I’m a sucker for ambient type music and pedals that help to produce that genre of music. The three major types of such pedals are modulation, delay and, of course, reverb. The Astronaut A+ (version 2) primarily is a reverb pedal, but the designers over at Shift Line didn’t hold back as they integrated both modulation and delay as well. Below is a sound demo that goes over the various ‘types’ of reverb on the Astronaut A+, and do expect some really spacey sounds (which is why it’s called the Astronaut):
I’ll cover each of the reverbs in brief, but also be aware of the TAILS switch. This allows you to hear the reverb continue even after the pedal is turned off. Conversely, if the TAILS are off, then reverb terminates instantly the moment you switch the Astronaut A+ off. The other controls are fairly basic, including Volume, Mix and Delay (the strength and/or how long the effect lasts).
And then there’s the algorithm knob that selects which effect you want. First is the GATED reverb, which is audible only when the guitar signal is heard. The delay button controls the gate, so that you can get a very typical reverb with a modest tail or a sharp and spanky slap-back type result. The MODULATED reverb has a deep modulating sound that adds a nice amount of beefiness to the signal. SKYNET is a reverb that put the original Astronaut on the map – as Shift Line notes: it is “long, massive and cosmic.” I suspect this may be a favorite among many of the pedal’s users. MECHANICS is very industrial in sound, and some of the remnants sound very bell-like, as though Notre Dame Cathedral is ringing out – this is caused by a “short clang and short high-feedback delay.” Just about any reverb junky loves a good shimmer, and Shift Line thought to include three types on the Astronaut A+. SHIMUP offers a nice shimmering reverb one octave higher; SHIMDOWN shimmers one octave below; and SHIMUPDOWN has two octaves of shimmer (one up and one down). MAJOR ARP has a dream-like effect, as you hear random major arpeggios dance off into the far distance. OCTAVE ARP produces a similar effect, but with octave arpeggios. PING-PONG is a reverse echo reverb, and one of the best I’ve heard. Many reverse delays have a strange warped vinyl record sound to them, whereas this reverb/delay is more ‘usable.’
Finally, Shift Line incorporated a HOLD feature that freezes whatever note/chord you play as you step onto the ON switch – this gives you some incredibly cool (drone) tones that sustain for a very long time as you solo over top. Similarly, there is an extra function that allows the pedal to listen to the guitar signal in bypass and “play full and massive reverb tails immediately when switched on.”
EASE OF USE
What I like about this pedal… at least one of the many things… is that you get some really great usable reverbs all at the turn of a dial – no scrolling through endless presets. You do need to coordinate the symbols along the algorithm ‘choice wheel’ and what each represents (e.g., Gated Reverb, Mechanics Reverb, etc.), but that takes only a little getting used to. And for the price (which includes shipping), the boys in St. Petersburg, Russia did a phenomenal job that can stand next to and even surpass many of the great reverbs.
Encased in steel (it may be heavy aluminum… either way, it is rugged), this is the second version of the Astronaut (called the Astronaut A+). It can run on battery or a standard 9v 100mA power supply. It’s overall layout, construction and materials are all very standard and should stand the test of time.
Although the Astronaut A+ is designed for those really great ambient sounds that take you across the cosmos, several selections are ideal for typical guitar playing (typical in the sense that exaggerated reverb sounds may not be desired); all you have to do is keep the DECAY and MIX down low and you can play faster selections that do not warrant those long and haunting tails. And when you’re ready to do the Pink Floyd then turn up the decay and mix.