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Review: Strymon Volante

Strymon are extensively considered leading pioneers in the realm of DSP guitar results processing, and the Volante Magnetic Echo Machine is the newest long-awaited pedal launch from the distinguished builder. Acclaimed Strymon pedals just like the TimeLine, BigSky, Mobius, DIG, Riverside, and others have arguably set and upheld the fashionable normal for what is to be anticipated from high-end digital guitar results, and in this evaluate I’m setting out to see if Volante carries Strymon’s torch of excellence and raises the bar yet again.

Moments In Time

Something that initially set Strymon aside from different DSP pedal makers was that their pedals appeared almost future proof. When their flagship TimeLine hit the scene and propelled the builder to notoriety, it helped usher in an era the place the quality of software algorithms, unrestricted by the restricted processing power in older digital pedals, can be the figuring out think about what makes a pedal’s sounds superior to others. This can be a massive part of the rationale why the TimeLine and Strymon’s different main pedal releases are nonetheless in production and going robust to today. Strymon’s algorithms have been and nonetheless are on par with one of the best there’s.

In fact, many informal pedal fanatics who shortly “flip” pedals for the newest overestimated launch are still clamoring for a TimeLine 2 even though the original continues to be a formidable delay pedal. However whereas successor pedals to the builder’s “Stryfecta” of flagship releases would definitely be welcome sooner or later, what the Volante represents is a targeted attempt at enhancing on certain concepts Strymon has tried earlier than.

When wanting at the Volante and the totality of what it’s, it appears there are a number of key milestones in Strymon’s historical past that led to the inevitable creation of this monumental pedal. The El Capistan dTape Echo is an early second of relevance, being Strymon’s trendy basic tape delay emulation pedal that’s still highly regarded years after its preliminary release. (A comparable dTape machine also makes an look within the TimeLine.) The BigSky is Strymon’s flagship reverb pedal, however it additionally had a cool algorithm referred to as Magneto that was the builder’s first foray right into a multi-head echo concept. Then the Deco came out which simulates reel-to-reel studio tape machines. Strymon then launched their first Eurorack module, also referred to as Magneto, which went even deeper into multi-head echo than ever earlier than. All of this historical past and expertise with vintage type delay and echo effects laid the groundwork for what was to return.

The Ultimate Phrase in Multi-Head Echo?

With a lot experience in the space of vintage tape delay and multi-head echo emulation, Strymon was in a singular position to put their formidable collective experience into the belief of Volante. Before I even performed the Volante, I had a sense that this might be Strymon’s most essential pedal release thus far. If anything, it definitely represents the end result of all their experience and experience on this singular space, and by that recognition alone, I consider Volante stands because the definitive Strymon pedal and is certainly an important release from this builder because the unique TimeLine. Yes, that’s a daring statement to make and considerably of a spoiler for the rest of this assessment.

Now let’s speak about why Volante is the final word in digitally emulated multi-head echo pedals. All of it starts with the sounds and sound quality this pedal presents.

Welcome To The Machines

The Volante instantly recollects various similarities with the famed Binson Echorec and few notable tape echo machines. With its four playback heads, primarily green LEDs, and that attribute green finish, comparisons with the Echorec are obvious. Furthermore, the three Sort options for drum, tape, & studio distinguish between types of echo impressed by the Echorec’s magnetic drum echo, classic tape echo models just like the Roland Area Echo RE-201 & RE-501, and high-end studio tape machines.

The Volante’s Sort options are on the core of determining the type of delay echo sounds you need to obtain with the pedal. For something very clean and trendy, you may need to go together with the studio Sort choice. In the event you’re chasing that Echorec sound, the drum Sort is the apparent selection. The tape Sort choice presents a response somewhere within the middle. Strymon DSP wizard, Pete Celi, alluded to Volante being like an El Capistan on steroids, and I feel that’s an satisfactory comparison on the very least. So whether you’re in search of sounds from the Echorec, Roland Area Echo, or different basic echo unit, the Volante could possibly be considered a one-stop workstation for attaining echo sounds that span generations of vintage delay tones.

