Note – this article is not necessarily intended as a guide to the specific pedals out there on the market or used by musicians. Instead, it gives a deeper look into the mechanics of each of these kinds of effects – how they work to create the sounds that they do, and how this in turn shaped the musical era when these became popular- both in the public imagination and in the way guitarists continue to use them today. Any of these kinds of pedal can be found in both digital and analogue form, with digital pedals for sound design altering the wave form in a very similar way to their analogue counterparts.
The two decades spanning the 1960s to the 1970s were a seminal and pioneering period of music. As society became less restrictive, all forms of new subcultures were born. Beginning with The Beatles, who took a strong influence from Indian ragas – and ending with Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, in this period music technology saw exponential growth in response to changes in demand by the music industry. Luthiers, technicians, and electronics specialists were able to showcase their skills with the design of new sounds and repurposing of old sounds.
These new sounds led to musicians redefining what it meant to play guitar. Sound recordings became increasingly complex, and memorabilia from the era has become prized within the market. Conjuring up vistas of the desert areas of California, with their rocky outcrops, stunning saguaro cacti, and the backdrop to many a Hollywood movie, guitarists in the sixties were all about distorting the sound of the original note through effects which aimed as much for edgy rebellion as for a mellow, rich, soulful tone with plenty of harmonics and different layers. Jimi Hendrix is one of the most notable as he held the stage through the raw feeling of his distorted version of the Star-Spangled Banner. Below are some of the pedals which became popular within the era – and a guide to their internal mechanisms for anyone curious about the creation of its signature sounds.
This pedal was most famously used by Hendrix – and is designed to make a crying sound come out of the guitar. Wah pedals work by adding a filter to the original sound which is controlled when the pedal is activated, as well as by controls which may vary from pedal to pedal. As a result, parts of the soundwave are chopped off, boosting the midrange, and excluding the extremities to make the guitar sound as if it has literally developed a voice of its own. This mid-range boost is a very characteristic part of its technology, mellowing out the sound- making it richer, fuller, and more human. On any DAW, the wah pedal is one of the most commonly included pedal in any FX library, due to its popularity and versatility.
The fuzz pedal – another characteristic sound of the sixties and seventies desert rock era – uses a phenomenon called clipping to create a very different kind of distortion from both wah pedals and the myriad overdrive pedals available on the market. This means that so much gain is applied to the signal that it distorts, hitting a threshold which essentially causes the soundwave to double back on itself and overlap, causing a very grainy, thick sounding wall of noise. Whilst clipping is undesirable in the mixing and mastering process, within a fuzz pedal, all runs smoothly based off a very simple circuit and the resulting sound is much softer than the process within the mechanics might suggest. In fact, this is one of the gentler forms of guitar distortion, used by pop rock bands all throughout the sixties and seventies but also perfect for the slower ballads of harder rock acts. Like the wah pedal, the fuzz pedal is a staple of pretty much all DAWs, and there are plenty of options.
Tremolo bars became a characteristic feature of classic American rock ‘n’ roll towards the end of the era as guitar effects moved on in their sophistication. As rock music became more complex and the solos contained higher and more intense riffs, tremolo bars were favoured to give a ‘wobbly’, distorted sound to high notes.
Tremolo can refer to both the tremolo or whammy bar – which is a feature on certain kinds of guitar – as well as to tremolo pedals, which use very small, frequent alterations in either pitch, volume, or both to create a vibrato effect. Both square and sine waves distort the original signal differently, with distortion in this case referring to a way of altering the notes, which is different to the emphasis of undertones, overtones, and overlapping waves in fuzz, wah, and overdrive pedals. Therefore, they are invaluable for cleaner solos and different sounds when rock or metal guitarists want to take a break and go clean again. A tremolo is easily found on many FX plugins on DAWs such as Logic and Ableton.
Classic distortion is one of the most recognisable sounds of the era, and music legend has it that it first became a significant part of rock history when the Rolling Stones stomped on their amps to record their now classic song (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. As a result, millions of other artists craved the sound which set them apart and provided a sense of edgy rebellion against the puritanism, clean sounds and lyrics of the fifties as middle America really came into being. The distorted sound became synonymous with music which set its listeners apart a little bit. It’s not hard to find distortion/overdrive on any DAW – and the multitude of choices means there is something for everyone, though as a result careful consideration is needed to find the perfect sound for your track.
This pedal is most synonymous with the early seventies when Led Zeppelin began using it in their guitar solos to great effect. During this time, rock music began getting heavier. The phaser pedal is one which creates a sweeping sound by filtering the original signal via a sound processor. It has a series of peaks and troughs in its frequency attenuation graph, and thus when the positions of the peak’s changes, it makes the original note sound as if it is sweeping up and down due to the constantly changing frequencies within the pedal’s filter. As a result, this can be used to great dramatic effect. Phaser plugins range from state of the art to basic and can be found for all styles of guitar from psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll to heavy metal.
How have these sounds become associated with the Californian desert and how have they been repurposed for today?
Every era of music has its distinctive and characteristic sounds, but these sounds are some of the most evocative of a particular place and time because of the emotional and historical significance of the music which was created there. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix were pioneers of the music which shaped the minds and hearts of the youth at the time as well as bands such as Deep Purple, America, and earlier bands such as The Beatles and the Mamas and the Papas- and which for many who remember the era, this music still holds an extremely special place due to the memories of freedom and rebellion associated with it.
The Californian Desert was also the location of many historical festivals such as Woodstock – and saw the birth of musical get togethers which are still going on to this day. As a result, it is sometimes impossible to think of this era without also recalling the desert sounds and mesa outcrops which painted the backdrop to these festivals. Even to this day, the branding and decoration of some of these evokes the period with psychedelic lettering and bold colours, and the types of pedals in this article are perfect for bringing this era back to life or repurposing it’s sounds.
The Audio-Technica AT2035 is a side-address cardioid condenser microphone that is perfect for both studio and live applications. It has a large diaphragm that provides natural sound reproduction, and its low-profile design makes it ideal for use in tight spaces.
The Audio-Technica AT2035 is a great microphone for anyone looking for an affordable alternative to some of the more expensive models on the market. This mic is perfect for home studios, project studios, and even live applications.
The Audio-Technica AT2035 is very solid with a metal body casing and a durable metal grill protecting the microphone capsule. The mic is made of all-metal construction, and it feels very solid in your hand. This makes it less likely to suffer damage from accidental drops or impacts, which can be important if you’re using it in a live setting.
The shock mount on the Audio-Technica AT2035 is very well-designed, and you won’t have any issues with it. The mount will help to keep the mic stable and free from vibration, which can cause noise and degradation in your recordings.
The AT2035 has a cardioid polar pattern, which is ideal for capturing vocals and instruments in a close-up setting. This ensures that the sound picked up by the mic is focused on the front while minimizing noise from the sides and rear. This makes it well-suited for recording solo artists or small groups in a studio setting.
The AT2035 has a frequency response of 20 Hz-20 kHz, which makes it suitable for a wide range of applications. It will provide accurate recording of vocals, guitars, and other instruments, making it a versatile option for studios of all sizes.
