Other Equipment

NEW Strymon VOLANTE Magnetic Echo Machine

52

also cant upload pictures in the same post as my comments for some reason, try again..

53

mine came this morn!

Of course it did!

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Looking forward to the review!

55

Huh! I just lost two hours on one setting. I think "Volante" is Italian for "mesmer."

More when I come up for air again.

56

I just set mine to what I need to play live, dont care about anything else.. I've got like 6 million delay pedals. I just want a modern delay pedal that doesnt sound like a damn Boss DD-5 and has EQ plus tap tempo. All the controls are wonderful on this thing, grab and go, set and forget.. no deep programming, no holding your tit and two buttons at the same time while you turn the pedal on and off with your tongue. No sir, its a good one. https://www.instagram.com/p...

57

Does it make you wanna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long?

58

Does it make you wanna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long?

– Enis Penvy

dont understand the comment?

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I just set mine to what I need to play live, dont care about anything else.. I've got like 6 million delay pedals. I just want a modern delay pedal that doesnt sound like a damn Boss DD-5 and has EQ plus tap tempo. All the controls are wonderful on this thing, grab and go, set and forget.. no deep programming, no holding your tit and two buttons at the same time while you turn the pedal on and off with your tongue. No sir, its a good one. https://www.instagram.com/p...

– THE NOCTURNE BRAIN™

So you're saying you don't need all the bells and whistles? Then why buy the Volante over something simpler that doesn't have the bells and whistles? (like your own Mystery Brain)?

Also... is it a DMM killer...yet?

60

Ruger, I haven't been trying to get DMM out of it. If you mean warbly murk...it might do that. I'll check tonight.

It doesn't really have a straightforward tone control, just a low cut to progressively thin out the repeats (and you could find the DMM's girth in there somewhere). The "Wear" knob does cut highs (among other artifacts of tape degradation), so with the combination of the two you might be able to dial that in.

The default repeats are by no means over-bright; they're rounded and pleasing, neither too much one thing nor another; I'm finding that one of the chief attractions of the pedal. But by nature they sound a little more composed than the DMM's.

Also, the modulation available under the "Mechanics" knob differs fundamentally from the DMM's. It's more vibrato than chorus (chorusing comes from mixing Mechanics with overlaying repeats). But the DMM's chorus and vibrato are regular in period - the Volante's Mechanics are more random. Though they follow the knobs pretty closely in speed and depth, you can't accurately predict their depth or cycle. To me, that's magic. It's a subtle thing, but it keeps the sound from being static and boring. Apparently the brain is happiest when it experiences a pattern of overall repetition and regularity, but relieved by aberrations and novelty. (Which is why the soul hates a drum machine, or vocals flown from chorus to chorus in a DAW.)

In other DMM comparisons, the "Rec Level" control on the Volante does something similar to the input gain on the DMM, in emulating overdriving an analog preamp. Of course, on a DMM that's exactly what you're doing, and how you get that driven tone. In the Volante, I suspect it's emulated somehow - and it's trying to emulate tape saturation. Two differences: on the DMM, cranking that knob makes the pedal louder, and the drive gets warmer/fuzzier/more blown out as you go clockwise. On the Volante, volume stays linear at all knob settings - and it's a bit cleaner/crunchier dirt. Very pleasing, and depending on your favorite DMM settings, may get you to the same place. But a different range of control. The "saturation" sounds similar to that in the Deco, but not as dark and soft.

It self-oscillates similarly to the DMM, though with more control and composure. Turning the Time knob during oscillation doesn't deliver exactly the same experience as the DMM. In one way it's not as smooth - it's digitally steppier. But it also doesn't get as out of shape and blownout as when the DMM goes into total noise; you can always hear details. And a very interesting detail is that the pitch-shifted smears you get when turning the dial during oscillation both catch up with themselves more quickly than on the DMM (which might be bad if you're trying to duplicate DMMitude) AND become part of the input to the delays and are repeated endlessly but in a much clearer way. Too cool.


But getting a Volante to emulate a DMM (or classic slapback/tape echo tool of choice) is poor economy and a waste of the Volante's voodoo. Three things stand out to me so far (in about 8 hours of playing, much of it spent trancing in great settings rather than exploring for range): first, the ideal balance of clarity and murk Strymon has hit; second, the brilliance of the control over the 4 delay lines (or multi-taps, however you want to think of it); third, the ear candiness of being able to spread those lines across the stereo spectrum.

