pedals at the same time. What a concept! I’m telling you, these engineers have been really thinking outside the old box. I was using it to control two different delays that I have on my board and it was just great fun to be able to manipulate both of them at once.
In addition to operating like every expression pedal you’ve ever known, the Dual Expression also includes a special Sensor Output which “connects directly to any Hot Hand®, Soundblox®, Soundblox 2, or Soundblox Pro pedal for real-time control over filter sweeps, effect modulation, LFO speeds, wet/dry mixes, drive levels” and more. Oh, and did I mention, the range of Output 2 is adjustable with a knob on the right-hand side of the pedal? It’s really an expression pedal on steroids!
The Dual Expression pedal can also be used together with the Dimension Reverb in many interesting and creative ways - it can actually control ANY parameter on the reverb. For instance, the “Reverb Send” allows one to create the background, play over the background, add to the background, etc. depending on the pedal position. My experience was that this caused new musical ideas to start falling out of my head. I can’t see how that’s a bad thing!
So, to recap here, a small-footprint reverb pedal with the number of options you would normally only find in a rack unit, a programmable/recallable EQ, and an expression pedal that can simultaneously control 2 other pedals … these are examples of the unique thinking and clever design I keep seeing from the brilliant engineers at Source Audio. I am looking forward to the next batch of cool gadgets they come up with.