The Electro Harmonix Bass Metaphors is a bass ‘channel strip’, including an EQ section as well as Distortion circuit and a compressor switch. Does it deliver in each individual category, or will the sum of its parts play so well together that this pedal is your next must-have?
The short answer to the opening question is ‘no’ and ‘definitely maybe’. To set the framework for this review, I need to make an initial statement: I would not choose the EQ of this pedal as my only tone-shaping tool in the arsenal. Ehx states that it is a very colorful EQ that has a certain character, which is very true. I would also never rely on the Bassmetaphors pedal as my only compressor – in fact I would probably not use it at all. And finally, I might be tempted to kick in the Distortion once in a while, but again there are so many other dirt pedals out there (including other Ehx pedals) that I would look elsewhere and easily find better…
So, is it really that bad? Maybe not. If you use all the parts in extreme ways, I actually found it fun to create synthbass-like sounds that can actually be played anywhere on the fretboard. What I mean is that often to achieve a synthy sound, I would punch in an octave pedal, remove the direct signal and add some dirt (kind of like Tim Lefebvre is demonstrating here). With the rather extreme EQ of the Bass Metaphors pedal, you can make a swampy and boomy tone without altering the octave and with the option of adding Distortion the fun can begin.
Therefore, I will actually add this pedal to no less than four different categories: Preamp/EQ, Distortion, Compressor and Synth. And for the reason stated at the beginning I will not spend a lot of time going through all the settings for each individual section – short EQ and compressor demos and then off to the more synthy territories, which is where I think this pedal delivers the most fun and actually usable tones.
The first knob on the Bass Metaphors is labeled DRY, which – as the name suggests – is simply a way to control the level of the dry sound without any effects applied. While I usually praise any pedal with a blend option, in this case, I mostly liked the tones I could get without the dry signal, but that might be because I preferred playing around with it in another way than what was actually intended.
Next up is the EQ section with dedicated BASS and TREBLE knobs as well as a overall EQ LEVEL knob. After that you’ll find the single DIST knob that simply controls the amount of distortion that is applied to your signal, and finally the VOLUME knob sets the overall output level.
Below the knobs there is a switch that activates the compressor. You get no control over the compressor other than whether to kick it in or out. No threshold, ratio, attack, sustain or something like that.
Finally you get two footswitches. The first one – on the right – switches between on and bypass. The one on the left is dedicated for the distortion part of the pedal. In other words, you can use it as an always-on type pedal and then add the distortion when you need dirt, or you can make the distortion part of the overall FX sound and keep it active at all times – then when you stomp from bypass to active you get all sections (including distortion) in one go.
NOTE! Please use headphones or ‘real’ speakers. You simply can’t judge low-end material on laptop, tablet or phone speakers…!
NOTE! If you are on a mobile device, please turn it to landscape mode to see the knob settings of the pedal for each audio clip.
In principle, versatility should be very high on a pedal like this. To me, though, it was more of a one-trick-pony. A fun one, but still not a pedal I would rely on as one of my main tone-shaping or dynamic-controlling tools.
Build-quality seems good. It’s a sturdy pedal and my test unit had no issues with for instance bad shielding, which I have experienced from time to time with EHX pedals (and others to be fair).
While I am not a huge fan of the individual tools, the design is really quite good. I like that EHX divided the signal chain into three separate blocks that each has a control knob – including the DRY signal. That is very flexible and works well from a design and usability point of view.
The one design decision that puzzled me the most was the addition of the compressor that is more or less useless unless you really want that hard-squeezed sound. However, they did label it ‘SQUASH’ so it pretty much does what it claims to do.
The Bass Metaphors retail at around $125 (2015), which puts it somewhere in the middle of the mass-produced pedal road. Not a bargain, and not overly expensive either. It might seem like you get a lot of features per dollar spent, but again, if each feature doesn’t really deliver on its own this should also be considered when looking at an overall value for money.
This pedal is tricky, because as you may sense this pedal is not a favorite of mine. That said, Electro Harmonix are very honest about the EQ being colorful and does label the compressor with a SQUASH. Nothing is being hidden or sold as something it’s not, so in reality this is down to my subjective opinion and as I guess we all experience from time to time, you can always find someone with the exact opposite opinion, which is how it should be.
What I am saying is that even though this pedal is not my favorite, it could easily be a great fit for someone else. If you think that might be you, don’t hesitate checking it out.
Also, I have to judge this as a whole and the way it was designed and marketed, it does indicate a toolbox for tone and dynamics, which I think it’s not very good at. Had I rated it solely as a synth pedal, it surely would have scored higher.
Can be used creatively for synth sounds
Well-built and designed
Individual tools don’t shine on their own
A pretty big footprint that will take up some pedal board space