Collision Devices Nocturnal Review

In the dead of night, some might hear crickets or the wind sweep through the trees. Others might hear the sweet tones of Collision Devices' Nocturnal, but that's a different story.

The team at Angers, France's Collision Devices craft handmade effect pedals holding authenticity, innovation, and quality as crucial qualities in design. Honing in further on their multi-effect, multi-footswitch skills, Nocturnal comes to form.

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In the Wee Hours of the Night

Surely burning the midnight oil, the Collision Devices team whip up a pedal that is unique to both their existing lineup and to ambient-style pedals at large. Nocturnal comes together as a three-footswitch combination effect pedal reminiscent of their space-faring Black Hole Symmetry. Where Collision Devices advances the state of play with Nocturnal is in its features and workings under the hood, but we'll get to that shortly.

Nocturnal pushes the proverbial envelope for Collision Devices by taking on new tonal frontiers. One ¼" in, one ¼" out, and one 9V DC power supply bring this ambient machine to life, so let's jump in.

Three Dreamlike Paths

Three independent effects share space within Nocturnal. Straightforward in their concept with that extra step forward in tonal design, Nocturnal's effects bloom with a distinct ambient flourish. The effects – Dusk, Night, and Dawn – all start with their secondary flavor right up front. Dusk, a delay, introduces modulation into the mix. Night, a tremolo, drops in some heightened dynamic response to ramp up on pick sensitivity. Dawn, a reverb, contains a hearty helping of a shimmer effect to liven the effect's voice and highlight various trailing interactions.

Let's explore these individual effects.

Dusk's modulated delay can be dialed in for a repeat trail that responds between a few milliseconds and a full second. Keeping things tighter within a few milliseconds allows for some interactions between delay trails that intertwine more closely. Lengthen those repeats and naturally, you'll have some further reaching trails that can waver off path. Individual controls Mix and Time roll in these early delay mixes.

The Feedback control creeps up and goes into self-oscillation when pushed. Inch up on the Feedback dial and let those oscillating ramps go, if you’re feeling daring. Dusk's Modulation control can be used to introduce subtle and stark movement to the delay trails. Your Speed control warps that modulation wonderfully for back-and-forth wobbling and wavering.

Night's dynamic tremolo is controlled by two responsive dials – Depth and Sensibility. Highly responsive to your pick attack, the tremolo effect will either speed up or slow down in relation to how strong the signal comes in. This dynamic quality can be heard when picking intensely as the tremolo chops up the signal in relation to Sensibility's responsiveness and Depth's volume control. Add in quickly stuttering flashes or subtle inhales and exhales of tremolo for added tonal texture.

Dawn's shimmering reverb shapes up with five knobs – some more commonly seen than others. Reverb and Blend controls will shape the length and intensity of the effect. With these sizing controls dialed in, the shimmer is open to trickle or rush in.

The Shimmer dial controls the amount of shimmer effect in the signal. Filter gives Dawn a distinct vocal shape with a digital low pass filter that makes the shimmer overall brighter or darker. Let different frequencies in to highlight different routes for the shimmer to flow through. Colour deepens that tonal highlighting with another filter to adjust the resonance and glassy textures of the shimmer.

Sleepless in Angers

The individual qualities of Nocturnal’s three effects allow for some long and thoughtful ambient scenes to play out. However, the team at Collision Devices wasn’t about to stop there. With each footswitch press comes another route to take with momentary engagement effects. Holding down a footswitch while that effect is engaged will introduce a unique momentary interaction that inspires real-time action while playing.

Dusk’s momentary effect works in relation to the Time knob. Holding the footswitch will ramp up the repeats into oscillation. Once let go, the repeats will return to their set Time position. Night’s dynamic tremolo will perform similarly with its momentary function. Holding the footswitch will increase the speed of the tremolo separate from the Sensibility sensitivity knob. Dawn’s footswitch will affect the trails of the reverb effect while playing. With the effect engaged, holding the footswitch will switch off the effect when released but with the trails of the effect flowing over to the clean signal as the effect is disengaged.

Though thoughtful and worthy of deep tinkering and experimentation, Nocturnal’s further footswitching encourages real-time interactions that give additional momentary flourishes to the soundscapes possible.

Rise and Shine

These effects individually are all certainly worthy of their own pedal each, but that's not why we're here. Independently engaged and highly interactive with one another, Nocturnal's three pathways intersect in lovely and ambient ways when combined.

Night's dynamic tremolo effect blends in brilliantly with Dusk's modulated delay. Sending off your delay trails with that extra bit of wavering volume texture lays out a vast field of repeats to sort through sonically. Dusk's modulation flows with Dawn's shimmers to stack different highlights of signal resonance. The mix of singing shimmer and mobile modulation creates atmospheres that brighten and darken as they are filtered and adjusted for speed.

Nocturnal introduces many different ambient voices. Looking for quicker response and immediacy? Night's quick-acting tremolo and Dusk's short delay slaps can get you there. Ready to create a wall of sound and ask questions later? Dawn's room-filling shimmering reverb and Dusk's wavering, to-and-fro delay trails will land you in the right spots once the dust has cleared. Add Nocturnal to your board or synth setup for easy real-time adjustment while playing live or in the studio. On the record or off the cuff, Nocturnal is ready to go.

Collision Devices Nocturnal Final Thoughts

Multi-mode ambience has never been easier, and we have Nocturnal to thank for that. For ambient musicians, Nocturnal can definitely be a pedal for feel, though it does not keep you from getting close and tinkering. Its assortment of dials is inspirational to get you on your way in meticulous or set-and-forget fashions. Like its Black Hole Symmetry sibling, Nocturnal covers quite a bit of ground to fully lift off into ambient sweetness. There may be little more you need to add to this equation to set off on an ambient journey, but add away. The scope will only become wider.

Ambient music is an interesting frontier to explore. Many pedals have been designed to take it on, but there is always more sound to uncover. With Nocturnal, that frontier is just three clicks away.