Electro Harmonix Superego+ Synth Engine / Multi-Effect
By Phil O'Keefe |
Electro Harmonix Superego+ Synth Engine / Multi-Effect
Believe it or not, more 'ego may be exactly what you need!
by Phil O'Keefe
Part sampler, part looper and part infinite sustainer, the synthy, atmospheric and sustaining sounds initially popularized by Electro-Harmonix's Freeze pedal (and improved upon with their original Superego pedal) have been a big hit, especially with musicians who are looking for new sounds. The polyphonic Superego (as well as the new Superego+) isn't just for electric guitar - it works great with guitars, bass, keyboards - try whatever you have laying around with it and see what happens. It gives you infinite sustain and the ability to layer sounds, and also creates glissandos and other interesting effects and new synth-like timbres that can be layered under your live playing. Some readers may recall my review of the original EHX Superego - in case you missed it, here's a link. Rather than rehash all of the features from the original Superego again, we'll give them a brief overview (you can check out the original review for a refresher on the fundamentals) and focus more on what's new in the Superego+.
What You Need To Know
- The new Superego+ has all of the capabilities of the original Superego and can do everything its predecessor can, but it also has several new features that expand its capabilities even further.
- Right off the bat you'll notice the enclosure is larger, measuring 4.75" W x 4" D x 2.25" H. It is painted white, with a primarily black-colored top. The lettering is white, making it easy to see.
- Internal construction uses surface mount components. It is neat and clean, and there are no user-adjustable switches, trimpots or jumpers inside, so there's really no need to open the pedal.
- Power is provided from an included 9.6V 200 mA DC power supply. Battery powering is not an option. The industry-standard 2.1mm center-negative power jack is located at the top / front of the pedal.
- Input and output jacks are side-mounted, along with the effects loop jacks and a pair of external control jacks - we'll cover all of those momentarily. Input impedance is 2.2 M ohm (this figure is the same for both the input jack and the effects loop Return jack), while the output impedance (and the impedance of the effects loop Send jack) is 500 ohm.
- The Superego+ is fully polyphonic like the original Superego, and tracking is excellent, with no appreciable delays, latency issues or other weirdness.
- The key to understanding and using the Superego+ is getting to know the Modes. Where there were only three on the original Superego, this time there are five operating Modes. You'll still find the familiar Latch, Moment(ary) and Auto Modes, but the Superego+ adds Sustain and Live Effects Modes, and instead of a small toggle switch to select them with, the Superego+ uses a dedicated Mode footswitch for the task.
- The Mode footswitch is a significant upgrade from the previous pedal's mode toggle switch, allowing you to quickly change Modes on the fly as you're playing. A trio of LEDs above the switch show you which Mode is selected - orange for Moment(ary), green for Auto, and red for Latch. When the Sustain Mode is selected both the orange and green LEDs will light up, and when the Live Effects Mode is active, all three LEDs will glow.
- Pressing the Mode footswitch cycles through all the modes, so it may take a few clicks to get to the mode you want to switch to. The main Bypass footswitch of the Superego+ functions a bit differently depending on what Mode you currently have selected.
- I've already covered the functions of the Momentary, Auto and Latch Modes in the previous review, but as a refresher, Momentary freezes your signal at the instant you press and hold down the main Bypass footswitch, and then sustains it for as long as you continue to hold the button down. Release the Bypass switch, and the frozen, sustaining sound fades out. A red LED above the Bypass footswitch will light up when you activate the pedal with the Bypass switch.
- In Auto Mode the pedal will automatically freeze any notes you play while the pedal is on. New notes are triggered when they exceed the Threshold level, and old ones fade away automatically. In this Mode the Bypass footswitch acts like a traditional on / off switch for the overall effect, and the red LED illuminates when it's active.
- In Latch Mode the pedal freezes the sound at the moment you hit the Bypass footswitch, but it continues to sustain it even after you release the switch. You can freely play your regular guitar sound over the top of the sustaining, frozen sound. Want to sustain a new note or chord? Press and release Bypass again. To actually bypass the pedal in this Mode, you double-tap the Bypass footswitch, and the sustaining sound will fade away.
- The two new Modes are Sustain and Live Effects, which we'll cover a bit later. Sustain Mode works similarly to a keyboard sustain pedal. Notes are automatically frozen and sustained as you play as long as the Bypass footswitch is held down. Releasing the Bypass footswitch causes whatever is sustaining to fade away, with the fade time determined by the settings of the Decay control.
- The original Superego controlled the speed at which sustained and frozen sounds faded in and out with a single Speed knob, so a fast fade in always went along with a fast fade out too. With the Superego+ you get individual Attack and Decay controls, so you can adjust the speed that the notes fade in and out completely independently - a big improvement over the previous pedal. Counterclockwise settings are immediate, while fully clockwise knob positions result in longer attack or decay times, which is great for slow swells and long fadeouts.
- Dry and Effect knobs allow you to adjust the relative levels of your unprocessed guitar sound and the frozen sound, respectively. The Dry knob actually boosts your dry sound by 3 dB when it's cranked up all the way, while the level of the Effect knob also influences the level present at the effect loop's Send jack. If the knobs are turned down all the way, no sound will be heard.
- The Superego+ also has a new Threshold control. This lets you set the pedal's input sensitivity and the level at which new notes will be triggered. The pedal becomes more sensitive and will trigger with softer playing as this control is turned up higher.
