Fender Mirror Image Delay and Santa Ana Overdrive

by Daniel Sussman • in
  • August 2018
  • Top Gear
• Created: August 8, 2018

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There’s a very specific type of joy that comes with experiencing things that have been lovingly crafted by people who know what they are doing. The Mirror Image Delay by Fender has been so obviously created by just such a team. From the blue brushed aluminum casing to the satisfying click of the battery door (what engineers pay attention to the battery compartment?), to the signature jewel LED, this pedal screams “quality.” It’s bursting with features and it sounds great, with a variety of nuanced tones available with the flip of a switch, the press of a button, or the tweak of a knob. Simply put: this pedal packs a ton of functionality into a beautiful blue package. If you are interested in the gnarly details, read on…

Delay pedals generally all have the same types of parameter controls: Time, Feedback, and Level. The Mirror Image Delay is no exception. Time does what you might expect – it adjusts the delay time, ranging from long echo to short slap back effects. Feedback adjusts the amount of delay that’s fed back into the delay loop, creating spacey, long lasting delay tails when turned all the way up. Level adjusts how much of the processed signal is mixed in with the regular dry signal. These are your standard delay parameters. The Mirror Image Delay also adds a few extra knobs, though: Depth and Rate. Depth provides some pitch modulation, allowing you to dial up some chorus- style or doubling effects. Rate adjusts the modulation speed. With those five knobs, the engineers at Fender could have stopped and still provided their players with a ton of variety. However, they didn’t. They added three additional switches, each of which drive a suite of different delay engines: Type, dotted 1/8 and Variation. This is where things get crazy.

The “Type” switch models three different classic delay styles: Digital, Analog, and Tape. The “Variation” switch is a two-position switch that offers up a variant of each of the different delay Types. If you do the math, this pedal comes with six different delay models, each of which can be further adjusted by dialing up different Time, Feedback, Depth, and Rate settings. Add in the dotted 1/8 and you can get your sound ping-ponging all over the room. All this versatility means nothing if you can’t get good sounds, of course, and that is what is so special about this particular delay pedal. It sounds great. The pedal adds a lush warmth and ambience to your sound, whether you are going for long atmospheric washes or a bit of reverberant beefiness.

The team at Fender clearly has an ear for tone and understands what their players want in a pedal.

Any guitarist worth his or her salt has toyed with dozens of overdrive pedals. Overdrive pedals represent the quest for tone and are amongst the most popular of all effects units. Discerning guitarists have hundreds of options.

Enter the Santa Ana Overdrive, from the Fender team. As with the rest of their recent pedal line, this unit is substantial and gorgeous. It comes across as unbreakable – with its candy apple red, brushed aluminum chassis, its sturdy knobs and the (now very familiar to me, and you’ve probably gathered that I’m a fan) jeweled LED. What really sets this overdrive apart is the twin OD circuit. Featuring both a classic overdrive and a traditional boost – this is a player’s pedal through and through. As a bit of novelty, Fender has added a switch that allows players to determine the nature of the boost, toggling between Drive (i.e. the boost pedal will add more… drive) and Level (i.e. the boost pedal will just add some dBs but leave the tone as is). With three EQ knobs (Bass, Mid, and Treble) and a presence knob, you’ll have plenty of options for tone. I played a Strat through a vintage Princeton and was able to dial in a full range of sounds, from throaty growls to biting screams. The pedal also features a switch that toggles between two different overdrive voicings: a classic “American” style overdrive or a hotter “British” style OD. Whatever your flavor, you will be sure to appreciate the responsiveness of this pedal. It seems like it’s self-aware, listening to you as you play. It’s super sensitive to the guitar’s volume knob: at full volume, you are driving the pedal fully; turn down a few notches, and the OD circuit cleans up. This pedal provides players a controlled sense of finesse as they work their way through a song’s tonal palette.

This line of Fender guitar pedals (I’ve reviewed two others in previous issues of MMR) has been very impressive, offering up a suite of classic sounds to discerning players while also showcasing the ingenuity and attention to detail of the Fender engineering squad. Job well done!

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