Sometimes, you just want to get funky. There are many ways to come by this, but what do you do when you’ve phased out phasing, are sick of wah wah, and don’t want to use the talk box? The envelope, please. Envelope filter, that’s it. Envelope filters give you variable shades of funk from your input signal—the amount of volume coming into the pedal determines how much or how little of the effect you get. Sometimes referred to as auto-wahs, they produce a sound similar to a wah pedal, but because of the nature by which they operate, they seem more spontaneous. Whether you’re a Deadhead trying to nail Jerry Garcia’s tone, or a Radiohead fanatic trying to get Jonny Greenwood’s sound from the “Paranoid Android” solo, or you just want to bring a little funk into your life, the following pedals will do all that and more. Let’s get funky with some filters!
The perfect choice for both the budget-savvy and minimalist player, the two-knobbed DOD 440 gives you classic envelope filter sounds without forcing you to read a user manual. The Range knob controls which frequencies the filter sweeps, and the level determines volume. The nifty voice switch determines whether the rise or fall of the sweep is emphasized, with the latter being particularly useful for those playing bass or baritone instruments. It’s small, it’s simple, it’s green, and it’s cost effective. If you’re looking to get into the envelope filter game, but you’re tepid about spending a lot of cash, the DOD 440 is a terrific option, and it may just become a permanent staple on your pedalboard.
EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery
When EarthQuaker Devices designs a new pedal, you know it’s going to be good, and you know it’s going to be weird. The Spatial Delivery checks both of those boxes. Its Range knob determines how the pedal responds to your pick attack, while the Resonance knob allows you to unlock the subtle, extreme, and everything in between. The Filter control sweeps through Low-pass, Band-pass, and High-pass filters. Like the DOD 440, you can select between an emphasis of the rise or fall, but the additional sample-and-hold function on the Spatial Delivery makes it well worth the price. If you’re a sonic explorer that desires something simple, yet versatile and adventurous, the Spatial Delivery delivers the goods in a way that only an EQD pedal can.
Electro-Harmonix: All of them
If I were to write about all of the filter pedals EHX makes, that would be another article on its own. Instead, I’ll just tell you that it makes several great ones, and which one you choose depends on what you’re looking for. The Q-Tron gives you great filtering options, as well as a boost option so your funky riffs and solos can stand out. If you like the Q-Tron, but don’t need as many options, the Q-Tron Micro may be just what you’re looking for, with its simple three-knob interface and compact size. If the Micro is too big for your cramped board, the Nano Doctor Q will give you the funk with a single Range control and selectable bass boost. If you want a gnarly, tube-powered pedal and aren’t concerned with pedalboard real estate, check out the Tube Zipper distortion and filter pedal. I’ve only scratched the surface on EHX filter pedals—maybe I’ll write that other article after all . . .
Mr. Black Fwonkbeta Purple Funk Generator
You should buy this pedal based on the name alone. If that doesn’t sell you, how about three knobs labeled Stroke, Fwonk, and Juice? Damn, that’s funky. Stroke controls range, Fwonk controls intensity, and Juice determines the input sensitivity. The Fwonkbeta features an extended frequency range, making it great for both bass and guitar players. If you play both, and need pedals that sound great on both instruments, you need this in your gig bag or on your board. With its high headroom, you can run your favorite dirt boxes in front of it without any trouble. It has the coolest artwork out of all the pedals on this list, and it’s made in Portland, Oregon USA. If you want to stand out while you generate the funk, get fwonked.
SolidGold FX Funkzilla and Funk Lite
If you are a master of funk, and a two-knobber just ain’t gonna do it for you, the Funkzilla from SolidGold FX has a wide array of funky filter options. Along with the usual options, you get a unique direction control, which gives you the ability to determine the direction of the filter sweep, and you can dial in various rhythmic patterns courtesy of the tap tempo with subdivisions from the 1-2-4 switch. Need more? How about expression pedal capability? The Funkzilla can be fine tuned for bass, guitar, and even keyboard, making it one of the most versatile filter pedals on the market. If you like core tone of the Funkzilla, but want something smaller and easier to use, check out the Funk Lite. It gets you the essentials with a friendly three-knob layout, and looks great in a purple sparkle finish.
Subdecay Proteus and Prometheus DLX
The Proteus is small but mighty. It won’t take up much room, but it still manages to cram tap tempo and subdivisions in. It also features a random sample and hold filter, and it has great throwback graphics. Controls for depth and frequency allow you to tailor your sound, and the tap tempo with subdivisions lets you put your funky sounds in sync with the rest of the band. If you need maximum control, the Prometheus is a wicked awesome stompbox designed to be the baddest filter pedal on the market. You can choose between seven shapes and eleven modes, and like the Proteus, you have tap tempo and sample and hold functions. You can also use an expression pedal to unlock even more funkiness. Subdecay pedals are also made in Oregon—must be something funky in the water there.
Xotic Effects Robotalk Series
No stranger to classic effects, Xotic has resurrected the Robotalk in a smaller enclosure with improved sound. Whether you’re going for a talk box vibe, crazy filter sounds, or a wild, random arpeggiator, the Robotalk will get you there. If you need more options, the Robotalk 2 features additional controls and multiple internal dip switches, allowing you to dial in the exact filter sound you’re looking for. If you’re worried about whether it can handle your active signal, don’t be—there’s an internal switch for that. The best part about the Robotalk 2 is that it has independent channels, giving you two different presets to be used for different styles of playing. Set one to be subtle, and the other for dramatic, robotic filter sounds, and you’re ready to bring the funk on every level.
Whether you’re an experienced funk veteran, need a specific sound, or just want to expand your musical horizons, any of the aforementioned pedals will do. And despite the fact that I used the word funk repeatedly, you can apply envelope filter sounds into a wide variety of musical contexts. As with any other musical tool, your only limit is your imagination. I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at some excellent envelope filters, and I hope you get the chance to try one soon.