Review

Source Audio Soundblox 2 Pedal

Source Audio occupies a rarefied place in the FX world. The company's latest, the Soundblox 2 pedals, are anything but simple plug 'n play stomp boxes. We gave two to Michael Casswell and waited for the steam to start coming out of his ears....

Usually when trying a pedal, we pretty much like to get it out of the box, plug it up and go. But as soon as I opened the box to these two pedals, I knew it was going to be a bit more involved than that. By the nature of most pedals, that approach is usually all that's needed to get on top of what the they are supposed to do, but both these Source Audio Soundblox 2 pedals have a lot to offer, and you really have to get in there and see what's what, and dare I say it, even look at the manual! Daunted at the fact that this wasn't going to be an easy gig, I accidentally took them home and used them on a couple of gigs, first!

A couple of very cool features common to both pedals is the capability to store two of your favourite settings once you have got in there and tweaked the parameters to your liking. You also have the choice of making the pedals buffered or true bypass. They come straight out of the box in true bypass mode, which is great if you are running a chain of pedals, the first of which should be buffered. But if you want either of these first in your signal chain, then you can programme them to be buffered. Big thumbs up from me on this point, because this is a facility that does not come with your average stomp box. If you buy a Source Audio Soundblox 2 Midi adapter, then these pedals accept MIDI commands, enabling remote automation, external controllers, firmware updates and more. If you also buy the SA161 Source Audio Dual Expression pedal as well, you have continuous control over any of  the parameters. And finally if you buy the Source Audio Hot Hand device, you can morph and mess with the presets by magically waving your hand around (although I thought you need your hands to play the guitar), giving some wild and very visual effects! All these toys and facilities are extra to the purchase of the pedal, but they do come with their own power supplies.

Source Audio Soundblox 2 pedals Review - (see abover for image)

Source Audio occupies a rarefied place in the FX world. The company's latest, the Soundblox 2 pedals, are anything but simple plug 'n play stomp boxes. We gave two to Michael Casswell and waited for the steam to start coming out of his ears....

Usually when trying a pedal, we pretty much like to get it out of the box, plug it up and go. But as soon as I opened the box to these two pedals, I knew it was going to be a bit more involved than that. By the nature of most pedals, that approach is usually all that's needed to get on top of what the they are supposed to do, but both these Source Audio Soundblox 2 pedals have a lot to offer, and you really have to get in there and see what's what, and dare I say it, even look at the manual! Daunted at the fact that this wasn't going to be an easy gig, I accidentally took them home and used them on a couple of gigs, first!

A couple of very cool features common to both pedals is the capability to store two of your favourite settings once you have got in there and tweaked the parameters to your liking. You also have the choice of making the pedals buffered or true bypass. They come straight out of the box in true bypass mode, which is great if you are running a chain of pedals, the first of which should be buffered. But if you want either of these first in your signal chain, then you can programme them to be buffered. Big thumbs up from me on this point, because this is a facility that does not come with your average stomp box. If you buy a Source Audio Soundblox 2 Midi adapter, then these pedals accept MIDI commands, enabling remote automation, external controllers, firmware updates and more. If you also buy the SA161 Source Audio Dual Expression pedal as well, you have continuous control over any of  the parameters. And finally if you buy the Source Audio Hot Hand device, you can morph and mess with the presets by magically waving your hand around (although I thought you need your hands to play the guitar), giving some wild and very visual effects! All these toys and facilities are extra to the purchase of the pedal, but they do come with their own power supplies.

Soundblox 2 Multiwave Distortion

This pedal gives you 23 varieties of distortion algorithms, plus a nice clean boost mode, which was one of my favourites, so I stored it to the footswitch when I gigged this in front of my Marshall. I found it lets you add some grit and compression in there, plus eq, making it do nice things in front of a crunchy valve amp. This pedal also has a compressor pot marked Sustain, which is a fantastic addition, opening up a whole world of tones with each of the distortion presets.

A big selling point for the Soundblox 2 are the Multiband distortion presets, which in theory separates your guitar into low, mid, and high frequency bands. Each band is separately distorted, and then recombined, which gives a clarity with chords with complex harmony. A normal distortion would turn to mush with this much gain, but this pedal manages to stay articulate with silly amounts of distortion.

You also get an octave distortion, which is sensitive to your pick attack, input gain, and guitar volume, very reminiscent of the old Fuzz Face, with some nice Hendrix and almost ring mod tones. I wasn't sure what the 'foldback' presets did but having re-read the manual, I think it re-introduces the craziness that the multiband presets control. My brain works in simple ways (food, wine, sleep), and the manual is not light bedtime reading. You also have some stock overdrive presets in there too, plus hi, mid and lo programmable eq, and a low, medium, high noisegate to combat the hiss generated by extreme distorted tones, especially if you amp is set crunch and generating its own hiss as well.

The Multiwave distortion seems a complicated pedal but it's really not once you know what's what. What it does do is blow you away with how many variables you have at your disposal. Options can scare guitarists, but with a little common sense, and an ear for tone, this pedal can pretty much cover it all. I'd recommend a long test drive so you can get to grips with it.

Soundblox 2 - Multiwave

 

Soundblox 2 Dimension Reverb

I do like a nice reverb and used this pedal on my Pro Concepts column on the whammy bar stuff. The actual preset was the modverb, but all the usual suspects are here plus a few extras, such as E-dome, Metal Box, Stage and Club. Most reverbs should be felt and not heard on guitar, but the ones that should be heard must be good and these are. In total you have 12 reverb types based on physical spaces and mechanical reverb sounds.

This pedal uses Source Audio's own 56-bit digital signal processor and crystal clear 24-bit converters, which is the long way round of saying it's very capable and sounds good. As usual you can save your two favourites tweaked presets to the two footswitches, so it might be nice to have a subtle warm reverb on one, and an over the top moody long one on the other (as I did when using it myself).

All aspects of any of the presets are tweak-able via option select buttons, mix, time pots, and once you get your head round what everything does, it's all pretty straight forward.

One thing I am surprised about is the lack of stereo out. I sometimes use a stereo set up live and one thing better than a nice reverb is a nice reverb in stereo. I'm sure Source Audio have its reasons, but most of the competition do cater for this, which puts a slight dent in to a pedal that covers most other aspects when it comes reverb.

If you really want to hear this pedal in use, rather than me just flying through the demo on here, check out my Pro Concepts column in this issue on the whammy Beck-style, and hopefully you will hear a long moody verb for the performance, and a shorter plate verb for the teaching. 

Good, well made, not as hard to grasp as it might seem, but I would have liked a stereo out.

Soundblox 2 - Reverb

 

Soundblox 2 Distortion
Source Audio Soundblox 2 Pedal

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