Is the Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork more than we deserve? It offers 33 different options for pitch shifting (a mix of octaves up and down and different harmonized intervals), has an expression pedal option, allows the user to choose between latched and momentary activation and the buffer seems to be really good. It evens comes with a power supply, but only draws 30 milliamps at nine volts, which means it won’t come close to exhausting a third-party PSU. Oh, and it’s small and inexpensive. What’s the catch? I’d argue there is none.
Of the 33 settings—which are accessible via the 11-step Shift knob and three-way Mode toggle—most struck me as usable. The octaves are no-brainers: The Pitch Fork offers one, two or three octaves above or below the root (yes, I said “or below”) or the user can pair one octave below with one, two or three octaves above the root. The perfect fifth is easy to grasp, too. The “D” setting (for Detune) actually makes for a very nice (and fast) chorus or phaser effect—think Slowdive, not The Police. Other settings provide very stable ring modulator effects, although the manual makes it clear what harmonies are at play in the various settings, so there’s no guess work for those who know what to do when playing the root, major third and perfect fifth at the same time. Indeed, the intervals change depending on the Mode toggle’s setting, so there’s a lot to absorb when digging into the Pitch Fork.
But the features don’t end with the various harmonies. The momentary option—which allows the user to activate the selected interval only for as long as his or her foot is on the switch—seemed like a bell or whistle too many until I used it. I could not have imagined that dropping sudden pitch shifts in the middle of a solo could be so much fun. Similarly, using an expression pedal to play with the rate of pitch shifting produced incredibly cool tape-like effects, and super articulate slide effects.
Above and beyond the features, of course, one must consider the musical performance, and here is where there’s room for debate. The Pitch Fork’s sound quality is solid but there’s better out there—you just have to spend a lot more, give up some significant board real estate and probably some features, too. Further, it feels like there’s a slight volume drop, although I think that’s really just the pedal accounting for the summed output of the octaves or harmonies. Also, the Blend knob affects all settings simultaneously, which means the user can’t adjust the balance between upper and lower octaves (an option Electro-Harmonix’s Micro POG offers).
The other source of concern is the Pitch Fork’s tracking, which is largely excellent. That said, the glissando when moving chords quickly around the fretboard had a distinctly non-guitar-like feel to it. More troubling to me were the occasional missteps I heard in the lower octave when playing chords. Initially I thought I was hearing issues in my playing or in the guitar’s tuning, but it happened just often enough that I’ve come believe it was a lag in tracking, particularly since I couldn’t replicate the problem on my own, and the pitch correction was always immediate. Given my budgetary and space constraints, and the infrequent occurrences and minimal severity of the issue, I didn’t consider this a deal breaker.
What we like: With fantastic functionality and ergonomics at a great price, the Pitch Fork offers a great entry point into the world of pitch shifting.
Concerns: Better sound quality can be had (for more), and occasional (and brief) glitches in the lower octave could be troubling for those who put this effect forward in their music.