The big pedal story for me last year - apart from the Synesthesia, Volante and Zoia was the amazing Joel Korte and Chris Benson collaboration based on Chris’s popular PreAmp pedal - in turn modelled after his Chimera Amp - but with transistors in place of 12AX7 valves.
We witnessed a number of previews of the Automatone last year with the cool moving sliders and fantastic onboard Preset functions - now confirmed at 2 banks of 15 - for a total of 30 automatically shifting and sliding programmes. I said from the start that this would likely be my ideal dirt pedal in combining so many of my favourite features and underscoring all of those with easily recallable footswitchable Presets.
The Automatone combines the Chris Benson core PreAmp with an optional Fuzz, Silicon and Germanium Diode Clipping, Parametric Mids with 3-way Q Bandwidth switch - and configurable in Pre and Post orientation. If you loved the KMA Audio Logan - then this is that sort of thing on steroids - for an all-round dirt/drive pedal you could not wish for a more fully-featured example - and the automated motorised sliders are just the icing on the cake.
The only change I can see since the original show prototypes is that the far left ’Scroll’ push-button function has been renamed as Jump. Scroll was the Preset limit per bank, while it’s currently not 100% clear what the Jump function would be - I would imagine some feature to jump up through the presets by double pressing said footswitch or similar - I’m sure we will know more very imminently.
I feared a significantly higher price tag - and while the $749 pricing is relatively high, and would make this easily my priciest pedal ahead of my Eventide H9 Max and Origin Effects Custom RevivalDrive - I feel that the onboard functionality really rather justifies it. On one of my mid-year pedal-chain visuals last year I had the Automatone sitting midway along the chain in slot #14. Its size would likely mean that I would need to combine the #14 and #15 slots back into one - giving me a chain numbering 40 again - but the feature set and variety available here should altogether justify it. This would be my 10th Chase Bliss Audio pedal.
The Automatone obviously goes right to the top of my wishlist - and I need to be very disciplined post NAMM to ensure that I have funds in place when the release date rolls around for May this year. So for UK I will be pinpointing the end of May realistically. The pricing of the pedal makes it a stupid choice to pre-order direct from the USA as the Customs/Import charges would be prohibitively correspondingly high (I’m still smarting a touch from the Blooper!) - so we more sensible Brits will need to wait for Chase Bliss stockists Andertons, Sound Affects Premier and the like to get these in - pricing parity has usually been good though and I am expecting a corresponding £749 UK price tag - although I have seen a bump of circa £20 on a number of pedals so far this year.
I am expecting this very much to be The 2020 New Pedal of the year - unless something even more spectacular puts in an appearance which I’m finding hard to imagine. I still have a slight concern about the potential fragility of the mechanical aspects of the pedal, but would have thought 18 months of development would have ironed out the most obvious deficiencies and vulnerabilities - and I will ensure I treat and maintain mine as carefully as I can. I can’t state quite how much I’m looking forward to the arrival of this pedal in particular!
Here follows a brief history of the pedal’s origin :
The Automatone reminds me mostly of circa 1970's Jacob Jensen designed Bang & Olufsen HiFi systems - with aluminium chassis and wood panelling - like the futuristic Beogram 4000 Linear Tracking Turntable!