It’s value mentioning that once you initially flip by means of the totally different Sort options, you might not discover a lot of a distinction at first, especially when you’ve got the Repeats set low. The Sort options have probably the most impact on the suggestions regeneration of your echos over time. What typically defines the sound of any nice vintage echo effect is the distinct sound of how a unit’s echos change, degrade, and bloom over time. Attempt pushing the Repeats knob as much as around 1-2 o’clock, after which take heed to how the Sort settings dramatically change the best way the echos decay. (On a technical aspect word, you’ll additionally discover how the repeats proceed echoing as you flip the Sort change. It’s as for those who’re instantly feeding your echoes from one sort of echo machine into the Report Head of another machine. This could possibly be used creatively; for instance, let echoes from the drum Sort degrade to a sure level, after which change to the studio sort to preserve a specific echo sound as the repeats path away.)

While the Sort choices let you select the digital echo machine you’re using, there are a number of other methods to work together with the sound of your echoes. Let’s start from the top… as in from the moment your sound supply enters the Volante.

Clear Echoes vs Tape Saturation

The Rec Degree knob adjusts the achieve of a pair of Class A Analog JFET preamps that set your enter degree and therapeutic massage your sign earlier than it’s fed into the digital Report Head. This singular control enables you to dial in a variety of sounds from pristine clean echo to full-on tape saturation. At lower Rec Degree settings, you possibly can preserve the audio quality of your enter signal, notably useful when utilizing the studio echo Sort. It starts to sound a bit hotter as you increase the knob, growing until you discover some gritty saturation and even trashier echo sounds whenever you actually dig in while enjoying. The preliminary echo repeats will reveal what the Rec Degree is doing to your guitar signal, and you’ll hear textural modifications in your echos as your saturated guitar tone cycles by way of Volante’s suggestions matrix.

Tone Shaping with Volante

I’ve talked a bit concerning the totally different sounds that may be achieved from Volante’s echo machine Sort choices and the analog input processing, but that’s simply scratching the surface.

Volante’s Low Reduce & Wear knobs are the two most necessary knobs used to shape the overall tonality of the pedal. Whereas the Sort choices have more noticeable effect on the echos as they Repeat over time, these two knobs are used to contour your general delay sound. The modifications in tone could be delicate or dramatic, relying on what you’re going for.

The Wear knob is known as to recall how tape ages over time, dropping its pristine full-range sound after extended use and turning into progressively darker. The Wear knob simulates this effect by decreasing the upper frequency vary, primarily rolling off excessive end. You need to use the Put on to darken a normally brighter studio tape echo, hone in on your superb mid-range sound of an oscillating drum or tape echo, or tame the harshness resulting from cranking the Rec Degree to scorching tape saturation. This powerful parameter is not to be underestimated.

The Low Minimize knob is an clearly named control that cuts the low-end by applying a high-pass filter to your repeats. I usually discover high cross filters to be essential for delays meant to be used in a studio setting, and I’m glad Strymon included this highly effective weapon in Volante’s arsenal. The Low Minimize can be used to clear the low frequencies of echos to make room on your guitar and different devices in a reside or studio mix. It also offers an important position of serving to attenuate the sound of repeating echos. Drum echos particularly are recognized for a characteristic build-up of decrease frequencies (when using high Repeats settings), and the Low Reduce knob allows you to easily discover the candy spot where your echos can bloom within the decrease to greater mid frequencies while not overpowering other bass targeted parts in your mix. In fact, you possibly can all the time scale back the Low Reduce to minimum if you want to bask in an ominous resonating echo presence.

The Trendy Sounds of Vintage Echo

Before I talk about the degraded echo sounds that stem from using Volante’s Mechanics perform, I need to contact on some opinions about how musicians of at this time strategy the sounds of emulated classic echo models.

I lately talked to one of many world’s foremost specialists in restoring classic Binson Echorecs, and his view seems to be that the perfect sounds of those basic machines as heard on numerous basic data come from properly maintained echo models with recent playback drums and completely aligned heads. Most surviving Echorec models are a far cry from the era-specific sounds individuals are looking for until we’re referencing a unit unit that has been immaculately maintained and/or expertly restored by way of means that is both pricey and, because of the shortage of elements and experience, out of attain for most individuals even should you might afford it.

