If you're not familiar with Death by Audio (and you should be), its credo is in its name: the company makes extreme effects for musicians who want to make a dramatic impact. "Apocalypse," "Fuzz War," "Evil Filter," no, these aren't the names of Steve Bannon's high school bands, these are Death by Audio pedals—heck, even the Echo Dream 2 has a Fuzz feature, so when the three-knob Micro Dream showed up without making any reference to destruction, I thought maybe DBA were slipping; I need not have worried.
The Micro Dream is presumably a stripped down version of the Echo Dream 2: it's a delay pedal with a much smaller footprint (including top jacks) and just three controls: "F Back" (which sets the number of repeats), "Time" (the rate of the echo) and "Delay" (the amount of the effect mixed with your signal).
I set the knobs at what I felt were moderate settings, plugged in, turned on and was immediately greeted by a very aggressive swelling of the delayed signal that was quickly heading into self-oscillation. This isn't a complaint—I love the sound of a delay pedal when the repeated notes overwhelm the signal, and the Micro Dream has an internal trimmer to set the point at which it will self-oscillate, so I could've tweaked it, but I decided to work with the factory settings, and my efforts were rewarded.
I set Delay around 2:30, which isn't unusual for me. I set Time similarly, which is the equivalent of 600 milliseconds of delay, the outer limits of the Echo Dream's "fidelity," although the pedal allows you to max out at approximately 1.2 seconds. (Remember, there's no such thing as "bad" sounds.) It turns out the Micro Dream is very dynamic, and setting F Back at 9:30 allowed me to keep the signal fairly uncluttered, but if I dug in I could start to trigger the self oscillation.
Once I had a (very functional) base settings, I was able to better analyze what the Micro Dream sounds like, and it sounds really good. One of the cool things about this pedal is that it manages to be rich and dramatic without stepping all over your signal, and that's a really hard balance to strike. When using delay, I typically crank the feedback function higher to ensure the initial repeats are prominent enough, but Micro Dream's repeats popped and kept pace, which meant fewer repeats were needed, and I had a "cleaner," leaner signal to work with.
It took me a while to figure out how Micro Dream manages to be so effective, but listening closely to the repeats I realized that the initial delayed signal is fairly robust but with a slightly attenuated high end, meaning the notes have body but their attack doesn't compete with the original signal. However, as the delayed notes degrade, the low end is reduced, leaving more of the initial attack than the body. This very clever filtering ensures the signal isn't too dense, while the initial note itself stands out. Combine this voicing with some tasty modulation and you've got a delay that really gets the job done.
What We Like: Rich delay that manages to be both prominent and unintrusive, until you dig in and unleash that oscillation (you know you want to). Add top jacks and a remarkably modest power draw (is this thing analog?) and you've got a really user-friendly pedal.
Concerns: None, but I would love this thing with tap. Oliver, are you listening?