Posts Tagged ‘Synthesizer’

Digitech XSW Synth Wah

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015


What is it?
Digitech XSW Sythn Wah envelope filter from X-series. Made in china around late 00’s

Deeper green on the color than the bass version, the Synth Wah Envelope Filter takes on the battle for autowahs with slight synth features for a guitar. Decent set of features will let you play around for hours. Some of the modes are usable and may even come handy in some situations. Once again, there is nothing close to a schematic available, but once we open the torx screws and check the PCB we notice something that we didn’t want to see. Sea of vias and the auto-routed footprint that is nothing more or less than the same board we’ll see in the bass version.


This continues when we flip the board over. Yes. It is exactly the same effect as the XBW Bass Synth Wah. Only things that are different are the print on box and some lines of code inside the ROM. I did know to expect this, but it still made me feel stumped. This makes me think that all the X-series boxes have just two different boards inside them. The first are the ones which have a rotary switch as a fourth pot and the second, there are boards with a standard pot in that position. It is just me, but i’m still an analog electronics enthusiast first and thus, not too thrilled about all digital designs such as these.


I had a conversation over the social media some time ago. One talented guitarist (who uses Boss GT-100 multi effect, by the way) noted that all the effects are just resistors and capacitors, so it doesn’t matter if the design is digital or analog. I just had to correct him. You know, when there is someone wrong on the internet.. No, these two methods are not the same and cannot be compared head to head. Analog designs rely on electronics engineering, while digital designs rely on processing power, code and A/D-D/A signal conversion. Some modern pedals nowadays can easily hold a power of Nintendo64 inside them (some modern multi effects are even more like desktop computers). But the question is like comparing locally hand forged steel gate on your driveway with one that’s been moulded in chinese steel ovens. Yes. These both do the same thing. And yes. To the laymen it doesn’t matter. But for hand forging enthusiast the different is huge. Then comes the question which is “better”. Neither. Or both. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

How does it sound?
Not bad. The modes have good and usable wobbles in them. The synth-like sweeps are pretty wild and since there isn’t too many guitar envelope filters with similar modes available, this unit is rather desirable. Whether it is the same effect from electronics design point of view as the Bass Synth Wah is irrelevant. Sure it matters to me, but it doesn’t affect the sound. My personal opinions rarely affect the sounds… Again, the low price point and big user value will make this effect tempting to many. Not to analog enthusiasts, but for everyone else. Not a bad unit. Good and cheap thing to get. Not a bad investment, if you don’t care about the analog/digital aspect.

Digitech XBW Bass Synth Wah

Thursday, January 15th, 2015


What is it?
Digitech XBW Bass Synth Wah, Bass envelope filter from X-series. Made in china around mid-00’s.

Ok. I’ve had some of the X-series boxes lying around for quite some time. Just didn’t find it in me to open them up until now. All them sounded and felt reasonable good on initial tests, so i just took the stance of “decent, not great, but decent” and left them be. Now i figured i would finally start checking them through. XBW is a good unit to start with. Good features and there is some notable usability in there. Sure this isn’t meant to compete with Boss SYB-3/SYB-5 with its lower price point and slightly smaller feature set. I haven’t seen schematics for any of the X-series boxes around. Opening the bottom plate gives a clue for why. There are vias like drops in the ocean.


For starters, super dull, auto-routed board design is quite off-putting. Next, the brand is called Digitech. Which made me slightly cautious and suspicious, since the Distortion series is all analog and has roots deep in the old DOD catalogue. Flipping the board over shows what’s really going on. Harman (the mother company of Digitech) branded AudioDNA digital signal processor with crystal oscillator and a ROM. Now this is what the digital effects are made of. Don’t have to see the schematic to tell you that there is analog signal path with buffers ann switching, followed by AD/DA conversion and another set of buffers and switching components. The effect is in the slash between AD/DA.


This made me worry a little. Could it be that Digitech X-series is as boring designwise as post-2005 Boss pedals? This meaning that the circuitry is exactly the same on all boxes, just with different digital control for each and different code in the ROM chips. Nothing too wrong with that. It’s just that my interest about the X-series boxes just got stomped even deeper in to the ground.

How does it sound?
Like a working “bass synthesizer” pedal. To get a picture, we need to compare it to something we already know. Boss SYB-3 is well more feature packed and wilder in its sounds. Same thing goes for Ibanez SB7. I’d say the synth sweeps here are duller than the competition, but there isn’t that much negative to the sound. More boring than the competition, but still a decent entry level bass synth/autowah unit. For the price and your home recording applications – i’d say this will suffice. Works and sounds pretty good on guitar too. Leaves me baffled, but still trusting.

Boss SYB-3 Bass Synthesizer

Friday, June 13th, 2014


What is it?
Boss SYB-3 Bass Synthesizer. Made in taiwan, september 1999.

This is one of the pedals that have stayed with me for a long time. Got it somewhere around 2002 and i’ve used it mostly with a guitar with occasional bass hook when recording. Due to its very complex digital design, i won’t be able to break the design down. So i’m forced to leave you with an overview of the features and aesthetics. Opening the bottom plate reveals a two sided PCB that is pretty crammed. On the board design, there’s not much to mention. It’s your standard SMD-board with focus on functionality, rather than aesthetics. Like most Boss boards. I’d say it’s dull.


Bottom layer is for caps and resistors. The upper sider has all the semiconductors. As you can see, the number is quite high. The reason for the complexity? Well. It has eleven modes, ranging from “internal”, made up digital synth-like sweeps to standard, clean autowah sweeps. As the controls go, there are individual level settings for clean and synth signals, which gives you the option of blending the signals the way you want – all wet being rather wild. Next up is a very synth like filter with frequency and resonance controls. If there was one thing i’d like to see added to this one, it would be a expression pedal input for either of these controls. After these, there is sensitivity and decay controls that control how the trigger performs.


Last control is 11 position switch that sets the effect type. Types are “internal” from settings 1-7. These are the programmed synt-like sweepers that are more or less unique to the pedal design. Settings 8-9 are “W-shape” modes, which are closer to standard autowah sounds than the internals, but still something rather odd. Last two settings are for “T-Wah”. So its safe to assume the last modes are digital recreations of ye oldee boss T-Wah autowah/envelope filter. Haven’t been able to play with original T-Wah, but something tells me these modes are a bit wilder or tighter than the ones found on the old analog pedal.

Either way. There is a ton of versatility. I’d label this as one of the top ten Compact serie pedals. When Boss engineers take a design over the top, the results are still usable.

How does it sound?
Wicked. Extreme envelope filter on steroids. Wild filter sweeps with great, completely unnatural synth-style modes. Of course, there are milder autowah settings available, but it’s the wild ones that will roll your socks. The blend controls give the possibility of nice, subtle effects too. Very versatile and fun effect. Maybe the tones offered aren’t the greatest thing for your base sound, but for those hidden hooks and shock effects.. This is the right stuff.