Electro-Harmonix Guitar Effects

by Alasdair Smith
Original Electro-Harmonix effects pedals are becoming collectors items.

Original Electro-Harmonix effects pedals are becoming collectors items.

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The Electro-Harmonix Company was founded in 1968 by Mike Matthews, a graduate of Cornell University, where he earned an MBA. He started the company with just $6,000, building it up to a $5 million-a-year company by the time it folded in 1985. Matthews has since reestablished the company to reissue some the classic effects and to continue its innovation in the creation of new pedals. It was rewarded for its efforts in the July, 2011, edition of "Guitar World," which selected five of its pedals for its top 50 effects units of all time.

Electro-Harmonix Micro Sythesizer

Number 47 in "Guitar World"'s top 50 is this early guitar synthesizer. Although not in the same league as modern digital counterparts, it was an early analog innovation in sound-processing for electric guitars. Despite its limitations it could reproduce the voice box tones of Peter Frampton and the sweeping sound of a bowed violin.

Electro-Harmonix Frequency Analyzer

At number 38, the frequency analyzer produces a most extraordinary range of noises. Used by Devo on their cover of The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," it creates a hard-edged robotic, atonal sound. With care it can be an effective addition to your effects arsenal.

Electro-Harmonix Small Stone

At number 12 the Small Stone was first introduced in 1974 and led the way to what can only be described as the introduction of swooshing noises into a guitarist's repertoire. More recently, Radiohead made use of its unusual phase-shifting capabilities on "Paranoid Android."

Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man

Guitarists are faced with a bewildering array of sophisticated digital delay units these days, but back in the 1970s this was the number 1 choice for guitarists, including a young Irish boy who came to be known as The Edge. In U2's early days this was the sum total of The Edge's effects rack. What it lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in a tone that many musicians believe is richer and more natural. So much so that it still finds favor with The Arctic Monkeys.

Electro-Harmonix Big Muff PI

At number 5 The Big Muff PI was the fuzz box that broke the mold by giving players such as Hendrix and Santana a beefy new distorted sound that sustained notes and boosted bass but still allowed tonal clarity to be preserved in chords. Even in the 21st century it remains a respected classic that is still very much in demand and in live action with rock bands around the world.

Other Effects Pedals

The revitalised Electro-Harmonix Company produces a vast range of other guitar effects pedals that manipulate sound in an extraordinary number of ways. Many modern manufacturers have taken the digital processor route, which permits for more integrated units, but many musicians still prefer the analog effects of the Electro-Harmonix pedals.

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