However, if you need a mic with a greater frequency response, then you may want to consider looking at some of the other options on the market.
The AT2035 has a sensitivity of -33dB, meaning it is capable of capturing sounds at lower volumes. This is great for recording quieter sounds, like a singer’s voice or a piano.
This is great because it means your pre-amp won’t be overloaded. In other words, you can use a lower-powered microphone pre-amp to get the same or better results than you would with a higher-powered pre-amp. This is important if you’re using a portable audio recorder, which often doesn’t have a lot of power.
This low sensitivity makes it very difficult for the AT2035 to pick up background noise, making it ideal for situations where there are lots of things that could cause interference. This is why the AT2035 is such a great choice for home studios and professional studios, where capturing every detail is critical.
When used in a quiet recording environment, the AT2035 can produce very clear and rich sounds. This is due to its low sensitivity which allows it to capture quieter sounds without being overwhelmed by background noise. This makes it an ideal microphone for use in professional studios and home studios.
The Audio-Technica AT2035 microphone is designed to provide the best sound possible. This microphone has a cardioid polar pattern, which helps to isolate the sound source and reduce feedback. It also has a low-cut filter to remove any unwanted low-frequency noise.
The AT2035 microphone is also designed for durability. It has a die-cast metal housing that can withstand regular use, and the included stand mount helps to keep it in place. This microphone is also compatible with most standard audio interfaces, making it easy to use with any recording software.
The Audio-Technica AT2035 produces very clear and natural sound. This is due to its large diaphragm, which helps to capture all the nuances of your recordings. The mic is also very sensitive, allowing you to capture sounds at lower volumes without having to worry about background noise.
This mic is known for its clear, crisp sound. It’s perfect for both home and studio recording, as well as live performances. Additionally, the AT2035 is very versatile, and can be used with a variety of sound sources.
The Audio-Technica AT2035 is an excellent microphone for the price. It produces sound quality that is comparable to much more expensive microphones. I have tried several other microphones in this price range, and the AT2035 is the only one that comes close to matching the sound quality of the NT1-A.
The Audio-Technica AT2035 is a condenser microphone that connects through an XLR interface. It requires phantom power, which is pretty much standard for condenser microphones. This microphone is also back electret, meaning it is forgiving about voltage (Rated 11-52V DC).
The Audio-Technica AT2035 is a great all-around microphone that is well-built and has some great features. The mic is perfect for recording vocals, acoustic instruments, and other sources.
If you are looking to spend under $300 on a microphone, the Audio-Technica AT2035 is one of your best choices. This microphone has great sound quality, and it is built to last. It also comes with a variety of accessories that make it easy to get started recording right away.
While analog seems like a pretty much forgotten domain, digital music production using DAWs such as Logic, Reason, and Ableton, has become the norm in the modern music industry. With so many instruments, FX, and VSTs in one place, they seemingly have everything a modern musician needs. Yet to expand the sound of your music you may want to combine digital and analogue sounds.
Choose your DAW
All round BEST DAW: Logic
Logic is by no means the only DAW on the market yet is the first option which many musicians jump to. Nevertheless, to combine digital with analogue it isn’t always the best option. Logic has such as wide range of different VSTs, plugins, FX, and ways to mix and master your music – but producing everything similarly can starve your creativity. There is no true BEST when checking out DAW options, but Logic is a great all-rounder that can do everything you need.
Check out these other DAWs for alternative options, if you are on a budget or if you are still learning digital music production:
Budget friendly DAW: Reaper
Reaper is basic, but this can be exploited by the savvy musician to further creativity. Due to not using much power, it can be modified with many of your own plugins or external equipment like external FX plugins for a low cost and streamlined way of working.
Great for beginners: Ableton
Meanwhile, Ableton live is a great way of bringing analogue gear into digital music production. By pushing the buttons on the live pads, even with entirely digital sounds, layering them can free up your creativity and create thicker, richer, and more nuanced sound. Loading both digital and analogue sounds, which can be run through FX pedals for a richer warmer sound or combined with digital instruments like synths.
Digital and Analog Music Gear: What’s on the Market?
Using electric guitar and pedals, or stomp boxes, may not be immediately obvious in electronic music but can be done to great effect with low key guitar and heavy usage of FX making the humble Fender Strat or Telecaster sound otherworldly and unique, generating sounds which could not be achieved with digital FX or production but which you would not necessarily know were analog. For the rest of the article, we will only focus on pedals, leaving analog synthesisers and other instruments to a separate one.
I have experimented with combining analogue stompboxes and other FX pedals with digital production, especially with digital drum patterns. They work together very well when combined with electric guitar as this can be produced in such a way that its rich, raw analogue sounds are modulated and toned down to combine with slick electronic synths and drumbeats.
They can also change the sound of your guitar. So that it is less obviously a six-stringed electric or acoustic, making it ambiguous and therefore creating all sorts of fantastic and ethereal sounds. This can open up more options than may even have been on your DAW in the first place. It’s a reminder that sounds do not just come from our computers and online but that the world around us can be a constant source of inspiration.
Best analog stompboxes for combining with digital music production:
Naturally there are loads of different stompboxes to choose from on the market, even within any one category such as fuzz or wah pedals. These are only a few of the possible options out there and are simply a good place to start.
Behringer pedals are relatively cheap and are great pedals for beginners. There are many different kinds and they can easily be combined with your existing digital gear due to the fact that their controls are very similar to those which exist on DAWs such as logic. A basic Behringer distortion pedal can be used with Logic to bring some authentic, raw sounding distortion to low key electric guitars for bedroom pop or indie music.
EVH Phase 90
Phaser pedals are a great way of introducing weird sounds to your electronic music. Synths and other forms of sound modulation are great for creating tense and exciting electronic beats but missing out on the variety of other sounds out in the analogue world would be a mistake.
Phaser pedals are generally used with electric guitar for classic rock and roll sounds, especially in the 80s. With the current focus on retro and the vinyl revival, why not bring them to the present era by recording phased guitar and using it as a sample or synth patch for high-powered electropop.
Like the phaser, it may not occur to you to use retro sounding pedals in modern electronic music. Nevertheless, with enough production, a fuzz pedal or wah pedal can be used to add layers of depth to your electronic music.
With digital, bedroom-based production one thing which is lost is the warmth and depth of tone of analogue production. There is always a fine balance between creating depth or interesting sounds and keeping the crispness which makes electronic music so listenable.
A wah pedal can be used to create a wall of sound effect which is great for combining with mixed vocals and synth sounds for big choruses. Dunlop pedals are a great middle of the road brand for this as for a pedal you may use quite a lot but which needs to stand up to the wear and tear of production, they are not too expensive but still provide great sound. Try the cry baby pedal for big noises to mix down and combine with synths and electronic drums.
Ways to Combine ANALOG and DIGITAL MUSIC workflows
It isn’t every guitarist’s first preference to record guitars dry into their interface and DAW, but for electronic musicians who are not bound by the conventions of rock history, it is a way to get subtle and low-key electric guitar sounds into otherwise electronic songs and have them still work, without sounding overpowering or like two completely disparate genres have been mashed together.
