The world of audio and musical equipment can be a tricky one to navigate at the best of times. With so many different products, conflicting opinions and confusing reviews, it’s hard to know what’s actually the best product for your needs. Luckily, the team at Mixdown have put in the legwork for you, sifting through the spec-sheets and putting the products through their paces to bring you Mixdown’s Picks - a new series of expansive, category defining product guides across our digital channels. Anything that has made the cut has rated highly across the board with the Mixdown staff, garnering a unanimous tick of approval from our staunch critics.
This time around, we're dissecting the huge range of essential effects out there for stage and studio, exploring everything from rugged multi-effects units through to boutique overdrives and vocal plug-ins.
The Pill Stereo Ducking Pedal
Key Features: A truly visionary pedal with endless room for experimentation, The Pill represents a new era for the stompbox, one that has no qualms blurring the lines between stage and studio, in this case bringing the heady world of analogue stereo ducking to the modern pedalboard.
For the non-engineers out there, ‘ducking’ is a studio effect from the same family tree as side-chain compression and/or gating - a process by which a sources volume is automatically attenuated or ‘ducked’ via a trigger input or secondary sound source. In layman’s terms, the aptly named ‘Pill” literally ‘eats’ the output of Source A, set to the rhythm/tempo of source B, in turn allowing for the ultimate marriage between two sound sources (not to mention some of the most expressive and jaw dropping sonic effects you are ever likely to hear from a humble stompbox).
With three adjustable and highly interactive parameters (‘trigger’ being the threshold/input gain, ‘depth’ being literally how deep a bite you want to take and ‘release’ being the time taken for the source material to return back to its original form), The Pill is an extremely adaptable and intuitive pedal, comfortably sitting at the intersection between dynamic processor, volume pedal and rhythmic effect. The result is an extremely unique, extremely singular effect for the modern pedalboard, one that takes the deeply embedded pulse of European dance music and places it in the hands of anyone with an instrument cable and a 9v power supply.
Whether used subtly, as a means to lightly ‘glue’ together organic kick and bass sounds or more aggressively as a way to ‘part the seas’ on a lush synth pad, the three aforemention parameters (coupled with The Pill’s impressive input flexibility) result in a pedal that encourages boundless experimentation and out-of-the-box thinking.
Theoretically, a traditional guitar band might chuck up a hi-hat mic, and use The Pill to duck the volume of an overdriven rhythm guitar, in turn creating an organic tremolo effect, synced to the tempo of the live drummer, all in real-time. This is just a glimpse at some of the crafty ways a budding producer/musician may chose to integrate The Pill into their workflow-in reality, its application is honestly only bound by the limitations of ones own imagination, with The Pill being open to a seemingly endless combination of sound sources and parameter settings.
Mixdown Says: With so much to offer in terms of functionality and creativity, you might be forgiven for overlooking the sound quality of the unit itself, but needless to say, The Pill more than delivers on that front also. Featuring a classy and extremely musical ‘Opto’ circuit, the true bypass, Swiss made pedal excels in providing warm, sympathetic transient detection with a sonically pleasant, molasses-like release.
It’s a premium, handmade pedal, with premium hand selected components and this extra level of care is more than apparent in the cleanliness and bespoke quality of it’s output. Being able to function in both mono and stereo only further adds to the kind of lush textures and thumping grooves this thing is capable of producing - perfect for the budding sound designer in all of us.
Overall: Handmade using the highest quality components (and with some of the strictest QC protocol of any manufacturer out there), The Pill simply oozes quality across the board- from it’s concept to its construction and sonic output. It’s a classy bit of kit. Stemming from a highly successful Kickstarter campaign (which had pedal obsessives and experimental sound types frothing at the mouth from day dot), The Pill is one of those rare pedals that more than justifies its pricepoint, not only due to its incredible build and sound quality, but also its ability to inspire, almost becoming an instrument in its own right. More than worthy of the hype.
Find out more about The Pill Pedal here.