We've seen a number of strange stomps over the years, but nothing quite compares to the Plasma Pedal from Gamechanger Audio. This innovative fuzz box routes a guitar's signal through a gas-filled tube, turning it into a series of high-voltage discharges, then transforms it back to wicked distorted analog crunch for output to an amp or desk.
Since deliberately upping amp gain to create warm distorted output first started to change the face of guitar playing in the 1950s, there have been many variations on the theme. Some dedicated circuit designs use transistors, some vacuum tubes and others LED circuits. The Plasma Pedal is a little different.
The novel stomp essentially takes the live signal coming from a guitar and sends it through a transformer to boost it to 3.5 kilovolts through a xenon-filled tube positioned under the control knobs. A built in antenna picks up electromagnetic interference surrounding the tube and converts that into an audio signal for output via an amp. The result is a heavy dose of crunching distortion, if the sounds shown off in the pitch video at the end are anything to go by.
"This technology creates a large amount of non-linear harmonic saturation that causes extremely rich and responsive attacks, and brings out screechingly sharp overtones and harmonics," explained Gamechanger in a press release. "These harmonic artifacts, produced as a byproduct of the high-voltage discharge, are uncommon in traditional signal amplification."
You can kind of take a Plasma Pedal prototype for a test drive now, courtesy of a live stream that's been running since March 10. Simply upload a sound sample to the landing page, and this is fed into a constantly-plugged in prototype and the result output via YouTube.
The pedal has been designed primarily for guitarists, though Gamechanger says it can add electric buzz to synths, beat machines and instruments samples. The company estimate that the xenon tube will last about 70,000 hours before needing to be replaced, and assures future users that the system is completely safe to use, with full instructions being provided as part of the package.
Interestingly, a Blend knob caters for wet/dry signal mixing, and when turned all the way to the right can act as a kind of noise gate – meaning that when you stop playing, the crunch stops too (though there is true bypass, too).
The Plasma Pedal was first demonstrated at the NAMM Show in January, and is currently raising funds on Indiegogo, where pledges start at US$199. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in October. You can hear the kind of insane crunch on offer in the video below.
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