Try it and then layer FX to your choice over the top of them. The dry base can give you more options for creativity as you add different musical textures and ingredients.
Recording and then adding FX
Recording wet sounds such as by miking up amps can result in a rich sound which is not always desirable in electronic music as it can drown out the other elements. However, if you choose to record this way, good, pro level EQ plugins can allow you to mix to your liking and have the best of both worlds – the multiple tones and the appeal of real instruments, as well as the cleanness of electronic sound and the ability to manipulate sound to your liking to create bigger, punchier dynamics like pulsing EDM drums for a danceable pop song or the hazy atmosphere of dreamy bedroom pop by adding reverb and delay.
Digital and Analog Music – Conclusions
Combining analogue and digital sounds is as simple as using your gear creatively and making sure that you understand the contexts in which different sounds are used.
Hello and welcome to our round-up of the best portable music studio gear in 2022, for producing electronic music on the go and also for live music shows. This list is by all means non-final, and will get updated when the market provides us studio-heads with more options. So if you want to go on the road, you found a nice spot that gives you inspiration or even if you don’t have a permanent place to stay, this one is for you.
Below you will find only the greatest portable music production equipment, we bring you the best of the best and the second offer, so don’t expect an all inclusive 15-item list, just our own selection.
This one is a no-brainer basically. It is the most compact portable digital audio mixer in existence, and had a very good reception when it was introduced back in 2019. While the 1010music blackbox studio – compact sampling and mixing device does not have the hands on control of a traditional mixer, it packs in all the features.
1010music bluebox provides 6 stereo 3.5 mm TRS inputs. Of course you are not going to get your studio-grade 16, 24 or 32 input mixing console, but if you are travelling, you will not be doing so with your full collection of synths to actually plug in to 24 audio channels. Yes you cannot do the smooth fader movements, often 3-4 at one time, but again going portable is all about compromises.
So yes, there is menu-diving and yes you rely on a touch screen for most of your work with this, but the size in unbeatable and the price is extremely good too. You can record everything on one or more micro-sd cards which is also a very nice feature as it can completely remove your laptop from your portable setup if this is what you want. If you are travelling on a plane and you are limited in weight of your luggage, it is excellent.
It also has two outputs plus headphones, so there is the option to have some outboard processing as well, as it has the option to create bus style routing. Overall, it can be the centre of you portable music studio or live act setup as it also comes equipped with MIDI I/O, a four-band EQ for each channel,
The Bluebox mixer supports USB power so it most definitely can run off an USB power bank, just make sure you get a name-brand one as the cheaper alternatives are not that stable and may end up frying your gear or just cutting the power without saving your work.
For live acts, it might not be the best weapon that you have as it lacks tactile speed of a normal mixing board. This one is more of a set-and-forget device, so you have to be aware of it’s shortcomings.
This portable music studio mixer is more for the old-school types that want to have a more hands on approach, and prefer to trade off some space for this (obviously). This Yamaha mixer does not have a screen, but it does have two microphone XLR connections with phantom power, plus two stereo/four mono inputs. It does not have the ability to record on external media, but it offers a metal rugged chassis and you can just use what recording device you can get including a sound card and a laptop; maybe take them from your fixed studio?
Yes while it has it’s drawbacks, it still boosts an extra compact layout and has some rather good built-in effects, two sets of (identical) outputs, phone outputs and high pass filter option on the inputs (to filter out the low 80hz frequencies). While 1010music are a newcomer to the game, Yamaha has been building studio gear for a long time, and knows its way around mixing equipment.
The inputs of the Yamaha MG06x are studio grade and other than the effects, the sound processing is fully analog. It is also good for the money you pay for it, and weight in at just about 2 pounds, it will fit into your bag without problems. Just don’t expect to run this thing off batteries, it will only work with mains level power.
Again a piece of studio gear from 1010music, who specialises in very portable equipment. The blackbox is a very interesting sampler with extra features. It has a touchscreen that is both bright and generous (given the full unit size).
Again, the purpose is mostly to replace your computer as it features an arranger and song builder completely out of your samples, but you can also use it to capture performances on your $20.000+ synths that never leave the studio and just jam with what you recorded when out and about.
For that purpose it gets the job done with a bit of creativity to spare thanks to the internal effects and presets.. The 1010music blackbox also supports an SD card like the blue box and takes in both mono and stereo samples at 16, 24 and even 32bit. It has a 24 bit DAC so your recordings from the analog world will sound best.
Just like the Bluebox portable music studio mixer, the Blackbox sampler can run off an USB power bank, just make sure you get a good one that provides a stable voltage.
As i/o connectivity goes, you can put one stereo channel in and get three stereo channels out but don’t forget that you can internally mix these analog signals with the samples that are run internally (16 channels). It also supports 16-note polyphony and USB and TRS midi (you will need an adapter if you want to MIDI interface with other traditional 5-pin sockets).
So this portable music studio piece of equipment seems to tick all the boxes, but what it does not have is hands on approach. So while it is good for production, in a live show you might not really want this as it takes a bit of time to do significant changes to your sound and also because of the touchscreen interface, the control might be a bit wonky.
While the previous sampler is considered by us the best, this is mostly because of the portability factor and also because most people use samplers more as sample players, and just changing the sample recorded from time to time without serious editing in real time.
However, for those that want more control and are willing to sacrifice a bit of portability, there is the Elektron Model:Samples.
Yes we are huge Elektron fans here at idesignsound. These Swedish guys nailed it with their grooveboxes, their workflow is fun and their specialty is flexibility. With the exception of the mixer and effect category, Elektron are present with offerings on all portable music studio gear types presented in this article
The Elektron Model:Samples is considered a very entry-level way of getting familiar with the way that this company handles it’s workflow. Everyone will tell you that they have a bit of a learning curve and that they see things a bit differently. Some will even say that they tend to make user experiences that are overly complex, even for the most trivial of tasks. But we tend to disagree, as all things that they do, they do for flexibility and power.
It is clear to us that with the Model:Samples they tried a bit of simplification. They offer a lot of one-function-per-knob controls which is very rare these days, especially in compact gear. They seem to create a lot of space between these knobs so they are perfectly suited for live performances where you don’t really get great lighting and you may twist the wrong knob if the controls are very close to each other.
The features are great on this product, and we would like to firstly point out the sequencer. Yes, Elektron have probably the best and most powerful sequencing options in the game and have made this their most important trademark. You can record live, you can program changes of parameters in each step, you can have odd sequencing times and you can have probabilities and micro-timing settings too. This is basically standard for this company, and the Model:Samples makes no exception. Then, you have the six velocity sensitive pads to get finger drumming, the retrigger and the stereo effects, all very useful.
While the sampling and sound engine is limited, this is to be expected as the company offers more products with a higher price tag and better sampling features. Let’s remember that this is an entry level product and that sampling is mostly just sample playback.
