Buck Waller, a pioneer in noise reduction, unveils his latest high-tech, low-profile buzz battler. Words by Peter Hodgson.
Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #131. Subscribe to our print edition here!
ISP Technologies was founded by Buck Waller, who previously revolutionised the things we don’t hear about the guitar when he created the HUSH system for Rocktron.
Noise types and requirements have changed a lot over the last few decades, and the ISP Decimator broke new ground a few years ago with its unprecedented tracking and sound quality. The Decimator II family of products took things even further and brought with it a whole new spate of features, but not every player needs as complex a gate as, say, the Decimator II G-String, which has a confusing array of ins and outs.
Nope, some players just want realtime noise reduction that doesn’t suck their tone or ruin their sustain. And a lot of players want a smaller pedalboard footprint, particularly for the kind of pedals that one might set and forget, such as noise gates, buffers, tuners and the like.
So, ISP has introduced the Deci-Mate Micro Decimator Pedal: a teeny little fella that will nevertheless have a big effect on your tone.
The Decimator series works a little differently to most noise gates. A regular noise gate will simply close the signal when the input dips below a certain level. This can result in notes being chopped off unnaturally when you’re trying to hold a chord. ISP’s new Decimator X technology is designed to create a fully adaptive release response, tracking the envelope of the signal and instantly changing the release from super fast to a long, smooth release for sustained notes.
This is how ISP’s previous technology worked too, but now it’s been even further refined, using time vector integration to eliminate any weird little modulation artefacts that may occur as the note tails off. It’s actually a full analog design with no digital artefacts or aliasing, so it’s designed to be incredibly transparent.
In terms of controls, the Deci-Mate is stupidly simple: onboard lies nothing more than a Threshold knob. There’s no need for the Release control found on the majority of noise gates, since the Decimator X takes care of that for you. The unit is true-bypass, but when it’s engaged it’s capable of greater than 90 decibels of effective noise reduction.
The pedal casing itself is pretty damn tough, which seems to be an across-the-board requirement for ISP, because their pedals are so hardy you could probably use them to hammer a nail in (but don’t try it and blame us). The pedal is powered by a 9VDC supply, which is not included. It’s not able to be powered by a battery.
WHAT DOES IT NOT SOUND LIKE?
It’s kind of difficult to describe a pedal when, by its very nature, its reason for existing is the complete absence of sound! That said, the Deci‑Mate helps you to sound better by taking out the noises you don’t want and letting through the noises you do want.
The best way to quickly test this was to plug my Eventide H9 Max into the Deci‑Mate, then play around with delay tails. The pedal didn’t even make a fuss when the echoes faded out; they sounded natural, tapering off smoothly rather than getting chopped off unnaturally.
I also plugged my notoriously noisy, single coil‑loaded Fender American Vintage ‘62 Stratocaster Reissue into my Marshall set to kill, held a note, and the signal faded out naturally. It was a little unusual, actually – we guitarists are so used to expecting to hear 60-cycle hum from single coils that it can be a little confusing to not hear that element.
Of course, if you pile on too many noisy effects, you risk your background noise equalling that of the guitar itself, which will confuse the Decimator X circuitry. But there aren’t really any real-world musical situations in which you might turn all of your pedals on at once.
One caveat: if you’re into the ultra-gated, djenty tones of your Merrows and your Mansoors, you’ll need much tighter threshold settings than if you’re playing blues-rock or something, so take that under advisement. It can definitely do the tight-gate metal thing, but you’re asking for trouble if you go straight from a setting designed for a staccato high-gain rhythm sound to a clean tone with ringing chords.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The ISP Deci-Mate will benefit every guitarist who has ever felt that noise was getting in the way of their self expression. It’s also especially good news for guitar techs and sound engineers who feel that noise is getting in the way of their sanity.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• 500,000 ohms input impedance
• Greater than 90 decibels of effective noise reduction
• Adaptive release response over 1000-to‑1 ratio
• 3.7-inch by 1.5-inch chassis
• 9VDC powered
• Adapts well to different situations
• Well built
• Easy to use
Ph: (03) 9540 0658