My new love

Okay, well we haven’t met yet, but we’re being formally introduced in a few days at NAMM (okay, well I won’t be there, but I’ll be watching through the miracle of the internet)

(I’ve actually been gazing at this picture at random intervals throughout the day. That’s not healthy, is it?)

With that out of the way, I present you with the reasons why I’m so excited about the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Boy:

  • analog delay
  • tap tempo
  • modulation
  • expression pedal input
  • tempo subdivisions
  • modulation shapes
  • true by-pass (assuming I actually turn it off at some point)
  • effects loop
  • apparently, a price point of less than $200 USD

The only reason I’m running a digital delay right now is because I didn’t feel like dropping $600 on the Memory Lane 2. Truth be told, I went with the digital Memory Man is because it has tap tempo and can do a fairly convincing modulated analog delay (minus the spaceship take-off). Unfortunately, I think it’s just a couple weeks away from retirement.

More to come…

P.S. I still love you too Angie, even if you’re not an analog delay pedal.

Fun with Ableton

So I’ve spent the past few days setting up a live set using Ableton and my Novation X-Station. So far it consists of 7 audio channels, most of which have a dedicated effect, with a bunch of stuff pre-mapped to the X-Station.

Here’s the channel breakdown as it stands now:

  • 1: Beat repeat, EQ3 & auto filter
  • 2: Dry
  • 3: Saturator
  • 4: Phaser
  • 5: Grain delay
  • 6: Dry
  • 7: Auto filter
  • Send A: filter delay, compressor
  • Master: compressor

Channels 1 & 2 are used for drums, and channel 3 for bass. Everything else is used for whatever.

I’ve mapped 7 of the sliders on my X-Station to the channel volumes, and the buttons above to the mutes. The rest of the knobs and buttons control various effects parameters. Here’s the template from the Novation X-Station editor so you can see what I mean:

Here’s a run-down by section:


  • SEND A: send A level (ch1)
  • REPEAT: toggles beat repeat (ch1)
  • LOW CUT: cuts the low on EQ3 (ch1)
  • S. LEVEL: saturator dry/wet (ch3)
  • S. BASE: saturator base level (ch3)
  • P. LEVEL: phaser dry/wet (ch4)
  • P. RATE: phaser rate (ch4)
  • G.D LVL: grain delay wet/dry (ch 5)

The filters section is mapped to the auto filters on channels 1 & 7 (toggled via the 1-2 button). Ideally I’d have a separate controller for each filter, but this should do for

  • F. FREQ: filter frequency
  • FLT. RES: filter resonance
  • F.E. AMT: filter envelope amount
  • F.L. AMT: filter LFO amount (filter 1 only)
  • F. TYPE: filter type


  • FLT. RTE: controls the filter rate for filter 1


  • SEND A: feeds send A back to itself
  • F.D. FRQ: filter delay filter frequency

As you can see, I still have a few more sliders I could map to an 8th and 9th channel. I’m thinking about adding one channel for MIDI clips, and one for general effects (swooshes, etc.) that I could trigger from different keys. I was also thinking about setting up some side-chain compression, say, take the low-end from channels 1 & 2 (beats) and use it to side-chain the bass channel and possibly my “swoosh” channel.

More to come on this as it evolves 🙂

Choosing a delay pedal

I like delay, a lot, and when a like something a lot I generally get all obsessed with it and need to know everything about it – how it works, what the options are, how much they cost, etc. And so here we are!

Analog vs. digital:
In the audio world many seem to think that analog is better than digital. In some cases it may very well be, but in many it’s just “different”. I think delay is one of those cases. Some of the key differences between digital and analog delays:

  • Delay time: analog delays cannot achieve the same delay times as digital. Typical delay time for an analog pedal is around 500-600ms
  • Looping: to my knowledge there’s no such thing in analog pedals (tape delay is whole other world though)
  • Reverse delay: ditto
  • Tap tempo: a very useful feature, but rarely one you’ll find in an analog delay (and when you do, expect to pay a premium, i.e. Diamond Memory Lane 2 @ about $550)
  • Tone: with digital what you hear is what you get. With analog the delay is much more “coloured” – each repeat comes back a little “warmer” (less highs/more lows) and with less definition.
  • Cost: expect to pay more for an analog delay, and expect the price to increase alongside the delay time.