Ok, now we get deep and dirty with the Elektron offerings. While the previous product we discussed, the Model:Samples was considered an over-simplification, the Analog4 ticks all the boxes of the Elektron not-so-beginner-friendly way. The Analog4 is an excellent sounding and extremely versatile synth. Most people swear by it in every live show, although some consider the oscillators and sound engine to be a little thin. We personally disagree, and we have alywas enjoyed the sound that you can get with an Analog4.
This is mostly because of the complex modulation routings possible with it (basically you can modulate every parameters of the synth) and the waveshaping possibilities (all oscillator wave types can have the pulse wave modulated). There is a very interesting trapezoid wave type, there is partial oscillator sync, there are a lot of envelope shapes to choose from and there is AM. The new MK2 version of the Elektron Analog4 has a redesigned outer shell, it looks very pretty but if you want extreme compactness, you should look for a used MK1 as they have the classic rectangle groovebox shape profile.
The 4 in Analog4 stands for the separate synth channels that this thing can output. This is called multi-timbrality. What this means is that while you are buying one single unit, it is capable of creating four individual and distinct sounds that can have their own sequences and their own modulations (albeit these four distinct channels will be monophonic meaning you can only play one note at a time)
If you don’y want four mono channels but actually need some polyphony, this thing can switch to four-note polyphonic play (so you can do chords with it). The voice routing is extremely flexible and you can have eveything in between (two mono channels, one 2-note poly) including four note unison.
The sequencer on the Analog4 is state of the art, with every possible creative trick at your disposal. There is a lot spoken about the Elektron sequencer, it being an entire subject on its own, so it is important that you actually research this if you plan on buying this product. What is important to say si that with the most recent patches applied, you can even send the sequencer notes via MIDI to other gear and have the Analog4 as a midi brain, sending notes to the other compact equipment that does not have a means of inputting notes.
There are three stereo effects on board this beast, and there are also two audio inputs so you can use these effects for your other sound generators. The delay shines and you can sync it via MIDI too. Speaking of audio inputs, the Analog4 can even work as a sound card via USB, getting two mono channels of sound in your computer or getting two mono channels of sound from your computer in the analog realm. The converters on this are 48khz-24bit.
So for those of you that were a bit intimidated by the Analog 4, there is a much more streamlined option: the Moog Minitaur.
Sure, the first thing you will loose is features like a sequencer, polyphony, midi output, sound card features, modulation matrix, pulse width modulation, FM/AM modulation. Now that we got that out of our heads, the Minitaur is the easy way into the Moog Sound. And boy what a sound that is. if you are into bass-heavy music, you can’t go wrong with it. They even call it a “bass” synthesiser, but that is mostly because of the limited feature set.
What you actually get is a two oscillator one lfo synth. The wave shapes are limited; pulse or triangle and there is no way of modulating anything other than the pitch and filter. You do get two ADR/ADS envelopes, glide/portamento and an audio in for either plugging in external gear through the filter and envelopes or (more commonly) creating a feedback loop to thicken the sound.
Although by using a computer and the control VST you will get some added features including a preset management library, in a portable setup that can or can not be achieved. It all depends if you use a computer or not.
Although the computer brings in more flexibility (and midi – USB), we still think that the Minitaur is made to be tweaked-upon. The sound is lush and the filter is what you expect from a Moog.
As we said, we are big Elektron fans. Elektron Analog Rytm is made to be paired with the Analog4 and is Elektron’s take on drum machine, and also a successor to the highly sought-after digital drum machine from the previous generation: the Elektron Machinedrum.
What you get with the Analog Rytm is: basically everything.
You want to do finger drumming like on the MPC – you got it!
You want to use samples – you got it!
You want analog drums – you got it!
You want to modulate as much as possible – you got it!
You want to control other gear with the sequencer and midi – you got it!
You want to output individual tracks – you got it!
You want to process external sounds in each of the total eight tracks – you got it!
Coming it with it’s distinctive sequecing power, individual step settings (p-locks) and all the workflow improvements that this company is known for, the Analog Rytm is an eight-track monster packed in a very compact format.
The sounds it’s analog engine make are world class, you can hear it in most modern productions and if you still don’t like them, you can switch to your own samples without issues. You can even mix both in a single drum kit.
Drum machines are, in our honest oppinion more simpler than synths, so there is not much we can cover about them, the sounds you can either love or hate but the workflow, once you get used to it, will raise your standards for life.
If you would rather have something even more compact and more affordable than the Rytm, while still keeping true to the Elektron workflow, you should check out the Elektron Digitakt.
MFB-522 portable drum machine
Yes this is a classic and yes this is discontinued for a long time. Yes this is an 808-clone. But it is by far one of the most compact drum machines ever.
While really very simple and very hard to use, especially if you have big fingers, we still felt the need to mention this tiny piece of 100% analog gear. We just love it.
Yes we love it’s weight and it’s color scheme. We love that it has four outputs given it’s size and that you can really get some punchy sounds out of it. The hi-hats choke, and the kick bounces.
Just throw it in your bag, purse or even your pocket (this thing is tiny) for some instant 808.
What we don’t like is the sequencer. You really should not fiddle with the 522 during a live show, but for a portable music studio you really can’t go wrong.
You can find the 522 on the used market, however in recent times it’s becoming a rare sighting.
While the portalble music studio equipment landscape is as dynamic as ever, nothing will be able to replace the laptop or even an eurorack modular setup in terms of flexibility. This is why we did not bother to go into effects, because these tend to be one trick ponies and it’s a good idea to actually add effects in the digital realm. We have a great article about using analog effects right here, if you are interested. Most hardware effect units are actually digital inside so the whole analog vs digital battle does not apply to them. There is also something magic when you max in the digital realm and use a laptop, or max the opposite, analog spectrum and get a very multipurpose eurorack module selection. These are maximums for compactness that also allow you maximum flexibility and the most efficient storage space management possible.
While we did make a point into not discussing these two tools – eurorack and laptops, having a portable music studio for both production and live performances is extremely fun and inspiring. Just breathe in that fresh mountain air and sport a nice solar panel to recharge your batteries (you should have multiple packs of them), while you make your own flavour of music and soak all the inspiration that the outdoors can provide!
So we have had this excellent Conductive Labs NDLR sequencer, or how we like to call it: the midi “brain” for quite some time now. And boy what a brain this is.
We have been comparing it a lot to the Torso T-1 sequencer (review coming very soon). It is different but not quite that different. As loopop said in it’s video, the NDLR is quite unique. Traditional sequencers allow you to input notes fast on a grid type structure. In turn, they allow you to listed to the idea that you have laid down pretty fast, and judge A. it’s own musical qualities and specifics and B. how it sits along with the rest of your tracks. Thus, sequencers are a very powerful creative tool, most of us techno and minimal heads consider them the centre of our creative process (mostly because we can’t be bother to take the proper time to learn to play keys properly).
