Alright, but the most crucial part is what’s inside: the software. Despite a few warts, it’s essentially a success. Yes, the UI can be a bit slow to respond. And yes, it’s much easier to chew through the DSPs power and max out the CPU than you might expect. But the modules are all pretty helpful, easy to use, and sound great. There are 97 of them, ranging from simple VCAs to amp emulators to ports of Mutable Instruments modules like Plaits and Clouds.
There’s no way to cover all of them, but let’s talk about a few highlights. The ports of the Mutable Instruments modules are all excellent, but I find Grids (called Drum Patterns) and Clouds (Granular) to be the most useful. Clouds is a granular “texture synthesizer.” In short, it chops up incoming audio in realtime and spits it back out as an almost unrecognizable mass. Until now, if you wanted to get Clouds on your pedalboard it would have meant sticking something extremely fragile like a eurorack case or an Organelle on there. So this is a big deal for guitarists with a more ambient or experimental bent.
Grids is a sort of automatic drum sequencer, and it’s great for quickly putting together rhythms. But you can use its outputs to control anything that will accept a CV (control voltage) input (which is most of the modules). So you could create rhythmic interplay between a delay and a bitcrusher where different parameters are accented at different times.
Speaking of bitcrushing, the Bitmangle module is stunning. It makes some of the best sputtering and ugly noise I’ve heard. It’s not a standard bitcrusher, and instead combines cross modulation with the usual bit-based degradation. Just one thing to be aware of: It is loud. It’s highly recommended that you combine with a compressor, noise gate and a VCA after the fact to keep your levels in check.
The best thing about these modules is they all play nice with the internal CV controls so you add LFOs, or a 16-step sequencer, or the Chaos Controller to add movement to the parameters, so your effects never stay static. And yes, you can even combine those modules with Grids constantly changing patterns of parameter modulation. (For example, an LFO can slowly change the drum pattern on Grids, which in turn rhythmically maxes out the time on a delay in an evolving way.)
- In this basic example and LFO is being used to pan between two different effects — a pitch shifter and a chorus. The first half is a slow sinewave LFO the second part of the demo is a square wave at 320bpm with a temp ratio of 320x, creating an almost ring modulated effect.
My one gripe is that there’s no visual feedback as to what the modulation and sequencers are changing. If you connect an LFO to the time of the delay, you don’t see it change, the slider just stays where you left it. This means you really need to track down any problem areas with your ears.
Perhaps the things I used the most were the amp sim, cab sim and convolution reverb modules. The two power amp sims are pretty decent. They’re not the best amp simulators I’ve ever heard, but they’re not bad either. I’d love to see Poly Effects expand and improve on these offerings. Still, between those and the cab sims, the Beebo makes a solid DI (direct input) box. I don’t know that it could completely replace my amp, but it’s definitely better than the builtin amp sims in Ableton.