the god particle
the initial question arises how recent findings of high-energy physics are related to this article? fortunately, the particles i am interested in, do not require bulky acceleration devices…
well, i stumbled across a video clip while investigating some experimental pedals for my guitar-playing cousin. being a big fan of sophisticated delay effects, this unit instantaneously draw my attention… and after a couple of weeks the unit is sitting on my desk next to me and guess what: the pedal is called ‘particle’. its creator is the new american pedal manufactory called ‘red panda’.
on particle theory…
basically, the particle is a granular delay and pitch shifter built into one box. it features 8 different modes selectable by a big rotary knob, 5 of those emphasize on delay applications and 3 on pitch shifting. in addition, there is a mix (which fades the mixture from 100% dry to 100% wet), chop, delay/pitch, parameter and feedback knob. the function of the parameter knob corresponds to a selected mode. in the delay settings the delay/pitch knob sets the lengths of the complete buffer, which is the overall delay time ranging from 0 to 900ms. the chop parameter assigns the number of a subintervals (termed as grains) within the complete buffer. the grain size ranges from 15-250ms. the subintervals are manipulated regarding the chosen mode, e.g. in density mode the length of each subinterval (i.e. the grain size) is manipulated. turning the chop knob clockwise the total number of grains decreases. beyond the 2 o’clock position a secondary function is activated: the buffer is frozen as long as the amplitude of th incoming signal is below a specific threshold, whereas the threshold level is increased by moving the chop knob clockwise. all in all, a high threshold makes it less likely to record and freeze a new input.
in the pitch mode the delay/pitch knob sets the pitch amount ranging from -1 to +1 octave. now, the overall buffer is given by the chop knob, i.e. the buffer is exactly one grain of size.
in both modes, delay or pitch, the content of the buffer is fed back into the input by raising the feedback value which is comparable to conventional delays or (sophisticated) pitch shifter.
these are the available modes and the corresponding function of the parameter knob:
delay-density: density of the grains
delay-lfo: speed to read out the buffer, 12 o’clock means normal read out speed
delay-reverse: probability to replay a grain in forward direction
delay-random: random amount of the playback order
pitch-detune: strength of a random detuning
pitch-lfo: speed of the ramp-lfo, which sweeps from no pitch to the chosen pitch change
pitch-density: density of the grains
for more details i recommend to have a look at the manual which is downloadable at the redpandalab.
luckily, we do not rely on an expensive acceleration device for the investigation of audible grains. in contrast, the pedal case is rather small. the controls are placed not too dense. the box holds three jacks: input and output, both mono, standard 9V with negative tip and an expression input. the expression input allows the control of either the delay/pitch or the parameter knob via an expression or external cv. as an important note, the external cv must not exceed -0.5V to 3.8V at the current circuit design. this issue will be fixed in the next revision. however, one could use simple voltage limiter with some diodes built into an adapter to protect the circuit. mechanically, the pedal feels very worthy. the pots are mounted with nuts inserted which feels robust while tweaking the knobs, much better than for pcb mounted pots. the on/off switch is presumably a true bypass switch (i am not sure, i do not use it with strung devices).
throughout each part, one parameter is varied, e.g. p=max-min means that the parameter knob is changed from a maximal to a minimum value during the recording (counterclockwise). the knob position are indicated as on a clock scale. The blend was set to maximal setting. the left channel carries the particle signal and the right channel the input signal with a slight reverb applied on both channels. a sci TOM and my ELECTRIC MUSIC FOX eurorack are used as audio input.
b=blend, c=chop, d=delay/pitch, p=parameter, f=feedback, m=mode
1) 0:00-0:36, delay-density, d(twisting), then (p=min-max)
2) 0:36-0:50, delay-lfo (d=min-max)
3) 0:50-1:40, delay-lfo
4) 1:40-2:37, delay-reverse, (p=min-max, crash indicates, p=12)
5) 2:37-3:51, delay-pitch (p=9-max, f=9-max)
6) 3:51-4:51, delay-pitch (f=min-max, c=2-max)
7) 4:51-5:38, delay-random (p=min-max)
8) 5:38-6:19, delay-random (p=min-max)
9) 5:38-7:10, delay-random
10) 7:10-7:42, pitch-detune (p=min-max)
11) 7:42-9:11, pitch-lfo (p=min-max, f=min-max)
12) 9:11-9:52, pitch-density (p=min-max)
last but not least, the particle shines with a complex set-up:
13) 9:52-10:05, delay-random b(min), i.e. no fx, no grains
14) 10:05-10:24, delay-random, b(max), full fx
in the beginning i was afraid that the particle might be a one-trick-pony which is luckily rejected after extensive testing. it covers many facets such as stuttering, freezing, pitching as well as ghostly reverb, tremolo or phasing-like effects. it is capable to generate an instantaneous high complexity in real-time without the use of any software. especially, the delay-random and delay-lfo modes are gorgeous for instant idm-like beat scrambling. the particle can also be used for simple (and clean) delays, pitch shifting and even tremolo duties. but in my eyes there are more dedicated pedals for such standard jobs whose offer e.g tap function for a straight delay or pre-defined harmonic intervals for the pitch shifter. in the end, the particle is really amazing effect box. its strength is definitively in the granular field for which it was designed for. the quality and depth of the sounds is totally convincing at this price tag.
what’s the matter?
- sound: good&clean without any clicks or pops. it is not too sharp, very suitable and flexible. i think it is the most diversified stompbox i ever used. very nice for sound explorations.
- build quality: is very high and valuable. i really like the artwork.
- handling: is very smooth. the unit is really versatile. the modes differ significantly from each other. the parameter are carefully chosen with a well-balanced control range.feels very musically: most of the settings are good sounding.
- easy access: after getting used to the different modes, it is quite easy to operate, very useful clipping LED.
- the expression input allows a remote control to either the delay/pitch or the parameter knob.
- yes, it’s granularizer-in-a-box!
- no trail function, ie. fading out of the effect after switching off (probably owing to the true bypass).
- no feedback loop (would be nice for integrating e.g. an eq to the feedback path).
- mono in and out (it is supposed for guitar and probably a matter of the dsp power, stereo=twice the power).
- the maximal delay time is mode dependent. this might change a set delay time after switching the modes. (however i still want to check the differences in the delay between the modes).
- no tap function for setting the delay time, which would be convenient especially in a live situation.
thanks for tuning in!
many thanks to Curt for his very fast and friendly communication (and of course for creating this pedal). for more information please check out http://www.redpandalab.com