9 Cool Phase Locked Loop Synth Harmonizing Oscillating Fuzz Pedals!

Electric Guitar Guitar Pedals Effects Pedals Guitar Owership PLL Pedals Phase Locked Loop Pedals Schumann PLL + -
2018AfBlg9PLLPedals700-min

When the EarthQuaker Devices Data Corrupter came out last year I thought it was a really cool and unusual type of pedal. Turns out though that it was a simplified clone of a pedal introduced by John Schumann back in 2003. In its original incarnation it had two larger dials - ’Multiplier’ and ’Divider’ which allowed you to harmonize the frequencies of a guitar input signal - where that signal was first transposed into a square wave. Various dials allowed you to modulate the waverform / wave shape etc., and control the parameters of the modulation. The pedal has a useful ’Drone’ companion accessory which allows you to extend and sustain the output. In many ways you could describe this as a harmonizing oscillating fuzz synth - and that’s definitely the closest category its output qualifies as.

 

The original Shcumann PLL was a very complex pedal to build and operate, and was discontinued some years ago. Yet the demand for such a device is still high, which has led to a wide variety of clones, some of which try to exactly replicate, some try to improve and others to simplify. As I write this now, there is one original on sale on Ebay with accessories - for $1,950, while another without accessories can be found on Reverb.com for the princely sum of £2,325 such is the way with discontinued vintage pedals!

 

There are 3 pedals which try to capture the entire experience - including the multiple footswitches, this includes the Elta Music PLL-4046, FT Elettronica Schumann PLL and the Sure Man! PLL One - the first two of which are readily available. Next we have a couple of pedals with 3 footswitches - the Infanem Second Voice Deluxe and the Montreal Assembly PurPLL which try and compact the experience somewhat, but still give you largely the same finesse of control.

 

Finally the Industrialectric 4046-M, Dimehead PLL and EQD Data Corrupter try to simplify things further. I always like what Montreal Assembly do, but the control topology is not particularly clear here with so many dials and toggles. Possibly the Data Corrupter is an oversimplification, but that’s the one I would personally be looking to get at some stage. If I had to go more authentic, I would try to pin down an Elta Music, FT Elettronica or Montreal Assembly - the last mentioned for its more compact size, and the first two for their smarter and clearer control topologies. If it’s purely on looks - then the FTelettronica wins hands-down!

 

You may though consider all of this to be a touch overcooked just for the sake of getting a unique or weird synthy fuzz sound! But many really seem to like this, including yours truly. And while this will never be an essential must-have pedal - it’s a really very versatile and very nice to have one - and the Data Corrupter, Elta and FTelettronica versions are particularly fairly priced.

 

Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand except for the original Schumann which is listed first:

Original Schumann PLL (discontinued) - c£2,000+ (Reverb.com / Ebay)

John Schumann started conceptualising this pedal back in 2001, and in took him fully two years to get a consistently workable production sample - with actual proper manufacture starting in early 2003. These pedals are incredibly complex electronically, and you have to be careful with your circuit builds and component selection so as not to end up with something cacophonous and mushed up. That said, these sorts of pedals are famous for all manner of idiosyncrasies, and you must invest time to get quality sounds out of them. It's a somewhat over-complex yet smart and radical design for a pedal, and obviously one which still has legs, albeit not in this earliest incarnation.

Dimehead PLL (discontinued) - c£400 (Reveb.com)

This slightly simplified version of the overall PLL experience is akin to the original PLL without the additional manipulation of the Drone accessory. It's one of the slightly smaller ones featured here, and although now discontinued does crop up every now and again on Reverb.com for around £400.

Earthquaker Devices Data Corrupter - £225

This is not quite the newest of the bunch, but certainly one of the simplest version of PLL to date and the one available at the best price and in the widest circulation. This has been on my wishlist for a while now, but other priorities have prevailed, and I still have a while to go before I get more focused on unusual and specialist effects. I have written about this pedal several times on this blog and fully intend to get this at some stage - just not imminently!

