Review: EarthQuaker Devices Astral Destiny
Plenty of digital reverb pedals have one or two options for adding an ethereal upper octave, but this eight-mode beast is a dedicated shimmer machine
The shimmer effect has been around since the 80s, when players would combine reverb and octave-up pitch-shifting to create textures so lushly celestial that audiences would be too mesmerised to notice their terrible hair. This, though, might be the first time shimmer has had a whole multi-mode stompbox to itself.
The EarthQuaker Devices Astral Destiny is a digital reverb pedal that’s all about the strange and unnatural stuff added on top: it has a dedicated modulation section and eight modes for different varieties of pitch-based otherworldliness, including two with automatic note-bending. This could get quite strange.
Resplendent in sparkly white with metallic red artwork, the Astral Destiny is a dual-footswitch unit with bypass on the right and ‘stretch’, which slows the decay down to half speed, on the left. The mini knobs in the middle do the basics – depth and rate for the modulation, tone and output level for the reverb itself – while the three controls at the top are full-size as they’re the ones you’re most likely to be fiddling about with.
On the left, an eight-way rotary switch lets you toggle through stored settings once you’ve held down the main footswitch to go into preset mode; in the middle, ‘length’ lets you decide just how epic you want your reverb to get; and on the right, we find the eight different reverb types. Only the first, Abyss, has no octave effect.
We’re expecting hugeness from the off and that’s exactly what we get. Even in the octave-free Abyss mode with the modulation depth at zero, anything above half length will transport you directly to the middle of the nearest cathedral (although most cathedrals are admittedly, unlike this pedal, stereo). The maximum decay time is somewhere around 12 swirling seconds.
The next three modes are straightforward enough, adding respectively an up octave, a down octave and a bit of both; but the right-hand side of that mode dial is where the textures start to get more heady. ‘Ascend’ and ‘Descend’ bring gradual pitch-bends that are just harmonically complex enough to sound mystical rather than woozy, while ‘Astral’ and ‘Cosmos’ add more intervals for a kind of gently swelling grandeur. Go easy on the proggy chord voicings here, though – the sheer density of the reverb means single notes and gentle arpeggios work best.
Dialling in a touch of modulation makes everything that little bit more colourful – or downright fruity if you crank the depth for full-on vibrato – while, cleverly, the ‘stretch’ footswitch will plunge you down to half-speed (and therefore an octave down) either instantly or gradually, depending on whether you tap it momentarily or keep your foot down.
That said, aside from those assorted pitch-bending tricks and the option of creating more dynamic effects with an expression pedal, there’s not a huge amount of tonal variety on offer here. The Astral Destiny gives us the shimmer, the whole shimmer and (almost) nothing but the shimmer – only you can decide if that’s enough to merit a place on your pedalboard.
- PRICE £205
- DESCRIPTION Digital reverb pedal with modulation and octave effects, made in USA
- CONTROLS Preset 1-8, decay length, reverb mode, modulation depth and rate, reverb tone and mix (level)
- FEATURES Live and preset operating modes, input for assignable expression pedal (TRS), buffered bypass with switchable trails, analogue dry signal path; powered by 9-volt mains supply only (not supplied)
- DIMENSIONS 123 x 98 x 58mm
- CONTACT earthquakerdevices.com
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