The newest contender in 2015’s already-packed phaser and Uni-Vibe lineup comes from Greenhouse Effects. The company’s new Sonic Orb has a wider range of “regular” phasing sounds than a simple, single-stage phasing effect. It produces both traditional phasing and Vibe-like sounds, but what really sets the Sonic Orb apart from other pedals is its warm, musical, and almost vocal tonal qualities.
Upon plugging in the unit, it became apparent that the effect’s oscillations tended to sound a lot like a vowel noises. It was as if a person were singing an “oh” while rounding his or her mouth, then pulling back its sides to “open up” the vowel, and emphasize the higher, airier tones. Don’t be alarmed—the Sonic Orb isn’t going to produce human speech. Rather, the pedal demonstrated that even strange modulation effects can resemble familiar sounds.
In the center of the pedal’s four control knobs sits the Speed toggle. Depending upon the toggle’s setting, the Sonic Orb can tend toward more traditional phasing effects or toward far-out, Uni-Vibe sounds. In the toggle’s Fast setting, for example, the effect oscillated roughly twice as fast as it would have in the Slow setting. A combination of a high Speed knob setting and a Fast toggle setting tended to produce a goofy, fun warble. Testing demonstrated that Uni-Vibe-like effects tended to be achievable in the Fast setting, whereas the other, slower setting produced gradual, even glacial sweeps. Don’t be misled, because even in the Slow setting, the Sonic Orb can pulse quickly when the Speed knob is cranked to the max.
Testing also revealed that the mysterious Q knob could alter many of the effect’s tonal qualities. Q is a difficult topic to explain, but the basic idea is that a high Q corresponds to a narrower bandwidth handled by at least one of the pedal’s oscillators. On the other hand, low Q corresponds to a wider oscillation bandwidth. In practical terms, the Sonic Orb’s high Q tended to produce a less intense, less bouncy phasing effect. Higher Q tended to “clean up” the phasing a bit, tightening it whereas a low Q gave a harmonically richer, even fuller-sounding phasing, but one that might be a little too intense at the highest Rate settings. At the extreme, low Q seems to pitch-bend the signal the tiniest bit, but not in a distracting way.
To top off all of its good tonal qualities, the Sonic Orb felt built to last. These days it’s hard to imagine a pedal maker who would cut corners to make an extra buck. Word would spread and buyers would take their money elsewhere. Still, Greenhouse did an admirable job with the housing, and gave it a pretty cool white paint job with gold graphics.
The Sonic Orb is a great pedal. Its tonal qualities—warmth, musicality, harmonic richness—make it a good contender for anyone who might be in the market for a phasing pedal. Although probably tens if not hundreds of phasing pedals exist these days, the Sonic Orb ought to be considered by any serious tone hound, and any lover of modulation effects.
What we like: Musical phasing that edges into Uni-Vibe territory without too much of the wacky, pitch-bending side effects that sometimes characterize these pedals.
Concerns: It would be nice to have a volume knob that controls the wet/dry mix, not simply overall output level.