Electro-Harmonix STRING9 String Ensemble Review Russo Music

Ladies and gentlemen – tonight, the role of the entire string section will be played by EHX

Ah, the theater. A night of fine art and spectacle met in musical matrimony. If dimmed house lights and orchestral murmurs make you shiver with anticipation, chances are you'll see your match with this pedal coming a mile away.

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We may sometimes think of an orchestra as too lofty or unattainable in our rigs, but the power of a strong string section has long been public domain. Advances in technology over the past couple decades have brought strings into movies, studios, plugins, and now boards. In essence, your DIY film score dreams are coming true.

STRING9 offers its hand to symphony fans and film buffs alike to create their vast string section sweeps in one fell swoop. Playing off the dynamics of other EHX pedals of its nature, the STRING9 lands as a vivid and reliable synth pedal with a wide palette of sounds. Touches of orchestral class and fully-fledged simulation both exist in the realm of possibility for STRING9. Let's dim the house lights.

Your Synthesized Symphony

Electro-Harmonix's skills with instrument synthesis have been proven with pedals such as the SYNTH9, C9, and MEL9. The STRING9 stands alongside such pedals with its deep tonal pool and versatile utility. Nine effect modes and four parameter controls serve up the STRING9 simply. What you do with such synthesized string power is purely up to you.

The STRING9 offers nine modes of effects, the modes are as follows:

  1. Symphonic - a recreated symphony with an accompanying octave down effect
  2. June-O - an emulation of the Roland Juno analog string synthesizer
  3. PCM - an emulation of a string section sampled via a PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) keyboard
  4. Floppy - an emulation of the Vako Orchestron optical disc playback sampler
  5. AARP - an emulation of the ARP Solina String Ensemble synthesizer
  6. Crewman - an emulation of the Crumar Performer analog synthesizer
  7. Orch Freeze - an orchestral sound with the EHX Freeze effect
  8. Synth Freeze - a string synthesizer sound with the EHX Freeze effect
  9. Vox Freeze - a Mellotron choir and string sound from the EHX MEL9 with the EHX Freeze effect

Two control knobs operate differently from mode to mode but do a handy job in accentuating different qualities of each STRING9 effect mode. You can use CTRL 1 and 2 to mix through various effect voicings, liven up highs and lows, and experiment deeply with the STRING9's synthesizing capabilities. The STRING9 offers a deep synthesizing experience with little delay to getting along on your orchestral way.

If you're already excited to get in and start figuring out how to play the end of "Purple Rain", we're right there with you. One of the prominent qualities the STRING9 presents for players is a distinct sense of play. This is a pedal to have some fun with.

Hooking up the STRING9 and giving it a first strum has a good chance of putting a grin on your face. Setting your Dry and Effect dials a little past noon will give you an easy entry into the STRING9 as you pick through some simple leads and chords. A noteworthy feature of the STRING9 is its quick signal tracking and effective sustaining qualities – this string section will follow you loyally to the ends of the Earth. The STRING9 is highly responsive to input and easily adjustable.

Letting those sweet chords ring out with synthesized strings is as easy and tasteful as you'd expect. The synthesizer qualities of the STRING9 give it its fullness to linger on a note as you need it. Strum a chord slowly and hear every note within it bloom with synthesized sweetness – let a note slip, waver, or linger too long and you might get some charming, synthesized resonance that sounds like a single instrument fumbling for its place.

EHX's Ode to Joy

One thing you might notice from that list of effect modes is the prominence of '70s and '80s-era synthesizer emulations. Those with a keen eye for synth film scores and progressive rock might unexpectedly find themselves among the tones that laid the foundations for so many classic sci-fi and horror scores along with any respectable '70s concept album. The STRING9 is a pedal created not only from a love of strings, but from a love of synthesized strings – a love of a love of strings, if you will. String-ception, in the fewest words.

These synthesizer emulations offer a wide palette of tones to choose from. Spanning the closest synthesized string section approximations to truly warped voices, the STRING9 delivers heaps of tones. Rolling through the STRING9 can land you with the PCM and Floppy modes' bright synthesized tones reminiscent of the movies. If you'd like to imagine the studio intro tone on every '80s-era VHS you watched as a kid, you're on the right track. One strum with the PCM or Floppy mode and you just might find yourself feeling nostalgic. Click into the AARP or Crewman modes of the STRING9 and bring some Floyd-esque synthesized strings into the equation. Cranking up on the CRTL knobs in these modes will bring to life the strong modulation qualities accompanying each. Different voices of phaser and filter effects can take over the AARP and Crewman modes for distinct vintage style.

Electro-Harmonix STRING9 String Ensemble Final Thoughts

Acting not only as an emulator of a string section but a conduit of an array of vintage synthesizers, the STRING9 offers a synth experience you may be hard pressed to find elsewhere. The opportunity to keep these classic string tones out of obscurity for players to celebrate and compose with today is well worth giving this pedal a fair shake. Delivering on a respectable string-section-in-a-box while offering a quirky synth experience in one, the STRING9 is sure to make any player feel like a true maestro.

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