The Expressionator controls the nature of the sound of other pedals by way of an expression pedal into the Expressionator and then into three expression inputs (that could mean three different pedals, or a pedal with two expression inputs and a third pedal, for example). This is demonstrated in the YouTube video below:
Being able to optimize some pedal’s capabilities, as well as increasing the complexity of music compositions, takes that extra leap forward via expression – and the Expressionator does this on a whole different level by implementing one expression pedal while controlling three expression inputs. Imagine combining a delay with a filter and a bit compressor and you can make some awesome ambient music. The Expressionator takes this even further by allowing you to set the span for each pedal or output, so that one pedal may be influenced by a big sweep, whereas the others may be influenced by a short or medium sweep (to understand this, think of a wah pedal that has a big or long sweep as opposed to a short quack-like wah). Moreover, the Expressionator allows you to inverse the sweep (to achieve a reverse effect with a pedal) or to apply a Saw or Square wave.
For $199 USD you can achieve some great diversity in your effects by implementing the Expressionator, and certainly manage a more restrictive pedal board by using only one expression pedal. To explain, using an expression pedal (with effects that allow as much) certainly takes your music composition and ‘expression’ to a different level. One problem is when you want to control more than one pedal, which means plugging the cable from one pedal to the next or having more than one expression pedal. Mission Engineering solved this problem by developing the Expressionator so that you can control up to three pedals (or parameters) in any combination, with customized span settings and while applying unique tapering applications (e.g., you can reverse the expression or apply a saw or square wave form). As well, each output on the Expressionator has its own ON button, to remain active or inactive within the mix, although each button is rather small and may be an issue on a dark stage. The only other constraint may be that you can control only three expression-based effects, but then again any additional sounds and the signal likely would become a bit too messy. Nonetheless, based on all the features in this tiny metal box, I believe Mission Engineering got everything spot on.
EASE OF USE
There is enough tweaking with the Expressionator, although it’s relatively easy to navigate and get things working. I’ll address each aspect to explain its ease of use, but do refer to the demo video for clarification. First, there are three Channel LEDs (green, yellow and red), controlled by the main foot switch. You can scroll back and forth among channels, but one always is lit and that particular channel is linked to the Taper/Meter (the row of LEDs that light up and down as you rock the Expression pedal back and forth). You need to select a Channel in order to make custom changes to that Channel.
Each Channel has an on-off switch, and so, even if a particular Channel’s LED is lit and selected (larger LED), you still can control whether the actual signal is on or off (smaller LED) and controlling to the pedal in question. For example, let’s suppose that Channel A is a delay pedal, whereas Channel B is a bit crusher and Channel C is a Flanger. You may want Channel A always to be on, but when you have the bit crusher on you may want the flanger off, or vice versa. In effect, understand there is a difference between what Channel is selected and whether that Channel is actually on or not.
Next is the Taper/Meter, which does two things. One, it indicates how much Span any of the Channels have (and you can set these all differently). You may want a huge delay span of 20% mix (heel all the way down on the expression pedal) to 80% mix (toe all the way down)… or you can adjust the Span so that even if you have the toe all the way down on the expression pedal it may only increase the delay’s mix to 40%. The other thing you can do with the Taper/Meter is to change the nature of the taper (which affects all channels). You can have the usual ramping up effect or you can inverse the effect by flipping what information the expression treadle is sending (heel down now becomes toe down). You can mimic a Saw wave (ramps up the signal up to 8 times in a single span, although you can custom reduce the number of times) or a Square wave (deletes everything between full toe and full heel, thereby creating an on-off effect). There’s also an anti-log taper feature to use with volume pedals that have been modded with a TRS jack, thus evening out the steep ‘cliff’ in logarithmic pots. And if you want to return to factory settings, you can within five-seconds and a two-button push.
The Expressionator is not a plug-n-play device (it takes about a half-hour to become familiar with the combinations and a bit longer if you want to custom the Span or the nature of the Taper/Meter), and some of this may seem confusing (the video makes it much easier to comprehend), but was designed to ‘express’ your needs relative to the abilities and confinements of the pedals that the Expressionator controls. In essence, what pedals do you want controlled and when, and to what degree do you want the effect? That is pretty cool and it brings using an expression pedal to a whole different level.
RELIABILITY & DURABILITY
Made of steel, the Expressionator is relatively light at 4oz and with a fairly small footprint. All cable ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ are located in the back, which saves on pedal board space while preventing any strain on the Expressionator’s inputs. It is powered by a standard 9v power input. As to power output, there is an internal CV switch for each Channel that allows you to send +5 CV (constant voltage) to devices that call for such, e.g., Moogerfoogers, although setting this switch for a pedal that does not call for it can result in pedal damage. Consequently, avoid if uncertain and investigate your pedals’ literature carefully.
The foot switch is a ‘soft’ switch (no hard click engagement). The other push buttons are small or micro-sized (the channel transmission ‘on’ and the ‘set’ buttons), both of which are low profile and would not be engaged or damaged while stomping on the larger foot switch.