A reverb pedal inspired by one of the most iconic science fiction soundtracks ever? Sign us up! Words by Peter Hodgson.
If it were possible, this review would simply read, “Meris says this pedal is directly inspired by the 1982 Blade Runner film soundtrack, and that should be all you need to know before rushing out to buy one.” But you paid for a full magazine, so we’d better go into detail.
THINGS YOU PEOPLE WOULDN’T BELIEVE
Meris DSP designer Angelo Mazzocco says, “I get inspired every time I hear Vangelis’s use of reverb on the original Blade Runner soundtrack. It never gets old. I designed the Mercury7’s algorithms to bring those same extra long decays and lush modulated reflections to the pedal world.”
That doesn’t mean you have to be in a Vangelis tribute band – or indeed a replicant – to appreciate this pedal, but it sure helps to give it some sonic context. Essentially, it’s a reverb pedal so flexible and musical that it doesn’t just provide ambient or spatial context for your music: it’ll inspire your songwriting itself.
There are controls for Space Decay, Modulate, Mix, Lo Frequency, Pitch Vector and Hi Requency, plus a Swell footswitch which doubles, Bypass footswitch, and an Alt function which gives each control a different capability.
The unit has stereo inputs and outputs, switchable input and output headroom levels for guitar, synthesiser or line levels, expression pedal control over all parameters simultaneously (which is impressive in its own right), the ability to recall presets via an external four-preset switch or MIDI, MIDI in/out over TRS via the expression pedal jack, a premium analog signal path with 24-bit AD/DA with 32-bit floating point DSP, and is designed and built in Los Angeles. Even the finish of the pedal itself is something special – a translucent coat of deep blue over brushed aluminium.
Let’s get into those Alt functions. Space Decay sets the decay energy of the reverb, but in Alt mode it sets the pre-delay time. Modulate sets the depth of the modulation, but its Alt mode governs the modulation speed. Mix adjusts the wet and dry signal ratio, but also becomes the Pitch Vector Mix, adjusting the ratio between pitch-shifted and normal reflections. Lo Frequency’s Alt mode affects the initial build‑up of echoes before the virtual reverb tank. Hi Frequency’s Alt mode is Vibrato depth.
And the Pitch Vector knob, which sets octave‑down, pitch-down, pitch-up, fifth and Shimmer modes in its original state, becomes an Attack Time control which governs the attack time for the swell envelope.
With all of this stealth control, the Mercury7 seems to really be taking a run at Strymon’s crown, and to be quite honest, it does so in a way that’s a bit less edit-headachy than some Strymon pedals.
Although there are plenty of incredible sounds to be found here when paired with distorted guitars, it almost seems a shame to do so since there’s such an incredible amount of detail around the edges of the sound, which require a clean guitar to really do them justice. If you’re in a progressive metal or a shoegaze band, for instance, the Mercury7 will let you create ambient soundscapes with the perfect balance of emotional and musical vibrance.
The pitch-shifting capabilities allow you to create faux-synth sounds to glitter around the edges of your notes and chords, but you can also use more subtle processing to place your instrument in new and impossible spatial situations.
Inherently, we all know what ‘real’ reverb sounds like, and we can register when something feels a little ‘off’. Oftentimes, that’s your giveaway that you’re listening to a badly engineered reverb. But in Meris’ case, the DSP design is so damn perfect that you can create things that seem wrong in the best possible way.
It’s great that this unit is so flexible for live use – with its MIDI, preset and expression pedal capabilities – but don’t forget to run it through your studio gear too, because magical things can happen when you do. It does truly bizarre and wonderful things to drums, and it can inspire new heights of creativity with vocals too. And naturally, it sounds great with keys, which is a given considering its inspiration.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Meris has really run with the design brief for this pedal and created something every bit as memorable and evocative as that legendary Blade Runner soundtrack.
But in all truth, it’s up to you to decide how you marry this pedal’s capabilities to your music, and that’s where the real fun comes in. The Mercury7 doesn’t dictate what kind of music you should play through it, and as a result, it will likely bring things out of your playing that you didn’t even know were in there.
It’s also extremely usable in terms of how complicated or how simple you want to make it. You could never use the Alt controls in your entire life, and you’ll still get a lifetime of great, usable and inspiring sounds out of this pedal. Of course, once you realise there’s a whole second world lurking under the hood, you may never come back!
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Stereo ins and outs
• Expression pedal capability
• Alt-modes for each control
• Made in the USA
• Creatively inspiring sounds
• Deep editing capabilities
• Will make Strymon sweat
• An LCD to name presets would be great
Ph: (03) 9416 8097