Traditional sequencers vary in complexity and flexibility, from the very primitive ones that can be found in groove-boxes (like the old Roland drum machines and Korg volca line) to very sophisticated ones that can allow you to program velocity, note length, probability and all the other parameters that can be tweaked on that specific piece of gear (think Elektron with it’s parameter locks). At the top of the line of traditional, note-input sequencers is the Cirklon, which is a dedicated step sequencer that can do all kinds of fast, creative tweaks and has a great workflow that most producers swear by. Let’s not forget software, basically all DAWs have a sequencer, be it direct like fruity loops or a piano roll (which is a two-dimensional sequencer, with time and pitch in the same screen). Also, pad-style instruments like the Ableton Push and Novation Launchpad can be configred so that the pads work as a sequencer.
Conductive Labs NDLR: a non-traditional midi sequencer
Now, let’s move it up a bit. We talked about the traditional sequencer, what they all have in common is that they always start with a blank slate, a noteless sequence of 16 steps (usually). You place notes there in the order and pitch that you desire and you can instantly hear how that ‘sequence’ sounds. You can ajust the notes and hear changes, so you immediately get a feel for where you want to take the melody of drum tracks of your music.
Non-traditional sequencers differ because you usually input the ideas and the midi hardware takes care of the notes. For the NDLR, you input the key, the degree and if we are talking about chords, the type of chord that you want and it spits the notes on it’s own. There is swing of course (called “Humanization”) and there is velocity. For monophonic melodies, there are two aspects that contribute the most to your notes: the patter and the rhythm.
Conductive Labs NDLR: Motifs
So the way sequencers work is that they create a rhythmic pattern for your sound generators. With the NDLR midi sequencer you get two dimensions to control this: pattern and rhythm. The pattern controls the notes, or pitch of each step in the sequence. There are three types of patterns: scale, chord and chromatic. The values that each pattern step takes indicates the note in an imaginary piano roll: chromatic is in absolute terms, not keeping any scale, scale limits the values to notes in the selected scale and chord is like scale, functioning with limited note choices but also makes the notes relative to the degree of the chord that you choose from the main panel.
Rhythm is similar to pattern but the value per step actually indicates velocity. You can create ties and rests here. For both rhythm and pattern you can select clock division and total length, separately from each other to get extremely interesting sequences.
The way that NDLR presents the sequence pattern and rhythm that you chose this is truly unique. Instead of providing you with a blank slate for rhythm and pattern settings, it always provides you with a filled sequence. This is so you can get grooving A.S.A.P. There are 20 presets and 20 user generated rhythms and patterns. To mark the departure from traditional sequencers (which present the sequence is a straight line), NDLR shows the pattern and rhythm as a circle, going clockwise.
This is just a slight scratch on the surface for what NDLR can do. The way described above is called Motif in NDLR, and represents the monophonic sequence way. Other than Motifs (which NDLR has two independent ones), this midi sequencer can output two more midi sequences, which are polyphonic and independent.
The way it works is very simple, you just select the rhythm, pattern, the way you want it to be played (left to right, right to left, random 1, random 2), clock division, etc and just press play. The sequencer takes care of all the note placements, so you can start tweaking in real time.
Conductive Labs NDLR: Drone and Pad
While Motifs are the core aspect of the NDLR Midi sequencer and the most flexible parts that this tool has to offer, they are monophonic. We like monophonic sequences but there is much more composition possible than this. NDLR has two poly modes as well: Drone and Pad.
Drone is a very basic form of note generation. It can be polyphonic but also in mono. What it does is play the root note of the scale that you selected, and if you want, you can add a 5th interval, and then you can add an octave on top. It has a simpler rhythm section than Motifs, but it is there in case you want to go a bit deeper.
Pad mode is for chords. You have a bit more flexibility than Drone and also you can select which chord you want NDLR to play. You do this with the circle of buttons that is close to the centre screen. With the same buttons you select the degree of chord in that scale as well as the type of chord you want to play. This is especially useful for producers that do not know music theory. You can instantly listen to any chord progression that you want, with pushing a minimal number of buttons. You can have the option to strum the chord, playing each note with a small delay so that they individually stand out.
We said Pad mode is a bit more complicated than Drone. This is in part because you can set up the voicing by using some presets that in NDLR talk are called “spread”. There are a lot of spread types, and we fully encourage you to explore them as they can lead to extremely interesting harmony. You can also select the number of notes in the chord, which goes pretty high if your synth has the proper polyphony.
NOTE: There is no rhythm section for Pad mode, The Conductive Labs NDLR midi sequencer sustains the chord for as long as you don’t press the chord type/degree button. If you want to trigger the same chord again, press the same degree button.
For an in-depth feature and usability review, we recommend this excellent loopop video. It is from an earlier firmware version, but still pretty much on-spot:
Extra modulations and MIDI I/O
This Midi sequencer has a lot of modulation options, you can use a multitude of sources to modify any parameter that you want. There are LFOs and Randomisers as sources, and they can be synced to time as beat divisions or actual seconds. There are four modulation busses, so the possibilities are virtually endless.
As far as Midi I/O goes, the offering is diverse. You have four channels on midi USB mode. Then you have two midi ins and two midi outs. You can configure each NDLR output to your preference. There is no power connection and on-off switch, NDLR gets power from the USB.
Overall, this little piece of gear has become the centre of my midi synths, the ones that don’t have a sequencer. It is flexible and it is fast, with extreme ideas flowing extremely fast. There is always a melodical touch to what it outputs and I really can’t part ways with it, nor can I see myself doing this in the foreseeable future.
Today we bring you a long overdue review of the IKMultimedia iLoud Micro Monitor system. This one is something new, and we were pretty much inclined to use it in our everyday productions. This is why it took so long, but rest assured we have used it extensively, in the studio and on the go and are here to tell the story.
From the start, what strikes us the most is the weight and size of this monitoring system. And yes, it is meant to be used on the go, with build quality more than enough for touring with it. And this is precisely what we did. Well, no tours are live right now due to COVID-19 but still, we managed to do some extensive travelling. We are pretty much into this mobile musician thing, and we can pack some gear with us when we do it, like an Elektron Analog4 which is a great synth, doubling as a sound card, to which we connected an Elektron Machinedrum MK1 and an MFB-522 to handle the drum works. Coupled with the power of Ableton and the best VST Synths around (check our article on the best VST Synths in the market right here) we are fully able to make ourselves a nice little studio that more than fits into a VW Golf 6.
Sure, the makers claim that this is the smallest active monitoring system in the world, but we are not sure that this is 100% accurate. But for sure you can snug it in your cabin luggage and take it on flights, to work in your hotel room. You can even buy a dedicated carrying bag on the IKMultimedia website.
IKMultimedia iLoud Micro Monitor Review: Sound
The second thing that shook us was the IKMultimedia iLoud Micro Monitor’s sound capabilities. This was not a full review if we would not have touched on this, as the sound profile is the most important thing with studio monitors.
Sure, this is no 8 inch powerhouse nor is it a subwoofer, so from the start you have to manage your bass expectations (they go down to 55hz). But sound profiling is more than power. In the upper registers the monitoring system is good to great, but not wow. You get crisp and you can judge your hi-hats with good accuracy. There is some air present, also. The monitors shine in the mid range tho, and are extremely good for vocals, guitars and some synth work.
