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Mutronics Colorsound

Rackmount Analogue Effects
By Paul White

Mutronics bring a blast from the past to a rack near you.

Colorsound were one of the first big names in effects pedals back in the mid-'60s, and even in today's world, dominated by digital multi-effects boxes, surviving examples are still being used both live and in the studio. The Colorsound name is now owned my Mutronics, who decided the time was right to recreate some of the more popular Colorsound circuits and to present them in a mains-powered rack with balanced I/O rather than in the familiar pedal format.

MUTRONICS COLORSOUND rack mount effects unit.Photo: Mark EwingThe 2U Colorsound rack comprises four processing stages, each with balanced I/O on TRS jacks and with the ability to connect any or all of them in series using the four green Chain buttons. The input to the chain is also accessible via a high-impedance jack, for guitar use, and each of the four stages has its own bypass button in addition to a global Chain Bypass button. First in the chain is a ring modulator with a variable-frequency oscillator providing the second sound source. The only user adjustments are oscillator frequency and mix, provided by a single knob and a mode switch button. Good for Dalek impressions and atonal guitar parts!

Second in line is the classic Tone Bender, the fuzz box that launched a thousand hits, and for me this is the star of the show. You can adjust the amount of sustain (drive), tone and volume, making it possible to create gentle break up or all-out rasping fuzz. Following on is the Octivider, which locks onto the fundamental frequency of a monophonic signal and generates a note one octave below. The controls are Sensitivity and Bass Volume, with a mode button also enabling the mix to be adjusted. With my Strat, I found I needed to have the sensitivity full up and to play quite hard to get the effect to trigger, and even then the effect was a bit sporadic. I recall feeling that octave pedals weren't up to much back in the '60s, and this just confirms my memories. Last of all comes Tremolo, which is a bog-standard, variable-speed, variable-depth amplitude modulation device. It works perfectly well, but offers nothing out of the ordinary.

Impressions

MUTRONICS COLORSOUND rear panel.Photo: Mark EwingThe four effects included in this unit sound very close to the way I remember them, so the designers have achieved their objective, though I can't see many applications for guitar effects with balanced line-level I/O, as they really need to be placed before an amp or amp simulator to sound any good, especially the Tone Bender, which sounds very gritty if you simply DI it. Perhaps some keyboard players might use it to modify their synth sounds, but I think guitar players would simply feed it into an amp, at which point the lack of footswitches, or footswitch jacks might become an issue. Ultimately, if rackmounted nostalgia is your thing, then the Colorsound does exactly what it sets out to do, but for me the end result does too little and costs way too much.

Pros

  • Faithful to the original sound.
  • Very easy to use.
  • Mains powered.

Cons

  • Most of the effects have far better modern counterparts, though the Tone Bender does deserve its place in history.

Summary

An impressive attempt to revive old technology, but I'm not quite sure who the intended buyer is.

information

£734.38 including VAT.

Mutronics +44 (0)20 8735 0042.

www.mutronics.co.uk

Published July 2002