Thrill to dynamic flanging as Dave Hastilow peruses the Micmix Dynaflanger
When my parents were shaken into realising that I could count up to ten (that was the highest setting on the volume control of my record player) they presented me with a tape recorder and a pair of headphones with the words: 'Here go and blow your head off in private'.
Little did they realise but the wonderful plastic and Meccano machine they bought me had a superimpose button on it and before long they were hearing the same piece of music three or four times all recorded on top of each other but slightly out of sync to give me that amazing effect which they called 'an even bloodier row' and the Beatles called 'phasing'.
Now, many years later Scenic Sounds have presented me with the Dynaflanger which for the purposes of total destruction I have connected to various multi-track recorders and synthesisers etc (all within the limitations of the instruction manual I can assure you) and I present the following.
After achieving a few basic and amplitude-controlled flange and phase effects I took an acoustic guitar and played around with that. The reason I did this is that the acoustic guitar sound is rich in high and low level harmonics as well as having percussive plectrum strokes at the beginning of every chord. The Control Voltage (CV) in the Dynaflanger can also be altered via the envelope follower by the frequency content of the program material utilising the low and high pass filter switches.
This capability is something I've not met before in other flanging units and with the phase polarity control swung fully clockwise in the neg position an unusual second set of string-type effects was created because the output was a series of harmonically related peaks — just like the second set of strings on a 12-string guitar, in fact. If the phase polarity control was swung to the pos position the peaks became notches and this gave a wah wah effect which sounded even better when only the ENV switch was pushed in, because the effect was then being controlled by the strumming of the guitar. The way this works is that every time the input gain goes up, when the plectrum hits the string, the CV becomes higher and shortens the delay time. As the chord decays the CV goes lower and the delay time becomes longer. Thus the phasing sweeps from the high frequencies to the low end in the same way that a wah wah pedal notch filter is swept by the guitarist's foot pedal. However, in this instance the control was provided by the program content itself. If the NORMAL/INVERT switch was flicked, the response of the CV was inverted and this gave a peculiar 'backward guitar' type phasing. In the normal position pitch bending and doubling occurred as the CV Tracking knob was turned to and fro but here again the effect was being dynamically controlled by the program content itself as opposed to straightforward ADT which works on a preset delay time.
As soon as I discovered that the CV could be frequency-triggered I fed in a bass drum track along with the drum overheads or cymbals track and by pushing in the Low-pass filter switch got some interesting bass drum triggered phasing effects in the cymbals.
Next I connected the Dynaflanger to the CV out jack of ARP 2600 and Odyssey synthesisers and found that interesting pitch-varying phase effects in the guitar track could be obtained just by flicking the 2-octave transpose switch on the ARP. Portamento provided the familiar 'sweeping' type phase effect and 'playing the phase' with the keyboard was possible. My mind immediately said 'drag in the other 14 synthesisers and the sequencer and the guitar synthesisers'. The transpose switch effect was rather like when you sing G into a Vocoder and control the pitch of 'Sausages cooking FX Roll No 93'. A sort of bandpass effect. Yeah, and my mind said drag in the Vocoders two, too.
Unfortunately I didn't find time to slave up two Dynaflanger units together but I did use them as a stereo pair inasmuch as I fed in two separate but similar electric rhythm guitar tracks one to a channel and panned them left and right but changed the settings slightly on each Dynaflanger unit. Consequently, because the guitars were similar they would appear in the middle on occasions, but because of the sum and difference effect of the delayed frequencies which were being dynamically controlled by the program content, the guitars appeared to be moving around in the stereo field like Chuck Berry on a bicycle. Velly inerlest-ing. I have achieved a similar effect before, using the Micmix Master Room Stereo Reverberation Units which incorporate a different delay time at the input of each spring.
The CV from the Dynaflanger can also be taken out and patched into a synthesiser using the CV IN socket. This was particularly effective when applied to the Voltage Controlled Filter where the Dynaflanger CV from the acoustic guitar swept through the harmonic provided by two square wave oscillators. I even fed a signal from a £12 cassette recorder through the Dynaflanger and obtained some interesting and weird synthesiser effects using the program on the cassette and speaking through the electret microphone. The mind does surely boggle!
The only thing which did annoy me was that when the operating level indicators glowed red, crackles appeared at the output and I found it best to keep it working well into the amber (0 level). However, because the Envelope Follower in the unit can be made to respond to low-level as well as high-level program content it hardly seems to matter which coloured eyes the goddess glowed with.
To summarise, the Dynaflanger looks like a fairly simple device with a low brain damage factor but like any other instrument, once you get into it, who knows the possibilities? Simpler phasing and flanging effects are readily available to anyone who didn't know what the hell I was talking about and I have described effects which I (and various musicians who hovered around) considered to be the more interesting. In fact, the Dynaflanger only needs one more thing, a sign on it saying 'You hum it, and I'll play it'.
Dave Hastilow is a recording engineer at Eel Pie Recording, Twickenham.
Review by Dave Hastilow
Previous article in this issue:
Next article in this issue:
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!