Eventide ModFactor Pedal
Originally printed in Guitar World, October 2008
If you're feeling lazy, let me save you some reading: The Eventide ModFactor is among the best-sounding modulation-based stomp boxes I’ve ever tested. It’s also easily the most versatile modulation pedal I’ve used. I say this upfront because, with its roots in the professional studio world, the ModFactor may seem intimidating to guitarists that are more comfortable with bread-and-butter, three-knob stomp boxes. And while it is certainly more intricate than your average chorus or phaser pedal, the ModFactor is far from difficult to use, and it rewards with a sonic payoff unlike any other modulation pedal I know of.
Now that you know it sounds good, let’s take a look at its impressive feature set. The ModFactor has 10 modulation effects culled from the Eventide rack stable. These include chorus, phaser, Q-Wah (auto-wah), flanger, ModFilter (stereo modulated filtering), rotary (rotating speaker emulation), TremoloPan, vibrato, a complex delay/frequency modulation effect called Undulator, and RingMod (ring modulator).
Each effect can be modified using a bank of 10 control knobs (an 11th knob selects among the effect categories) and the results saved in the location of your choice. The knobs are context sensitive, which is a fancy way of saying that their operation changes depending on the active effect. There are “big-picture” knobs like Intensity/Mix, which controls the blend of affected and dry signal, and Type, which selects the variation of the effects within a particular category—for example, with the phaser, you can choose among Negative, Positive, Feedback and Biphase modes. Unfortunately, for all the ModFactor’s deep functions, you can’t use more than one effect at a time.
The ModFactor uses a pair of low-frequency oscillators (LFOs) to modulate the signal. The primary LFO governs the overall sound in much the same way as a basic stomp-box effect. The secondary LFO modifies the operation of the primary LFO, allowing for very complex sounds.
Three knobs govern the primary LFO: depth, speed and shape, which selects the waveform or pattern of the modulation effect. These are pretty easy to use and should feel familiar to anyone who has used a chorus or flanger pedal. The secondary LFO adds to the complexity of both ModFactor’s tone and the operation. Its controls include D-Mod (which is mated to Depth), S-Mod (mated to Speed), Mod Rate and Mod Source. Using these, you can dial up sounds that range from classic to bizarre.
The X-Knob is sort of a wild card that changes with every effect. With chorus, it controls feedback; with phaser, it controls the number of stages; with rotary, it controls tone, and so on. In addition, there’s a 1/4-inch expression pedal input so you can control parameters in real time.
The front panel has three switches. One activates or bypasses the effect; the second selects between fast and slow modulation times, and the third lets you tap in tempo. (If you want to rack-mount the ModFactor, you can plug a three-button auxiliary footswitch into a 1/4-inch jack on the back and use it to duplicate the functionality of the main switches.) ModFactor also operates in Bank mode, and here, the switches can also be used to select among 40 user presets.
The ModFactor works in stereo or mono with both instrument and line-level signals, so you can use it with a guitar amp or with a mixer. Other connections include USB (for software updates) and a power supply input.
The ModFactor's sheer complexity can be intimidating, so in some ways, ignorance is bliss. Because it has real knobs, you can dial up a sound you like without necessarily knowing what you’re doing. I don’t recommend ignoring the manual, but you don’t have to memorize the details to get great sounds.
And great sound is the ModFactor’s main appeal. The chorus is lush, but it can also deliver subtle depth without reducing clarity. The phaser is rich, creamy and flexible enough to fit a range of styles. The Q-Wah actually sounds like a wah pedal, but you can also use it for some truly strange textures. The flanger can do the “jetengine” thing but also delivers more moderate tones. The other effects are each as good in their own ways.
The ability to tap tempo and select both fast and slow versions of each sound is great for live performance. There are many situations within a song where switching speeds in the middle of a solo, for example, adds drama. The display shows you the tempo in metronome style as well as in beats-per-minute.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I could double the length of this review by detailing all the variations within just one or two presets, and indeed, the sheer number of sonic choices might scare off some players. Suffice to say the ModFactor is the holy grail of modulation pedals. It has the fidelity of rack gear with the soul of a guitar pedal, delivering pro-quality sounds and hands-on control.
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