The latest devices from the ever-insane Electro-Harmonix are a vintage delay/chorus/vibrato and a power amplifier that you can fit under your hat. Review by Huw Price
Electro-Harmonix pedals have traditionally taken up large areas of real estate on our pedalboards, but recently there’s been a trend towards downsizing. The Big Muff, Metal Muff and Q-Tron have spawned the Little Big Muff, Micro Metal Muff and Micro Q-Tron, and now the Memory Man has sired the Memory Boy. As for the 22 Caliber, it’s taking miniaturism to the extreme!
Like its big daddy the Memory Man, the Memory Boy is an analogue delay pedal with chorus and vibrato. The classic diagonal two-tone graphic design has been condensed onto a pedalboard-friendly aluminium box but there’s still room for a 9v battery as well as a DC socket for the supplied power unit, plus an extra jack for an expression pedal.
Four control knobs run along the top – Delay, Depth, Blend and Feedback. Delay sets the delay time with a range of 30ms to 550ms. Depth sets the amount of modulation applied to the delay signal, and modulation is effectively switched off in the fully counter-clockwise position. Blend varies the mix between 100 per cent dry and 100 per cent wet signals, and Feedback controls the amount of signal sent from the output of the delay circuitry back to its input.
A triangle/square toggle switch selects the shape of the modulation waveform. Triangle is typical for chorus and vibrato effects, while the dramatic square wave setting will interest the adventurous. A second mini switch selects vibrato or chorus and also sets the parameter for an expression pedal to control. With Chorus and Vibrato selected the expression pedal controls the delay time, then in the centre position the expression pedal sets the rate of modulation.
The best Electro-Harmonix pedals are always a bit mad. They often masquerade as something conventional such as a flanger or a chorus, but as soon as you start getting extreme with the controls, random things start occurring with seemingly limitless possibilities. At this point opinions divide between those who find the sounds ‘unusable’ and those who will be inspired to write a whole new magnum opus.
The Memory Boy is a case in point. It’s a typically warm, grainy-textured ‘analogue’ delay pedal – but when you switch over to Vibrato and Chorus, things start to get interesting. Typically retro examples of both effects can be found at very fast Delay and low Feedback settings, and even very small adjustments to the Delay control induce major changes in sound and texture.
This is no glossy 1980s chorus, and it’s all the better for it. Increasing Feedback surrounds the sound with an ambient halo and as you increase the delay time the repeats become more obvious. If you keep Depth low you can create wonderful Edge-like washes of sound, then as you increase Depth the modulated pitch swing becomes increasingly pronounced.
More extreme Feedback and Depth settings push the Memory Boy towards its outer limits with 1960s-style sci-fi effects and pseudo ring modulation. No matter how far you take it, the Blend control keeps things coherent where necessary.
The Memory Boy is not the most versatile of delay pedals but it fulfils its retro remit more than adequately. The chorus and vibrato effects are very usable, but if you only need one of those effects then there are better-sounding, more flexible options. The Memory Boy is really at its best when you combine its effects to create unusual and fascinating results.