The Subdecay Vitruvian Mod is a monophonic ring modulator that can do so many things it’s probably easier to say what it can’t do: Polyphony.
Let’s talk a bit about how this pedal works, and then I’ll skim the surface of what it can do. Starting at the top left corner, the Tracking toggle affects the functionality of the Carrier and Fine knobs. As flexible—and interactive—as this pedal is, I’m reluctant to offer blanket characterizations, but I found this control determined the tonal quality of the effect, with the “Hi” position offering richer sounds, “0” providing more traditional ring mod tones, and “Lo” offering more traditional octave effects.
At the center is the Carrier knob, which selects the frequencies of the carrier signal (which is the input signal as modified by the pedal). This control is affected by both the Tracking and Entropy toggles. Speaking of Entropy, that toggle resides in the top right corner. Set to “Order” it can easily create musical pitch shifting effects; set the toggle to “Chaos” and, as the name suggests, things get crazier. The bottom row of knobs control the pedal’s output (Volume), the accuracy of the effect’s tracking (Tracking) and the degree of the effect applied to the carrier signal (Modulate).
The Vitruvian Mod’s manual includes an elaborate table that describes the setting for achieving specific harmonics. I found those settings to be fairly accurate, although I would have sworn I dialed in a sub-octave and not a major 6th when I set Tracking to High, Carrier to 3, Entropy to Order, and then set Fine to 1 o’clock and Modulate to 12 o’clock. In either case, it provided a nice, meaty extra-low end that worked well with fuzz.
Leaving Tracking set to High and Entropy on Order, I was able to dial in all kinds of thick, analog synth-like tones by sweeping the Carrier knob while the Modulate knob was turned up. With Tracking set to Lo, Carrier at 4, Entropy on Order, Fine at 11 o’clock, and Modulate at 10 o’clock, I got a very useful octave-up and -down effect that tracked well and, again, teamed very nicely with fuzz. The sound quality is rock solid, if not remarkable, and this pedal feels like it was built for twiddlin’.
Forgive me if this reads like a cookbook: There are MANY recipes for cool effects, and space doesn’t allow me to linger in detail, so I will simply have to conclude by saying ring mods are traditionally fairly one-dimensional effects; however the Vitruvian Mod pushes the envelope by offering a variety of sounds that most non-traditional guitarists (e.g., no country or blues) could put to good use.
What we like: A variety of usable and different frequency-based effects are at your disposal and, despite the numerous variables, cool sounds are found fairly easily with the use of the manual. There is a lot of bang for the buck in terms of versatility and overall quality.
Concerns: Users will need to twiddle knobs, and multiple cool sounds will need to be dialed in afresh with every use. Those who only need a single facet of this pedal can probably find it for less in a one-trick pony (and I don’t mean that pejoratively).