What do Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Radiohead’s Subterranean Homesick Alien have in common? They all used mechanical echo units to create their signature luscious, interesting guitar tones.
Strymon’s Volante gives you those complex, tasty, and shimmering delay tones from the past (and present) created by those wonderful units. Strymon has brought a great pedal to market that gives you access to mechanical delay sounds without having to lug around a heavy, expensive, unreliable vintage unit. You get all the charm and complexity of vintage tape and magnetic delay with the convenience of modern technology and design.
This article will give you some insight to the real question… is the pedal worth the $399 asking price? Should you buy it?
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the psychedelicious.
Table of Contents:
- I. One minute review
- II. Who should use this product?
- III. Pros of product
- IV. Cons of product
- V. Final thoughts
Volante Guitars Review
One minute review
Strymon Volante is a stereo multi-head delay that emulates three types of mechanical echo machines including magnetic drum, tape, and studio-quality reel-to-reel. In addition, it offers a sound-for-sound looper and spring reverb tank emulation with incredible tone-refining controls for a wide palette of sonic colors.
Here are the highlights:
- Multi-head magnetic media delay machine providing four playback heads with individual feedback, panning, and level controls
- Processor-intense algorithms deliver meticulously nuanced recreations of vintage magnetic echo systems (drum echo, tape echo, studio reel-to-reel echo)
- Dedicated control over echo machine tone and media: Low Cut, Mechanics, and Wear
- Input Record Level for clean reproduction to warm, fat saturation
- Independent Spring Reverb
- Sound on Sound looping mode with reverse, pause, splice, and infinite repeat functions
- Fully expandable with midi compatibility and expression pedal
Overview – Pros and Cons
- More than just a delay pedal (reverb and looper)
- Exceptional sound quality
- Three fantastic types of delay
- Independent Stereo Panning for each playhead
- Learning curve
- It’s an investment
Strymon’s Volante is the ultimate mechanical echo and delay emulation machine! The olive green color is an homage to the Binson Echorec, but the pedal isn’t just a Binson Echorec clone. Its three settings produces delay tones made famous by units like Roland Space Echo, Maestro Echoplex, and studio-grade reel-to-reel machines.
Strymon earned its reputation by designing and manufacturing excellent delay, reverb, distortion, and multi-units since 2008. These all-American made pedals are treasured by professional guitarists all over the world.
- Analog dry path for a zero-latency signal that is never converted to digital
- Premium JFET analog preamp input driving gain into the pedal
- Ultra low noise, high performance 24-bit 96kHz A/D and D/A converters provide uncompromising audio quality
- Super high performance SHARC DSP
- 32-bit floating point processing
- 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response
- True Bypass (electromechanical relay switching) or selectable transparent Analog Buffered Bypass
- 9V DC power supply included
- Designed and built in the USA
For context, here’s a quick rundown of the old machines that the Volante emulates superbly:
- Drum Setting – i.e. Binson Echorec
- The Binson Echorec, a famous Italian-made rotating drum style mechanical echo unit.
- The Echorec’s sonic signature comes from the combination of tubes, a rotating steel drum, and multiple playback heads. Using the controls on the front, you are able to dial in warm, saturated smooth delays.
- Here’s an example for David Gilmour making a binson echorec scream on his solo on the recording of Time.
- Tape Setting – i.e Roland Space Echo, Echoplex tape delay
- These machines record an incoming audio signal to a short loop of magnetic tape, which is then sent to a playback head before it is erased again by a fresh incoming signal. This process provides a desirable warmth and compressed quality while rolling-off some the higher frequency in the affected audio signal.
- Check out Jimmy Page’s theremin solo in the Song Remains the Same documentary. That’s an echoplex at work.
- Studio Setting – i.e reel-to-reel studio delay
- Reel-to-reel delay produces an impeccable, high-fidelity delay sound with minimal deterioration of the tonality quality of the audio and extensive number of repeats.
- Here’s a great example for how reel-to-reel delay works.
Who should use this product?
