Electro-Harmonix don’t make average guitar pedals – every pedal in their entire range offers something completely unique and interesting, whether it be tone, a specific control or an effect that warps your guitar sound into something completely different (see their Ravish Sitar pedal for an example of this last one!) This is probably why you’ll find pro guitarists all over the world using Electro-Harmonix pedals!
Click here to check out their entire range because if you’re not familiar with them, they are well worth a browse through!
Anyway, today I’m going to be playing with and reviewing their Superego Synth pedal, which, despite operating on a very simple principle, is often a little misunderstood…
ELECTRO-HARMONIX SUPEREGO – WHAT IS IT?
At its heart, the Superego is a sustain pedal that can either infinitely lengthen a guitar note (or sound from another instrument if you’re using it in that way), or keep it playing for a fixed amount of time. It achieves this by using a form of synthesis called ‘granular synthesis’, which, in its most basic form, involves capturing a small segment of sound and then repeating it over and over again.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Electro-Harmonix Superego Synth Pedal"]](https://www.absolutemusic.co.uk/store/guitar-department-45/effect-pedals-454/guitar-stomp-boxes-4542/electro-harmonix-superego-synth-engine-effects-pedal-48854)[/caption]
Now, this on its own is actually a very cool feature – a guitar note sustained for an unnatural length of time is a very interesting phenomenon, mainly because as guitarists, we are used to hearing chords/notes decay in a very specific way. In fact, sustaining notes in this way introduces an organ quality to your guitar strums, which can be an amazing creative tool, especially if you then jam over the top with a normal guitar sound. Essentially, the Superego allows you to play the parts of two musicians at the same time – an organ player laying down chord sequences and a lead guitarist, or something along those lines.
However, if you’re familiar with the Electro Harmonix range, you’ll probably be thinking that this is exactly what the Freeze pedal does, so what’s the point of the Superego and why is it almost twice the price? Well, there’s a very good answer to that – the Superego does a lot more!
As well as offering much more detailed control over your sustained note(s) (e.g. you can set the attack and decay times of ‘frozen’ sounds and control how one note glides into another), the Superego really comes to life when you use it in combination with other effect pedals. Why? Because it allows you to patch other pedals into its own effect loop, so that you can sustain one type of sound and then jam over it with a different type of sound.
So, for example, you may want to sustain a note that has reverb, flanger and overdrive applied to it, and then jam over the top with a clean guitar sound, or with a guitar sound with some other effect(s) applied to it, e.g. delay. This is not a problem with the Superego (although be aware that in this second scenario, the delay effect will also be applied to the effect loop)! This allows you to create unique sustained synth-like sounds for chord progressions and then play lead licks with a completely different sound over the top! For an example, check Lee out in the video below.
ELECTRO-HARMONIX SUPEREGO – MODES
The Superego has three different modes, which lend themselves to different playing styles and help add to the flexibility of the pedal as a whole. Modes are selected using the small switch in the centre of the pedal.
With the switch in its central position, ‘Momentary’ mode is selected. In this mode, you can activate the sustain/synth effect of the Superego pedal by pressing the main stomp switch, which will sustain whatever sound is playing at that time. The effect will continue to play for as long as the switch is pressed down – to stop the sustained note, simply depress the switch and continue playing as normal.
In this mode you can then use the ‘Speed/Layer’ knob of the Superego to control how quickly the sustained notes fades in and out. It’s definitely worth playing around with this control as different settings will suit different musical styles. Momentary mode is great if you need precise custom control over how long each sustained note lasts because the sustain times are completely manual.
When the Mode switch is flicked to the left, the Superego pedal functions in Latch mode. In this mode, you simply need to press the footswitch once to sustain the note/chord that you are currently playing. You can then immediately release the main stomp switch and the sustained note will continue to sound. To stop the sustained note, simply tap the switch twice in quick succession.