Clarity vs murk: I hesitate to say the machine sounds "digital," with the usual connotations of cold, brittle, soulless, harsh. The repeats are like the most perfect magnetic-delay reproduction you've heard, with new tape and with perfect eq and input gain. But they stay that way unless you dial in Mechanics (wow/flutter/transport anomalies in tape parlance, modulation by type) or Wear (freq degradation/high cut). And all those controls get predictable at any given combination of settings (though they interact along the way for plenty of variety).

The repeats certainly darken over time as they recede - but they don't quite mud up in the same way as tape or analog devices. And while the soundfield gets denser and more full of stuff over time, it doesn't degenerate into indistinguishable noise. It's not that it calls attention to itself: you can "ignore" it and just enjoy it as a cloudy bed of roil. But if you choose to listen to it, you can still make out the details of individual impulses. That's a novel experience for me. With tape or analog, the underflow can turn to complete muck AND gradually overtake your input. Doesn't happen here. It makes listening to the device more engaging and interesting over time.

Those 8 delay-line control buttons. Way easier to find useful subdivisions and delay patterns than with any other delay I've used. Multi-taps and note subdivisions end up baffling me. Here there's a combination of logic (delay 4 is the longest; 3 is half that; 2 half that, and 1 half again), enough parameters to get functionally endless varieties of combinations, and visual clarity of control. Also, each delay line gets its own decay character, so you have volume dynamics: while line 1 is decaying at its rate, the other lines are each decaying at their OWN rates, so you continue to get some repeats louder than the others. Hard to articulate - but the whole mass of repeats doesn't decay in lockstep in one smooth decrescendo, each line has its own envelope, and they overlap. It can be endlessly fascinating. Trails, man.

And since you can turn off feedback for each line separately, and have one or more lines repeat just once while others are feeding back (in any combination) - or turn off the initial input to the line and JUST hear the repeats - possibility for variety increases exponentially. And that's before you use the Spacing knob to slew between repeat offsets.

What you get is maximum variability and useful range of discovery with a minimum of easily-understood controls.

It's the patterns of repeats that I think will keep most guys intrigued with the pedal beyond the initial "yep, drum; yep, echoplex" evaluation. There's just way more potential for useful sonic entertainment than a pure emulation would offer. More variety.

That stereo thing. A small touch (and one of the few alt-control sound parameters on the pedal), but man is it mighty. Hold a feedback button and twist the time button, and you can park the outputs of each delay line anywhere you like across a stereo pan. This helps clarify what each line is doing (and make the patterns of repeats more interesting), opens up the stereo field to make it more accessible, and further extends the sonic possibilities.

But I'm a stereo junkie. I can't imagine living in Brian Wilson's one-eared world.

I haven't even mentioned the reverb. I don't try to evaluate springiness of reverbs, because I'm not an aficionado or obsessive in that domain - but it has more of the spring character my ear expects after 60 years of hearing amp reverb than I get from some devices which claim the specialty - and the "drip" is surprisingly effective without being either too thin or too exaggerated.

And I haven't even played with the "sound-on-sound" looping yet.


Overall, as we might have expected from Strymon and their approach to digital reproduction of earlier technologies (demonstrated vividly in the Deco), they've delivered a range of effects we might think we can get from other devices - but done it by consistently applying functional metaphors from the old tech itself. Because the control scheme is based on (and labeled for) the old tech, it's easier to get the effects we expect - even while we know that "under the hood" Strymon is manipulating the same parameters other makers of digital effects have access to. And at the same time, that same digital tech gives the Volante waaay more range of possibility than the old tech it's inspired by. It emulates, but vastly extends.

Since I like the characteristic round, balanced and rich tone of Strymon products (Pete Celli's ears must have the same response curve as mine), I'll take the extension Strymon offers over the accuracy of the emulation any time. I'm not saying Volante doesn't knock off a drum echo, a tape echo, and studio decks used for echo - depending on any user's experience of any of those techs, it might. But it definitely delivers a wisely idealized distillation of those techs, transcending the limitations that prevented them from completely delivering on the promise of their own designs in the first place - freeing what was great about those machines from the constraints of their technology.

Doing all that opens up terrain they pointed the way toward, but never quite got to.

All in all, while there are elements of the DMM here (along with the character of earlier tech), the Volante is more than all of them multiplied by each other. IF you like that experimental range. If not, you'd have to audition it for the particular emulation you're after, and I can't judge that for anyone else.

Since there are 8 presets (with immediate access to one at a time from the provided footswitches, more with a remote or MIDI), I'm sure it's possible to set up subtle tape doubling/widening, wobbly flangification, slapback, DMM-like effects, and straightforward delays and turn the Volante into a single very practical gig pedalboard delay solution. (If 4 seconds is enough.) I can't imagine it wouldn't sound way better than good enough in all those roles.