What I’m getting at is this–most engineers don’t have access to an immaculately maintained Echorec for a 100% genuine emulation. Additionally, the degraded tape sounds of many trendy tape algorithms weren’t as cherished in days previous as they’re at the moment. For instance, if a tape machine in knowledgeable studio began sounding previous and worn, the tape would probably get replaced, and/or the machine can be further serviced as wanted. “Wow & flutter” and tape quality degradation have been defects to be prevented, not dialed in.

However many trendy musicians like lo-fi noise, “wow & flutter”, and different irregularities that come from what many would argue are poorly maintained echo machines. So what provides?

Nicely, to start out, lo-fi sounds do have attraction for some individuals. Take into consideration how individuals typically hear allure in lo-fi vinyl document sounds, even making use of grainy lo-fi noise and limited vary tone filters to studio tracks to realize the sounds of a report needle skipping over particles of dust coupled with a shoddy document player and speaker.

Now think about the fact that most trendy musicians solely have access to poorly maintained echo machines. I’d argue that many trendy emulations of vintage echo embrace low-fidelity echo options partly because the machines that engineers have out there for reference also have irregularities and defects on account of age and poor upkeep.

And let’s not overlook the influence of modulated digital echoes from 80’s rack delays. Guitarists actually started to appreciate modulated delay sounds with the arrival of modulated delay. While wow & flutter have been usually needed to be minimized, musicians all of the sudden needed their echos to have a chorus-like modulated high quality. Yes, these sounds might typically have been used so as to add a fluctuating tape factor to in any other case digital sounding delays, however my point here is that this influence might have additional inspired musicians to appreciate the mixture of modulation with tape echo tonality.

In any case it looks like we’ve collectively begun to look upon the imperfect sounds of time-worn echo machines with endearing admiration. Positive, that previous tape echo or Echorec you discovered on Craigslist that’s been in somebody’s garage for a number of many years in all probability sounds sort of busted in comparison with a model new unit, but let’s simply call that “mojo”. In any case, it’s still the “real deal”, right?

I’m suggesting that the attraction of sounds that come from poorly maintained, defective, or broken echo machines is a contemporary phenomenon. If you would like the authentic echo sounds of previous, you possible shouldn’t be dialing them in by cranking up the “tape modulation” or aggressively decreasing audio constancy. However in the event you do need the sound of what a vintage echo machine would principally possible sound like at the moment, then by all means, degrade the audio as much as potential. The neat factor about Volante–it could do it all.

Volante’s Digital Equipment

The Volante puts its personal figurative spin on what the sounds of a NOS echo machine may sound like when you have been to deliver one into the fashionable period by way of a time machine. But you may also nearly age the machine as properly because of Volante’s Mechanics knob. Positive, degraded echo sounds have been the bane of recording engineers and the poor souls who had to keep a studio’s echo models. But trendy guitarists appear to love grit, noise, and all method of nasty artifacts.

Volante’s Mechanics knob provides delicate tape velocity fluctuations and noises from “friction, creases, splices, and contaminants”. The modulated elements are bit more sporadic and random than what you’d hear from typical LFO based mostly modulated delays. The parameter is extra true to creating modulation and different irregularities as a consequence of numerous machine put on that happens by way of years of use or neglect.

The Mechanics knob combines properly with the Low Reduce and Put on knob to further scale back the tonal vary for a degraded echo sound. And you may max the Rec Degree to push the tape saturation into heavier distortion to actually make issues get nasty. It’s also possible to lower the Tape Velocity to half for a decrease fidelity tape sound. All these points combined serve to create an echo machine that a listener would undoubtedly assume has seen higher days. And with the straightforward change of a preset, you can also make it sound identical to new once more.

