Exploring OBNE's Beam Splitter: A Versatile Toy For Stereo Madness
OBNE is, and always has been, for the weirdos. Their pedals exude unique, magical qualities that entice people to include them on their pedal boards. There's a reason why we at Russo Music carry such a wide array of their pedals: they cover a wide array of qualities, from fuzz to delay to trem. If you can name it, there's probably an Old Blood Noise Endeavors (OBNE) pedal that offers some variation of it. It's truly mind-boggling that every new release of theirs manages to introduce something that seems never to have been done before. Enter stage left: the Beam Splitter.
It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's...
It's a 3-way stereo splitter, clipping distortion, and delay all rolled into one. The Beam Splitter is a combination of all three, and more. In the words of Spider-Man's Uncle Ben Parker, "with a bunch of knobs comes great responsibility" or something like that. The Beam Splitter is indeed a great example of this quote, with a wide array of different setting options that cover tons of ground. It allows for massive interaction between settings and the added feature of an expression pedal makes things even more interesting. Here's a breakdown of what OBNE's newest effort offers:
- Hard clipping distortion, soft clipping overdrive, and transistor drive, each with control over Gain, Volume, and Tone
- Time knobs to introduce delays up to 125mS on the soft clipper and transistor drive
- Feedback knobs to add intense filtering or trailing delays depending on Time
- A Deviate knob to randomly vary the delay time, giving a more natural feel and chorus effect
- Summed parallel mono output or split output for each drive via top jacks
- Optional expression pedal control over Deviate control
That's a lot to process, but we had a chance to jump in headfirst and had an absolute blast making noise with the Beam Splitter. It turns out that it's a lot simpler than it might appear at first glance.
Diving Into the Abyss:
Let's talk looks. The Beam Splitter consists of 13 knobs, a switch, a bypass button, and three different outputs. Naturally, early on in the process, there was some figuring out. Once we read the attached user manual (duh), it was clear that the 13 knobs, distinguished by three colors, are cleverly broken down into three categories, each corresponding to its own distinct output. Once you've cracked the color code, navigating the Beam Splitter becomes a breeze.
We rigged up the Splitter with each output to a different amp and started playing, with the main output (your right side) going to a 1x12 Supro Black Magick, the middle output going to a Silvertone 1471, and the third output going to a blonde Fender Bassman combo. Each of them were mic'ed with Warm Audio 47 Jr. The first realization was that with each output to a different amp, what you're able to achieve with this pedal is essentially limitless. That was the beginning of the fun.
Let's take a look at some of the settings we enjoyed messing with:
"From the Planet Doom": This setting allowed each output to be displayed uniquely, showcasing what the Beam Splitter is doing to each channel and how each channel is impacting each amp. By blending the channels in and out in sequence, you can hear the impact and weight it has on the stereo field. That's a huge part of the Beam Splitter's charm: the ability to dial in an entire stereo field with masterful precision.
"Jimi's Radio": Plugging this pedal into different amps proved just as important in its impact on tone, as the pedal itself. With a little delay involved here for a slappy, almost roomy effect to two of the three channels, you could hear the comparison of each amp and how it was being pushed by the Beam Splitter. A simple flick of the wrist to blend in the Silvertone 1471 that hadn't changed at all, and it now sounded like a sort of radio-esque effect because of the context created using the other two channels with the Beam Splitter's Deviate settings.
"Grating Cheese": This setting showcased the Splitter's unique ability to randomly deviate delay time of each channel, allowing them to stagger against one another in a way that creates room for a really interesting type of sonic experimentation. This is also a setting that would greatly benefit from an expression pedal, as one of the settings that are externally tweakable is the knob we were mostly adjusting in this configuration of the Beam Splitter.
OBNE's Beam Splitter is a versatile and dynamic tool, and it revolves heavily around the context you create with it. It's a responsive and transformative device that arms a user with a toolbox of tonal possibilities. From the heavy, shoegaze-inspired tones reminiscent of other Old Blood devices to the more peculiar and customizable sonic choices, the Beam Splitter allows players to jump into the unconventional.
What sets the Beam Splitter apart is its adaptability to amps or output sources, offering multiple outcomes based on user choices. Plugging this pedal into different amps doesn't just cause variations in tone; it opens up a spectrum of possibilities, in either a studio or live setting. The Beam Splitter has the ability to either harmonize with the individual characteristics of each output source or, conversely, to mold them into a unified "wall of sound."