- The Layer knob is no longer shared with a Speed control as it is on the original Superego. In Sustain, Auto or Latch Modes the Layer knob sets the level of the previously frozen notes when they're mixed with the newly frozen ones. When Layer is turned down all the way, you won't hear any of the previous notes. Turning the knob up all the way allows you to hear them at full volume.
- The Gliss knob works just as it does on the original Superego, and gives the sound a glissando or portamento effect; sweeping from one frozen sound to the next.
- One of the cooler features of the original Superego is the built-in effects loop, which allows you to process the sustaining sound by patching in external effects pedals, giving it further animation and interest. Of course an effects loop is also included on the Superego+, (you'll find the Send and Return jacks on the right and left sides of the pedal, respectively) but unlike the original Superego, the Superego Plus has a built-in multi effects section with eleven different effect types.
- You get (pitch) Detune, Delay (an analog-sounding delay), Echo, (both Delay and Echo have max delay times of up to 2 seconds), a Electric Mistress-style Flange, Small Stone-style Phase, Mod, which is a pitch-based chorus or vibrato, Rotary speaker simulator, two Tremolos (sine and square wave), a Pitch shift with a +/- 1 octave range, and a resonant low-pass Filter which is capable of some pretty wicked sounding filter sweeps.
- A dedicated Effects footswitch allows you to turn the selected effect on or off. The effects always process the frozen sound of the pedal, except when you're in Live Effects Mode, when they work on the otherwise Dry input sound.
- The effects are digital, but they sound really good overall. So good in fact that you'll probably want to use them even when you aren't using the Synth Engine features of the pedal, and fortunately Electro-Harmonix gave the Superego+ the ability to do exactly that with the Live Effects Mode. It allows you to bypass the synth engine while still letting you to use the effects section to process the Dry input signal.
- In addition to the Effects Selector knob the effects section has two knobs to control the Rate and Depth of the various effects. These are not always the actual parameters for all of the effects, and when they vary, you'll find the actual functions labeled under the name of the effect type on the pedal's control panel surrounding the Effect Select knob. This makes it easy to know what the knobs do without having to reference the manual.
- All of the effect-related knobs are white (in contrast with the rest of the pedal's black knobs), making it easy to identify them.
- The effects can also be controlled with an optional expression pedal. I used a Roland EV-5 with it with no issues. The EXP jack is located on the right side of the pedal. Each of the effects has a different parameter pre-assigned to pedal control.
- Expression Presets can be created, with snapshots of all seven main (black) control knob parameters stored - with both Heel Down and Toe Down positions of the expression pedal having their own snapshots. You can then morph between these settings with the expression pedal. You can do some pretty wild transitions with this feature.
- In addition to the onboard switches, the Superego+ also has a EXT jack on the left side of the pedal that supports an optional external three-button remote footswitch, such as the DigiTech FS3X. This jack can also be used to feed a 0-5V external clock signal to the Superego+, which will trigger it just as if you were working the Bypass footswitch. The Superego+ is triggered by the falling edge of the clock signal.
- Don't confuse the Superego+ with a looper pedal. It freezes, sustains and layers frozen notes and chords, but doesn't loop arpeggios, riffs or phrases. However, if you have a looper pedal, the Superego+ will make a fantastic partner for it, allowing you to easily layer guitar (or bass, or keyboard...) and synth-type sounds, with or without enhancement from the onboard effects.
- The effects section of the pedal can only process either your dry guitar signal (in Live Effects Mode) or the frozen sound, but not both simultaneously. Only one of the onboard effect types can be used at a time, although you can easily patch in as many additional effects as you would like using the pedal's effects loop.
Retaining all of the capabilities of the original Superego that I raved about in my previous review, the EHX Superego+, with its expanded features, significantly improves upon an already exceptionally creative and useful musical tool, and offers even more sonic possibilities for creative musicians. Considering it's not all that much more expensive than the original Superego (which is priced at $285.30 MSRP / $214 "street" ), I suspect a lot of people will decide to opt for the much more capable Superego+.
"Plus" is a good way to describe this pedal, because it gives you a lot more. The 11 new effects more than justify the slight increase in price all by themselves. The effects sound so good that they really can be used as stand-alone effects apart from the Freeze functions (kudos to EHX for including the Live Effects Mode), and even if you have plenty of other effects to use in the effects loop, users of the original Superego will still appreciate the enhanced adjustability and expanded control set of the Superego+. The expression pedal control and morphing possibilities are vast - you'll definitely want to use one with the Superego+. I love that you can now set the speed of the Attack and Decay separately - that's really useful for tailoring synth-like lead lines. Blending is easier since the Layer control is now on its own individual knob, and the Threshold knob is another welcome addition that lets you adjust the pedal to your playing style rather than the other way around.
All of the new features make the Superego+ a big upgrade from its predecessor, and one that will no doubt be tempting to both new users and owners of the EHX Freeze and and original Superego alike. I think it's a fantastic studio tool too - a little idea machine that's full of possibilities. If you're a textural guitarist, bassist or keyboardist, love ambient and synth-type sounds, or just want something to layer under your live solos (or to add to your next recording), the EHX Superego+ is a pedal that you're really going to want to own. -HC-
Want to discuss the EHX Superego+ or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Effects forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
Electro-Harmonix Superego Plus Synth Engine with Multieffects ($333.40 MSRP, $250.00 "street")
Electro Harmonix product web page
You can purchase the Superego+ from:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.