044 | GFI System Synesthesia: A Closer Look at this Dual Channel Modulation Pedal | Transcript

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Scott Schwertly:
Hello, and welcome to episode 44 of the Sonic Renegades podcast. We're exploring renegade pedals that have changed the music landscape. Up for today's discussion, we're going to be talking about the GFI System Synesthesia, and this is a dual channel modulation that is growing in popularity and we can't wait to unpack it on the other side.

Hey everybody, Scott Schwertly and Eric Wilson of Siren Pedals with you today, hope you're having a great one. Today we're excited to be talking about a really kind of up and coming pedal. This is the GFI System Synesthesia, which is essentially a dual channel modulation. I know that sounds like a mouthful, but essentially this is just a digital version of really kind of tapping into your modulation effects, and this is an exciting pedal. Really excited about what's going on at GFI System, they seem to be rolling out a lot of great things, getting a lot of great traction in the guitar pedal community. And yeah, excited to be bringing this one to you guys today.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, GFI has been a company that's really been a leader in innovation for different things. They brought us the Cabzeus, which was kind of one of the first bigger direct cab solutions. They brought us the Specular Tempus, which was a completely new way to look at digital reverb and digital delay and stuff, in such a small form factor. So they've been a great company in the synesthesias, just in addition to what they've already been improving and doing on the fronts of delay, reverb and then direct-in solutions.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, they've definitely made a lot of huge steps forward for the industry. In fact, they're able to take a lot of the technology that we would love in a Strymon or something else, and really just condense it, which is awesome. So love that things are continuing to get smaller on that end, which is great. And then for those of you that are not familiar with GFI System, and maybe this is the first time you're actually hearing about them, they've actually been around since 2010 and the company was actually created by Henry Widjaja, I believe that's how you pronounce his last name, but we'll just call him "Henry W" for now. I think he even refers to himself as "Henry W".

But actually the company was created in 2010 and then he later brought on his friend Yonas and his brother Jesse, and so really kind of at the core there, there's the three of them. And so again, they started in 2010 and then really started to get into digital effects in 2013, and the rest is history. So the pedal that we're talking about today, specifically, was actually launched not too long ago actually, less than a year. So December 2019 is when this thing was actually released, and I think they even had prototypes of it back in January at Nam, the early part of that year. So really just an exciting pedal that's really starting to get some great traction and waves out there.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, it's really just GFI's take at taking a stab at something like the Mobius, or the Eventide ModFactor, or the Boss MD-500. And so they've kind of taken a lot of elements of all of these and kind of put them in a smaller casing, added a bunch of their own features to it, and just really picked up and improved on the design that others in the industry have already done.

Scott Schwertly:
Well, I know Henry has got that engineering background. And I think originally, if you learn about Henry's story, it's something he always wanted to do but kind of put that on the side to start a family, but still had the calling to get back into it and decided to follow that dream. But you can definitely see his engineering skills really shining in just how they lay things out.

Scott Schwertly:
And it's going to be fun as we kind of talk about the different specs and knobs and all that stuff, because there's a lot of interesting things that they bring to the table with their products and we might as well just kind of jump into that. I know kind of just the thing that kind of jumps out to me, is I know with their knobs, they usually have four different functions, which is kind of interesting. There's not a lot of pedal companies that are actually doing that.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. It's pretty crazy in that's the big thing with this pedal, is it can do so much. They have a desktop editor for it which actually looks like it's straight out of Windows 95, which is hilarious to me. But the desktop editor's really helpful in you almost need it if you want to really get the full effect of this pedal, because otherwise...

Eric Wilson:
Like the knobs, you have a normal turn function that'll control one parameter, you have something it'll do if you push the knob in, you have something it'll do if you push and hold the knob, and then you have an additional parameter you can control if you push down and then turn it. With that, there's a lot going on. And so with eight knobs on a pedal, eight times four... Math is hard. That's 32, right?

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah.

Scott Schwertly:
That's right.

Eric Wilson:
So you have 32 different things that you can do with eight knobs and a very small screen, or you can just get a USB cable and hook it up to your computer and work with it that way. So it's one of those where it's really cool that they've been able to do that and fit all of that capability into such a small package, because it's smaller than the Mobius, smaller than the Eventide stuff. It's about the size of an H9, I'd say.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, or even like a Meris product.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, so similar size to those. Just the way they've kind of packaged it all together is really impressive.

Scott Schwertly:
For sure. And even as confusing as that sounds, a lot of people actually say that this pedal is actually easier to use than some of the Boss ones are out there. So obviously a counterpart of this pedal, since it's in the modulation space, would be the Boss MD-500. In fact, we'll actually cover that one in our next episode, so be on the lookout for that. But a lot of people say it's actually easier to use, despite some of the diversity that you get with the knobs for the fact that there aren't as many layers, particularly as you're getting into the backend settings and everything else.

