The Orbital Modulator from Source Audio has had a while now to prove its worth and can be seen under the feet of innovative players like Robert Randolph and Reeves Gabrels. I can only imagine that Reeves Gabrels needed a Swiss Army solution to his modulation needs when adding his space-age flavor to The Cure’s six-string symphonic stew. What he got was a virtual spice-rack-in-a-box with a prize in every preset. Like all Source Audio Soundblox 2 pedals, the factory presets are a good jumping-off point. If menu-diving makes you want to hold your nose and close your eyes, you can rest easy knowing that your desired tone is just a tweak of the dial away thanks to the genius five-knob layout with six extra adjustable parameters assignable to the option control. Add to this the ability to assign any control sweep to the Dual Expression Pedal or Hot Hand Wireless controller and you are in for a sonic experience that is truly out of this world.
In the past, digital modulation pedals that tried to do everything often came up short on tone when compared to their individual analog counterparts. Thanks to Source Audio’s 56-bit signal processing power and meticulously engineered algorithms, the Orbital Modulator gets super close to the chewy mojo-melded movements only thought to be available from non-digital devices. In fact, one of the first things I did after reading the manual was fine-tune the Classic Flanger and Vibe presets to match my original ‘76 Electric Mistress and vintage MXR Phase 45. With some patience, I was able to get shockingly close to my two favorite mod boxes and easily save them onto the two available footswitch presets. I also enjoyed these familiar tones without the extraneous noise and volume drops that are associated with the old order. In addition to the traditional delay and feedback parameters, the option knob allows you to boost or cut the signal when you engage the effect and also sports a unique Lo Retain feature that siphons off the modulation from the lower frequencies so down-tuned and bass guitars can retain their girth. This is great for more subtle applications of flanger or chorus if you just want the higher register strings to swirl and chime. In addition to the traditional modulations on tap, Source Audio has added some otherworldly offerings. You can get lost in the lush intertwining multiple delay lines of the Quad Chorus, peel your speakers inside out with the Thru Zero Flanger, or spit acid blats of robot bile on your recordings with the Resonator. I was even able to mimic my favorite underground cyber-punkedelic warlord guitar hero Helios Creed with the whopping 12 stages of phaser on tap. As you enter the twelfth stage, it sounds as if your signal is being snorted up by an intergalactic phase-fiend and blown out it’s posterior into the cosmos. Far out.
What we like: The range of modulation on tap, interstellar sound quality, selectable waveforms and extreme affordability, enable the Orbital Modulator fly circles around the multi-modulation competition. Did I mention the semi-hidden tap tempo feature? Use this with the Vibe setting and build your own Bridge of Sighs. Out of this world-class.
Concerns: Traditional tremolo sounds are a bit tricky to dial in, but the manual clearly tells you how to get there. Referencing the manual is crucial with this one. Take some time to dial in your tones. Your patience will be rewarded.