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Review

Electro-Harmonix Key9, Mel9 and Cock Fight

Issue #42

Electro-Harmonix Key 9 – Electric Piano Machine

The Key 9 is designed to emulate electric piano sounds. Featuring nine presets based on classic sounds such as the Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer pianos. Within this selection, we also have a very useable Mallets and Steel Drum sound! The pedal like most in the ‘9’ series features two outputs, one sending a dry un-effected signal (maybe to an amp) and one sending the effected signal (maybe to a PA system?), however for the video review I plugged the effected out right into the clean channel of a stack. You can use the combination of these out puts to get a clearer sound from the effected output or if you wanted to blend the sounds using the separate ‘dry’ and ‘keys’ volumes. On the right hand side of the pedal you will find two separate control knobs. These change function depending on the preset you are using, they change the parameters of effects such as tremolo, chorus or even the attack/sustain of the instrument you are emulating.

Playing through this pedal is really inspiring, like most of the ‘9’ pedals E-H has come up with, it really changes the way you play! To get the most genuine sounds you have to think like a piano player rather than a guitarist. Bends/vibrato and other techniques the pedal will follow with its excellent tracking, but it might not still sound like a piano at that point! When I selected the steel drum and mallets presets during the review, I was happily surprised with the pedals response to quick musical passages. I liked the C9 organ simulator a lot and this is up there with it in terms of quality and usefulness. See my conclusions at the end of this multi-part review. 

Electro-Harmonix Mel 9 – Tape Replay Machine

This pedal works in much the same way as the Key 9 does, with the same features and outputs, except this time we are emulating the sound of vintage tape-based keyboards. The sounds are based on Orchestra, Cello, Strings, Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, Brass and two Choir sounds that can be found on the classic Mellotron, that astonishing tapeloop-based keyboard that was such a hallmark of Sixties and Seventies music.

This pedal features two slightly different ‘control’ function knobs which effect the attack and sustain for each preset. Holding a chord down with the sustain set to max will give you an unending ‘pad’. Really inspiring for coming up with cinematic chord sequences or if you are loop pedal maniac, this pedal would be amazing for creating ambient layers in your looping master pieces! It is important to mention that this is based on Mellotron tape based sounds, not actual string section sounds. You are going to get classic Mellotron-sounding based tones with this pedal, not an orchestra. Like the Key 9, the tracking is great on these pedals. However, it’s up to the user to control the initial attack of note with their own playing and really getting to understand how the attack control works on this pedal. It’s very simple, and very fun! Again, see my conclusion at the end of this feature.

Cock Fight – Cocked Wah Pedal/Fuzz/Talk

When I was sent this pedal to review, a huge smile crossed my face. What a name, what artwork and also what a unique pedal! This pedal is designed to emulate the cocked wah sound that is famous in many recordings. You can change the cocked wah sound from ‘talk’ to ‘cry’ and you can even control the frequency control on the pedal by an external expression pedal if you want to use it like a wah pedal. You can change the tone as well to roll of some of the highs or if you really want to distract some cats down the street you can crank it full! I would seriously suggest listening to the video part of this review to see what I mean - it's crazy! On top of the wah sound the pedal has its own built in fuzz/distortion which can be turned on or off, placed pre or post ‘wah’ effect, you can even control the bias to make the fuzz go from hairy scary to the classic 'robot with a dying battery' sound! I love this pedal, it's bonkers, I wouldn’t mind one on my board! It was really fun to play with. 

Conclusion

These are three very distinctive pedals and they aren't going to be for everyone. That said, if they sound like something you might want to try then do so because each does exactly what it says, as I hope our video demonstrates! The two keyboard-based FX, the Mel 9 and Key 9 complement the Organ-based C9 I reviewed a while ago and it's not impossible that you could end-up wanting all three. These could be very useful for writers, Prog-Rock bands, recording fans, covers bands - your imagination is really the only limiting factor.

The Cock Fight is also a very distinctive pedal and, again, won't be for everyone, but those who do take to its amazing cocked wah effect are going to love it!

Best of all, what these three newcomers from Electro-Harmonix demonstrate is that innovation in pedals is far from over. All three are, as you would hope, well made to the usual EHX standard and will happily survive life on a pro stage. Try them out.

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Issue #50

John Petrucci

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