I was just exploring what it might do that seems new to me - or more easily and intuitively achieved with the Volante than with other devices (or combinations of devices). Ease of discovery is important to me, and Volante has that for sure. Makes it easy to go new places with a shallow learning curve based on stuff I already knew.

Can't beat that.

So I kinda like it.

61

At a glance, I thought you posted the entire manual for the Volante!

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The manual is not that descriptive - at least not the booklet that ships with it. There's a PDF that I'm sure goes into more hidden functions, as well as the MIDI implementation.

Or are you mocking my verbosity?

Also, I don't mean to overstate what's new in the Volante - it doesn't break new ground in terms of the effects that can be achieved (except that the clarity of information in the deep background of a dense soundfield is something I don't think I've run across before - not that you would use it that way, so never mind). You don't hear the thing and go "man, I've never heard THAT effect before." It takes closer listening (and closer listening than casual delay users may be inclined to do) to recognize the detail.

But it does seem to make it easier and more straightforward to get particular effects familiar to mag echo users than it is with other pedals. (Disclaimer: I've never used a drum delay, just the other two types.)

Also, I'm aware that multi-taps and patterned repeats are nothing new. I just find this interface more usable. And I think the combination of non-digital-sounding patterned repeats retaining clarity and definition over long repeat times may be novel.

Now, does that matter to everyone, especially if they're bent on replicating every behavior of old devices? Maybe not. And maybe the Volante CAN produce full-on indecipherable murk deep in the delay field. It's just not what I was looking for, so I judge the pedal on its merits as I find it.

63

Proteus-

Man, you really like to type don't you? LOL

So... have you owned an El Capistan? If so, can you remember it, and how maybe the V compares? (not in features, but in sound.... I'm wondering if the V is really just a re-worked El Cap with more features added...)

64

"But getting a Volante to emulate a DMM (or classic slapback/tape echo tool of choice) is poor economy and a waste of the Volante's voodoo. "

It's not wasted on me, a real DMM is a noisy clank box of neanderthalery. A volkwagen w a 914 engine.. You want to drive it across the desert at night w the windows down, but it threatens to breakdown the second you are miles from the service station at 2am.

Enter the Volante'

65

dont understand the comment?

– THE NOCTURNE BRAIN™

That was just me being completely random. It was in reference to the song Wang Dang Doodle. It's been stuck in my head a lot here lately. My bad.

66

Man, you really like to type don't you? LOL

You know, when you go "LOL," I don't know if you're mocking me or not.

I don't mind typing. It seems an efficient way to process and crystallize what I think about something, and then to preserve and convey it efficiently. You kinda asked for a review...I kinda provided one. Now I don't know if you appreciate it. (Not that it matters. It was useful to me to assess my impressions of the pedal, and maybe it will be useful to others.)

I've had an El Cap since...2010 maybe? I can't imagine ever parting with it. It's not my impression that much of the Volante is based on the El Cap. It may be possible to get both to some of the same places, but the control mechanisms are different. They feel pretty different. I'm working away from home and don't have the El Cap with me to compare, so I can't be sure - but the El Cap may actually be a little lusher sounding.


It's not wasted on me, a real DMM is a noisy clank box of neanderthalery. A volkwagen w a 914 engine.. You want to drive it across the desert at night w the windows down, but it threatens to breakdown the second you are miles from the service station at 2am. Enter the Volante.

So are you saying you've evaluated the Volante against all your necessary DMM requirements and it meets them all (and adds consistency and reliability) - or that it differs in some ways (but not ways that matter to you), or that its other capabilities make up for it?

67

That's a great report Proteus, I think I follow the main thrust of your point-

Strymon takes the inherent captivating and attractive qualities of the old equipment, makes it totally dependable and pushes the parameters a bit further than the original machinery could manage.

I haven't tried the Volante but have a Flint for an analogous example of this- the tremolo speed goes noticeably slower, faster and deeper than an old amp tremolo ever could.

Same with the Deco- the tape saturation goes further into tape overload than even the freshest reel of 456 on a Studer would absorb. Yet the interface is totally intuitive if one has wasted hours, weeks, months of vibrant youth playing with two tape decks and exploring what can be achieved in sound sculpture.

68

That was just me being completely random. It was in reference to the song Wang Dang Doodle. It's been stuck in my head a lot here lately. My bad.

– Enis Penvy

aha!

