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This article was originally published in issue #18
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Source Audio's Soundblox 2 Orbital Modulator pedal offers a whole range of modulation effects in a compact package with state of the art DSP and sound quality. We asked Source Audio's Will Cady to talk us through this sophisticated unit, while Tom Quayle gives the GI verdict.
Source Audio's Soundblox 2 pedals are designed as super-compact, durable multi effects pedals offering high quality DSP based effects and convertors for great quality sound from a small package. The Orbital Modulator is the company's modulation pedal and features no less than three choruses, two flanges, two resonators, five phasers and even a tremolo effect! Each effect can be customised and tweaked with depth and speed controls, complemented by six other parameters via the option dial, controlling delay/frequency, feedback, volume, LoRetain, Tremolo and mix. The user can also select between six modulation sources including sine and square wave LFOs, envelope follower, expression pedal and midi.
The lower section of the pedal allows for two presets to be stored and recalled plus bypassing of the effect, which can be done in either true bypass or buffered mode as required. All this effects goodness is controlled by Source Audio's own proprietary 56-bit DSP and 24-bit convertors for super-clean audio throughout.
Such an extensive set of features would usually command a daunting user interface but Source Audio has managed to create a pretty user-friendly front panel consisting of just four dials for control and a central dial for selecting the effect type. If you've used a modulation pedal before you should be able to jump right in with the Orbital Modulator, although a perusal of the manual is recommended to get to grips with the more advanced features and, to help the process along, we asked Source's demonstrator, Will Cady, to talk us through the pedal alongside my review.
Creating a sound is as simple as selecting the required effect with the central dial and then tailoring to taste with the four control dials. The 'option' control has six parameters that can be selected by clicking the option select button making editing sounds a quick and easy process. The only downside of this method is that there is no visual feedback of where the controls are set for each preset as it loads, although this can be achieved if required, as the LEDs will blink when the control is set at the stored value for each setting. This isn't a big issue though as editing is so quick and with only two presets you can probably remember what you saved each setting as and it forces you to use your ears rather than eyes to create sounds.
A unique feature of the Orbital Modulator is the Multi-Function In port on the back of the unit. This allows the use of Source Audio's expression pedals and 'Hot Hand' motion sensor unit for controlling the LFOs using the performers hands or feet! MIDI operation is performed through this port here too, although Source Audio's own MIDI unit must be purchased for this to work.
Plugged into the effects loop of our studio amp, the Orbital Modulator's convertors proved their worth with whisper quiet operation and crystal clear tone in true bypass and buffered bypass modes. Our original tone was left perfectly intact and preset switching was pop and noise free. The quality of the effects is remarkably high given the modest price tag and whilst we're not talking boutique analogue chorusing here, the effects are warm, with a great deal of width and depth reacting to playing in a very musical manner indeed. The dual and quad choruses are thick and beautiful and can be pushed into rotary speaker territory with higher speeds and lower depths. The Lo Retain function allows bass players or guitarists to retain the lower frequency range, a real problem for bass players with modulation effects. Flanges are very musical and fun with lots of classic tones on offer and the vibe is pure Jimi at the push of a button. Storing presets is as simple as holding down the relevant footswitch giving a great sounding and fully featured pedal that doesn't require a PhD to operate.
All in all this is a great pedal in a compact and well-constructed package. Definitely worth checking out.