As well as giving you less to think about (because the effect will carry on sustaining automatically without your foot pressed down), Latch mode is also great because it allows you to layer successive sustained sounds. This means that you can do things like gradually build up chords, note by note!
In Latch mode, each time you press down on the footswitch, a new sound is added to the current sustained sound and the ‘Speed/Layer’ knob allows you to control how much quieter a previous sound gets when a new sound is added to the effect. For example, to build up powerful chords, you will want the ‘Speed/Layer’ dial turned fully clockwise, because this will mean that previously sustained notes stay at their maximum level even when a new note is added. Conversely, if you don't want any layering to happen at all and you want every successive frozen note to replace the last, you'll want the 'Speed/Layer' dial set to its extreme anti-clockwise position.
Latch mode is brilliant for gradually building up huge soundscapes and because you can control when a new note is added to the effect, it leaves you free to go off on crazy solos in between if you so wish!
Finally, with the Mode switch pushed to the right, the Superego goes into ‘Auto’ mode. As the name suggests, in this mode, the Superego functions in a more automatic way, meaning that you don’t even have to tell it (with the push of a switch) when you want a new sustain to engage! In Auto mode, the Superego pedal cleverly detects when a new note or chord is played and automatically sustains it for a length of time as determined by the ‘Speed/Layer’ parameter. Welcome to the future!
This is brilliant if you want a sustain to occur on every new note that you play and the fact that you can control the length of time that each note sustains for actually makes it very versatile. Crank up the sustain time for slow builds, or try setting a very short sustain time for faster playing for a subtle yet unique effect!
If you press and hold the stomp switch while Auto mode is active, the Superego pedal sustains the notes that it are currently playing indefinitely and allows you to solo over the top, without adding anything to the sustained effect! This makes Auto mode the most versatile of the three, although it does not allow you to pick and choose exactly when a sustain will start, because every sustain starts from the beginning of a note/chord – with Momentary and Latch modes, you can, for example, sustain a note during its decay phase for a different effect.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Electro-Harmonix Superego Synth Pedal - Front"]](https://www.absolutemusic.co.uk/store/guitar-department-45/effect-pedals-454/guitar-stomp-boxes-4542/electro-harmonix-superego-synth-engine-effects-pedal-48854)[/caption]
ELECTRO-HARMONIX SUPEREGO – OTHER CONTROLS
Although the ‘Speed/Layer’ parameter will probably get the most tweaking, the three other dials of the Superego are just as important for finding that perfect sound. The ‘Gliss’ control is a very cool one – it allows you to morph one sustained note into the next and control how long this transition takes. This is great to experiment with – try playing different notes at various pitches apart and listen to the effect! Try setting some long morph times for some more unusual effects!
Finally, the Superego gives you ‘Dry’ and ‘Effect’ knobs, which are used to control the levels of the clean guitar signal and the effect loop signal respectively. Not too interesting I know, but these controls are still very important!
ELECTRO-HARMONIX SUPEREGO – SUMMARY
The Superego pedal is something that would perfectly compliment an existing pedal set-up, whether you’ve got a whole wardrobe full of them, or you're just starting a collection, as it adds a completely different dimension to existing effects and introduces you to a different way of working.
Although the Superego is very well suited to psychedelic genres because of the way that it can build up unusual, moving soundscapes, it could also be used to complement any genre of music because it essentially offers an extension of your existing sound! If you’re using it for psychedelic music, then use it alongside your existing reverb, delay, flanger (and sitar perhaps?) pedals. If you’re into your harder stuff and have a collection of dirty distortion pedals, use it to sustain a raw overdriven sound and then start shredding over the top!
The Electro-Harmonix Superego is a fantastic tool for any guitarist - it’s super easy to set up, it allows you to create background sounds and solos simultaneously, and it can be customised to work for so many different styles of music. The only real limit is your creativity.
For more information on the Electro-Harmonix Superego pedal, click the lin below or give us a call on 01202 597180.