REVIEW: Mr. Black Downward Spiral Delay
This is not a normal pedal, says the introduction piece in the Mr. Black’s Downward Spiral Delay instruction manual. Hand made in Portland, Oregon, by Jack DeVille, the Downward Spiral is, indeed, not normal – it is unlike any other delay I’ve used before. In fact, using it like a “normal” delay is doing it an injustice.
WHAT WE LIKE:
The Downward Spiral is simple in its approach, and like many delays has three controls: Level, Regeneration (number of repeats) and Time (which ranges between 20ms – 800ms). But it’s the actual delayed notes that set the Downward Spiral apart. Instead of repeating the same note, the Downward Spiral instead sends each repeat shifting a note lower than the one before it. Hence the name, Downward Spiral. The longer the regeneration is set, the lower the notes go, as if descending into hell itself – which I believe is half it’s intended purpose.
One very cool feature is how the Downward Spiral oscillates – and it may be my favorite feature of this pedal. Turn the Regeneration all the way clockwise, set the time to noon or more - it doesn’t really matter. Strike a chord, and the Downward Spiral will send a cascading number of repeats shifting downward in a never-ending cycle. Although it never ends, just as importantly it never overpowers the original signal, creating a cool, ambient effect. It reminds me of an M.C. Escher painting that uses depth perception illusions to fool the eye.
So how can you use this pedal to create music? Well, use your imagination. If you have a looper pedal, create a short loop with the oscillating Downward Spiral, then turn it off and play some lead solos over top of the oscillation without it affecting your current playing. The point of the Downward Spiral is to think outside the box. It isn’t normal, so don’t play normal.
I don’t think there are any concerns if you keep in mind that this is not a typical delay. You can’t turn off the downward pitch shifting, so if you don’t like this effect, look elsewhere.
TONE: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The Downward Spiral has a really nice modulated echo quality to it, quite beautiful and haunting at the same time. The overall tone is as clear as a newer echo machine; never too bright or too dark. It does turn into a sort of mushy soup when it oscillates, but that’s only natural. The fact the oscillation stays at a consistent volume is a great feature.
BUILD QUALITY: 5 out of 5 stars
I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing a few other Mr. Black pedals before, and the build quality has always been exceptional. Great looking metal boxes, top quality parts, true bypass, and a pretty cool paint job to boot. Hand made in America is something I’m happy to see and support.
VALUE: 4 out of 5 stars
If you’re looking for one delay pedal to do it all – a tall order in any event - the Downward Spiral might not be the best choice. But if you already have a well-liked delay and are looking to add to your arsenal, what this pedal can do is unlike most other delays out there, and that alone makes it special. Ambient users, or those of you looking for something different for recording purposes, and even keyboard or synthesizer users, might get a kick out of the Downward Spiral. Bottom line: Use your imagination.
OVERALL RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars