I don't actually use a lot of effects - I feel that the research, buying, trying and selling them takes a lot of time and keeps me from playing. It's like I use the excuse "but my tone isn't there yet" to focus on shopping instead of playing. I'm sure other people have more self control, but for me it doesn't really help. So I stopped my pedal GAS at some point and settled on a minimal pedal board: a fuzz or distortion (currently a green Russian Big Muff) into a stereo splitter, with one end running into a tremolo / ring mod pedal ( I use Randy's Revenge by Fairfield Circuitry ) and then into an amp. The other end runs through a delay, and then into an other amp.
This post is about that delay. I could lose the fuzz and the trem, but I would feel very lost without my favourite delay. I tried a hell of a lot of delay pedals, and this is the one that really does it for me:
Pigtronix Echolution Phi
The Echolution Phi is an older digital delay - it still works with digital delay chips, not with modelling. I'm a big fan of the sound of simple digital delay pedals like the Boss DD-3 or the Ibanez DDL, and this pedal takes that a lot further. It's a bit like an EHX Memory Man, but with a lot morefunctionality. To me, it sounds heavenly and best of all, it's silly easy to use.
In its basic form, this pedal allows you to modulate the parameters of the delay chip in a couple of ways:
- delay line length selection: really short, for chorus, flange and vibrato. Middle, for slapback and general "thickening" delay as well as analog or tape echo imitation. Long, for pads and reverse delay washes.
- Tremolo and Vibrato on the delay signal: vibrato gives you the modulated delay sound you know from the Memory Man, but goes a lot further. Tremolo is quite unique, and together with the multi-tap function, allows you to get very weird rhythmic throbs.
- Multi-Tap select: you can select five different subdivisions of the delay individually, for polyrhythmic combinations. With the phi switch, these subdivisions realign according to the golden ratio - this takes you from repeating mathematical polyrhythm to trippier, less precise but very musical repeats.
- Loop and Reverse: you can loop what is currently in the delay line and play over it (there's even a hidden sound on sound function), and you can reverse everything. The cool thing with the loop is, that you can modify the loop with the other modulation controls (including the taps). You can add an external footswitch for loop and reverse - nice.
- Tone: this allows you to roll treble off the delay signal - the effect will increase with each delay. It allows you to go from clean digital delay to very dark analog delay.
Of course, it also has the controls you'd expect on a modern delay: feedback, clean/wet blend, tap tempo and delay length. There's also an input volume boost, which can get really loud and which I use as a general clean boost to push my amp because it sounds great.
Most of the time, I stick to a slapback sound with a bit of faux-reverb (created by the multi-taps and some feedback), and a slight bit of modulation - that's my standard sound. From there, it's very easy to go to dark, rhythmic dub delays, or long reverse washes. Those would be my three most used sounds. But it doesn't stop there: you can get great resonant, feedbacking flanger sounds out of this, as well as really wobbly pitch vibrato. You can use it to create a glitchy background pad, or a drone. This pedal rewards experimenting with it. I think it's the only effect I've ever owned, where I really put in the time to get to know it - to a point where now it's as essential to me as my guitar or amps.
There's very little I don't like about this pedal: the delay signal can get a little noisy when you set delay length and blend high, and the stereo signal is just a reversed phase copy instead of a true stereo sound (so no pingpong delay). I use it in mono anyway, but it would be nice to have.
So, the Pigtronix Echolution Phi really does it for me. I even keep a spare one for parts, in case my main one ever breaks. It's a cool powerhouse, with a gorgeous sound and it allows you to create complex sounds in a very easy way.