So I’ve had the Strymon Riverside since early December last year, and although it is a fine 4-gain-stage distortion pedal which I love and use daily, it’s not without its flaws. I’ve relatively recently also acquired the Elektron Analog Drive, which targets some of the weaknesses of the Riverside, but still does not satisfactorily offer the complete overdrive and distortion solution which I am actively seeking.
In truth, what I’m really looking for is an all-in-one TimeLine / BigSky size Strymon pedal which works in the same way as those fantastic pedals, but with overdrive, fuzz and distortion. The Riverside does many things great, but the dynamic sweet spot algorithm, does seem to restrict it from being out and out dirty, and I cannot quite approximate the exact same textures I get from some of my other analogue distortion pedals - such as the Fulltone OCD, Friedman BE-OD and the Diezel VH4.
Analogue distortion pedals use all manner of different components - op amps, diodes, LEDs, transistors etc. for shaping and clipping the output, and some of the older classic ones have very unique waveform profiles which seem difficult to achieve entirely digitally.
I myself am a little extreme with my different overdrive and distortion stages, and currently actively utilize 15 pedals or so which are dialled in to very specific progressive levels of texture and tone - from barely there transparent, to super mild and on to crazy ’extreme’. To those ends I have visually projected my kind of ideal format of the larger Strymon pedal - to include all the essential features / functions / parameters I deem essential to cover all the key overdrive and distortion tones I like to make use of. Much of that ground is covered in my earlier ’12 Degrees of Saturation’ post.
Elektron of course solved the issue by deploying 8 totally different analogue circuits, which I am not sure is necessary - it does have the unfortunate side-effect of a ginormous footprint. I believe with clever digital processing you can use just a couple or so core circuits, and simply vary the internal signal path through different analogue filter components, as detailed above - and to produce different clipping options and tones.
I have of course not done any of the physics / electronics or R&D required to evaluate how feasible all these tones can be replicated and manipulated. But I think the general consensus out there from most Riverside owners is that they would like to see a more expansive big pedal offering - whether this has 8 or 10 or 12 modes is purely academic at the moment. I would of course be first in line for one such - if and when it materialises...
I hypothesise the following functions for this imaginary device:
COLOR - This is essentially a clean / clear boost stage, but you can colour your signal using the EQ and other parameters - I have called it ’COLOR’ here to differentiate it from the ’BOOST’ stomp switch option which can bump you up around +10dB of volume
MILD - Here the reference point is a light, rather transparent Klon pedal style overdrive - my preferred reference here is the Wampler Tumnus
SQUEAL - Tube Screamer style boosted mids overdrive, my preference being the 808-style voicing
SMOOTH - This is the more gentle end of the Dumble OS style overdrive - smooth and warm with just a tiny hint of fuzz on the edges - like my much loved Simble pedal
BREAKUP - Reference here is a Boss Blues Driver (with Keeley mod) type sound - excellent bluesy type of overdrive - I currently use a Mooer Blues Mood on Fat setting for this kind of tone
CRUNCH - My reference point here would be an Fulltone OCD style overdrive
FUZZ - Traditional Hendrix style Fuzz Face voicing
FUZZY DRIVE - More heavy Muff and ProCo Rat -style voicing
PLEXI - The classic Driven Marshall Stack tones - I use Xotic SL Drive currently for this tone
BROWN - EVH’s 80’s sound - i.e. Scooped Mids, boosted Bass and Treble - something that the Riverside does really well
HEAVY - The slightly less compressed, looser metal sounds - somewhere around a heavily driven MESA/Boogie Triple Rectifier - I use Friedman BE-OD pedal for this
EXTREME - Djent-style metal with added compression, punch and tightness, and maximum low-end dynamics, reference point Diezel VH4 Channels 3 and 4 - as per Diezel VH4 pedal
TYPE - Usual Strymon global / selector functions - here to choose appropriate voicing
VALUE - Additional parameters within each mode - should / could include:
DRIVE - Variable Drive / Gain Dial - from low-level to full-on saturation
GRIT - This targets one of the inherent weaknesses of the Riverside - a dial which allows you to increase / decrease the amount of distortion effects / dirt in the signal - dial it all the way down for Smooth, or all the way up for Rat style super grungy distortion artifacts
LEVEL - Output volume essentially - needs to be tweaked in line with Gain - possibly some internal DPS here which helps equalize output levels between different gain stages
BASS - Low-end EQ
MIDDLE - Mid-range EQ
TREBLE - High-end EQ
BOOST - Controls the BOOST footswitch - level of dB boost - as well as whether volume boost, gain boost, treble boost, mid boost, thicker or warmer
Note: Some overdrive and distortion pedals have additional parametric controls for mid-range EQ (e.g. Elektron Analog Drive), this may be desirable here too
A - Select Mode A within a Bank - ability here to select both A & B to stack 2 drive modes simultaneously
B - Select Mode B within a Bank - ability here to select both A & B to stack 2 drive modes simultaneously
C - Used as a more momentary Boost - can select volume or volume+gain boost for mode / voice selected
Note: Key ability here is the ability to move up and down a wide variety of presets and stack them 2 at a time!