Hello. I'd like to introduce to you the DiscomBOBulator, or "The BOB,” as I shall refer to it henceforth, from EMMA Electronic. EMMA is a Danish company known for building excellent pedals with long, difficult names, and The BOB is definitely one of them. If you're looking for specifics (and I bet you are), The BOB is an analog auto-wah / envelope filter pedal in the spirit of the Mu-tron III, that burbling, quacking gizmo made timeless by Stevie Wonder, Bootzilla, Larry Coryell and Jerry Garcia, among others.
Unlike the Mu-Tron III, The BOB is very compact and features a simple, intuitive control set laid out on its orange-ish, Comic Sans-adorned brushed metal faceplate. (Font snobs may scoff, but I believe this is a justified usage of Comic Sans – no other typeface so perfectly expresses The BOB's whimsical, bubbly personality.) The knob complement includes one each for Sensitivity, Width, and Attack; Sensitivity sets the level at which the filter is engaged, Width shapes the overall bandwidth that the filter affects, and Attack sets the speed at which the envelope changes. An Up/Down switch lets you reverse the direction of the filter for a less orthodox variation on the auto-wah sound. Innies and outies are mono, and BOB can be powered by a regular old 9V battery or a regular old 9V DC center-negative power supply.
Tweaking around on BOB's knobs, it's pretty simple to dial in the sound you're looking for. I like to try to figure a pedal out on my own before resorting to a consultation with the owner's manual, and The BOB's responsiveness and intuitive design made that easy. Setting up a typical Jerry Garcia-style bright envelope filter quack was easy enough with the knobs turned most of the way clockwise, and if you roll the width back a bit the quack gets warmer and mellower. Rolling all the knobs counter-clockwise towards the middle will get you into auto-wah territory. It's in this zone that experimentation with Sensitivity and Attack will yield a plethora of cool tones - perfect for funky wah-wah rhythms or lazy, cocked-wah leads. Most of the time you'll probably want the Up/Down switch in the Up position. This position gives you the classic response that gets brighter the harder you pick, but flipping the switch down was also very interesting, indeed. With the switch down BOB's voice becomes less of a quack and more of what I would call a "pucker", like Bob's swallowing a sour piece of grapefruit. What's really happening is that the filter reverses, so that when you pick harder the resulting sound is darker, and vice versa. It's a cool feature that gives BOB an useful alternate personality.
EMMA's DiscumBOBulator is definitely the cream of the crop as far as all-analog envelope filters are concerned. The tones are musical throughout the full sweep of its controls, and unlike some lesser envelope pedals, the input has plenty of headroom to handle whatever you plug into it without distorting –it's suitable for guitar, bass, keys, electric flute, or whatever you got. The downside of BOB's awesomeness is that it's also a bit of a luxury item at $249 street price. Damn the luck! Oh well, such is the price of excellence.
What we like: Top notch filter and wah tones, intuitive design, excellent build quality, and tasteful use of Comic Sans.
Concerns: BOB is expensive.