Next Step Talking Pedal Review

manufacturer: Electro-Harmonix date: 05/16/2013 category: Guitar Effects
Electro-Harmonix: Next Step Talking Pedal
I really want to love this pedal. It creates the sound I want in a manually controllable manner, but as I've spent more of this review pointing out it's flaws than I have praising it's sound I can't honestly give it more than half-marks.
 Sound: 7
 Overall Impression: 5
 Reliability & Durability: 8
 Ease of Use: 6
 Overall rating:
 7.3 
 Reviewer rating:
 6.5 
 Users rating:
 8 
 Votes:
 2 
review (1) pictures (3) 1 comment vote for this gear:
overall: 6.5
Next Step Talking Pedal Reviewed by: GaryBillington, on may 16, 2013
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Price paid: £ 59.99

Purchased from: Amazon

Ease of Use: This pedal is extremely easy to get started with. In fact it probably couldn't be easier. You simply plug it in and it's ready to go. There are no real controls other than the amount of in-built fuzz you want, as this is a simply a case of scrolling the dial at the side of the pedal to the required level. Once you get started though, you realise things aren't all perfect. I'll start with the easy one - if you're using it on anything other than a perfectly flat surface, it will need calbrating. Again, this is easily done and the manual takes you through it in simple step by step instructions. When you come to actually using the pedal in anger, that's when you realise there are a few issues to be worked around. Firstly, it doesn't really react very well to being on carpet - it moves around a lot which makes it difficult to control the sound it's making. The obvious answer is to put it on your pedal board, but you'll need to create a special place for it - if you have a pedaltrain style board, this pedal will be impossible to use. If your board is covered in velcro you'll have the same issues you'd have on carpet. Finally, if your board is fairly crowded you'll find cable management to be a nightmare due to the way this pedal works - with all the will in the world, due to the way this pedal is designed, the cables to and from it (and those for surrounding pedals) will get in the way of it from time to time. If I could change anything about the pedal, it would be an easier way to switch it on and off. To do this, you rock it forward beyond the flat position. Seems easy when you put it like that, but in reality it means you have to be ready for it with not just your foot in the right position, but also your whole body as you need to go just far enough to make it easy to lose your balance. It isn't something you can just hit quickly as you're switching a few effects on and off. Also, unlike regular pedals which have an LED to show when they are on or off, this pedal does this by lighting up the logo in the centre of the pedal. Unfortunately see that as your foot will be in the way. Definitely a schoolboy error. he only way you could realistically get the best out of this pedal in a live environment (assuming you don't want it on for a whole song and will need quick changes to another sound) would be to invest in a bypass loop switch pedal and use that to go to & from the effect whilst having the Talking Pedal switched on all the time. // 6

Sound: This is a difficult category to put a rating on. When you hit the sweet spot, this pedal is awesome. It took me a bit of playing around to figure it out. As I don't usually use fuzz, I tried placing it before and after my Overdrive pedals so it would add the talking effect to my usual sound. Although it sort of worked, it didn't really give the real talkbox vibe I was after. When I eventually realised you need to use it with the built in fuzz effect, I started making all the right sounds. For that, it gets a 10. Before purchasing the pedal, I was also hoping that it would be usable as just a fuzz pedal, unfortunately the fuzz is inseparable from the talkbox simulation so it doesn't work on its own - that's a minor point though, and not why I bought the pedal so it would be harsh to mark it down for that. However, if you needed to use the talking effect with the fuzz during a chorus and with a clean sound during a verse, there's no way to turn it on separately. You'd have to stop playing whilst you dialed the fuzz control on the side of the pedal up and down for each change. Unfortunately, as someone who plays mainly in my living room, I'm never very far from my amp - this pedal doesn't like that. When it's on with the fuzz turned up, it creates a lot of feedback. I've had to rearrange my room so I can get my pedals further away from my amp, but even then you have to be careful which way you're facing or you'll get the feedback again. I've also noticed that the effect volume is quite quiet. When I'm playing in the evening with my amp (a Vox AC4TVH & V112TV cab) set to 1/4 watt, you don't really notice, but at weekends when I switch the amp to full wattage and turn it up a bit, I really notice that the volume is a lot quieter than my overdriven sound - it's even quieter than the clean sound with no effects. Remember that bypass loop switch I mentioned in the "Easy Of Use" section? I also recommend adding a boost just after it in the same loop to keep a consistent volume with your other sounds. Like I said though, once you hit the sweet spot and get your foot rocking in time with the music, this pedal can sound awesome. // 7

Reliability & Durability: In theory, EHX's Next Step range of pedals are designed to last indefinitely as they don't rely on any moving parts or springs. In practice, I suspect after a few years of use the rubber base of the pedal may wear out and need replacing, but there's nothing anyone can do to stop things like that happening. Although I don't expect to have any problems with reliability from the pedal itself, due to the amount of movement involved in using the pedal I can imagine patch cables and power cables may get twisted often enough to create issues occasionally, so I'm refusing to give it full marks. // 8

Overall Impression: In the 20+ years I've been playing, I've always loved the talkbox effect but never thought I'd be able to have one due to the complexities of setting them up. I did a lot of research into potential alternatives, the main other contenders were the Danelectro Free Speech (which is the only genuine talkbox that feeds through your standard signal to the amp without any outside influences) and a Rocktron Banshee (ruled out because although it technically doesn't need mic'ing up through a PA, it does still need a separate cab to utilise its in-built pre-amp). I chose the EHX Next Step Talking Pedal as it was the only option that was usable in my home setup whilst still being a potentially gig-worthy piece of kit - I wouldn't have any second thoughts about gigging this pedal without a backup. I don't regret buying it, but I think perhaps a future generation of EHX's Next Step pedals will be a better investment. Although the sound is good, things like the way you have to tilt it to turn it on and off and the inability to switch the fuzz on and off separately make it awkward to use. If it was lost or stolen, I honestly don't know if I'd get another one. I'd certainly investigate all the other options again, and if I concluded that this was still the only option I'd definitely consider it - it can sound excellent, it's just a pain to use. I really want to love this pedal. It creates the sound I want in a manually controllable manner (as opposed to simply being an automated model of a talkbox that is available on some multi-effect pedals) and I'd like to give it a higher mark, but as I've spent more of this review pointing out its flaws than I have praising its sound I can't honestly give it more than half-marks. Video from YouTube:

// 5

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