008 | Electro-Harmonix Micro Q-Tron: A Closer Look at this Envelope Filter | Transcript

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Scott Schwertly:
Welcome to episode eight of the Sonic Renegades podcast, where we're exploring Renegade pedals that have changed the music landscape. We're excited about this one. We're going to be talking about Electro-Harmonix Q-Tron. So if you love everything from the Grateful Dead's Shakedown Street to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' remake of A Higher Ground, you're going to love this pedal and what it's all about. We'll see you on the other side.
Hey everybody, Scott Schwertly here with Siren Pedals.

Austin Bryan:
Hey guys, Austin Bryan here with Siren Pedals.

Scott Schwertly:
And today we've got an exciting pedal. This is a pedal that it doesn't live on my pedal board, but it's kind of made its way in and out on a few occasions. And we're going to be talking about Electro-Harmonix Q-Tron. Specifically for our demo and sample today, though, we're going to be actually utilizing the Micro version of the Q-Tron, so the Q-Tron Micro.

There's been several iterations over the years. We'll talk about a few of those today, but yeah. Excited to dive into this pedal.

Austin Bryan:
Things are about to get funky. Things are about to get really funky today.

Scott Schwertly:
Oh, that's for sure. So speaking of funky, I think a lot of the roots of the Q-Tron really go back to the Mu-Tron, which is something that was utilized by Stevie Wonder when he put together his hit Superstition and that inspired kind of this whole idea of trying to capture that sound or that tone, which eventually has become Electro-Harmonix Q-Tron.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah. That's a really interesting sound. I mean, from the kind of the natural wah-wah kind of tone that you get out of that. Man, it's a fat sound, the way it analyzes your dynamics and your playing is remarkable.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean, it's super quacky. It's fantastic for funk or even anything outside of that. I mean, if you love songs like... We mentioned this before in our last episode, but if you love songs like Wildfire, or Rosie by John Mayer, it just captures it so well. It's so much fun to play.

Austin Bryan:
For sure. And when you hear that solo come in and you hear it, you know it's that pedal right off the bat.

Scott Schwertly:
It's very distinguishable.

Austin Bryan:
It is.

Scott Schwertly:
For sure.

Austin Bryan:
And it's a lot different than a wah. You know, a wa you have that frequency sweep with your foot and you have that control, but the pedal kind of does it for you to that extent. Being an envelope follower or filter is really, really cool, how it has that... Either it'll get to that point and then it'll back off or it has its own unique way of responding to your guitar playing, which is really cool.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Agreed, for sure. So talking a little bit about its history. Again, this was something that was inspired by the Mu-Tron, which is what Stevie Wonder used. This pedal actually goes all the way back to around '95, '96, where a guy by the name of Mike [Beigle 00:03:01], and I hope we're pronouncing that right, approached Mike Matthews at Electro-Harmonix-

Austin Bryan:
Oh, well, yeah, Mike Matthews approached-

Scott Schwertly:
Oh, yeah. Sorry, it's my bad.

Austin Bryan:
... Approached him at the NAMM show for '94 and they talked about effect pedals and basically brought up the idea of recreating the Mu-Tron III for Electro-Harmonix. And the new box ended up being the Q-Tron, which actually uses the same electronic design of the Mu-Tron III, but had some newer features, improved specs, and has had a lot of variations since that. And having one of those in front of us now, the Micro.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. And this one's kind of become popular over the last couple of years. I know the Q-Tron Plus I think which may have hit around 2009, maybe a little bit earlier, somewhere in that range. I know it's been kind of a staple and in this Micro version that we have is just a slimmed down version of that one. And it's equally as good, I think.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah. I mean the control aspect is a little bit broken down, a little bit more simplified than the Plus.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Definitely limited in that regard.

Austin Bryan:
But you have what you need. I mean, you can plug this thing up and get those sweet tones out of that.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah.