The Multi-Head Expertise

Strymon got here up with a easy and effective interface for dialing in Volante’s echos and delay occasions. Two rows of four Playback & four Suggestions buttons are used to activate any of the 4 playback heads and indicate which heads will re-enter the report head and feedback matrix. It’s also possible to push and hold a Playback button to alternate whether or not its echos play at full or half volume. Should you’re operating in stereo, one other cool trick is to press and hold a Suggestions button while turning the Time knob to pan the Playback heads anyplace within the stereo subject. Having stereo panned playback heads adds some exceptional spatial atmosphere to the Volante’s sonic palette, and this facet is certainly one of many pedal’s most powerful trendy advantages.

The multi-head Playback assignments combine with the Spacing knob options to realize all types of ordinary intervals and syncopated echo patterns. Dotted eighths, stereo ping pong delays, triplets, and unconventional patterns are ready to be dialed in. And naturally in addition to the Time knob, you need to use Tap Tempo or MIDI Clock to sync Volante in time. The three Velocity choices come in useful right here, too, to allow you to easily half or double the tape velocity for fast slow down or velocity up effects.

Volante’s Spring Reverb

The Spring knob adds some additional atmosphere to the entire package deal, including spring reverb and growing the level as you turn it clockwise. It’s greater than strong, fulfilling the duties demanded by all but probably the most “purist” leaning analog spring reverb followers. It’s drippy with plenty of bounce, and it sounds killer in stereo. Wish you had more more management? There’s a sub parameter for Spring Decay that can morph between a short decay and additional long reverb ambience. Dial it in actual brief to showcase extra of that snappy spring drip; it’ll appear extra pronounced with less Reverb Decay if you crank the Reverb.

I/O Connectivity, MIDI, SOS Mode, and Extra

The stereo I/O is a large draw of Volante, especially considering that you could individually pan the Playback heads. And naturally, the twin JFET preamps are a nice touch to make sure discrete and even processing of the left and right audio channels.

I like that Strymon added devoted MIDI I/O jacks as seen on their larger pedals. This ensures that you simply’ll be capable of easily integrate Volante into any MIDI setup for external management. There’s also MIDI over USB in case you’re planning to use Volante on your desktop so as to add some top quality echo flavor to your DAW. There are tons of additional perks for MIDI customers including individual CC management for bypassing of the Echo & Reverb results and deeper control over each Playback head’s volume degree, amongst other things.

The Sound On Sound mode is one other fun addition, letting you loop audio and play it again whereas splicing in additional recorded audio to play over. It gives some neat tips like reverse playback, an infinite mode choice that perpetually loops audio without degradation, and some cool mechanical startup and slowdown effects which might be heard when playback is paused and unpaused. My only gripe right here is that the SOS mode is mono only. With all the trouble put into the stereo points of this pedal (and the fact that even the TimeLine features as a full stereo 30-second looper), it’s just disappointing that the SOS mode can solely be used in mono. Yes, SOS mode continues to be a number of fun, and the mono only facet isn’t a problem in the event you’re operating the Volante in a mono rig, however the obtrusive omission of stereo SOS looping is the one ding within the Volante’s in any other case impenetrable armor.

I’ve never even talked concerning the Volante’s Favourite foot-switch which lets you shortly recall a favorite sound saved amongst one of many eight presets linked to the 8 floor buttons. (There are 300 preset slots accessible by way of MIDI!) Then you will have deep expression control prospects for taking management of Volante’s knob features. You may as well use Strymon’s MultiSwitch Plus for preset choice or Transport Mode (to regulate SOS features). There’s just so much to speak about as Volante is just probably the most function packed devoted echo pedal that’s been released up to now. But when I had to sum it all up…

Abstract:

The Strymon Volante is the end result of all the builder’s expertise in creating classic inspired echo impact, resulting in what is arguably the most effective general dedicated echo pedal in its class when it comes to sound quality and options. While Volante respectfully nods to all the iconic echo machines that came before it, the pedal opens up prospects that no different echo unit might ever dream of attaining. With the pliability of its intuitive surface parameters and knob association, these 4 selectable playback heads with wide-ranging Spacing choices, big tone shaping prowess, and versatile connectivity choices and external management potential, Volante is an plain pressure that sets the fashionable commonplace for classic impressed echo.

That concludes our Strymon Volante assessment. Thanks for studying.