Lovers of vintage echo machines who can’t afford them and don’t want to lug them around
- Mechanical echo units are just very cool. If you have ever seen the inside of a Roland Space Echo, you know the joy of watching that tape coil around like a skinny snake. The Volante gives you those classic sounds.
Musicians interested in sound design
- With the Volante’s wide palette of control settings and midi compatibility, it’s an ideal tool for the studio and sound designer. You can control every parameter of this pedal, and dialing in a great sound is very easy and intuitive. Every knob-turn sounds musical to my ear.
Passion for Shoegazing, Psychedelic, 60’s and 70’s Rock, and Ambient music
- The Volante hits the nail on the head with these musical styles, but it’s only limited by your imagination. Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, and countless others utilized one or several types of these delays to get their signature sounds.
FINAL NOTE for beginning players and less experienced delay users
- The Volante is not necessarily a “beginner’s pedal” for a few reasons:
- You need to have some working knowledge of tape delay to maximize its capabilities
- It’s an investment
- Steep learning curve compared to simpler pedals
Pros of product
- More than just a delay pedal
- Reverb tank
- I don’t want to hide the fact that the spring reverb on the Volante sounds amazing. It can easily function as a simple, stand-alone spring reverb pedal.
- Mechanics and wear
- These two knobs on the Volante add modulation and cool vibe, and they really made the pedal stand out for me. Providing sonic imperfections, they help dial in one-of-a-kind sounds.
- Sound-on-sound looper
- Yes, this pedal can function as a looper with reverse, pause, splice, and infinite repeat functions
- Expansion – Midi and Expression pedal
- If you have or are willing to buy a midi controller or expression pedal you easily have access to four pedals in one with the Volante.
- Reverb tank
- Exceptional Sound Quality
- I can’t stress enough how amazing the Volante sounds. It really blows me away. From distorted trails to clean, full-sounding delays, this pedal was built to create professional, studio-quality audio.
- Three Fantastic Types of Delay
- The Volante boasts THREE great delay units in one! Achieve different types of vintage delays without having to invest thousands of dollars on old technologies.
- Independent Stereo Panning for Each Head.
- Nothing is cooler than a stereo delay pedal. It really gives great depth to the sounds you’re able to create and imagine. ***By default, all heads are panned center, with the Volante still creating a psychoacoustic stereo image.
Cons of product
- Learning curve
- If you don’t have a lot of experience with delay pedals or midi, the user may find this pedal a little frustrating. There are a ton of different controls and delays options. It takes time to get used to the four playbacks and their idiosyncrasies. It can be overwhelming especially as you start adding in the midi.
- Like many other Strymon pedals, the Volante is huge. If pedalboard real estate isn’t an issue for you, then ignore this con. I’m a New York City musician who carries my gear everywhere, so pedalboard real estate is extremely important to me. If you want to expand the Volante with a midi controller, the footprint becomes even larger.
- It’s an investment
- Let’s be honest, this pedal costs a “pretty penny” sitting at $399 and to expand it (expression pedal and/or Strymon’s multiswitch) would add an additional $100-200. If you’re a working musician like myself, it’s sometimes hard to spend that much money on one pedal. Considering all the functionality, I understand where the price comes from. It’s certainly way more affordable than buying a vintage Echorec or Space Echo. 🙂
- Back to the learning curve point, the Volante is also a time investment. It’s not a plug-and-play-with-three-knobs piece of gear. This pedal has so much going on. You have to practice patience and take the time to read the user manual to get the most out of it. I promise it will pay off and lead you to wild delay and echo heaven.
- This pedal is well-designed and thought-out. Strymon definitely didn’t hold back on creating a sweet delay pedal. A tool like this can help expand your creativity and imagination.
- The mechanics, wear, and reverb knobs really makes this pedal stand out for me. The Volante is a delay, boutique modulation, and reverb pedal all in one unit. In addition to the looper and midi expansive functions this thing really can take the place of multiple pedals on your pedalboard. I think this pedal is killer and earns its keep on your board. So head on down to delaytown; population fun. 🙂
- Head over to the Strymon’s website to hear demos of the Volante: strymon.net/volante