Other considerations:

  • Tone/filter control: very useful for making your delay warmer or brighter (boosting highs and/or cutting lows). In a digital pedal this will allow you to achieve a more analog-sounding delay.
  • Reverb: I’ve only seen this in one (digital) pedal (EHX Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai). It’s pretty handy for making the delays spacier and transparent. It also allows you to achieve some basic reverbs by rolling back the repeats and delay time.
  • Modulation: that is, modulating the pitch of the delays to get a haunting chorus-like effect.
  • Multi-tap: this can have different meanings. In some cases it means multiple delay times (i.e. one delay at 300ms, and one at 600ms), in others it means “repeat exactly X times”.
  • Expression pedal: some pedals will allow you to control certain parameters via an expression pedal. This can be handy if you like to play with feedback but don’t want to break your back in the process.
  • Stereo: usually stereo outs equates to ping-pong delays (repeats alternating back and forth between left and right), but in some cases you may have more control over it. Unless you have two amps or plug directly into a PA, this is really only useful for recording.
  • Self-oscillation: this is when the feedbacks build up and start to resonate, resulting in a wacky “spaceship” sound. You’ll hear this in some digital pedals, but it’s inherent in analog.

If you’re wondering, I personally own the EHX Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai. It’s a great pedal that can get some fairly warm and transparent delays via the filter and reverb knobs. My second pick would be the Diamond Memory Lane 2, but I don’t have $550 to drop on a delay. In a perfect world I would own both 🙂

If you’re on a budget and want a decent analog delay check out the MXR Carbon Copy. No tap tempo, but it does offer modulation (you’ll need to open it up to change the speed and depth though). For a good basic digital delay you can’t go wrong with the Boss DD pedals (they’re up to the DD-7 now).

I hope these points give you something to think about next time you’re in the market for a new delay pedal. Happy shopping!

Convolution reverb

It’s weird. All these years of writing music with technology and I’d never heard of convolution reverb or impulse responses until last weekend. I’m sure I’ve used it at one time or another without knowing, but never really knew what it was or how it worked. I was looking for a way to record my amp using the line out and not have it sound like complete crap when I came across some forums about cab impulses.

A couple freeware suggestions for trying this out:

Voxengo Boogex: this is intended as an amp sim, so it also has other features like drive and dynamics, but the speaker sim uses impulse responses. It comes with some default impulses, but it also allows you to load your own. If you turn of all the “preamp” stuff you could use it for reverbs too, although it’s mono.

Freeverb Impulser: the UI is not much to look at but it allows you to chain multiple impulses together, each with independent levels, filters, etc. This would be useful if you were trying to simulate a complex reverb scenario like say, a fly in a jar sitting on a windowsill beside a forest…

Speaking of which, I came across some impulse responses for small spaces like jars (“Claustrofobia”) . Check out these Impulse Responses by Fokke van Saane. I’m not sure what one would do with these exactly, but they sound pretty cool.

The more useful impulses I came across were the more typical ones – natural spaces, guitar cabs and the like. These are some of the nicer ones I found but there are tons more out there.

Update: in action

Here’s an A/B comparison of a direct recording with and without a cab impulse.

The signal chain is as follows:

  1. Fender Strat
  2. EH Memory Man (short delay with mod and low cut)
  3. Fender Vibro Champ XD (Blackface voice, mild reverb)
  4. DI box
  5. Mackie 1202 VLZ mixer
  6. Delta Audiophile 2496

Note: my DI has a speaker level switch so I was using the amp’s speaker out and not the line out.

The second sample was run through Voxengo Boogex with the “Fender SuperChamp AT4050” impulse from Beamsonic. Both samples were run through the Ultrafunk Sonitus compressor.