Catalinbread Many Worlds review: Is this transcendental multi-mode phaser the ultimate swoosh-bringer?
The Catalinbread Many Worlds might well be the first stompbox that can help you understand quantum mechanics. Then again, it might just be a really cool multi-voiced phaser – and that’s just as good, isn’t it?
If you are interested in the pioneering physicist Hugh Everett and how his theory of the universal wave function inspired the name of this pedal, there’s a brief summary on the Catalinbread website. If you’re not, stick with us and we’ll explain what this eight-stage phase shifter can actually do.
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Catalinbread is an American company that’s probably too big to be called ‘boutique’ now, but it continues to produce pedals that are as adventurous as they are musical. And this is one of its most ambitious efforts yet, combining a range of ‘straight’ phasing effects with some extra-fruity options accessed via an eight-way rotary switch.
The five conventional modes deliver sine, square, triangle, sawtooth and reverse sawtooth LFO wave shapes; then there are two envelope-following sweeps – up and down – plus a ‘battle’ mode that involves two sine waves moving at different speeds.
Controls-wise you get the usual frequency (rate) and depth dials, plus feedback and mix for adjusting the intensity of the effect. The first two knobs take on different roles in the three non-standard modes, which we’ll go into later, but it’s worth mentioning here that the colour-coded labelling of those modes gets totally lost amid this pedal’s profoundly cosmic artwork. Still, you’ll soon find your way around.
The general rule with phasers is that more stages means more complexity, so an eight-stage device like this one promises to be pretty rich and chewy even in its standard sine-wave mode. As it turns out, for richness and chewiness the Many Worlds is right up there with a king-size Double Decker.
With mix set to full and feedback at halfway, our starting point is a deep, sinewy phasing effect that’s not too dissimilar from the classic sound of our six-stage EHX Bad Stone – maybe just a little less thick, a little more watery. That’s not a bad start, and cranking the feedback plunges us straight into the freaky-flangey zone, which can be most entertaining at slower settings.
For even more entertainment, we start exploring the alternative LFO wave shapes. The triangle and sawtooth modes put interesting twists on the usual pattern while adding a slightly metallic element, whose timbre can be tuned with the depth knob; the square wave, meanwhile, can create some quirky textural effects at faster speeds. But it’s the other three modes we’re really here for… and they don’t disappoint.
Having a phaser that sweeps up or down in response to your playing dynamics really does open up a new synthy world. The frequency and depth knobs control the attack and sensitivity of the envelope in these modes; for optimum mind-bending, we recommend maxing out both… then doing the same with feedback and mix and, what the hell, running the whole thing through a fuzz box. Jimi would surely approve.
Finally we enter battle mode, where the depth knob becomes a frequency control for the second oscillator. There’s no subtlety here, just an exercise in finding out exactly how phasey a phaser can get. The answer is ‘very’, the second wave adding just enough irregularity to make it feel like your ears are living inside a lava lamp. Add some heavy delay for super-trippy weirdscapes.
Remember that the mix knob is always there to keep things sensible if you want it to. Even so, don’t buy the Catalinbread Many Worlds if you’re after a classic phaser – buy it as a launchpad for further adventures across the modulation universe.
DESCRIPTION Multi-mode phaser pedal, made in USA
CONTROLS Frequency (attack when in envelope modes), depth (sensitivity in envelope modes, second LFO frequency in battle mode), feedback, mix, eight-way mode switch
FEATURES True bypass, powered by 9-18-volt mains supply only
DIMENSIONS 112 x 67 x 51mm
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