The woofers are 3″ and the twitters are 3/4″. They are perfectly balanced and tuned from the factory, and this thing astounded us for such a small and lightweight package. You are getting a lot for the package, trust us on this. The bass port is in the front, so there is no worry that the bass will reflect from the wall behind the speakers. Also, we found that the monitor pair produced more than adequate headroom. Of course, you cannot compare it to systems costing ten times the money, but for what they are, they bring a lot of utility to the table.
Another thing that surprised us was the stereo field. You get a really immersive experience and can fully work on your tracks with these. When using a stereo widener, you can really feel the setting, as well as for panning and summing into mono. Stereo effects come alive, delays, reverbs, choruses totally make sense and you can pretty much get a feel for each setting that they can offer.
Ok so sound is good, portability is good, what about gear compatibility. This is possibly a weak point for these products, as they do not offer TRS and XLR connections, only RCA. So there is no option to add a balanced cable to this and get rid of interferences. Also, since you will be using them on the go, you should buy a very good quality RCA cable pair, as plugging and unplugging RCA sockets ruin them fast.
We would love to have an XLR and TRS connection just for the sake of it, because most pro studio gear has them and not RCA. But we think that these monitors are perhaps aimed at a different audience, one that travels a lot and simply does not own big studio equipment to plug them in.
The fact that they have Bluetooth connectivity confirms this, you can get away with using just a laptop with no sound card with these, and Bluetooth being fully digital you will not get cable noise in your audio signal path.
You only plug one into your wall socket and audio source, and the other one has a single cable connection and acts as a receiver only. So this might open other issues like imbalanced panning, just so you know. This can also be an advantage when travelling, if you don’t want to pack a power extender with you, two sockets will do just fine, one for your laptop and one for your monitors.
IKMultimedia has a lot of experience in digital sound processing (DSP). Thus, they have fitted the iLoud Micro Monitor system with a very powerful 56-bit chip that can do this, as a unique selling position. DSP features include controlled diffraction / low resonance enclosure and time-aligned crossover. Their chip also handles the linear frequency response, providing real-time micro adjustments to the output sound. Also in control is the dynamic range and the twitter/woofer crossover, so rest assured that you are in good hands when you use this product.
The monitors also have a very nice selectable EQ room correction so you can adjust them to where you are at that particular moment in time.
For what it is, this product is great. Yes, you get a very small package and this is by far the best feature of the IKMultimedia iLoud Micro Monitor system. You can adjust them both physically and sonically to your listening environment. They fit in a small bag and are very lightweight.
The sound is much better than expected. Sure, they lack low end but that is natural and it is advised to use headphones for bass anyway. The materials are quality and the productivity increase is huge, especially when travelling.
The monitors have very powerful DSP features built-in but they lack professional connection types, which can be a let-down in some cases. However, you will not be travelling with your full-sized mixing desk and the use of a direct Bluetooth connection with your laptop eliminates the need for a sound card entirely.
So you are starting your channel and are in the market for the BEST Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube. Starting your own media outlet feels very nice, but not having the best gear can really ruin your day. Follow us further and we will guide you to get the best gear for your needs, without breaking the bank.
Editor’s note: This list is always updated to always reflect the status of the market, so make sure you bookmark it and come back for your future purchases.
You are going to need a couple of things, a good microphone, a great microphone arm, a sound card and a good computer that allows you to also record video on top of your microphone and voice. You should never overlook the basic stuff, like cables, internet connection and software.
The best thing about microphones for podcasts and youtube is that there are a lot of choices for you in the market right now. This niche is no longer narrow and expensive, and there are even some microphones that run on USB so you don’t need a sound card. We picked a winner for best performance and one for best value. Both our winners only have the USB audio option, so if you want a better sounding piece of hardware, be prepared to also pay for a sound card. If you are on a laptop and prefer to be on the move, then get an USB-only microphone as the value is extremely good.
Note: if you are on a mobile device, scroll left and right in the table to see all the entries, and up and down in the cells to see all the content.
Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – market overview
Over the last few years or so, we’ve seen the rise of famous YouTubers and it seems that many other people are trying their luck in this field. They, or at least the ones that aspire for greatness should be using good microphones in order to sound great, especially on headphones where a bad quality microphone can simply ruin the viewer’s overall experience. Especially true for podcasts and content where only the voice is heard.
We have rounded up our own little Top 5 of aspiring products for the title of BEST Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube. We have a varied selection, ranging in the 50$ to 300$, and all products can be found on amazon.com. Our overall winner is a flexible, trusted solution that sends audio signal straight to the computer via USB. If you want more sound quality though, you will have to go with an XLR connection and a sound card. But if you are travelling for interviews or just don’t have the space, an USB connection only microphone could be more attractive.
Luckily, we have an article on the BEST Sound card for Podcasts and Youtube here.
After much deliberating, we’ve decided to award the title of BEST Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube to the Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Yes, you will say that it is standard but it is there for a reason. We like the Blue Yeti product because it has USB audio, so you get to cut a lot of the costs associated with your podcast or youtube channel, that is has a very small footprint and that you don’t need a stand for it.
The microphone is extremely easy to use and sounds great because of the three condenser capsules it has. The microphone just sits neatly on your desk and captures your voice in good isolation. But if you also want to capture some background sound for any reason, you can have it do this as-well due to the shape selection switch.
This microphone has four mic type patterns, depending on the way you want it to capture sound: Cardioid, Omni, Figure-8 and Stereo. Cardioid is recommended for just recording your voice, but if you want to delve deeper or require also ambient sound or effects, you can use it to capture more with ease.
This is somewhat of a cheaper product if you don’t feel like investing a lot of capital in great microphone right away, and want to try the waters first and see if you like doing podcasts or Youtube content. The Blue Snowball is the younger, smaller brother of the Yeti microphone as both products are made by same company.
Again, we have an USB-only audio connection. Fitting for simple setups, with limited budgets. Unfortunately, the DAC (the component that translates analog sound vibrating through the air into digital signal for your computer to process) is integrated into this cheap microphone. You don’t have the option to upgrade the DAC like you would a sound card so you are stuck with average sound quality.
Just like the Blue Yeti USB Microphone, the Snowball also has a selection of geometric modes, but sadly the “stere” one is missing. And if lighting is your thing, you can choose from up to six color styles with the brushed aluminium variant. If you don’t want vibrant coloring and are going for a more professional, refrained look, try the “Textured White” or “Gloss Black” finish.
XLR connection vs. USB connection
And now we would like to move to the professional segment. These microphones require a sound card with an XLR socket to function, they also require phantom power (supplied by the sound card). But having these things means actually means that there is more space in the microphone for actual sound components.
XLR connected Microphones for Podcasts and Youtube are always a better choice than USB ones.
This is because instead of having a DAC and a power supply built in (so it can take power and send direct digital messages to USB), they offload this task to the sound card so that they can pack a much better sound quality puch.
The downside is that you also need something to plug them into via XLR connection. This secondary device captures the analog sound signal from the microphone and transforms it into digital data for the computer to read. That is what the sound card does, and this is why you pay for it.
XLR connected Microphones and their soundcards cost way more than the USB option.