So a little bit more straight forward, which is great. And another thing too that it does as far as rivaling, let's say, a Boss product like the MD-500, is the dual engine. The fact that you can kind of run two things at the same time, which is a great thing. I mean, even Strymon products don't even do that. So that's a really great feature.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, and one of my favorite things about it is the different routing options you have. So it has an effects loop, it's "mono in, stereo out" or "mono in, then effects loop, then mono out" kind of thing. So you can control what you want to do with everything. So you can mess with, "Do you want to put a delay in the effects loop? Do you want it before both your modulations? Do you want it before one of the modulations?"

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, really the sky's the limit with just routing options with this thing. And so it's super helpful if you like to experiment with different setups, but you don't want to tear apart your board then you can put something in the effects loop and just kind of leave it there and work with it in the way that the synesthesia operates.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, there is so much that you can get out of it. And I think when they initially launched this, they had I believe maybe 22 algorithms or presets. I think now they're up to 32, which is great. So just more at your disposal there to play around with, and really dial in the tone that you're looking for.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, and really all of these sounds, they sound great. There's a lot of control, there's a lot of different options you have with all of them. So I'll roll through the list really quick because there's a lot. So there's tremolo, dynamic tremolo, harmonic tremolo, chopper, slow volume, which is a Boss low gear; filter, envelope filter, sample and hold filter, formant, dimension c-chorus, chorus, tri-chorus, detune, a dynamic flanger, I believe; tape flanger, sample and hold flanger, phaser, envelope phaser, sample and hold phaser, univibe, octive shifter, vibrato, rotary, ring modulator, double tracker, arp tremolo, arp filter, arp formant, arp flanger, arp phaser, arp ringmod, and arpeggiator. And that's all of it.

Scott Schwertly:
That's crazy.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah.

Scott Schwertly:
Well, there's actually a great video by Ryan from "Demos in the Dark" where he actually kind of walks through a handful of those, but I love how he kind of phrases where you can have kind of your "dad tones" being classic phaser, with some of the more innovative stuff which this pedal definitely offers. So I love how he calls it "dad tones" if you're going to go with a phaser, I wish I would have thought of that.

Scott Schwertly:
But yeah, so many great options. And he did one on that video where he had kind of a combination of a vinyl sound with something else, but go check it out. It's a great video if you want to get a sampling of what this pedal is all about, in addition to the demo that we'll obviously provide in this episode.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, we definitely won't be able to do a demo of all 32 because I would be here for a while and I'd run out of different things to play, so that'd be fun.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah.

Eric Wilson:
I just want to take a minute to talk about one of my favorite aspects of this pedal is that slow volume, because obviously the Boss' low gear. If you know anything about it, it's pretty famous, but also they're really hard to get ahold of. There's kind of nothing like it on the market for the most part, and the way that GFI put the slow volume into this pedal is they gave you a reverb option, I believe there's a delay option too.

I haven't looked too much into it, but what you can do is you can run that slow volume into something else and use the onboard reverb and then run that into your delays and reverbs, and kind of eliminate your need for a volume pedal for the most part because you can do a lot of your swell stuff with that. So that's been really cool and that I've enjoyed having, and yeah.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean, that's a great feature for sure. And if you guys are thinking about getting something like this, because maybe something like that is sounding appealing to you, a pedal like this is going to run about $399. So you can get it, I think I've seen in some places, maybe $369 or $379, but it seems like street price right now is about $399.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. I know right now they're floating around like $375 or something like that, but honestly for what you're getting, when you compare it to other big back units like this like the Mobius or the MD-500, it really kind of holds its own. Especially with all the different capabilities it has, the desktop editor, all that kind of stuff.

Eric Wilson:
And that's another thing I've really enjoyed when kind of looking into more GFI system stuff, is I think they do a really good job of pricing their products fairly. They're not super over the top, but at the same time they're definitely not cheap, but I feel like you definitely get a good value for what you're buying. Especially if you want to try out a bunch of different things. Because if you bought everything on this list, you would probably be well over a thousand dollars.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, for sure. Definitely like you said, it's not crazy, but not inexpensive either. So be prepared to spend a little bit of money if you want to get something like this.

Scott Schwertly:
Well, let's go ahead and give you guys a sample of what this pedal is all about. So we're going to get everything connected here. Eric, what guitar are you going to plug in for today's demo?

Eric Wilson:
I'm going to go ahead and use the Tele for this one.

Scott Schwertly:
Perfect. Well, we're going to get that set up guys and we'll see you on the other side.

Eric Wilson:
All right, that was the GFI Synesthesia. It's a great modulation pedal, I know I've enjoyed having it on my board, and I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for something that can do all of those different things and you need something like that.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, it's definitely impressive. Great pedal to add your arsenal, if that's the thing you're going for. So on that note, we're going to actually stay in the world of modulation. And as I mentioned earlier, we're going to go ahead and cover the Boss MD-500 while we're on the topic of modulation, so look for that in our next episode. And until then guys, we hope you have a great day, have a great week and we will catch you in the next one.

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