It’s not exactly the best kept secret that Electro-Harmonix’ Mike Matthews is one of the most eccentric characters in our corner of the world. His experiences in the effects industry are documented far and wide, recently ending up the subject of a lengthy interview-cum-biopic in Forbes. However, it stands to reason that some of Matthews’ idiosyncrasies shone through in some of the wacky stuff EHX has put out over the years. The catalog of EHX has so much breadth that five different people could write this article and have five different lists, but this is what I believe to be the crème de la crème.
1. The Domino Theory
This one is so weird that it almost defies any kind of logical explanation. The Domino Theory was a clear tube packed with LEDs that would react to sound and flash the LEDs accordingly. I remember seeing one of these in a store a decade ago and have never seen one since. It’s technically not a guitar effect but it’s an effect all the same. Hilariously enough, EHX thought the Domino Theory wouldn’t sell due to a high price point, so they released a smaller version. One would expect this smaller version to contain the words “domino” or “theory” somewhere within. Not so, they decided to call it the Pet Lite. It contained five LEDs—not much of a light show. In fact, EHX made a few of these lighting effects; they also put out a “plasma ball” not unlike the ones sold at Spencer’s Gifts. The EHX version was called the “Corona Concert.” Perhaps the most baffling of all was the 3-Phase Liner, which was a variant of the Domino Theory that was worn around the neck.
2. The Ambitron
This pedal was so weird that very few units were produced. Howard Davis, the man behind such designs as the Deluxe Memory Man and others, designed this effect while on his quest to play his mono jazz LP’s in stereo. Our more recording-savvy readers will note that this effect is usually achieved with a very short delay. However, this simply wasn’t a good enough solution. Thus, the Ambitron was born. The pedal came packaged in a strange brown color in the same folded sheet metal boxes as most EHX pedals back then. The knobs are labeled “input,” “high rolloff,” “ambience” and “delay.” Some readers familiar with the EHX line might think that the Analogizer pedal was born from this idea. Indeed, the Analogizer was created to fatten up a digital signal, and it does this with a short delay time plus a gain knob for grit and a “spread” knob. While the effect is similar, the Ambitron does so with a high rolloff knob. Strangely, the Ambitron is actually stereo, when it was made to achieve a faux-stereo effect.