Still, these types of content creation microphones are very relevant to those that need sound quality, especially if you also create sound that is not voice based for your content and thus use instruments that you plug into your sound card as-well.
This one is the first XLR product on our list. It represents a mid-range condenser microphone pretty well. We would always recommend this one as an entry level XLR microphone because it will introduce you pretty well to the dynamic nature of voice recordings. You will be able to sound more dramatic or more mellow depending on your content.
For this market segment we decided to award the Audio Tehnica AT2020 the title of BEST Value XLR Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube.
This one marks the entry into the high end market space. If you are here, you know what you want and you can specify it. The Shure MV7 is a mixed connection type microphone, it will take USB or XLR depending on your label.
It is fully advised that you if you can spare the money and don’t have a sound-card yet, get the Shure MV7 and use it on USB until you can afford it.
The specifications of this microphone look very good, and there are also a lot of “handling” features like an integraded headphone output, panel touch controls and the software suite you can use to process the sound on a desktop or laptop further. Imagine that this is three times more expensive that the BEST USB Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube, but believe us, it is worth it. We cannot recommend an upgrade mic to the Shure MV7 that doesn’t cost more than 1000$.
And we had to have a Dynamic microphone in our top because sometimes you don’t have the best studio out there and you want something that can just work in any conditions.
The Presonus Dynamic Vocal Microphone for Broadcasting and Podcasts is a budget XLR-only option that can deliver. Sure, it will lack mostly all the features that the 300$ option puts on the table, but at least sound quality is good.
We can recommend this microphone for content creators that already have a sound card for other projects, and want to describe their projects with a microphone. Just pay a small fee for this microphone, plug it into your sound card and start creating.
Final Thoughts on Microphone Choice
As you can see, the microphone market is very mature and options abound in 2022. Still, we stick to our internal way of thought, and would recommend an USB option if you want to start your channel pretty fast and don’t know how to operate audio equipment. We have provided two choices here.
If instead you know how to record audio and have a soundcard, we would recommend the high end or the budget option for XLR Connections.
Building and having a modular synth can be a bit of a hassle. And when I say a bit, I mean a lot. Not being able to see any modulation values is one thing. Then, there is the fact that you will never be able to save a general patch due to the flexible nature of the synth. Also, another drawback is that stereo is close to non existent (unless you want to buy two of the same modules), not to mention polyphony (unless you want to buy six of the same modules to get a six voice synth).
But programming, or should we say patching a modular synth is so much fun. And you get a wonderful sense of freedom.
Still this alone does not make modular so attractive, especially if you are new to synths all along. Today, I will show you one product that makes entering this very distinct domain much more easy.
Yes, I am talking about Producertools’ new product, their Patchcables with Bi-color LED built in. This is a long time coming guys, for sure somebody would have done this by now. Now there is basically no excuse for you to not build that eurorack system that you wanted. This a pre-order program for now, delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, shipping is supposed to be in March 2021.
So basically with these patch cables you will be able to see the polarity of the voltage and a rough estimation of its value. The built in LEDs will glow red or green depending if the voltage is plus or minus, so if the envelope or LFO is basically negative sloped or positive sloped. Also, the light the LEDs emit varies in intensity. You can see how it looks in the video below:
There are of course drawbacks for now, but the manufacturer said that there is minimal interference with the Eurorack Control Voltage that passes through. They even had to design their own LEDs for this.
Still, a bit of voltage does get used by the LEDs so will not reach the source.
So don’t use it with signals that require precision, like controling the pitch of oscillators with 1v/Oct signals. Best use is for non random (S&H) LFOs and Envelopes, where you can just offset/increase send voltage in order to compensate for LED consumption.
Hey friends, good to talk to you again! For those of you that are not subscribed to the iDesignSound.com newsletter, you may have missed this very interesting document in regards to mixing or should I say, fitting, vocals into tracks.
It would be so not like you to miss out on this very important information so we would suggest that you sign-up for the iDesignSound.com newsletter. We will not spam you, but provide very important and relevant information in the field. Our subscribers got this information ahead of time but we figured it is too good to miss so we are providing it to you as well, at the bottom of the article.
Please find the newsletter register form below:
Now, Slate Digital, the company know for very very good emulation of hardware outboard unit, have released this very good pdf booklet about mixing vocals.
Vocals are extremely tricky to get right given the dynamic nature of the human voice, the broad range of frequencies it covers and the somewhat hard to obtain sweet spot of modern music mixing.
If guitars were rifles, pedal effects would be ammunition.
There’s only so much you can achieve with a clean guitar sound, and it’s more than safe to say that effects such as Chorus, Flanger, and Phaser are capable of completely shifting and changing your tone, for better or worse.
Now, skilled guitar players instinctively know the differences between various pedal effects, but most of the time people are more concerned about where and when they can use a certain type of sound rather than wreck their heads trying to explain ‘how and why’.
Today we are going to attempt to thoroughly examine some of the key differences between chorus, flanger, and phaser effects, so buckle up and stay for a while.
The ‘chorus effect’ is easily one of the most iconic pedal effects among guitar players.
We could go as far as to call it ‘choir-us’ mainly because it’s supposed to make the guitar sound much bigger than it actually is.
It’s ideal for single-guitar bands, troupes, and performers who want to duplicate (or triplicate) their sound in a live setting and for studio musicians who don’t particularly like laying down numerous tracks where they can achieve the same effects with a pedal as simple as this.
How it works
The Chorus effect modulates the pitch of your tone ever so slightly; it basically reproduces the exact signal of your guitar’s vibrations but at a slightly different pitch and time.
The potential of the chorus effect is vast, which means that it can subtly enhance the depth of your tone or it can simulate another live guitar, depending on how you set its parameters.
In a bit more technical terms, the chorus effect is achieved when the pedal takes the signal before melding it with pitch-modulated copies of the original signal.
Depending on the model and parameters, the post-produced signal copy can be singular or there could be numerous. The more ‘layers’ the pedal makes, the bigger your tone will become.
How to use it properly
Essentially, it’s a straightforward effect that doesn’t exactly require much skill and experience to be used, although it’s kind of addictive in the sense that it may leave you with the feeling that you always need ‘more’.
It’s a modulation pedal, which basically means that it’s supposed to sit at the back end of the signal chain, right after wah-wahs, compressors, overdrives, or distortions.
Due to the fact that chorus pedals aren’t necessarily the most intricate contraptions and feature only a handful of control knobs, you’ll typically only have depth and rate to worry about.
Set these parameters low to enrich your sound in a subtle, delicate way; when set at halfway you’ll add plenty of character to your tone while going anywhere beyond this point is not recommended if your signal chain is encumbered as it is.
Flanger in a nutshell
The flanger effect is one of the most enigmatic guitar gizmos to this day; it was artificially created (by accident) in old-school studios back in the tape-recording days (4-track and 8-track machines) by touching the flange (the rim of the tape), although nowadays the process of ‘flanging’ has been tamed and digitalized.
