Just when you thought it had all been done with distortion and overdrive pedals, Old Blood Noise Endeavours have put a new spin on the concept by combining three different overdrives in the same Beam Splitter pedal — and they can be running in parallel or split out to three separate outputs. Additionally, two of the ‘voices’ have variable delay times of up to 250ms, with the addition of a feedback control for creating multiple repeats. At short delay times these delays can also create some useful comb‑filter effects, with the Decay knob controlling the resonance.
Although the pedal’s front panel looks quite busy, it’s not that hard to get your bearings, as the three main sections are identified by different coloured knobs. A further white/cream knob, Deviate, adds a random modulation to the two delays. On the rear panel is a PSU input (9V, centre‑negative), an input jack and three output jacks. Main is for the mixed output, though if you also plug into the other two all three jacks will carry the separate distortion stage signals. An Exp jack on the left of the case can be used to control the degree of deviation from a connected expression pedal.
The purple‑capped controls adjust a hard‑clipping overdrive, the strongest of the three stages. This has controls for Gain as well as Volume and Tone (treble roll‑off), and the EQ changes according to the amount of drive you’ve dialled in. A softer distortion is available using the green section’s controls, this stage employing both hard‑ and soft‑clipping. This runs from almost clean to a moderate drive with some lows rolled off to stop the sound getting muddy. The delay section has Time and Decay (Feedback) controls in addition to Gain, Volume and Tone. To the left is the blue section, which controls a transistor overdrive that has a toggle switch for the two gain settings. The Volume and Tone controls do as expected and again there’s a delay stage with Time and Decay controls. This stage is described as being the most natural‑sounding and reactive of the three.
Checking out the purple section first, this goes from moderately dirty to almost fuzzbox ferocity, with the Tone control offering plenty of range, from soft and soupy to seriously biting. The green section is not quite so aggressive but still retains a raunchy, gritty edge that sounds more ZZ Top than Gary Moore. As promised the blue stage is the most touch responsive, though the use of a Gain switch, rather than a rotary control, is a little frustrating as I would have liked to hear it at even lower gain settings.
By adjusting the delays and balancing the three sections, you can create the illusion of multi‑tracking.
The big idea here is that, by adjusting the delays and balancing the three sections, you can create the illusion of multitracking. Combining the three sections while introducing some delay in this way does indeed create a very big sound, and it’s one that in my view would suit heavy rock rather better than it would classic rock. The Deviation controls adds a kind of random LFO modulation to the delays, which enhances the illusion of multitracking, and there’s also a lot to be explored by offsetting the three sounds by very small amounts as that introduces tonal changes caused by comb‑filtering when the sounds are combined in mono. This trick works just as well with synth lead sounds as it does with guitar. In fact, more generally, while distortion is often thought of primarily as a guitar effect and the Beam Splitter does of course work very well in that context, it can be put to good use with synths or drum machines.
There’s a lot to explore here, whatever the sound source, and Beam Splitter can be very effective. But this is a pedal unlike most others, and would suit those with an experimental outlook better than those players who are searching for the ultimate natural‑sounding guitar overdrive.