Just a few days ago, I listened to the soundtrack from 2001: A Space Odyssey and wondered how a lone guitarist might produce the spooky atmosphere of the tracks from the work of György Ligeti. By coincidence, just a couple of days later, I had the chance to review the Transmisser, the new reverb modulation unit from EarthQuaker Devices. Fortune favored me, because I had an answer to my question. Whether you want to evoke fear of an interstellar monster, or remind us all of the yawning, terrifying abyss of space, the Transmisser has you covered.
In the “default” mode, when all knobs are at noon, the result is a bit more subdued than horrific. It’s actually a little like a new age wall of sound. Think Enya and “Sail Away,” though with just a few adjustments, sci-fi horror is not far off. The reverb is slow to decay, and in testing I heard a gradual swelling then fading of the signal, with a lot of warbly modulation in the background. Although I liked the shimmering, brighter tones that the Darkness control brought out in its leftmost position, I preferred the more subdued, moody, and mysterious qualities of the darker settings.
Although chords rang through with new-age ethereality, single notes also produced unusual results when I played with the Frequency knob. This knob controls a resonance filter which is “on the verge of oscillation,” according to EarthQuaker. By slowly rotating the Frequency knob, I discovered the “sweet spot” at which a single note resonated and almost created feedback. The Transmitter accepts an expression pedal, which means that finding the sweet spot on the fly is that much easier (and more fun).
Much of the magic comes from the interaction of the pedal’s Frequency, Warp, and Rate knobs. Now, I am a simple man, and I don’t claim to understand just what exactly it is that these knobs do. EarthQuaker says that the Warp acts as a system-wide “slew,” and that adjustments can mellow and deepen the pedal’s resonance filter, or make it a bit tighter. Adjusting the Warp knob will also adjust the length of the decay. Rate, as might be expected, controls the speed of the system’s modulation.
Testing revealed that the Frequency, Warp, and Rate knobs interacted in subtle ways and truly weird ways. To the left of noon, the Warp seems to lower the pitch of the oscillation or at least slow it down, though I’d think that the Rate knob was supposed to do that. And to the right of noon, the Warp knob seems to raise the pitch of the repeated signal, or at least clarifies the effected signal.
The Transmisser doesn’t really offer a whole lot of adjustment range for its Decay, but that’s partly by design. True, turning the Decay knob counter-clockwise will shorten the reverb trail, but it won’t cut it short in an abrupt way. To do so would be to miss the point of the Transmisser entirely. The Transmisser is a pedal about and for one’s reverb. It’s meant for creating atmospheres and producing new textures. Hence, the Decay knob’s more limited range than one would expect. In other words, the decay, the sonic trailing out, is where the magic happens.
Given the results of my tests, I’ve come to think that this is a pedal whose potential has yet to be realized. The Transmisser is a pedal for people who like to tinker. However, I’d also recommend it to those brave souls who are willing to look into the abyss of space in the hope that the abyss will look back.
What We Like: Unusual reverb modulation which produces new-age ethereal tones or horrifying, sci-fi music.
Concerns: I would have liked the Decay knob to control a wider time-range of the reverb’s trail.