The ‘flanger’ effect sports characteristics of numerous other pedal effects – it’s based on delay pedals, but its unpredictability often leads it towards phasers, overdrives, and distortions, obviously depending on its parameters.
Furthermore, this effect was created by playing two tracks at the same time, which further means that it also shares some similarities with choruses to some extent. As we’ve already discussed, chorus pedals modulate and blend the altered signal with the original one, which is partially what happens with the ‘flanging’ effect too.
How it works
Flanger works in the same way as most modulation pedals do; this pedal splits the signal in 2 identical paths where the original is untouched and the second one is just slightly delayed (measured in milliseconds).
The tweaked signal is then modulated both by speeding it and slowing it cyclically. The ‘modulated’ signal is then blended with the original signal.
What’s most important to understand about flangers is that their altered signal is actually tweaked at ‘random’ unpredictable intervals whereas other modulation pedals offer more control and precision.
The randomness of this effect is the reason why some people use it as their go-to pedal and other guitarists avoid it.
How to use it properly
Flanger pedals are by default wild and pretty hard to tame, but there are more ways than one by which you can gap the small obstacles they present.
The most intimidating parameter of typical flangers is the ‘manual control’, which basically allows guitarists to pick and choose which frequencies they want to alter.
When untouched, the pedal will automatically calculate compatible frequencies and reinforce them (incompatible frequencies will always nullify each other), leading to a slightly clearer tone without sacrificing the punchy feel.
Most flangers typically feature ‘resonance’ or ‘intensity’, both of which relate to the same thing. This parameter affects the effect’s intensity by clipping or feeding a portion of the delay straight back to the original input.
By increasing the ‘intensity’ you’ll add more grit to your tone and achieve a more distorted high-gain sound.
Phaser pedals sound almost identical to laymen and beginner guitarists, but in actuality, they share more differences than similarities.
This effect can potentially be used to achieve a mild flanging effect only if its parameters are basically untouched and set on ultra-low settings.
A well-known fact among veteran guitar players is that the phaser effect was introduced to the scene around the same time when flangers came to be. This is probably the reason why new-school players typically don’t make a clear distinction between the two.
In a nutshell, Phasers create a swirling-like sound, much akin to a plane taking off with the only difference being that it is constantly circulating in the fashion of stereo speakers.
One of the most notable benefits of Phaser pedals is that it allows guitar players to create a much bigger atmosphere and ambient, even with smallish amps and relatively mediocre gear.
How it works
Flangers and phasers operate on similar principles; the original signal is divided into two paths, one path is modulated and the other is completely untouched.
The modulated signal path passes through a series of all-pass filters, which shift the signal’s phase revolving around a variety of (pre-calculated) frequencies. In this regard, the Phaser is not as unpredictable as the flanger, but it’s not as controllable as the chorus.
The modulated signal path is later mixed with the untouched signal path, which results in the ‘swooping’ circular tone.
How to use it properly
The Flanger effect is significantly less punishing towards beginner players; its parameters are not as sensitive, and it’s a bit more versatile altogether.
As far as we’re talking about the signal chain, most people don’t use both flanger and phaser pedals, so you should ideally place either of the two near the end of the chain (after distortion, equalizers, compressors, delays, and choruses).
Typical phaser pedals (such as MXR’s Phase 100) feature simplistic tone controls like Intensity and Speed. The ‘intensity’ basically governs the number of phased stages whereas the ‘speed’ affects the rapidity of signal shifts.
In simpler words, the ‘intensity’ knobs allow you to create different ‘geometric’ signal patterns while the ‘speed’ knobs are there for you to finalize and shape them in more concrete ways.
Similarities between Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger
Essentially, Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger pedals belong to the ‘modulation effect’ category.
Aside from this little formality, they’re also meant to be used in similar ways and operate under similar principles.
All three of these effects divide the original guitar signal path in two after which they alter it in different ways. Although the outcomes are vastly different, these split signals all utilize delays to modulate the frequencies.
From a more practical side, all of these effects have been made available in both pedal and plug-in formats.
The initial modes of achieving chorus, flanger, and phaser (particularly the last two) were almost unwieldy and required a dose of technical expertise, whereas today these effects are beginner-friendly and suitable for use by immediate beginner players.
In technical terms, these pedal effects always leave one signal path completely untouched, which means that at least ‘half’ of your tone will remain exactly the same as it originally was, even though this is not entirely a quantifiable matter.
Even though there are numerous minor other similarities, the most crucial and highlighted ones are:
Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger effects all belong to the ‘modulation’ category
The same method of operation and functional principles
The unfiltered signal path is always non-modulated and identical to the original
All three effects utilize delays to affect the filtered signal path
Modern-day pedals have made these effects more accessible to beginner guitar players
Differences between Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger
Now that we’ve touched upon the similarities between Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger it’s time to dig into the main course – the key differences that separate them.
Though there are many dissimilarities between them, we’ve plucked out the most notable ones and grouped them in the appropriate categories, starting with…
The Chorus effect is, essentially, much different from Phaser and Flanger, at least sound-wise. It’s ‘mellow’ tonally whereas Phaser and Flanger are closer to overdriven types of sounds.
Even when the parameters of a Chorus pedal are set to their extremes the end result still boasts clarity when isolated. However, choruses are seldom used as standalone effects.
This pedal effect is more of an ‘adhesive’ type in the sense that it extends itself across the spectrum of other effects used in the chain. Phasers and Flangers tend to dominate the chain with their grit.
Differences in application
Distortion effects are commonly associated with rock & heavy metal while chorus, phaser, and flanger effects can be used in pretty much any music genre and can fit into any playing style.
These effects are as versatile as the player’s creativity; in that regard, they can be used in almost any song or performance piece, although exceptions should be obvious.
Since phasers and flangers affect the frequencies of the guitar’s signal in a relatively similar way, they almost cross each other out.
In simpler words, most guitar players use either a phaser pedal or a flanger; rarely both.
Differences in versatility
In this particular scenario, ‘versatility’ refers to the flexibility and freedom as far as tweaking with control knobs and parameters are in question.
Tuning up all the knobs to their extreme would make any sound muddy, but especially so in the case of phasers and flangers.
As mentioned before, these effect types tend to dominate the signal chain, which oftentimes diminishes the presence of other pedals and effects.
In that regard, Phasers and Flangers are slightly less versatile than choruses.
Obviously, Phase and Flange pedals are fairly different between themselves too. Phasers are slightly easier to control, but more importantly, they offer a more calculated and more predictable approach to tone-tweaking.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Flangers don’t affect the tone so drastically and can be used for extended periods of time without compromising the tone’s integrity.
The swirling of Phasers makes them ideal for song parts that need to be accentuated (particularly solo sections) whereas Flange pedals can easily substitute for overdrive and distortion when need be.
Every pedal effect type is different. Moreover, every model is different from another; two different pedals that belong to the same category can be so strikingly different that some people would assume they serve different purposes.
Even so, the contrasts between Chorus, Flanger, and Phaser are undeniable and to a certain extent obvious.
From the variance in sound, over dissimilarities in application to differences in application, by now we hope that we’ve helped you make a distinction between these pedal effects.