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It's more than just a virtual vibrato tailpiece

 

$359.95 MSRP, $279.95 street, www.morpheusefx.com

 

Bomber.jpg

 

I love vibrato tailpieces, but unfortunately, some guitars simply cannot be retrofitted—for example, Gibson’s guitars with Robot Tuning, where the stop bar is an essential component of the automated tuning process. Besides, some guitars you wouldn’t want to retrofit, and vibrato tailpieces have their own issues, like strings transposing by different amounts when you bend (unless you’re lucky enough to be using one of Ned Steinberger’s TransTrem tailpieces).

Electronic pitch-shifting solutions, like the DigiTech Whammy pedal, have been around for a long time; however, the fidelity of real-time pitch-shifting has always been dicey because you’re basically trying to violate the laws of physics. Fortunately progress never rests, and the latest generation of DSP and microprocessor technology has brought us the Bomber—a truly polyphonic (yes, you can play chords), pedal-controlled pitch shifter that lets your guitar actually sound like a guitar.

 

OVERVIEW

The Bomber has to be the first thing after your guitar—you don’t want any processors between the guitar’s output and Morpheus’s input. The rear panel is Spartan: 1/4” phone guitar in, Trim Level for the input, 1/4” line out, and jack for the included “wall wart” AC adapter. The line out is actually a bit of a misnomer because although it's low impedance, the levels are in the guitar range; the trim control adjusts input and output simultaneously to maintain unity gain. There’s also a USB port for future updating, although as of this writing, no updates were needed.Bomber Rear.jpg

There are two footswitches. One controls effect in/out, while the other selects the overall transposition range covered by the pedal. The up transposition ranges are 2nd, 5th, Octave, and Two Octaves; down options are  2nd, 4th, 5th, Octave, Two Octaves, and Dive Bomb (three—yes, three—octaves).

To change intervals, you have two options. Each tap of the footswitch “scrolls” through the options, but if you hold down the footswitch, the pedal scrolls automatically—release the footswitch when the Bomber lands on the desired interval.

Also impressive: the construction. This is an all-metal, heavy-duty box that takes into account that you’ll be working the decent-sized pedal a lot. The footswitches give a reassuring click when pressed, the pedal has raised rubber “dots” to provide a non-slip surface, and overall, I expect this could take serious use without complaining.

Of course, the transposition is true transposition—all the notes retain their pitch relationships when transposed because you get an equivalent amount of pitch shift for each string.

 

ABOUT THE SOUND . . .

As you’ll hear in the audio examples, the fidelity is compromised at the extreme settings (I’d use two octaves only for sweeping—I wouldn’t park the pedal there and expect to play), but up to a 5th interval, you have to listen really hard to hear a difference compared to the straight guitar sound . . . impressive. Even the octaves are surprisingly good, almost as good as the offline, non-real time processing provided by some DAWs (click on "Audio example" to play the file).

 

Audio example 1: This has five separate sections with examples using guitar. The first is dry guitar, and uses the pedal to sweep an octave on all chords other than the E "anchor" chord. The next section uses the octave down option to alternate between dry and octave down. The third section does a pretty good bass imitation, while the fourth uses the two octave down setting to play lower than a "real" bass. The fifth section plays bass two octaves down compared to what's being played on guitar, but uses the pedal to add a slide at the beginning.

 

Audio example 2: This has a bunch of short sections going through distortion (using AmpliTube 3). First is pedal down a second. Second is pedal up a fifth. Third is a fuzz bass sound using the octave down setting. Fourth is, in relatively quick succession, intervales of 5th down, 4th down, 2nd down, 2nd up, 5th up, and octave up. Next is an example of two octave up insanity followed immediately by some dive bombing.

 

Although guitar-specific, the Bomber is useable with bass, as well as many keyboards. I tried the Bomber with multiple sampler patches, and the results were mixed; basically, the closer the sound is to a guitar in terms of timbre, the better. Electric piano, piano, guitar patches, organ, clavinet, and others worked fine, while sounds with lots of high-frequency content (e.g., bells) didn't fare so well. One of the perqs of using the Bomber this way is that it frees up both hands, as you don't have to dedicate one to the pitch bend wheel. I could definitely see stage piano fans bringing along a Bomber to the gig.

 

Audio example 3: This brief sampled piano shows that the Bomber can do a very credible job with the right kind of keyboard sounds.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

Bomber2.jpgWhile obviously intended for live performance, the studio opens up additional possibilities, especially with today’s DAWs making it easy to include hardware devices as “pseudo-plug-ins.” For example, I split my guitar into two DAW inputs, with one using the Bomber as an insert followed by AmpliTube 3. The other input fed AmpliTube 3 only, set to the same program. As you’d expect the two channels sounded virtually identical, but working the Bomber pedal created parallel lines that sounded really cool, and of course, had no intermodulation distortion. For example, octaves were very effective, but sliding the pitch of one track against the other was also a pretty interesting effect.

Although you can just move the pedal and play, this is a device where you can develop techniques—like doing pedal-steel type effects, sliding up to notes, playing single notes and bending them before switching back to chords, and the like. But the main feature here is the sound quality. Finally, you can do true, polyphonic pitch-shifting without having to make any excuses for Darth Vader or Mickey Mouse effects, or put up with warbling—with the exception of the extreme settings, which believe me, have their own value! If the input sounds like a guitar, the output will sound like the same guitar; that's what makes the Bomber truly special.

 

Check out the Bomber demo video we shot at Winter NAMM, with it being used on both guitar and bass.

 

CraigGuitarVertical.jpgCraig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.

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