For those of you familiar with modular, Erica Synths needs no introduction. Known for having some of the best modules in the market, you may be surprised to find that they also make standalone effect units. In today's review, we'll be taking a look at their Fusion Box multi-effect unit.
What is it?
The Fusion Box is a 100% analog fx machine. It combines many different effects such as chorus, delay, and overdrive, into a rugged and simple box. The overdrive even has a vacuum tube to help create a thick crunch for your sound. Erica Synths describes it as distinct germanium diode overdrive. Tube distortion is different from standard distortions because of the unique makeup of the source, ie the tube. This is what guitar amps use as well.
How does it work?
The easiest way to think of the Fusion Box is like a classic guitar pedal on steroids. The input signal is passed through the signal path, and along the path, you are able to add different effects. It's different in that it's got a stereo out, which most guitar pedals don't. This makes it ideal for synths and other instruments, although it's just as comfortable being added to one's pedal board. If this is your first fx unit, you'll notice the difference in sound and texture compared to plugins inside a DAW. They may not be as clean and sharp, but that they are instead thick and rich, and full of interesting characteristics and artifacts.
Starting at the top left and working our way down, we have the LFO knob, which is hardwired to modulate delay time. Next, we have the colour and overdrive knobs, followed by the mod. level. The colour knob is an interesting one, in that it's a low pass filter that when on the bright setting, the filter has no effect, but when turned to the left, it creates a darker, bassy sound on. The overdrive is actually situated in the delay output and feedback path, which means that it can bring out some very interesting elements in your delay.
Moving to the right, front and center is the vacuum tube, with the delay time and bypass switches underneath. The long delay can go up to 800ms, and the bypass switch can be, well, bypassed, when plugging in a footswitch. On the top right, we have the delay time, with feedback and the dry/wet knob underneath. Finally, we have the input level, which is important for driving the distortion and creating the interesting artifacts in your effects. Erica Synths states that on the dry/wet knob, "you'll get most interesting stereo effects with the knob setting somewhere between 2 and 5. They also say that, for the input knob, "in settings above 5 you will get interesting tube overdrive effects."
What do I think?
I love pedals and effects units. Especially ones that combine a multitude of different effects into one box. I love Erica Synths modular stuff, so I was definitely interested in seeing how their standalone units were. And the fact that it's analog adds an interesting twist as well since many multi-fx units are digital. That definitely doesn't mean it's "better" per se, but it definitely makes it less predictable.
It took a minute for me to really get my head around its signal path, but after a bit of noodling, I was able to create really great textures and atmospheres in combination with my reverb and Model D. What I love most about tube distortion is the richness of the sound, and the interesting elements it brings out, especially in combination with another analog machine like a Model D. You just can't get that type of thing with digital. Again, that's not to say it's "better", but it's unique for sure.
The downside of being fully analog is that, when it comes to the chorus, I like it lush but not messy. It might take you a bit to get that balance figured out. Easing on the overdrive helps with this, and its something to remember when using it.
Should you buy one?
If you are looking for something that does a lot of things and doesn't sound like anything else, I would say yes.
Overall, I'm impressed with the little box. I love the construction and sturdiness of the unit, and the effects add interesting and cool characteristics to your sounds that you won't find anywhere else. It will definitely take a second to adjust to the tones and to figure out how to get the Fusion Box to work how you want it to, but it's worth it.