» The Rolls Royce of synth pedals.
A synth pedal is quite a unique pedal among the vast plethora of effects pedals out there and sometimes you need a really focused effort to fully realize something like that. That is exactly what you get when you opt for the Meris Enzo. Its name makes it sound like a supercar and calling it the supercar among synth pedals is quite the apt description for it.
There are two types of guitarists who use a synth pedal. The first who use it sparingly and occasionally and the second whose entire performance is based around the capabilities of their synth pedal. The Meris Enzo was created for the second type of guitarist or more aptly - synthesist. Everything from the color, the shape, and placement of the knobs to the types of effects and the ways in which you can implement them is based around the otherworldly nature of music you can create with this thing.
Let us start with the build quality. Lesser known brands can suffer in this area but the Meris Enzo is an exception. It offers better build quality that most well-known pedals and there is an air of exquisiteness to the feel of the knobs and footswitches that immediately gives you the feeling of using a well-designed and manufactured product.
What really matters is the sound and more specifically, the possibilities of what can be created and the Meris Enzo does well on both these fronts. You can choose between polyphonic and monophonic mode and each has its applications. Apart from that, you can choose from a wide range of analog filters, modulators, envelopes, synth pads, and so much more to create highly intricate soundscapes. You can mix and match multiple layers and even select specific waveforms. The usage of a high-bit DSP hardware ensures that latency is never an issue even when multiple layers are being used simultaneously. You can also save presets and switch between four different presets using an external MIDI switch for the unencumbered live performance experience.
All of this comes at a price and that is the complexity. The Meris Enzo is incredibly powerful but you need to be quite the synthesist to fully access its true potential. It would be a waste on a beginner pedalboard and even pros will need a few hours of fiddling to get a hang of this pedal.
This is a slightly more expensive option among synth pedals and for that, you get a product that is well designed specifically to create massive halos of incredibly intricate soundscapes. If you are just starting out in this genre then the Meris Enzo can be a bit overwhelming. However, if you are looking for a synth pedal you won't have to upgrade in the foreseeable future then the Meris Enzo is a worthy option.
Bottom Line: If you are a pro and want the absolute last say when it comes to synth pedals then the Meris Enzo is definitely worth looking into. However, if you are someone who occasionally dabbles in some synth effects then the Meris Enzo would likely be overkill.
Source Audio C4 Synth
» A tweakeable but simple to use synth pedal.
Synth pedals often need a lot of pedals and footswitches to accomplish their goals but what if you need a minimalistic approach to the whole thing with a modern twist? That is where the Source Audio C4 Synth Pedal comes in. It has four simple knobs, a toggle switch, and a footswitch. Yet, it is as powerful as any synth pedal out there thanks to its connectivity options.
Guitar synthesizer pedals can create some of the most unique conundrums. The simpler it looks, the more complicated it can be to operate and the Source Audio C4 Synth is a perfect example. Synth pedals need to offer multiple options and controls to be effectively used and the fewer knobs and switches that are available, the more tedious it can be to get a working understanding of the pedal. Add to that the fact that you will need to hook it up to a computer or a phone to fully utilize its potentials and you have something that is streamlined for a specific type of synth pedal user.
Don't let the unassuming appearance fool you. This is still as powerful as pretty much every other synth pedal in the market but its simplistic appearance does come with its caveats. You have access to a wide range of effects with multiple variations but tweaking a particular sound will need the additional help of the Neuro software/app and a computer or an android or iOS device. The software is free but this approach sort of defeats the entire principle of a pedal and makes it more like a multi-effects unit and that is where your preferences come in. If you are okay with fiddling around on computer software or phone app to create your sound then go for the Source Audio C4 Synth Pedal by all means but if you prefer the traditional approach of a pedal on a pedalboard with knobs and switches to tweak your sound then this might not be the synth pedal for you.
The Source Audio C4 Synth Pedal is not a cheap pedal by any means and you should be aware of what you are getting into. You need the patience and the ability to make sense of software and apps to really extract the full potential of this pedal. If you hate multi-effects units then this probably isn't the synth pedal for you. On the other hand, if you are comfortable with such an approach or open to it, it can be quite a rewarding pedal. Source Audio has its own ever-expanding library of custom patches that you can download and tweak making this pedal quite future-proof as well.
Bottom Line: There is no getting around the fact that the Source Audio C4 Synth Pedal is an unconventional pedal that requires a lot of commitment to learn and use properly. If you are up for that then you can have quite a satisfying experience with it.
Boss SY-1 Synthesizer
» A wide range of synth tones from an industry leader.
Boss is one of the industry leaders when it comes to guitar effects pedals and with good reason. They offer great build-quality in a compact form factor without sacrificing any of the features or the functionality of the effects pedal. This can be a tricky thing to pull off when the effect in question is a guitar synthesizer pedal but Boss has somehow managed to pull it off with the Boss SY-1. It is a regular-sized pedal with 4 knobs and a footswitch but still gives you access to a wide range of sounds and infinite possibilities when it comes to implementing them.
