New Gear Reviews: The Future Sound of 2021
WRITTEN BY: Tony Miln
UPLOADED: 13th Jan 2021
A slight reworking of our last mail out of 2020 where we took a break from festivities and a change from our usual weekly update for a quick run through our favourite new gear of the year. A “Best New Gear of 2020” of sorts featuring mercifully short [“pithy?” – Ed] reviews of some truly innovative, inspiring and mind-bending pieces of gear for music making and manipulating, all of which you’ll be hearing plenty of and from in 2021.
All items are either in stock or available to preorder. Follow the links or get in touch if you have questions.
Soma Pulsar 23. Soma have been overwhelmed with preorders, and our January shipment is already all taken. Preorders for the next batch are open now (although we are still waiting for an eta from Soma. Tony says: “This is so good. So much scope and depth and sheer brilliance in the design and execution. I rarely find a piece of gear that doesn’t immediately make me ask ‘if only they’d done xxx’. Not only has this not happened, I even ended up reading the manual from cover to cover. And I doubt I’ll have reached the limits of what’s possible by this time next year. It sounds so good, so now, and yet very vintage.”
We may be biased, but what the team have achieved with the Soundgas Type 636 this year is something we can all be very proud of. More than a slavish clone, this is deeper, wilder and better than the original Grampian that inspired us. Tony says: “I’ve not used either of my Grampian 636s since I’ve had one of ours at my disposal – the bottom end is so much bigger.”
So new, so unobtanium. The Chase Bliss CXM1978 is yet another amazing pedal from Joel Corte’s Chase Bliss Audio – the result of a collaboration with Meris. It’s a vintage digital reverb – so much more than just an amazing guitar pedal (which it undoubtedly is) – this is a compact studio effect of the highest quality. Tony says: “I’ve not stopped using mine since it arrived: I’ve been collecting/using vintage digital reverbs for many years and this is the first modern unit that truly delights me.”
This demo features the CXM adding reverb to the super-rare Binson PM-10, plus sounds from the Soma Pulsar-23 and Erica Syntrx:
Vongon are our hot tip for 2021: a winning combination of original concepts, insanely good sound and stunning build quality. The Paragraphs and Ultrasheer are both essential purchases and Tony has still not given us the demo units back: “I fell for the Paragraphs instantly and the Ultrasheer is simply stunning – you wait years for a great vintage digital reverb pedal and two come along within a few weeks of each other!”
Here’s a demo using the Ultrasheer with a few other things we just had kicking around:
Synthi in Synthi’s clothing? The Erica Synths Syntrx has a very familiar layout and workflow. Internally the circuitry is all new. Tony’s a committed EMS Synthi freak: “I expected to maybe like the Syntryx, but not to love it. A month or so down the line, I’ve not stopped playing it: it’s beautiful, brilliant, and a top quality build. Sonically I’m loving what I’m hearing – add a bit of Ultrasheer or CXM1978 and I’m away. The filter is the only section that so far has not overjoyed me – it’s missing some of the wild hairiness of the Synthi, but overall this is an essential for me: a realistic performance alternative to the more delicate and eye-wateringly expensive vintage EMS options (or decade long waiting list for a new Synthi).” Here’s a demo of it in action:
Soma Ether V2 – more bonkers brilliance from the crazed Soma laboratory. Picks up all kinds of RF and EMF to add noise, crackle and ghostly transmissions to your recordings. We’ve spent the past 30-40 years banishing such noise from recording studios – look at what we’ve been missing….
This unprepossessing white box is the brainchild of Harry Axten who wanted a pedal that performed along similar lines to Logic Audio’s venerable Bit Crusher plug in. The HKA Digitizer is a rare gem: clean design, beautifully executed, and far more versatile than you’d imagine. Looking at the names who’ve ordered one this year, 2021 is going to be the year of the Digitizer.
A simple idea that makes you ask “Why has nobody done this before?” The Future Sound Systems MTX8 is nothing short of genius: the results that you can achieve with a simple set up and this pin matrix patchbay are mind-blowing. Tony: “this is for anyone who’s always wishing gear have more sends/returns or feedback loops – I love mine – seems so obvious now it’s here. I’ve found it something of a gamechanger.”
Photo credit: @teksir_music
Bigger is better. the Analogue Solutions Colossus is without doubt the most audacious new synthesizer of our generation. We’re still saving up for one (and a bigger studio to house it). Customers who’ve taken the plunge are still missing, presumed having a good time. Superlatives do not exist to adequately describe this monster.
The pedal’s cool but the rack’s where it’s really at: the Gamechanger Plasma Rack is all kinds of crazy; superbly-built and executed and very flexible indeed.
After the somewhat difficult self-destruction of Gurus, designer Guglielmo Cicognani had a mountain to climb to persuade us to take a chance on his new range. However, like the original Gurus Echosex pedals he created that we all loved so much, the all Italian-made Cicognani Pompeii PE-603 and EchoLTD 2° once again deliver the best in compact Binson emulations. This time he’s sailing his own ship and the results are winning plaudits from some very choosy customers…
This is one of those boxes that just works: the Erica Synths Zen Delay is a collaboration with Ninja Tune and is a brilliant performance stereo delay with magnificent onboard filter. Tony loves his: “this just keeps getting better: the more I use it, the more I like it – like having a stereo Moog-style filter and delay.”
Strymon Nightsky. It’s still very early days for us with this one, but there’s much to explore in this next-level reverberator, and we’re hearing great reports….
Simple. Classic (already!). Endlessly-rewarding. OTO Machines Bim, Bam and Boum have found a place in many respected set ups: great build and sound quality, these have no extraneous features. No fuss; they just deliver.
Hudson Electronics Pedals get a special mention as the last arrival of 2020. Most were already preordered but we have a couple of each left in stock. We’re looking forward to diving deeper with these classics in 2021.
Tony Miln is the co-founder (& Head Gear Head) of Soundgas.