Matthew Effects The Chemist Atomic Modulator Chorus/Vibrato/Phaser/Octave
By Chris Loeffler |
Matthew Effects The Chemist Atomic Modulator
Chorus/Vibrato/Phaser/Octave. Who could ask for anything more...
by Chris Loeffler
Matthews Effects first hit my radar a few years ago, standing out for their uniquely thematic graphics and names (yes, pedals are about sound, not looks) and unique digital takes on classic tones in a compact multi-effect format. The analog interface that allows two channels is instantly accessible to knob-turning players and puts everything front and center. While this started with variations of a theme, the Matthew Effects Chemist broke the mold even further last year by combining three complete different effects types in a single pedal.
Featuring chorus/vibrato, octave, and phaser effects in a single enclosure, the Matthews Effects Chemist v1.5 is a slight update to the original Chemist released over a year ago. The pedal features top-located input/output jacks, runs on a standard 9v center-negative power supply, features duplicate, multi-purpose controls (Reaction, Catalyst, Formula), a channel switching footswitch, an alternate input jack for external control of channel switching, and true-bypass.
What You Need to Know
The Matthews Effects Chemist has three effects modes; Cobalt, Lithium, and Iridium.
The Cobalt mode is a classic chorus/vibrato circuit in the vein of a cleaner, brighter CE-2. As will be mentioned with each more, Reaction is a global mix control, and in the Cobalt it blends the chorusing effect until it becomes a true, pitch modulating vibrato when turned up all the way. The Formula control sets the width of the pitch sweep, covering ground from tone-fattening slight detunes to whole-step spanning shifts. The Catalyst control sets the speed of the modulation anywhere from slow arcs that stretch across several bars to the dizzying sound of a Leslie rotating speaker about to fly apart. The wave shape is symmetrical and smooth, very much the classic LFO.
The Lithium mode produces a polyphonic octave effect that introduces and octave up and an octave down. Catalyst blends the octave up effect and Formula blends the octave down effect. Tracking is as reasonably tight as other polyphonic octave generators I’ve played, with barely noticeable lag and a wide range of stability. I couldn’t find weak points along the neck for the effect, but there is a touch of pitch jumping in the octave down mode when more complex chords are played. Not nearly as glitchy as a Blue Box is with single notes, but not exactly as constant as shifting pitch in post-production.
The tones, when blended, sound extremely like an organ, and even fast runs seems to keep step. I found the quality of the tone depends heavily on the amp it is played into… high headroom and 12” speakers create glorious tones, while amps on the dirtier side will get nasty quick and 10” speakers struggle to keep up with the lows.
The Iridium mode is the phasing effect, with identical wave form and speed control (Catalyst) as the Cobalt, and the Formula control setting the depth of the phase shift. The Iridium mode is more resonant than some of the subtler phase offerings, with a chewier swish and more harmonically rich content across the sweep. While this makes it a bit less “dead on” in emulating, say, a classic univibe tone, it is musically tasteful, creating additional presence in clean settings and giving overdriven amps (or pedals) a lot to work with. I found it to be tonally akin to the Red Witch Moon Phaser.
Matthew Effects removed the conundrum of, “Great, I have three amazing effects in one pedal; how do I balance between them in a live setting?” by giving two channels, selectable via a second footswitch, that store the mode, meaning you can have any combination of the effects (or two different settings of the same effect) instantly accessible with the stomp of a switch. The three controls (Reaction, Catalyst, Formula) are duplicated in each channel, and each channel has a three-setting toggle switch to select which effect you want.
The Matthew Effects Chemist v1.5 includes a few tweaks to the original Chemist, including improved algorithms, reduced power draw, and an upgraded Mix control that goes full dry to 100% wet. I didn’t have an original to compare the tonal differences brought forth by the algorithm adjustments, but all three effect modes sound thoroughly refined without being overly produced and the feel and reactivity is as lively as any analog circuit I’ve played.
No tap tempo, no stereo, no simultaneous channel use.
I confess I hadn’t thought previously that if I were to combine three effects that they would be chorus, octave, and phasing, but that’s part of the genius of the Matthews Effects Chemist V1.5. It nails three great effects (each of which I could see commanding the street price of the Chemist) and feels coherent as a package. While only having two controls (other than mix) per mode seems limiting on paper, I didn’t experience a moment during the review process where I felt deeper parameter adjustment was needed (not even wanted) to perfectly nail what I was after. The Chemist holds its own against stand-alone effects of its ilk and comes together in a beautifully coherent way as a true tone tool for guitar players looking to add some magic to their rig. - 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.