“Digital” has become a taboo word in our world of vacuum tubes, analog warmth, and soft clipping. We have gotten so used to hearing the tones we want to hear and ignoring products that don’t have our favored “sonic buzzwords.” However, the Malekko Scrutator spits out some downright beautiful ones and zeroes that’ll hold their own against any analog pedal of the same denomination. With a huge range of tones and incredible versatility, this pedal will appeal to both the sonically adventurous and cantankerous.
When talking about digital audio in a studio situation, we want to get the highest bit and sample rates, which preserve the most data from an analog signal. Theoretically speaking, it is impossible to create a complete analog waveform in the digital world, because of the way a computer breaks down and compresses it. The computer takes “snapshots” of the analog waveform and throws away everything else in between. The sample rate is these “snapshots” (a 44.1kHz sample rate would mean 44,100 snapshots per second, which is standard CD quality), and the bit depth is how much information is in each sample (16-bit is standard CD quality, 24-bit is standard pro audio). That’s one reason why many analog purists swear by the sound of tape, vinyl, and the like, because scientifically speaking, a true analog waveform cannot be created or stored by a computer, and all the information that doesn’t make the cut of the sample rate or bit depth gets thrown away, which can lead to a loss of fidelity or transients. So what does an audio engineering lesson have to do with the Scrutator? The Scrutator is special because it does a complete reversal and degrades your signal into an unnoticeable electronic sludge, at its most extreme settings. Instead of trying to preserve your signal, the Scrutator completely destroys it, which is what makes this pedal so much fun (even for an analog guy like myself).
The Scrutator is almost a lo-fi computer synth in a box. It features a wide range of different available sounds from noise generation, warm and meaty distortion, bit crushing, and a large range of sound design options. Starting on the front, we have a warm, Echoplex-style preamp that when boosted creates a very pleasing, meaty distortion. Although it may be digital, this preamp sounds all analog, and works wonderfully with a booster after it. The Rate knob adjusts the sample rate, and the Bit knob adjusts the bit depth, effectively degrading the aforementioned “snapshots” and bit depth respectively. The heart of this pedal however, is its filter. It has a very wide range, and is capable of thunderous faux-bass tones, whistling sweeps, and fat lead lines or sound effects. The Q control adjusts the “reach” of the filter, and can make it more resonant. The character of the low pass filter is unmistakably analog, somewhere between a Moog and an ARP filter, but a lot thicker. The Mix knob controls the amount of dry signal coming through, and can be very helpful when you want to make this pedal more musical outside of just boosting the preamp. Messing around with the bit depth and sample rate can create a host of lo-fi tones, from broken computer to atonal ring mod sounds; the Scrutator can crush your signal so far you can actually hear the binary code chopping out of your speaker. However, this pedal really opens up when you add delay. Setting the rate around 9 o’clock, the Q around 10 o’clock, and sweeping the filter can get you that famous “Tom Sawyer” filter sweep synth sound. Suddenly, this little noise maker turns into an textural industrial machine, full of expressive synth washes, huge dark sound effects, and foreboding bit crushed hits. This pedal would work better up near your guitar, as it is definitely a tweaker, as you can get the most out of it that way. With added expression control (and even CV control for your analog synths!), this pedal is really a no-brainer for anyone looking for a kick ass noise machine and sound generator with loads of musical and textural possibility.
What We Like: Tons of options for many musical and sound design scenarios. Analog-style filter and preamp gives a nice warmth. EXP and CV add even more versatility and make it more gig-friendly.
Concerns: Not for the faint of heart, and can be a little unpredictable at more extreme bit and rate settings