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Background and Operations
The Goatkeeper boasts an all analog tremolo circuit using a ‘THAT Corp VCA, which when combined with the various waveforms and multipliers offers four different modes of operation:
1. Single operation (W1 – first stage) is for traditional or classic tremolo
2. Sequential operation combines the two stages (W1 and W2) and run one after the other
3. Composite operation combines the two stages so that the waveform is a composite polyrhythm of the two
4. Modulation combines the two stages, whereas the second waveform modulates the first waveform
The possible LFO generations of this Relay true-bypass pedal can be simple to rather complex, to the point that a guitar can sound like a synthesizer sequencer. However, let’s start from scratch with the Single operation to understand its operation. You can select one of five different waveforms: sine, up ramp, down ramp, long square and pulse (short square). Next, select a multiplier or the number of repeats involved in the tremolo’s oscillation – from 1 to 12 (Stage 1 also includes a Random multiplier, which gives some interesting and chaotic results, particularly when combined with stage 1’s Random wave pattern option).
The next two functions for sculpting your tone are the Depth and Rate. Depth refers to the mix of wet with dry, whereas the Rate refers to the speed of the tremolo (from a slow throb to Surf music on steroids). Depth is very audible with the control just at 9-o’clock, whereas Rate shifts from slow to moderate speed at about 11-o’clock. Now, keep in mind that all these parameters also affect the Stage 2 waveform – various waves and multipliers from which to choose, along with the pedal’s depth and rate.
What makes the Goatkeeper so interesting and fun to use is the ability to mix and match waveforms and multipliers. For instance, consider working with a Sequential pattern – in Stage 1 you could use the Sine waveform with a multiplier of 2, whereas in Stage 2 you could implement a long square waveform with a multiplier of 8 (obviously choosing the same waveform and multiplier would be the same as working with only one stage). You first would hear the sine waveform with 2 repeats followed by a long square waveform with 8 repeats. The result could be more complex when working a Composite pattern as both waveforms work together (pumping out two versus eight repeats with two different waveforms merged). And yet the effect is different still with the Modulation setting as the second waveform modulates the first.
Sound-wise, what is very noticeable is how quiet the Goatkeeper is when not playing, although it possesses very large headroom. Some tremolo-type pedals produce a pulsating swishing sound that is not part of your playing, whereas this aspect is barely audible or completely non-existent, even with some high-gain guitar. As well, the extent of tone/effect range is very impressive. We all know what classic tremolo sounds like, whether applying a smooth and slow wave or a fast stutter, whereas the Goatkeeper also can produce some highly unique patterns that affect an instrument’s tone to the point of sounding completely different from the original dry signal. The demo included with this review makes that obvious, as I can make a somewhat overdriven amp sound like an angry and heavily distorted sequencer, thus producing some fantastic and unique rhythm tones.
The Goatkeeper measures 5.5 (L) x 2.25 (W) x 2.5 (H) inches or 13.97 x 5.7 x 6.35 cm and weighs 10 ounces or 290g. Its metal chassis is powder coated white with black screen printing/graphics. The footswitch feels solid with a click when engaged/disengaged, although there is no audible clicking in the signal. The waveform/multiplier knobs are detented for quick and accurate settings and the depth/rate knobs feel smooth and solid when turned. There are separate LEDs to show the waveform intensity of each stage. The Goatkeeper can work on a 9VDC battery or a standard power supply (negative tip) while drawing 50mA of current.
If you are searching for a tremolo/sequencer/waveform pedal that gives hours of experimentation and some very unique results (whether playing guitar, bass or keyboard), the Goatkeeper is a viable option (developed by a company that also produces synth-based gear). However, that could be the downfall for some who prefer simple plug-and-play pedals. This tremolo offers more combinations than I have experienced with other pedals, and a lot more sound/pattern variations, but that means a lot of tweaking, experimenting and discovering. Consequently, if you want the outer fringes of tremolo pedals, then this is it, but also be aware that if you’re a tap-tempo musician you will need to purchase a separate Lil’ Buddy (from Malekko) or sync with an external metronome/clock.
The Goatkeeper is a serious contender if you’re looking for a tremolo that is beyond a typical tremolo. A mid-priced pedal, Goatkeeper is capable of classic tremolo that can evolve into the realm of synth-type sequencing or slicing patterns. Developed by an electronics company that makes both guitar pedals and synth-based gear, you know you’re getting the real deal whether using the Goatkeeper with a guitar, bass or synth. Goatkeeper has an incredible range of diversity under its hood, besides having very quiet operation, thus making it nothing short of impressive. Even with the same settings (sine waves, repeats, depth and rate) there are different flavors and results when working through the three different modes of operation. The potential complexity of the Goatkeeper may scare off the plug-and-play crowd, but for those looking to experiment and create unique patterns and sounds this pedal is a (Goat) keeper.