Filtering is one of those things that most guitarists are aware of but don’t really pay attention to. The most prominent example of filtering in guitar pedals in the wah, which is essentially a foot controlled EQ sweep within a specific frequency, to get a specific, vocal-like tone. While the wah is firmly rooted in tonal history as one of the most endearing and heavily used effects across the board, pure filters did not receive such popularity among mainstream guitarists.
The Blurst from Electro-Harmonix is an almost entirely new concept, utilizing the vocal and resonant qualities of a filter to create a whole new type of sound. Electro-Harmonix is known for pushing the envelope and the Blurst is no exception. From its completely whacked-out graphics (which happen to be one of my favorite enclosure art pieces of this year), to its fun and musical sounds, the Blurst has got plenty of tricks in the chest to keep anyone interested.
EHX has kept in lockstep with its seemingly unidirectional design aesthetic in terms of enclosure size and knob style. The modern EHX style white “pointer” knobs and standard enclosure are all part of your standard fare as you’ve come to expect. However, the fun begins with the Todd McFarlane level of detail on the main pedal. It looks like a scuzzed-out fever trip through the pages of a pulpy sci-fi novel that bit off way more than it can chew, and I absolutely love it. It is so much fun to just look and study the art of this thing, and I really wish they could have done more so I could just stare at it. But alas, this pedal was made for playing, so let’s dive into how she works.
The Blurst is a modulated filter, which essentially means it’s a filter that is modulated by an LFO. The LFO’s rate can be changed for slower or faster speeds, which is controlled by the Rate knob. On the front we have a standard Volume knob, as well as an incredibly useful Blend knob, that mixes the dry signal in with the wet one. We also have a Resonance knob which controls the resonance, or feedback, of the filter, making it sound more vocal and squelchy. In addition to those controls, we have a Range knob as well, that sets the “focus” of the effect on the high or low frequencies, depending on where you set it.
Clearly made by musicians, The Blurst has features specifically tailored for musical applications, and not just noise (which is fun too, but only in specific situations). The Blurst like its namesake, gargles, spits, and spurts out everything from slow and gelatinous movement to watery and throaty wobble. The tap tempo really helps when setting it to play to a tempo-sensitive track, or when you want to just go ham on the filters to see how far they can go. The Shape control changes the shape of the wave, which can do everything from a more linear triangle wave to a more peak-focused sawtooth wave that made the pedal sound like it was eating itself.
When I hooked up an expression pedal, is where things really got interesting. Setting the EXP control to Filter, I was able to coax a sort of nu-wah tone, that was dark, modern, and almost synthy, yet still firmly rooted in its voice for the guitar. Switching the EXP control to Rate, I was able to control the speed of the LFO, creating something like a faux-Leslie chorus tone had a Leslie been invented in an alternate dimension.
The Blurst is a lot of fun, and gives you free reign to go into whatever territory you’d like. Fancy your tones a little weird? The Blurst can add a phase-like slow filtering effect that’ll jar anyone near you. If you like your tones to bite through what we consider “normal” while still staying musical and expressive, you should give the Blurst a try.
WHAT WE LIKE:
Gelatinous slow tones that sound like they can freeze time. Expression control is intuitive and well thought out. Can be both musical and just plain weird.
If you’re using it as a wah, it can be a little dark and bassy. I would have liked to see a square wave instead of a reverse sawtooth.