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I'm not mocking you, Prot. It was a joke, after a novella of a post from you. Thanks for the detailed review.

70

Flint for an analogous example of this- the tremolo speed goes noticeably slower, faster and deeper than an old amp tremolo ever could.

I'll try not to take up too much space - this thread is about the Volante echo - but since you mention the Flint... I have a couple of flying gigs coming up, and in my quest to make my little travel board more effcient, I recently got a Source Audio "True Spring Reverb".

Spring Reverb emulator, and it has the same three tremolo types as the Flint. I've been messing with it at home and at rehearsals, and so far....Source Audio vs Strymon : 1-0!! It does the most believable spring reverb(s) I've heard from any device that doesn't use physical springs, and the tremolo is at least as good as the Flint's. And it's a little smaller than a standard Boss pedal. Highly recommended!

71

Flint for an analogous example of this- the tremolo speed goes noticeably slower, faster and deeper than an old amp tremolo ever could.

I'll try not to take up too much space - this thread is about the Volante echo - but since you mention the Flint... I have a couple of flying gigs coming up, and in my quest to make my little travel board more effcient, I recently got a Source Audio "True Spring Reverb".

Spring Reverb emulator, and it has the same three tremolo types as the Flint. I've been messing with it at home and at rehearsals, and so far....Source Audio vs Strymon : 1-0!! It does the most believable spring reverb(s) I've heard from any device that doesn't use physical springs, and the tremolo is at least as good as the Flint's. And it's a little smaller than a standard Boss pedal. Highly recommended!

– WB

much much better than that surfy bear thing, eh? My buddy Ryan did a pretty good vid on it.

72

much much better than that surfy bear thing, eh?

No, I wouldn't say that. Surfy bear is all I use when space/size is not an issue, and it uses a real spring, and that's still what I prefer. sounds glorious, much easier to dial in than any digital pedal, fully analog, still better reverb tail (trail?) than the digital box.
(just to be clear - what I use now is a beautiful, glorious box my tech buddy put together - a beautiful box incorporating the Surfy Bear Reverb (kit), their Tremolo (kit), an always-on post-verb buffer, custom built power supply on board with extra 1A 9V outlet on the chassis, and true bypass relay switching for trem and verb on a TRS cable - it's beautiful!!)

But when I need small (as I do on my plane-travel board), yes, the "true spring" is most definitely a winner. Two crucial effects in one tiny box, and super high quality effects at that. Couldn't sell my Topanga fast enough!

73

much much better than that surfy bear thing, eh?

No, I wouldn't say that. Surfy bear is all I use when space/size is not an issue, and it uses a real spring, and that's still what I prefer. sounds glorious, much easier to dial in than any digital pedal, fully analog, still better reverb tail (trail?) than the digital box.
(just to be clear - what I use now is a beautiful, glorious box my tech buddy put together - a beautiful box incorporating the Surfy Bear Reverb (kit), their Tremolo (kit), an always-on post-verb buffer, custom built power supply on board with extra 1A 9V outlet on the chassis, and true bypass relay switching for trem and verb on a TRS cable - it's beautiful!!)

But when I need small (as I do on my plane-travel board), yes, the "true spring" is most definitely a winner. Two crucial effects in one tiny box, and super high quality effects at that. Couldn't sell my Topanga fast enough!

– WB

sounds like a lot of work to avoid using actual tubes.:) I'm gonna grab one of those True Spring pedals to futz around.

74

sounds like a lot of work to avoid using actual tubes.:)

Oh, I have the tube ones too! I have a silverface Fender tank, and I have another custom box that's based on the Weber Torevibe schematic. (6G14 + vibrochamp trem). But I bet you couldn't pick out the non-tube one in a blindfold test - and it's the quietest, cleanest one of the bunch, hiss and hum-wise.

75

I'm not surprised about the Source Audio piece. They do great work. Kinda the east coast version of Strymon, in a way. Great support too.

I have their LA Lady stereo/dual overdrive, and there's not much it won't do (though it's most deeply tweaked with a USB cable and an app, which is kind of a buzzkill for a dirt pedal). Their Ventris dual stereo all-encompassing reverb is also astonishingly good. Up there with Big Sky, Empress, and H9/Space for best-of-the-big-box honors.


Also, I just lost three hours exploring the Volante in straight-up Asshton Park long-delay play-harmony-with-yourself mode. Just the pure sound of the thing is so enticing you keep playing just to hear it. I wasn't even tempted to try other settings. I think this is going to be a deep and ongoing-ly satisfying box.


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