It would be quite natural to look at the form-factor of this pedal and dismiss it off as an underpowered synth pedal wannabe but it actually packs in enough punch to challenge the very best in synth pedals. The core of this effects pedal is the synth engine which works flawlessly. This is well-supported by a cast of 121 synth sounds neatly segregated into 11 synth types each of which has 11 variations and what is even cooler is the fact that each one of them is usable under the right context. Even though the Boss SY-1 comes equipped with a single footswitch, it is quite versatile and works well for most applications. The SY-1 can be paired with an expression pedal to further enhance its capabilities.
As far as the build quality is concerned, it is built like a tank. It can take the active life of a touring musician's pedalboard and still sound amazing for years. Looks wise, it looks like every other Boss pedal albeit in a different color hue. You can also use this in an effects loop so that you can have independent control over it in the effects chain.
Finally, latency is almost impossible to notice thus allowing you to perform seamlessly even when a complicated effect setting is engaged. You can blend different effects and have independent control of the volume of your dry and wet mix. The hold function allows you to create a nice audio backdrop to play over. In short, this synth pedal does everything a synth pedal should do and much more without complicating things with extra knobs and switches and that is a great feature to have when creating complex soundscapes. I expected the learning curve to be steep but fiddling around with it for half an hour made everything crystal clear and dialing in the sound you want is quite easy and intuitive.
If you are someone who actively uses synth effects and you need something that is robust, dependable and comes in a great form factor then the BOSS SY-1 is definitely worth investing in. It is also a great option for someone wishing to start using a synth pedal and needs a friendly pedal with a gentle learning curve. What is even cooler is that fact that it can be paired up with a bass guitar too.
Bottom Line: The Boss SY-1 lives up to Boss' reputation for innovation. It is sturdily built and has all the features you would need in a simple to use regular-sized package. Best of all, it comes at a great price point.
Keeley Synth 1
» A fun and simple to use synth pedal.
The Keeley Synth-1 caters to musicians who need a synth pedal that isn't too complicated but still offers plenty of powerful synth-like features. It is a lighthearted take on the synth pedal. The beauty of a synth pedal is that unlike regular pedals, it can create an almost infinite array of sounds and the Keeley Synth-1 is a synth pedal that simplifies things.
If you really think about it, a synth pedal modifies the sound at the wave level and while most synth pedals offer a huge plethora of options to do so, the Keeley Synth-1 keeps it really straightforward. At its heart is the waveform selector that allows you to choose between three different types of waveforms - square, sawtooth, and triangle. You can add further embellishments to this sound using the attack knob. The blend and filter knob add further layers of sophistication to the sound and the chaos switch helps you get broken fuzz tones that will put many dedicated fuzz pedals to shame.
All of this comes in a sturdily built and uniquely beautiful package. It is a regular-sized pedal that has been designed to set it apart from most pedals out there. There is a sort of edginess to the looks. The build quality is excellent too and this pedal should be able to stand up to the rigors of gigging. The knobs and switches are of high quality and for the price, this is an exceptionally built pedal.
The sound quality is rather good. Synth pedals are all about creating really cool sounds that you would not be able to with other types of pedals and the Keeley Synth-1 lives up to that requirement. However, like every other synth pedal, the usefulness of this pedal to your music will depend on how committed you are to explore it. I found this pedal to have a wild side as sometimes it can behave in an unexpected manner. It is a controlled chaos of sorts and that is not to everyone's taste. The best way to describe it is as a quirky pedal that can be as rewarding as it can be frustrating.
If you are into experimental stuff and love creating sounds that you have never created before then this pedal will win your affection quite easily. The fact that it is relatively easy to explore is the icing on the top. However, if you are looking to replicate a specific sound, you might find the open-ended nature of the controls of this pedal to be quite frustrating. Under the right circumstance, you can create massive soundscapes and effects rarely heard in the guitar world. If you are into that then this is quite the affordable synth pedal to invest in. If that's not the case, then a more traditional synth pedal will be to your liking.
Bottom Line: A truly unique synth pedal for those who are not afraid to get really experimental and quirky with their sound.
» Superb synth tones.
A synth pedal can be the ultimate tool to help you achieve immense depth and reach in your sound. It also allows you to create massive soundscapes with ease. in fact, the possibilities are endless and that can be the Achilles heel for synth pedals as it can become too complicated. They have to provide a wide range of options while keeping everything accessible. It should also have great sound quality as the difference between an immersive soundscape and a cheap-sounding mess is a fine line.
With the Superego+, Electro-Harmonix has tried to make a pedal that is easy to use, implement, and tinker with while still being quite powerful and it has more or less succeeded on that front. There are multiple knobs, footswitches and LED indicators but everything is grouped nicely with enough space between them allowing you to dial a specific setting quite easily. The build quality is excellent and while this is a larger pedal, it won't take up too much space on a pedalboard.
