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This article was originally published in issue #50
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Essentially, this is a dead easy to use three knob distortion pedal designed for bass guitar, with a function switch for two modes of operation.
Bass tends to be a bit of a backwater for FX makers, so we thought it was time to catch-up with one of the manufacturers which doesn't neglect the instrument - US veteran Electro-Harmonix, whose bass range we've yet to explore. Dan Veall does the honours.
In a departure from our normal bass reviews, we found ourselves wandering around our local music shop, DV247, looking at bass related music products whilst chatting to the sales guy behind the desk, whom we shall call Luke (which he will be pleased about, as that is indeed his name). Under Luke's guidance and with the kind indulgence of DV247, we walked out of the store with three EHX pedals on loan: the Bass Blogger, Bass Metaphors and Bass Micro Synth.
In the three separate review videos we recorded, I share with you my thoughts and demonstrate some of the cool sounds available from these devices given a reasonably short amount of time to prepare our footage. Everything from the mildest warming of your bass tone through gritty drives and in to the realms of making our instrument of choice sound like an Organ... or in some cases, like a crazy out-of-space 1950’s film sound track! So much fun!
Well made, no cheap components
Well known brand
Some may want more control over their drive tones
No dry blend, but there is a parallel output
Essentially, this is a dead easy to use three knob distortion pedal designed for bass guitar, with a function switch for two modes of operation. The first is a classic fuzz tone that sounds like old school Funk records. The drive knob sweeps from the mild to a fairly nice slice of filth which can be smoothed using the tone knob - (or maxing out, the top end will cut through pretty much any mix, probably not to the satisfaction of your front of house engineer at a venue!)
The volume knob of course provides level for the overall fuzz effect, but when switching over to distortion mode becomes inactive, leaving you with just control over your drive saturation and tone adjustment.
Trying to describe the tone of fuzz verses distortion is a difficult one - it's better to check out the demonstration videos of the Blogger in both modes - but I can tell you that the overdrive in this pedal is full and rounded with some nice mids in there through our reference rig. Finding a sweet spot was easy and for me this was a fairly mild drive as maxing out became a bit spongy which isn't uncommon in bass orientated drive pedals. That is absolutely not a negative point, by the way, just my personal drive tastes.
Connections are simple and I really like the addition of a separate output for sending your original unaffected sound out to another amplifier or for later mixing back in with your signal sound should you also favour running ‘dual signal paths’. Could be useful to include a dry blend too? Power for the Blogger is care of a 9v battery or you should use a suitable mains adaptor plugged into the socket on the top of the pedal.
Endless tweak-ability without a manual
Larger than a standard pedal
No battery power, only mains adaptor
Much like the Blogger, the Micro Synth is a bass orientated pedal - and it's quite a beast! Four separate ‘voices’ that are manipulated via manual controllers which deliver all manner of bass tone goodness from the sublime to the near ridiculous. The simple to use sliders will have you losing hours just trying things out without getting lost in a manual. This has got to be a ‘player's pedal’ and will reward you quickly with some very fun sounds indeed!
In summary of the layout, from left to right: a trigger control chooses at what amplitude the pedal filters start affecting your bass signal. Next, the four voice mix sliders mentioned above each level the amplitude of very separate effects. One for a -1 Octave type tone, the next marked ‘Guitar’ is your instrument sound with a certain amount of ‘extra’ added and for a +1 Octave tone the following slider advanced brings in a ‘chiming’ additional unison voice an octave higher. The final white capped slider unleashes mayhem, an angry drive that when mixed up with the other voices takes your bass from Bootsy groovin’ funk to F-15 Eagle taking off!
To be honest there’s enough already to keep you busy for an age, but EHX isn’t a company to do things by half and a whole additional filter section has been shoe-horned in to the fairly large box. You’ll need a bit more pedal real-estate to get this one on, but remember it is doing the job of several separates!
Demonstration is better than description, so I will point you back toward the video footage, but in short, rounding up the front panel, the resonance control affects the intensity of the filter ‘peaks’. More subtle effects when on a low setting open up to a defined filter sweep up the north end of the scale. Start and Stop sliders as you’ll also hear in the video set the frequency at which a filter sweep travels. This could be a narrow band for subtle wah- like sounds to wide ‘sub-drop’ sort of effects. The rate slider sets the speed that the sweep travels from the Start point to End point. Short ‘quack’ effects are easy to tease out of the Micro Synth’, but I couldn’t resist finding a sweep that I could play in time with, using the pedal to set my tempo and be part of a rhythmic bass line. I really think this is where the pedal can really shine - that is, for a player able to use ‘time based’ pedals and set them so the effects drop in time with the accompaniment. I feel it brings additional dimension to what we can offer as keepers of the low end, but also when we do get a chance to venture up the dusty end, to do it with a range of different voices. Ultimately, to get over what it is we are trying to ‘say’ as a musician. Well worth exploring if you like weird and adventurous sounds and have the time to get into its depths.
Three effects in one!
Useful pre-amp with a specific voice
Useful for in-ear monitor users
See text regarding drive and EQ
Wrapping it up for the EHX reviews here, certainly another useful addition to anyone’s pedal board or recording set up - a channel strip designed for bass with some useful features.
Whereas a channel strip is a set of separate tone sculpting tools, the Metaphors pedal I feel takes three very specific flavours with a tuned breadth of effect reach to deliver as one. Or to put it another way, I think this is a distortion pedal with a lot of access to how it ‘feels’ to play it and of course how it sounds. I like how some bass pedals ‘compress’ but I sometimes would like to have more ‘squish’ and less drive, or vice versa, a dynamic distortion that only starts to bite when I dig in. I think Bass Metaphors is on the way to doing that by giving me access to drive saturation and compression ‘amount’ on separate knobs. Treble and Bass tone control knobs offer rudimentary but useful sculpting, which is useful for adding zing to a passive bass or fat low end to a naturally thin sounding instrument. In this case I’d probably leave the pedal on and just punch in the drive when needed. On the far right hand side a dry mix knob for blending the natural bass voice back in to the chain. A nice addition.
Like a good pre-amplifier pedal should have, there are the usual input and output sockets, but also a direct out for the unaffected instrument signal and an XLR socket for feeding a D.I. (Direct Injection) line to say, a recording device or PA, making this in effect a very useful D.I. for those preferring to gig with just in-ear monitors.
I think treating EHX's Bass Metaphors as one single tone generator rather than three channel strip separates seems to resonate with me, but I am not suggesting that the pedal isn’t a jack of all trades - it still does a great job, but I feel that like with the Darkglass Vintage Ultra, for me, the EQ is for the drive section rather than for use separately. Just my thoughts.
Power, like the Micro Synth is via adaptor only, but an adaptor is provided. The pedal looks like it will serve you well on the road in its metal casing. Decent heavy duty foot switches and indicator LEDs top off the layout.