EHX's Epitome, brand new this year, promises to be a Swiss Army knife of effects pedals - containing three of the company's top units in a single stompbox. Michael Casswell reported for duty.
Electro Harmonix has been around since the 1970s. The company's pedals from that period are quite collectable and sought after today, even though the electronics were fairly primitive by 21st Century standards, and, in common with everyone else's effects in those far-off days, lacked a good buffer or true bypass operation. Back then pedals in general were noisy, hissy and sometimes unreliable - but they were fun! I remember a boy at my school, two or three years older than me, who had a really bad Les Paul copy slung low down by his knees with a whole bunch of EHX pedals patched together, making out of this world noises in the school music room that just blew me away, but also covered up the fact that he wasn't very good. I didn't care about what he was playing through the hiss and crackles, because he had introduced me to the world of effects pedals!
Nowadays Electro Harmonix pedals are almost iconic in their vibe, well made and reliable. Its fuzz pedals, echoes and chorus pedals have made history through the decades. I own a modern EH Small Clone chorus, which is definitely up there as one of the coolest sounding chorus pedals and can really justify a space on anyone's pedal board. So, as you can see, I'm quite fond of them.
I guess you could define the Epitome as a multi-effects pedal, because it contains three of the most popular EHX pedals combined in one unit, which is a very cool idea that saves space on your board and the expense of buying the three pedals separately. The Epitome is not true bypass, which may sway some people's view towards the pedal because your signal will be running through the internals whether it's on or off. That said, internal buffers nowadays are excellent, and it does help to have a couple of buffered pedals in your board.
The Epitome features the polyphonic Micro Pog, which gives a fantastic octaver effect, an Electric Mistress chorus and flange pedal and a Holy Grail Plus, which is a reverb pedal featuring a "shimmer mode" button, which reroutes the order of effects in a way you would not be able to do instantly if you had the three separate pedals in your board, producing some very interesting sounds that are unique to the Epitome.
My impressions of each pedal separately are good to OK. I really liked the Micro Pog. You get an octave up and down that you can blend or take out your original signal, giving all sorts of cool spice to your riffs or the occasional solo. Octave pedals always sound good - even bad ones! It's just one of those addictive sounds. The trouble is, you mustn't over use this sort of effect, because it could become tiresome fairly quickly, if you kicked it in every chance you get.
The Electric Mistress section can be stereo or mono and gives you a world of modulation effects from the flanger and chorus side of things. I'm not a fan of flangers generally but the Electric Mistress features a Filter Matrix, which a very cool way of notching points on a sweep of your flange sound, a bit like you would turn on a wah and leave it in a certain position. Past 10 o’clock on the flanger dial you leave the filter matrix and get in to a rich sweep of what a flanger does. You also have a chorus dial to give you all the cool modulation a chorus will bring. Both the flanger and chorus sweep rate are controlled by the separate rate control. So what is great about this pedal is you can combine your flange and chorus to give even more sweeps and wobbles, best understood by watching my demo, rather than me describing them! I will say that for some reason I prefer the chorus on my EH small clone, or my Analogman chorus pedals. The Epitome just doesn't seem to have the same clarity or depth and doesn't, for my taste, quite nail the Leslie style chorus that the other pedals do well. Saying that, it's still pretty good and had I tried the Epitome in stereo, I'm sure it would have blown away my Small Clone and Analogman pedals.
Thirdly, we have the Holy Grail Plus, which is a reverb featuring Spring, Hall, Room and Flerb/Echo. No Plate reverb, which is the reverb that generally works the best for guitar (in a Jeff Beck kind of way). The bar for reverb pedals is now very high, with many makers offering studio quality effects for stage use. To my ears none of the presets on the Epitome can beat the reverb quality of the real top-end competition, but they are certainly good enough for use with most guitar amps. The Flerb/Echo preset is a little gimmicky for my taste, giving a flanged reverb, and when the shimmer button is engaged, you get a single repeat echo, which is also a little bit of a disappointment because most times you would want the choice of more repeats. The shimmer button also reroutes the order of the effects, giving some nice atmospheric sounds and some church organ like sounds!
So, all in all this is an interesting pedal, but in the cold light of day you have to really think about what it is actually going to give your music and how much will you actually use the quirky sounds it can produce. The Pog side of things is great fun, the chorus will be lush sounding with two amps in stereo, and the reverbs are OK - but if you are going to use reverb as part of your set up (which I do), then there are some really nice options out there that really make the difference between OK and wow! It's true that the Epitome is cheaper than buying the three pedals separately and would certainly save space on your board. That said, if you have your core pedals on a board, then the Electro Harmonix Epitome could open up a whole world of fun for you - just like that older boy's EHX stomp boxes did for me in my school days.