A Gameboy cartridge‑based Eurorack effects module? I didn’t see that coming. I mean, who would decide that using an obsolete form of programming delivery to build a multiple effects unit in which you have to physically replace the guts of the module to change effects was a good idea? Well, Befaco do, and so we have the chunky FX Boy with all the finesse of a handheld gaming machine.
On first impressions, I couldn’t quite decide if it was ridiculous or extremely cool in a vibey, retro, 8‑bit ’90s kind of way. But once I started working with it, I think what sold me on it was that the act of changing effects is so satisfying. Oh sure, you can have an encoder to select your effect on a multi‑effects unit, but with the FX Boy you can yank out the current effect and slap in a new one and feel wild and free while you’re doing it. This is helped a bit by most of the effect cartridges being massive overdriven crushing effects, so when you hot‑swap in that cartridge, it feels like your modular explodes!
A number of different manufacturers have developed cartridges, and currently, they are all included with the module. We have a harsh fuzz from Touell Skouarn, a micro‑phaser from Instruo, a flanger from Feedback Modules, a delay and granuliser called FX Girl from XOR, an analogue wavefolder from Making Sound Machines, a bit‑crusher from Tesseract and a trash distortion from Befaco. The distortion‑based effects are the most dramatic, and sometimes the levels of the more subtle effects feel uneven in comparison. However, they are all exciting and feel very controllable embedded in the FX Boy. Making Sound Machines wins the prize for the most visually pleasing cartridge because they built in some very jazzy level LEDs.
The FX Boy module features more than just the slot for the cartridge. You’ve got two large X and Y controls that run two parameters within the effect. There’s also a dry/wet mix knob, and all three of these can be modulated. A small A/B switch flips the effect between two different versions. On some of the cartridges, these are two entirely different effects. The bottom half of FX Boy features an unexpected and CV‑controllable four‑band EQ. You can switch it to before or after the effect, but you can’t use it on its own. The audio routing is such that if no cartridge is present, there’s no wet signal. While you can apply the EQ before the effect, the audio isn’t reaching the output unless a cartridge is in the slot.
The last cool factor is that the cartridge design is open source and invites the possibility of making your own.
The last cool factor is that the cartridge design is open source and invites the possibility of making your own. You get an unpopulated PCB prototyping cartridge with the module and documentation on what the connections are. The FX Boy has two VCAs and two op‑amps that can be routed to/from the cartridge to help minimise the complexity of your design. I made my FX Boy from a kit, which was a good, solid build, but I have no idea where to start with designing my own effect. It’s definitely something I intend to look into, though.
I’d like to see the range of effects expand into a few more flavours, but what we have is pretty epic. I’m still enjoying the hot‑swapping of effects; it feels very deliberate and interactive. My only concern is the possibility of misplacing them. Otherwise, the FX Boy is fiercely good and can only get more interesting as new cartridges appear, or you make your own.