Austin Bryan:
Getting those fancy little was and funky fat sounds. So.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Well, speaking of funky fat sounds, we'll share with you guys just a few people that use this pedal on a fairly consistent basis. A few of them we've mentioned already, but obviously John Mayer, he's been known to have this one on his board again for songs like Wildfire, specifically the solo at the end of that song, you can hear it. His song Rosie. You can also hear it shine on that song as well. Grateful Dead used it quite a bit. I know Jerry Garcia was a big fan. If you look up any forum or any review on this pedal, you'll notice that a lot of people fall in love with it instantly because they want to create that sound that you can hear in Shakedown Street. It seems to be kind of a common theme amongst people that are reviewing or sharing their insights on this pedal. Red Hot Chili Peppers, obviously.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah. Flea had a one in his rig and I think he might still have one in his rig. And he had, I think one of the first ones, like one of the earlier ones that came out in the nineties in around '95 or '96. So he's utilized one and Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys had one in his rig, too.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. So definitely a popular pedal for sure. So kind of following our typical format here, we're going to just go ahead and talk about just a few things that aren't the best features on it. But again, it's really hard to complain about a pedal like this since it is so popular. But if we had to sort of pinpoint a few flaws, I know with this, I think it's actually the Q-Tron Plus, not the Micro. It does require a 24 volt adaptor, which can be a little bit of a pain if, you know...

Austin Bryan:
Yeah. It's a specialized... You have to get something specialized for that power supply.

Scott Schwertly:
So it's not as user-friendly as some other pedals. Not the end of the world, obviously. So you don't want to be overly nitpicky here. And on the Q-Tron Plus it does have several knobs. In fact, it has six knobs in total. Three of those knobs, actually, you can only use in two positions. So some people have complained that it would be nice if they can kind of make it a little bit more concise, which is kind of what you get with the Micro, which is again, the pedal we have in front of us today.

So it does kind of take up a lot of real estate where things probably could have been simplified, which they have done, obviously since there is a Micro. But particularly if you are eyeing that bigger version being the Plus, that is something to anticipate that three knobs kind of are not necessarily useless, but they're just overly simplified and taking up a lot of real estate.

If you're curious about pricing, this pedal is actually pretty affordable. So on the Plus end, you're looking at about, I think on Sweetwater, it runs for about $167, $170. If you're looking to get the Micro version seen online roughly anywhere from $85 to $100, either kind of in that kind of brand new to excellent mint condition.

Austin Bryan:
Nice.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. So it's very affordable.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah. That's good if you're wanting to get some of those wah-wah-wahs.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah. That's awesome.

Scott Schwertly:
Well, speaking of that, let's talk about some of the pluses. I mean, obviously that quacky sound is what this pedal is all about.

Austin Bryan:
Well, and based off of an original, basically, an artifact of tones for that, the Mu-Tron III, it being based off of that, it's just... I think historically that's a really cool thing. And knowing the partnership that came between Mike Matthews and Mike Beigle, this wouldn't be here in front of us. We wouldn't be talking about this pedal if those guys hadn't gotten together to talk about that and nerd out about that.

And then knowing that the original was used on Stevie Wonders, the Mu-Tron III was used on Stevie Wonders and knowing that the Q-Tron was used on the Red Hot Chili Peppers cover is really cool in how that kind of comes full circle.
So too cool, man. It sounds great. I think if you're someone who might be a little bit cautious about using a wah pedal, this is a really cool thing that'll kind of, I won't say just does the job for you, but you can get a lot of that sweet quack and a lot of those emphasis, the emphasis on the frequencies that you would like without having that fear of having to maybe sweep too far, or maybe getting your foot on the wah is not maybe your cup of tea. So yeah. The Q-Tron, it's a cool pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. If you love funk, if you love quack, you're going to love this. So let's go ahead and plug this one again. Again we've got the Micro Q-Tron here. We're going to connect our Tele that's here in the office. Pretty much stock pickups, nothing fancy. But we'll plug it into this pedal and let you guys listen to it.

Austin Bryan:
That was the Micro Q-Tron by and from Electro-Harmonix. Wop, wop, wop, wop, wop.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah.

Austin Bryan:
Scott, it sounded great.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I'm feeling funky already.

Austin Bryan:
Sweet.

Scott Schwertly:
There you have it folks. That is the Micro Q-Tron. Hope you loved it. All right. Well, next time we are going to be talking about the Boss DD-3. If you love delay, you're going to love this pedal.

Austin Bryan:
Oh yeah. This is a staple delay on so many boards from so many players and it's trustworthy and it's built like a tank.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I waited a long time and actually got one about a week ago and I'm kind of kicking myself for not getting one-

Austin Bryan:
I'm proud of you.

Scott Schwertly:
... a long time ago.

Austin Bryan:
I'm so proud of you. You made that jump and got a kick butt delay. I'm proud of you.

Scott Schwertly:
Yes. I love it. So can't wait to talk about it next time.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah. I'm excited. This will be cool.

Scott Schwertly:
Awesome. Well, we'll see you guys next time.

Austin Bryan:
See you later.

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