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NPD: Synth9 VS Digitech Freqout

Winston Psmith

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I finally went to try out the Synth9 and Freqout pedals, at my FLMS.


The Synth9 was disappointing. Many of the sounds seemed like things you could emulate with an Octaver and a Distortion pedal. In fairness, I'm spoiled by access to some really good Synths, so I'm not exactly an impartial judge. I'll go back and give it another listen, at another time.


The Freqout is very cool, if you need what it does, which is to generate controlled Feedback. Some of the video demos make it seem like a Sustainer pedal; it's not. If you need a Sustainer, get an E-Bow, or a Sustainer Pickup.


The Freqout runs off an internal oscillator, that tracks your input signal, and generates a "Feedback" tone based on it. You can play a chord without it turning to mush, but it will probably track the Tonic, or the lowest note, and work from that.


You can set the Gain of the Feedback tone - it gets pretty damned loud past Noon - and the Onset (what Boss called the Rise Time) of the Feedback Note.


There are small toggle switches for Dry On/Off, and Momentary On/Off. With Dry and Momentary On, it behaves a lot like the old Boss Feedbacker: Hit a note, press the pedal, and the feedback tone rises behind your signal. You can set it it for Sub-harmonic, 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 5th-order Harmonics, and Natural High or Natural Low. The two Natural settings behave most like real Amp feedback, with tones rising or falling as they're sustained, the others are definitely 'tuned'. My favorites are 1st, 3rd and Natural Low; YEMV, of course.


With Dry On, and Momentary Off, you'll get a stream of rising feedback tones behind every note you play, although they won't always cut off smoothly, as the duration of the oscillator isn't tied to your string's vibration. It's pretty cool, if used carefully.


With Dry Off and Momentary Off, you get a series of weird, Flute-like tones, depending on which Harmonic setting you've chosen. Set the Onset Time to zero, and it sounds somewhat like the Vo Guitar or one of the settings on the Moog Guitar. It's this setting that some video demos compare to an E-bow, or Sustainer, but no, it's not really the same. You're hearing the song of the Freqout's oscillator, not the sound of your strings vibrating.


The Freqout wants to be first in line in your effects chain, so that it always gets a clean and consistent signal from your Guitar. I strongly recommend putting some Delay or Reverb somewhere in line after it, to add 'trails' to the Feedback tone. I like it a lot, and will be experimenting with it a great deal in the next few weeks. The Synth9, well, like I say, it deserves another chance, but it'll take a lot to convince me. Try it before you buy it, like they used to say on the streets . . .

"Monsters are real, and Ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win." Stephen King





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