The sound quality of a synth pedal is governed by the synth-engine which has to polyphonically convert the input signal into digital notes in real-time. Electro-Harmonix has developed some of the best synth-engines and the sound quality is impeccable. The three footswitches allow you to take complete control of the sounds and thus create different layers of highly intricate sounds and you can blend them as you like. It also comes with its own effects loop that adds another dimension to your sound. You also have the ability to connect an expression pedal and more footswitches to really be able to get that sound in a live situation. There are a total of 11 foot-switchable effects which is simply amazing.
As we alluded to earlier, a guitar synth pedal is a niche pedal not meant for everyone. If you want to create a lot of sound effects or want a really versatile pedalboard then you should definitely go for a synth pedal. Among synth pedals, the Electro-Harmonix Superego Plus is one of the better options with a lot of versatility and possibilities packed in an accessible interface. The build quality is great, it looks good and offers great bang for the buck.
Bottom Line: If you are looking for a synth pedal that you can quickly get acquainted with without sacrificing any of the features then the Electro-Harmonix Superego Plus is a great option worth looking into.
DigiTech Dirty Robot
» A great starter synth pedal.
Synth pedals tend to be more expensive than other pedals and the affordable options tend to be crappy when it comes to the sound and build quality. The Digitech Dirty Robot happens to be a lovely exception to that. It also takes on a slightly different approach to the classic synth pedal. It offers some high-end features in an affordable package and is a great beginner's synth pedal.
Most synth pedals will put pretty much every aspect of its sounds in the hands of its user. This can be a daunting position to be in if you are a beginner or are new to synth pedals. If you are looking for something that is a bit friendlier then the Digitech Dirty Robot is a great option to look into.
Let us start with the looks. This is an amazingly designed pedal that lives up to its cool name. The graphic design is really clever and sits well with the rest of the philosophy behind this pedal. This is matched nicely by the great build quality and sturdiness of the unit.
Coming to the audio capabilities of this pedal, the best way to describe it is as a pedal that can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. The various parameters and controls are quite intuitive and allow you to craft great sound irrespective of how experienced you are with a synth pedal. It is equally great as a pedal to expand the capabilities of your pedalboard as it is as a fully dedicated synth pedal. You can create great vistas of sounds without tinkering too much. If you want to, you can also nail a really wild tone after a few hours of intense tinkering which is actually quite fun by the way. Simply put, this is one of the most beginner-friendly synth pedal out there that is powerful enough to keep pace with you as you become closer to being an adept synthesist.
It has two main sounds - one that is warm and another that is mainly for vocoder and talkbox style sounds. A drift knob, inbuilt modulation engine, and the momentary footswitch give you all the flexibility you need. Finally, it is a true bypass pedal ensuring your tone is not affected when this pedal is not engaged. What more could you ask from one of the most affordable synth pedals out there?
If you want something that is flexible and will work at all levels of expertise, then the DigiTech DirtyRobot is a great option. It only starts being restrictive when you try to get really experimental. For most applications, this is a worthy option and at this price point, it is quite the bargain.
Additionally, there is no tone/volume suck, you have stereo capabilities, there is true polyphony, at least on my rig there is zero noise (I use a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2, which I highly recommend), and it plays well with your other pedals. Just be sure to put it at the head of your chain like DigiTech suggests, which makes sense anyway because the synth noise needs to be thought of as your new "raw" sound."
Bottom Line: If you are new to the synth pedal scene, then this is a great option to start your synth journey while also ensuring that you won't have to look for an upgrade for a reasonably long time.
EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander
» Fun untraditional option from EarthQuaker.
Some pedals are all business and no fun. The EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander is definitely not one of them. Fiddling with this pedal has been the most fun time I have had in a long time and it is equally capable of being the necessary tool for the most serious synthesist out there. It is a cool-as-ice pedal that looks the part too.
Right off the bat, I want to make something clear. This isn't a synth pedal in the traditional sort of way. It is more like a very specialized version of an already specialized tool. The focus is very much on the tracking and bass side of things. Let us talk about tracking. If you want accurate tracking, use the neck pickup and every note above the 7th fret will be picked up perfectly. You can then bend and modulate this sound as wildly and madly as you fancy. Below the 7th fret, especially if you are using a drop-tuned guitar, you will encounter beautiful glitching that can lead to amazing stuttering effects.
It also works as an octave pedal and you can blend in tones that are either an octave down or an octave up. The former will yield deep rumbling sounds which is probably where this pedal gets its name. The latter gives rise to shrieks that can send chills down your spine.
Is any of this useful though? It depends on what you find useful for your sound. The synth pedal is meant for a very specific type of musician and the EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander is meant for an even rarer subset of that. It looks quite otherworldly and its functions are more or less in tune with that. Saying that this pedal isn't for everyone is a massive understatement.
That totally depends on the sound you are going for. If you already have a synth pedal but need a more rarefied type of synth pedal, then this can be a nice addition. It can also expand your sound capabilities in unusual ways and if unusual is what you are going for then go for it. However, remember that it is a novel item and you might not always get the bang for the buck that you are looking for.
Bottom Line: A novel synth pedal that has some unique characteristics in a cool package that can produce truly unique soundscapes. Whether that level of uniqueness is within the realms of your musical taste is for you to decide.