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4ms Noise Swash Distortion
Overall Rating
Submitted: October 18th, 2003
by Anonymous Reviewer
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Sound Quality
I?ll start off by going over the relatively independent controls, ones whose functionality is fairly consistent, and not dependent on what the other settings are (I can only say ?fairly consistent? because all of the knobs interact in at least a minor way): Treble and Bass: the highs can be absolutely piercing on the Swash. I prefer to keep the treble very low (a quarter turn or so). I love cranking the bass. Others may disagree, but I think the Swash shines the most when it?s producing dark rumbling low tones. The tone knobs DO affect the characteristics of the noise, especially with the self oscillation, though? so definitely tweak! Volume: Keep an eye on this knob! Never be in a situation where you are fumbling around trying to find this knob, because the survival of your amp depends on this. :-) The pedal can get VERY loud, and can change drastically when you change a setting. Pregain: This controls the gain in the preamp section of the pedal. I find the range on this to be limited. The first half of the knob covers a wide range, and the last half of it seems to just stay at the same level of gain. Postgain: This controls the gain in the postamp section. The range on this is much better, and allows you to dial in a lot of different gain settings. The behavior of the LFO seems to be heavily tied to the Postgain level. Self Oscillation: This determines the amount of signal fed back into the input. This is great if you like to have strange siren noises coming out of the pedal when you stop playing. The tone of the distortion/fuzz doesn?t really get affected by the self oscillation (unless the knob is turned all the way, in which case the feedback loop overtakes the input signal), so the feedback oscillation is apparent mainly when your strings are muted. Don?t be surprised to start hearing crazy rhythmic patterns going on with the self-oscillation (especially when LFO is engaged). Low Power: This simulates a dying battery by controlling the voltage going into the pedal. It is actually jumpy when you try to tweak in real-time. I think the voltage needs to stabilize when you move the knob. This is a very useful mod, especially with self-oscillation. Trouble/Tame: An important mod, in my opinion. The pedal is true bypass, but the ultra high gain occasionally bleeds into your bypassed signal. This is the pedal in Trouble mode. Tame mode allows the power to get cut off from the circuit when bypassed, so you can have totally silent bypass. In Tame mode, a capacitor is changed so that the pedal can start up faster when engaged (since power needs to be reapplied to the circuit every time you engage the pedal). However, the capacitor has a drastic effect on the sound of the Noise Swash. I generally leave it in Trouble mode because I prefer the Swash with the larger capacitor. But when silent bypass is needed, it?s very handy to have Tame mode available. LFO Mod: This introduces a low frequency oscillation into the circuit. It is most apparent at certain Postgain settings. In other settings, it practically mutes your sound, making it unusable. It can create a fuzziness that squishes in and out, which is pretty cool. I wouldn?t consider this a crucial mod, but I do enjoy using it now and then, especially when used in conjunction with the self-oscillation. The LFO frequency can reach the audio range, at which point all you can hear is a humming sound. Now for the controls that heavily depend on each other: Preclip, Postclip, Noisegate, Noise Fine Tuning, and Swash. Noisegate: The gating function is most apparent when both the Preclip and Postclip are off. At lower settings, you can get a very explosive, static-y fuzz that depends heavily on your dynamics. The sound changes depending on where the Swash setting is at. In fact, run the Swash too high, and it will eliminate the gating characteristics. I love running my Whammy Pedal into it when it's completely explosive and static-y. Noise Fine T
4ms is a collective of many builders, so the quality may not be consistent. Dann personally built this one (at least the final stages) and it is pretty solidly built. The board is secured with standoffs, and the hardware is all well mounted. The Jameco box is extremely sturdy and the choice of hardware is pretty good: Blue 3PDT stomp switch, larger 24mm pots (a few of the 17mm), nice flat toggle switches, a real PCB. Wires are a bit longer than most boutique pedals, but it makes it more easily serviceable since the board is mounted on the bottom plate. What you can expect from a 4ms pedal is one that is unique, special, and bursting with character. You can also expect to have somewhat misaligned knob placements, some scratches and smudges on the paintjob, and an (arguably) unprofessional look. Very likely, it will become one of your prized possessions that you show to all your friends! Unfortunately, the reliability is inversely proportional to the number of potential areas for mechanical failure. Since this Noise Swash has 6 switches and 11 knobs, I would expect this pedal to be more prone to breakdown, which is due to no fault by 4ms. If I were to gig with a Swash, I would probably build a simpler version that has only the bare minimums (based on what I personally use most).
General Comments
I consider the Noise Swash to be indispensable for the noise-lover. You can spend an hour just sitting there tweaking the knobs. After using it for months, you?ll still manage to dial in a tone here and there that you never heard before. You will set aside a whole afternoon just to spend with the Swash. It is so much more than just a fuzz/distortion pedal; you practically develop a relationship with it. It is an expensive pedal, but a lot of work goes into building these. It is high bang-for-the-buck value. Also, the fact that you can buy it in kit form or even source the parts yourself and build your own warrants this a maximum overall rating.
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