Arcade Machine (synth pedal demos & review)

Apr 25, 2017
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The Arcade Machine is a PLL-based (phase locked loop) monophonic synth that will take on different tone characteristics based on the instrument involved. A guitar produces a different output result from a bass, and various synth patches (e.g., piano vs. vibraphone vs. flute) likewise produce different results. The included demo exemplifies this with both keys (vibraphone patch) and guitar.

Although monophonic, it is possible to achieve a fatter sound on guitar when playing intervals and double stops, since you strike one string slightly ahead of another, and the outcome is more chaotic as the two notes merge and battle one another to be heard. As well, there is a wide range of settings that influence what you hear. First, the Gate can produce a quick stabbing effect or it can remain opened for a longer sustain (with some interesting artifact weirdness when fully opened). Second, there is the main note or octave (0 Octave on the pedal) that can be mixed in any amount (very loud or shut completely); but, there also are four other octave notes that can be blended in to any degree (a lot or not at all), being -2, -1, +1 and +2.

If that wasn’t enough, the Arcade Machine has a harmonizer, allowing you to mix in any minor or major interval – as well as the Devil’s interval for some extra creepiness and musical tension. And there’s also a Vibrato function, ranging from a slow wave to a rapid-fire pulse that can be controlled in the mix via the Depth control. Turned low (about 9-clock) it can be very subtle and unassuming – enough to thicken the sound, but very boisterous when turned up to 12-noon or beyond. Finally, there’s an Expression input that varies the intervals chromatically up or down with an expression pedal, or use of a control voltage (CV) input allows you to operate a sequencer so that you can run through any sequence of intervals programmed. The latter option has more flexibility, as you can produce simple trills, to arpeggios, to composed melodies.

Overall, the bass response of the Arcade Machine is fat, the mids have good fullness and edge, and the treble has a substantial ‘cut through the mix’ effect. The pedal has a true synth response and sound. Below is another demo that goes through the steps of using the Arcade Machine to produce a huge sound (although simple sounds can be produced with ease).

The Arcade Machine is a true bypass pedal on the larger size, measuring 145mm (W) x 119mm (D) x 57mm (H with knobs) or 5.7 x 4.7 x 2.25 inches. It has a steel chassis power coated red and the overall build quality is quite excellent with its solid feeling and noiseless pots, color coded knobs for easy location and adjustment, and a ‘soft’ noiseless footswitch – hand-built and wired individually in the USA. This pedal works on a standard 2.1 mm (negative tip) power supply, drawing about 70 mA of current.

Overall, the Arcade Machine may be a simple monophonic synth, but it offers up a rather diverse palette of sound possibilities. Designed to be used by different instruments and musicians, this pedal is ideal for those into experimental music composition and desiring a different effect from the usual assortment of pedals on the market. The price of $265 places it in the middle range of gear investment (since some boutique pedals cost upward of $500), but this well-made USA pedal by RPS Effects has a reasonable price relative to its overall functions and uniqueness.

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