Elta Music PLL-4046 - £259 (JoesPedals.com)

This is a fairly recent full-fat clone from Russian pedal-maker Elta who have a solid reputation for high fidelity output at very reasonable prices. It's around about the same size as the original and gives you all the functionality of that one and its Drone attachment in a slightly neater package. If I wanted a full-fat version I would definitely go for this one or the FT Elettronica one.

FTelettronica PLL - £250 (Reverb.com)

This Italian clone from respected pedal-makers FTelettronica is probably the most authentic of the currently available versions. It has a lot of overlap with the Elta but comes with a few more dials and switches. There's not a lot really to separate those two pedals - although many will prefer the looks of this one!

Industrialectric 4046-M PLL (discontinued) - c$450 (Reverb.com)

Another boutique clone of the Schumann PLL, this one also discontinued now and with just a single footswitch but some interesting cabling options to make up for that. It's slightly more compact than the full-fat versions here, but is still a sizeable pedal. It sits kind of oddly midway between the larger authentic ones and the slightly simpler more compact ones. Not to take anything away from it, but I feel that there are better options listed here in either direction.

Infanem Second Voice Deluxe (discontinued?) - $295 when new

This slightly simplified version of PLL seems like it may be discontinued now, or is in very short supply - I could not find any available devices amongst the official dealers or currently on Reverb.com - where second-hand versions have been sold for around £200. At this size I might wait out for the forthcoming Montreal Assembly PurPLL - I do find both of these have somewhat confusing control topologies with such a thick cluster of identical dials and switches - there really needs to be better interface design here for improved clarity! Note that the above demo is with Moog Voyager keys rather than guitar, but you should get what this pedal is capable of quite easily.

Montreal Assembly PurPLL (forthcoming) - $TBC

Over the last few months there have been various prototype versions of these typically in a raw enclosure. This proper purple one is really quite recent, which should mean that this pedal is imminent for release any day soon - possibly a Summer NAMM announcement? In any case this pedal compacts the PLL experience somewhat but also throws in some extra toggle switches. I'm convinced the production models will sound great as all Montreal Assembly pedals usually do - I would though question the control topology here. Most of these split up the interface into easily navigable chunks - bar the Infanem Second Voice and this one. I'm not sure how much of a thrill-killer that might turn out to be, and I am aware it's part of the M.A. aesthetic, but when a pedal is this complex you could really do with some visual guidance! Note that I have seen a few prototypes around the various pedal groups, but there don't seem to be any demos yet - possibly they are still ironing out some quirks.

Sure Man! PLL One (DIY?) - $TBC

There's not much info on this box - which I believe might just be a personal project. I came across it via a pedal group - which featured various images and this quick demo. Could be only one of these in existence - or if you manage to track down the maker they may make one for you! As things stand there are plenty of decent clones readily available and somewhat tidier in appearance and function.

Final Thoughts

I find the genesis and existence of this pedal fascitnating, particularly how many differnt clone models it has inspired. It is still nevertheless a somewhat specialist pedal and something of an acquired taste.

 

I think EQD did an amazing job of making this pedal more accessible in every way, but possibly we could have done with at least a second footswitch to engage the Drone-type features. What EQD gets totally right though is the control topology and relative ease of pickup and ease of use.

 

A few of these pedals are unnecessarily over-complicated by way of muddled control interfaces. If you want one right now - there are really just 3 of these models readily available, and all are decent at what they do. You may want to wait and see how the final PurPLL model looks and functions - I hear good things about it.

 

As I have said before I am leaning towards the Data Corrupter, if I wanted full-fat I would get the FTelettronica, and I might still be tempted to wait around for the Montral Assemblyu PurPLL. I'm not in any particular hurry to acquire any of these - I have other priorities to handle first - although this could make a decent footnote to my '2018 Year of Fuzz Tone Quest!

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