Electro-Harmonix (EHX)—creators of the Big Muff and a bajillion other pedals—is a company that seems to live by the credo “go big or go home,” both literally and figuratively. EHX’s latest offering, the Super Pulsar, is big in all ways, offering a huge feature set and huge sound in a pretty big box.
The number of options on this pedal is staggering; indeed, I think the only thing it can’t do is fit on my crowded pedal board (more on that later). To start, it offers stereo in and out, which is cool in and of itself, but the Super Pulsar also offers a Phase knob, allowing you to adjust the phase between the two signals for really cool effects that accentuate the real-time Doppler effect you get from a two amp set up.
Like many tremolos, the Super Pulsar is compatible with an expression pedal but, unlike most (any?) you can assign Rate, Depth, Shape, Volume and Phase to the expression jack. You’d only need the latter if you’re running in stereo, but that still leaves a wealth of options, including this one: with the Stereo Pulsar’s ability to save eight presets (despite its analog signal path), you could save one setting as a straight clean tone but assign Volume to the expression and voila—your expression pedal is now a volume pedal, too, and you still have room for seven presets.
Even if you think you only need one or two settings for your tremolo, you might change your mind when you start tweaking the Env Rate and Env Depth knobs. These two tiny knobs allow the player’s dynamics to affect the tremolo’s response. Working in conjunction with the main Rate knob—which, as you might expect, controls the overall rate of the effect—the Env Rate knob can be adjusted so the tremolo effect speeds up or slows down as the note decays. Similarly, the Env Depth knob, working in conjunction with the Depth knob (which controls the overall depth of the effect) determines whether the intensity of the effect increases or diminishes as the note decays. This may not sound intuitive, and, in practice—at least initially—it isn’t. But is an incredibly cool feature, and one that the manual does a very good job of explaining. And, if this sounds like a lot of tweaking, remember there are seven or eight preset slots to which the user can save his or her hard work. Further, the Env controls can be disabled simply by setting them to noon, allowing for more traditional effects. However, I think once people dig in to these features they’ll be inspired to use them. For those who feel overwhelmed by the Rate options, I won’t mention that you can get ring modulation out of the pedal (oops), and instead will note that the Super Pulsar has a straight tap tempo function (as well as tempo divide features for complex and fast settings).
But I’m not done describing the features. If you look at the Wave knob, it looks like the pedal “only” offers three wave shapes in the first half of the knob’s travel: Sine, Triangle and Square. However, the Shape knob allows the user to warp these shapes, allowing for a variety of tremolo effects. Past noon on the Wave knob are rhythmic settings that allow the tremolo effect to “pulse” to preset intervals, which are further affected by the Shape knob (and can be modified by the user). The Wave Invert switch reverses whatever modulation wave form is in use, allowing the easy creation of “backwards” rise and fall times. There’s also a plain ol’ volume control to adjust output to compensate for severe modulation effects.
I haven’t even discussed how useful the Mode button can be (as it can activate some functions with the click of a footswitch), but I need to talk about how good this pedal sounds. If the Super Pulsar has a sonic signature, it’s big, open and lush. I know the pedal is true bypass—something EHX doesn’t always offer—but I have to wonder if there’s more to the signal path because in addition to being astonishingly functional and flexible, it’s a joy to listen to.
What we like: The Super Pulsar offers incredibly versatility that really enables the user’s creativity. It sounds amazing and I think it is priced very reasonably.
Concerns: I could complain about the complicated interface, but the manual really takes the sting out of it. Instead, I’ll note that I desperately want this thing on my board and, as of this writing, I don’t know how to make room without giving up one of my many wonderful fuzzes—it’s just a little too big. Of course, this may not be a problem for readers.