Chase Bliss Audio Thermae Pitch Shifting Analog Delay
By Chris Loeffler |
Chase Bliss Audio Thermae Pitch Shifting Analog Delay
Seriously, what could be better than chasing bliss?
by Chris Loeffler
After an informative stint at Zvex Effects, Joel Korte founded Chase Bliss Audio to pursue his own passion for guitar effects and has been stretching the possibilities of what is possible with analog effects since his first release, the Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl. In the years since, Korte has touched on phasing, gain, tremolo, filter/eq, and delays, bringing an unprecedented level of tweakability to these classic effects without introducing a 1 or 0 to the audio signal path. With players (myself included) still unwraping the hundreds of new tones hidden within effect types they already know and love, Korte gifts the guitar world the Chase Bliss Audio Thermae analog delay and pitch shifter.
The Chase Bliss Audio Thermae ships in the now iconic wooden keepsake box and faux-velvet bag for coddled transport. The pedal itself features no less than six knobs, three toggles, and tap tempo on the front , with 16 DIP switches on the backside to select expression or ramp parameters. MIDI integration is possible with the optional Chase Bliss Audio MIDI Box, and the pedal runs on a standard 9v power supply.
What You Need to Know
There’s a lot to unpack with the Chase Bliss Audio Thermae, but let’s start with what it fundamentally does…leveraging four MN3005 (Xvive) bucket-brigade delay chips and a digital processor for control of the parameter, the Thermae manipulates the delay chips to precisely shift pitch, sequence, modulate, and so much more for anything from pitch-shifted delays to glissando-style modulations and even bird-like chirps reminiscent of old analog synths.
The primary controls are Mix/Ramp (the blend of the wet and dry signal) or the ramp control, LPF (low-pass filter for tone and resonance control), Regen (repeats), Glide (level of portamento to delayed signal), Int1-Speed (sets the first interval of the delay and/or the modulation speed), and Int2-Depth (sets the second interval of the delay and/or the modulation depth). The three switches on the front select the tap division of the delay, the tap division of the first interval, the shape of the ramp, the tap division of the second interval, and the waveform of the depth.
DIP switches on the back toggle on (or off) how the Expression or Ramp controls work with all five primary controls (alone or in any combination), the Bounce, Trails, and MoToByp (momentary bypass).
What’s true for this reviewer is there could be a small novella written about what each of these controls do, but I’ll defer to the Chase Bliss Audio Thermae instruction manual for those who want to understand the fundamentals and get right on to the specificity of each control.
There are ten handy presets included with the Chase Bliss Thermae to get you started and give you an idea of how much it can do, from the aforementioned bird chirps to dark, swirling delays unlike anything ever coaxed out of a EHX DMM. The delay itself can be quite crisp and clean or murky enough to create a drone that’s more felt than heard thanks to the LPF control (which is much more powerful and versatile than a standard tone control). The LPF control is interactive with the Regen control as things near self-oscillation, so some fine-tuning is required to “ride the wave.”
Core to the Thermae sound is how the Interval controls are set to bend the pitch of the delays, effectively creating a precise pitch shift to the first two intervals (delays) the same way a delay trail shifts up or down when you adjust the speed while it is still trailing, but happening so fast you don’t hear the pitch bend from the original note to the assigned pitch intervals (unless you want to!). The Glide control dictates for much of the bend you hear (or don’t).
Here’s Korte’s statement-
Int 1 and Int 2 is where this pedal goes from a standard delay to something pretty extraordinary. By tuning the interval knobs to a specific interval as marked on the pedal, your first and second repeat will jump from your unity pitch to an octave down and up, a fifth, a fourth and so on. Here, you can create arpeggios and rhythmic, pitch shifting lines that are truly inspiring. Just by feeding the Thermae a single pitch and experimenting with the interval knobs, you can clearly tell that this is a standalone performance tool.
Once you wrap your head around the standard controls, things get even more interesting as you start incorporating the ramp feature. Any or all of the main parameters (except Mix) can be assigned to the ramp, so as you step down on the switch to have the settings glide to their new place you can have a standard pitch shift, or have the low-pass filter shift with the pitch, or have modulation speed an depth swell up and down, or even have the glide arpeggiate like a glitching musical box.
For a sample of sounds hidden in that tiny box, watch Korte's video at the end of the review (I promise it's work it).
MIDI control allows for integration into a MIDI system for even more preset and digital control, and the EXP/CV jack allows for optional Expression/CV control in place of the Ramp switch to give exact manual control over the sweep from the default and peak of the ramp controls.
Even with a month of daily use, I’m hard pressed to find a limitation to the pedal other than the learning curve required to truly unlock and master the pedal.
The Chase Bliss Audio Thermae is not for the faint of heart… users either need to have a healthy understanding of basic effects parameters and the time to understand how they interact or be OK getting random (if tasty) results as they blindly twist dials and flip switches. That said, less than 30 minutes will get you the basics and a few hours later you’ll be turning various knobs knowing exactly what the expect on your next repeat. The otherworldly possibilities of the Thermae are primed to be the next “How did famous musician X get that sound?!?” in forums for years to come; thankfully there are hundreds (if not thousands) of sounds to discover, so there will still be room for everyone! - HC-
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.