In the wake of the slightly slower than expected take-up of the 19 limited edition Black Friday ’Blacked Out’ (#blackedxout) Pedals I recently featured, Neunaber has decided to buck the trend with White Out versions of its flagship trifecta of Immerse Reverberator, Inspire Tri-Chorus Plus and Neuron Gain Intelligence. These go on sale on Wednesday 27th in extremely limited numbers, while there is also a social media give-away lucky draw of one each of these if you jump through a number of hoops as prescribed.
Much like my initial reaction to most of the Blacked Out contingent, I find that I actually much prefer the looks of the stock pedals here. The mostly black originals have subtle texturing in their graphics/designs with smart intuitive labelling - the impact of which gets somewhat lost when all that detail gets blanched out! I actually really like the designs of the latest iterations of the Neunaber pedals where the variable parameter values are beautifully graphically associated/connected with each relevant function - this is just a gorgeous example of applied art. On the White pedals - the variable associations are much harder to pick out, so therefore those pedals are by nature of their design compromises - slightly more flawed in usability. The aesthetics and infographic impact of the originals is already at its optimal/peak level - so any deviation from that is bound to be a step down as far as I am concerned.
That said, you obviously gain bragging rights for having 1 of X of the White Out ones, and you can possibly/probably shift these for more money if you decide to pass them along eventually. I fear though that these sorts of highly limited editions are overly abused by pedal flippers, scalpers and gazumpers who’re just in it to make a fast buck for themselves - and take pedals away from those genuine deserving pedal users who would actually properly deploy them. We’ve seen this same pattern happening again and again with limited editions of all types including examples from Spaceman Effects, JHS and Chase Bliss Audio most recently.
Each of the above 3 pedals are obviously stellar performers in their own right, while I feel that both the Immerse and Inspire could benefit from the 6 Presets (and additional footswitch) you get with the Neuron. Of all these 3, the Neuron is the one that still holds the most appeal for me - I flagged it back as early as Winter NAMM 2018 when it was known as the XD-1 Experimental Drive, and I flagged it again in this year’s Winter NAMM where I named it as one of the pedals of that show for me.
I’ve had various priorities throughout this year, and working with the Aleks K Maple Leaf, Boss OD-200, BYOC Crown Jewel, Jackson Audio Broken Arrow, and Pushking Ironfinger, those in particular - I’ve come to understand much more about gain structure dynamics and shaping, and have built up a significant appreciation for how the Neuron mixes those elements together - including Gate, Compression, and Tightness. The nature of all those parameters makes far better sense to me now than it did on first encounter, and I am definitely going to be adding the Neuron to the collection at some stage in the near future.
I’ve featured both the Immerse and Inspire a few times on this blog also, and while both are exceptional performers in their own right I have other alternatives in place which I have a preference for - so those are down as ’nice-to-haves’. I may still add those two at some stage eventually, but they’re less of a priority for me currently.
The pedals are listed out alphabetically by name :
This is the first really of Neunaber's modern evolution of pedals, and the MKII design has raised everything up a notch - to make this compact category leading reverb an even stronger proposition. And it needed the updates to maintain its position - which is challenged by the likes of the Chase Bliss Audio Dark World, Dr Scientist The Atmosphere, EHX's Oceans II, Mad Professor's Kosmos and TC Electronic's Hall of Fame 2. Of that list only the HOF2 is also stereo output, and has MASH footswitch and TonePrint, while the Immerse now has that beautifully intuitive control topology. There's a lot of competition in that category, while my own particular preference is for slightly larger reverb workstations with onboard presets, with my having the Strymon BigSky, Boss RV-500 and now mostly Source Audio Ventris in that Reverb slot rotation! In any case the Immerse MKII is a great contender and for many - including Rob Chapman - still their reverb pedal of choice. There is so much activity and innovation in this category that builders need to keep ringing in the changes in order to remain current and relevant. The Immerse's 8 excellent modes are:
Another pedal featured a few times on this site and one of the star performers in the compact Chorus category, where I currently have the Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl in my pedal-chain for chorus duties, also supported by my recent-ish Chase Bliss Audio Generation Loss acquisition - which has some very cool Chorus modes too. There is certainly a lot of competition is the Chorus/Vibrato category with benchmark pedals by Boss, Jam Pedals, JHS and Walrus Audio to mention just a few. I've still to add the Boss CE-2W and DC-2W to my collection as priorities, and a couple more varieties besides, and I have the Inspire down as a nice-to-have rather than essential for my own rig. It nonetheless benefits from the same updated intuitive graphics approach as the Immerse MKII - and its smart application of 8 modes is category-leading in and of itself. The Inspire's 8 modes are:
And so to the pick of the trio for me, yes it's taken me a while to fully get to grips with how good this is - even in the face of overwhelming evidence from the likes of Pete Thorn, Stefan Fast, Dennis Kayzer, and Gabriel Tanaka of Best Guitar Effects. I was initially a little put off by the lack of Neunaber's transparency in detailing how the tone-generation worked in this pedal - and how much analog vs digital there was in the signal processing. To be fair that is still somewhat opaque, while I've come to really like the control topology of this pedal and how it goes about shaping the gain structure and dynamics. It's best to detail the different control elements / parameters to explain why this works so well.
