Review: DigiTech Obscura Altered Delay pedal

DigiTech’s new delay is an analogue-style tone mangler with digital flexibility. Marcus Leadley gets down and degraded…

DigiTech Obscura

If you think digital delay is all about precision cleanliness, think again. This new retro-delay simulator takes vintage tones and mangles them quite beautifully. Like other newly-released pedals from DigiTech, the Obscura Altered Delay continues the retro-alchemic graphic art theme. This time, the top panel features a distorted skeleton – metal pedals have used this sort of iconography for years – but this is actually an illustration commissioned by the 16th century anatomist Andreas Vesalius for his De humani corporis fabrica series of books. What’s it doing here? Maybe indicating the unit’s seriously invasive and almost surgical sound-shaping capabilities.

While this is a digital delay, it really wants to be an analogue pedal; the selector offers an analogue ‘bucket- brigade’ emulation and a tape delay simulator. Even the lo-fi option is an emulation of retro 8-bit digital delay. The fourth mode, reverse, is a texture- generator whose digital credentials seem almost irrelevant. Just in case you have any doubts that this is a contemporary pedal, however, it can function as both a mono or stereo delay, and there’s a useful tap tempo feature.
DigiTech ObscuraThe level control lets you blend delay with your basic sound (for reverse mode, it controls only the repeat level, as none of your original signal is presented). Two stacked knobs control time/repeats and tone/degrade. Finally, there’s the tails mini toggle – with this on, the delay continues to decay when the effect is bypassed. When set to off, the delay is cut short.
In use
The first three algorithms have the distinct characters of the technologies they model: the first analogue mode has little top end; tape is quite true to the original signal, but warmer and more rounded; and lo-fi is bright and clean. When you adjust the repeats control, analogue drifts off into warm, soupy oblivion, tape gives you a progressive softening, and lo-fi adds gritty distortion. At the lowest degrade setting, it’s as if you have three new, fully functional retro delays. Advance it, and all the circuits start misbehaving.

Analogue creates a beautiful receding filter effect that surrounds your playing with warm pulsations; tape goes off into synthesised, but realistic, impersonations of wow and flutter to create a dense, chorus-like vibe. Lo-fi piles on the grit, making it sound as if a distortion pedal has processed the repeats. Reverse is quite difficult to work with; it’s hard to play anything that doesn’t sound like trippy prog lead, but that may be your thing! Then there’s the sonic mayhem you can create by twiddling knobs during a performance. There’s even a repeat hold function (accessed by turning the repeats knob fully clockwise) to ensure your sonic sorcery will go on forever…

This is a really fun pedal that enables you to create an array of sounds, rather than providing specific emulations. You don’t get very far into exploring the Obscura before you realise it’s all about how it handles the degradation of the delayed signals. It develops the limitations of the original technologies to great musical effect.

DigiTech Obscura
KEY FEATURES
PRICE £129
DESCRIPTION Digital delay with analogue simulations, made in China
CONTROLS Stereo delay time, tap tempo, delay repeat hold, tails on/off switch, true bypass, stereo 1/4” inputs & outputs w/ true stereo processing
FEATURES Effect on/off LED indicator, soft touch vacuum switch, includes StompLock & pedalboard hook & loop pad, 9V DC external power supply
DIMENSIONS 110 (L) x 67 (W) x 50mm (D)
CONTACT Sound Technology 01462 480000 www.digitech.com