Sometimes, the best place to start is at the end. And in the case of the new Chase Bliss analog tremolo pedal, the Gravitas, that’s exactly where we’ll begin.
At the end of the control section of the manual, creator Joel Korte issues the following warning: “It may seem overwhelming and difficult for users to take all this in at first. Get to know the basic functionality of [the Gravitas] and then … it will likely be easier.”
The Gravitas was my first experience with the Chase Bliss brand of pedal wizardry—and it certainly took a bit to get my head around it. I’ve played most of the top tremolo pedals on the market today and the Gravitas has a level of control unlike anything else out there.
So if you’ve ever found yourself wanting a tremolo sound that’s half sine wave and half square wave with a slightly shifted center point that’s a little dark and ramps from crazy fast to super slow when you kick it on, yeah—the Gravitas might be exactly what you’ve been waiting for.
Digital Brain | Analog Heart
The purists out there should rejoice in the Gravitas’ all-analog signal path and use of Analog Devices AD823 op-amps for “perfect tonal clarity.” At the same time though, the bells-and-whistles crowd can celebrate key features like presets, expression control, tap tempo and a robust MIDI implementation—so it’s a win-win for both sides. But let’s step back for a second and walk through how that’s possible. When you plug into the Gravitas, the first thing your guitar hits is a discrete class A clean boost. From there, the guitar signal stays completely analog throughout the circuit and is never digitally processed. The control section of the pedal however, is completely digital. All the knobs and switch and switches are “connected to a little digital brain” that allows unprecedented control over a 100 percent analog circuit.
At its core, the Gravitas offers three distinct types of tremolo: a vintage opto type tremolo, a harmonic tremolo (inspired by the 1961 Brownface Fender Twin) and a combination of the two that’s quite lovely.
From there, the sky is nearly the limit thanks to an array of dipswitches and next-level ramping controls.
But if you want a standard tremolo sound, you can basically ignore the dipswitches on the back of the pedal and dive straight into the four primary control knobs and four ModuShape controls on top. Crank the Volume knob, set the Tone and Rate to taste and then start ModuShaping. Set the depth of the tremolo to the intensity you desire and then tweak the two toggles into your perfect tremolo shape. You can mix and match sine, triangle and square waves that are further altered by the sway knob, which allows you to move the center point of the modulation for some wildly unique tonal combinations.
Once you’ve got a pretty good feel for that, it’s time to explore the ramping options.
Korte calls the Drive knob “magical” in the manual and, thanks to the digital control design, you can actually set it up to simultaneously control as many as five different parameters and have it either ramp-and-hold or modulate back and forth between your setting and either the minimum or maximum knob values via the dipswitches on the back.
This can result in some pretty chaotic tremolo sounds that I particularly enjoyed with the momentary bypass option. Stutters, intense ramping and glitchy waveforms abound and change with every twist and turn of the control knobs.
What we like: The Gravitas is an extremely sophisticated design and offers an epic amount of control. Standard and non-standard tremolo sounds are in there and most everything in between. It’s very deep.
Concerns: In a recent Tone Report interview, Joel Korte said that his goal isn’t to control the user’s experience, but rather to offer flexibility that’s “there if you want it.” So bear in mind that if the Gravitas is your first foray into the world of Chase Bliss, you should take it slow. In other words, read the manual before you even plug it in. Then read it again.