I very much agree with Stefan Fast's sentiments here that the lower and higher gain stages are pretty stellar, while the mid-gain does not quite have those chewy Marshally mids which I so like. Also on higher strings and under certain conditions my ears can pick out those very occasional crystalline semi-bitcrushed distortion artefacts that you still get with pretty much every Digital gain simulation. I've noted the same in places with the OD-200, albeit in most instances you can sort of tune it out with the EQ. Digital distortion though - particularly when compared side-by-side is somewhat harder and harsher than the analogue equivalent - and does not have the same elasticity of tone, nor exactly the same formulation of transients and harmonics. Most of the time the best digital effects are pretty darn decent - but there are instances when the digital provenance exposes itself - and you get that digitised crystalline distortion artefact - I still think we're a few years off perfecting the digital equivalents - and as I will point out in my forthcoming in-depth OD-200 review, we still need better control over the gain structure dynamics - where largely the digital equivalents are slightly harder, cooler, harsher and darker than their analogue equivalents - and often when you try to offset that hardness with EQ adjustment you get that digital brittleness which so many are familiar with. To counter all this I use a number of companion tone components in my chain - different boosts and compression - to create more warmth, dynamics, texture and harmonics. And for however good the Neuron currently is, it still has a way to go to fully match the tone-shaping abilities of something like my BYOC Crown Jewel.
In terms of Neuron's controls - at the top level you have Gain | Compression | Level, and then 3-band EQ - Low | Mid | High, then apart from the Level, each control has a secondary/alt function if you hold down the Engage footswitch : Gain = Gate, Compression = Speaker/CabSim On/Off, Low = Tightness, Mid = Tilt (Global EQ Shift), High = Presence.
A very significant advantage of the Neunaber is the 6 presets - where the colour of LED changes from red to blue, green, yellow, magenta and cyan - which I'm very used to from my Jackson Audio pedals. It's one thing I already find slightly odd about the Boss OD-200 in that it has 12 modes and 15 boost types, but only 4 presets! It's something I also like about the Wampler Terraform which has 8 onboard presets.
So in short - the White Out colourway is kind of nice - it's fully legible and all that, and suitably elegant, but I still much prefer the bottom row black colourway originals.
Of the three, the Immerse probably still has the most universal general appeal, and is likely still Neunaber's best seller, while I have the Inspire down as a nice-to-have too, and the Neuron here actually appeals to me the most. I would not be using it as a streamlining pedalboard tool, but rather as another essential gain pedal with multiple voicing courtesy of its presets. I already have several EQs in my chain, but you can never really have to many - so the EQ here would likely just be used for the gain shaping - and the same goes for the Compression parameter - which I would use to try and create a Maple Leaf style sizzling sustaining singing lead tone.
All demos here are by my Danish namesake Stefan Fast, formerly of TC Electronic and currently of ThePedalZone - several of his demos are just the best representation of a pedal there is - and he's done an exceptional job in particular for EQD, KMA, Meris and Neunaber here - where I find his demos the best benchmarks for these particular pedals.
As I've stated before - if you don't own one of these pedals already - then a limited edition is always a nice incentive to get you on the ladder, and contrary to some of the Blacked Out pedals whose legibility and usability is greatly impacted, the impact on the White Outs is significantly less - even though I personally much prefer the more colourful and textured originals! Happy hunting in any case.