Ready the pressure suits and check the booster rockets, because the new Grand Orbiter by EarthQuaker Devices will take its user to the Van Allen belt of phase and vibrato. With its sparkling, candy-apple red finish and retro-looking knobs, the Grand Orbiter will travel from the slow, graceful arc of a long sine wave to the far-out reaches of a gamma-ray-induced hallucination. To be clear, that means that the pedal produces both phase and vibrato effects by means of its all-analog signal path.
The phasing itself comes in two rates: One slow, capable of glacial sweeps, and another that is much faster, and capable of frenetic bounces of the waveform.
In the lower rate setting of one on the toggle switch, the Grand Orbiter can really stretch out the waveform. It’ll produce a measures-long, graceful phase sweep that’s just noticeable enough to enrich one’s tone. It would be a great effect to apply to a solo rhythm guitar, perhaps even an acoustic. At the noon setting of the Rate knob in Rate setting one, it’s easy to get that distinctive phasing sound as heard on Live’s “Lightning Crashes,” or perhaps less objectionably, Tame Impala’s “It is Not Meant to Be,” from the band’s Innerspeaker.
In the faster Rate setting two, phasing speeds pick up where Rate setting one topped out. Above noon on the Rate dial, the phasing became goofy and bouncy—useful perhaps for a space-rock freak out. What’s particularly nice about the two rate settings is that the user has a very wide spectrum of speed with which to work. It’s possible to more precisely dial in the desired speed. Fortunately, the Rate toggle settings apply to the Vibrato mode as well.
In the Vibrato mode, all sorts of fascinating sounds, some subtle, and some not, await the user. It’s in the Vibrato mode that the Resonance and Sweep controls really distinguish themselves. These controls contribute to a plethora of effect variations that include a sort of nostalgia-inspiring warble à la the Boards of Canada, “wah-like” sounds, and even slight detuning effects.
In the lower Resonance settings below noon, the Grand Orbiter creates a slightly detuned warble. As the Resonance increases past noon, the detuned sound incorporates a bit of a “wah-like” effect that varies depending on the rate of effect. As the Resonance increases past three o’clock, the effect transitions from detuning to wah. In the Vibrato mode the Sweep knob will adjust the peak of the frequency. In the lowest Sweep settings in which the peak is at a lower frequency, the vibrato sounds as if it pulses. In the higher Sweep settings, the pulsing fades as the filter allows more of the frequency spectrum to pass through.
The Grand Orbiter includes a curious Rate setting that disables the pedal’s low frequency oscillator so that a fixed filter setting can be chosen. In practice, the resonance filter seemed rather subtle, perhaps too subtle in both the Phase and Vibrato modes. However, this setting allows the user to manually and directly control the resonance filtration. Perhaps this setting would be useful for those times when a real freak out is needed.
The Grand Orbiter would make a worthy investment for the musician who needs rich, analog phasing and vibrato. Given the variety of sound the pedal can make, it’s no wonder that EarthQuaker Devices calls it Grand, and not simply its Orbiter.
What we like: A wide range of speed options, so it’s easy to precisely dial in the right rate. A wide spectrum of phase and vibrato sounds, including a bit of detuning, warble, and wah.
Concerns: The Rate setting in which the LFO is disabled isn’t particularly dramatic.