WMD Geiger Counter

November 1, 2009

0.gp1108_gearwmdGJ7T0390“WE STRIVE TO CREATE PEDALS WITH STRANGE features and settings that inspire creativity through unpredictable behavior,” proclaims William Mathewson—and the aptly named Geiger Counter unquestionably fulfills that mandate. In fact, if this were a strangeness detector, the needle would be perpetually pegged. Ostensibly a distortion pedal of sorts, the Geiger Counter is to your average distortion stompbox what a smart phone is to a rotary dial telephone. It sports an 8-bit computer that “takes your signal and destroys it with math” via wave table modulators and continuously variable Sample Rate (260Hz- 58kHz) and Bit Depth (1-8 bits) controls, with relatively normal Volume, Gain, and Tone controls thrown in just so you don’t get too freaked out when using it. And for you truly intrepid sound jockeys, the Tone control may be switched in and out, the Bit Depth function can be filtered by engaging Mask mode, the order of the Bit Depth and Wave Table functions can be inverted, and you can sweep the Bit Depth and/or Sample Rate using an optional expression pedal or other 0-5-volt CV source. Oh yeah, the Geiger Counter also features true-bypass switching and may be powered by any standard 9-volt power supply.

At the heart of this pedal are 252 wave tables, organized in a counterintuitive manner using a hexadecimal display, i.e. combinations of numbers and letters (01, 0D, 3A, 60, FA, etc.). A chart with tiny graphic representations of the waveforms makes it easier to get your head around what the pedal is doing, but good luck trying to navigate the tables without it. Overall, I found the best approach was to find a few wave tables that worked best for a given source sound, then start twisting knobs and pressing buttons to see what happened, making notes or recording the results as I went along. I tested the Geiger Counter with a guitar, by just playing, but also by looping a phrase and letting it repeat as I experimented with the pedal’s controls. I also used it as an outboard effects processor in my studio, running instruments such as bass, percussion, and keyboards through it while mixing.

The sounds I got fell into two categories: Those that had the same (or at least basically the same) pitch as the note I played, and those that did not. The pitched sounds included massive and killer “normal” tube-like distortion, hyper-edgy fuzzes, Octavia-type buzz, ringmodulator- type clanging, and Octavia through a ring-mod-type craziness. Non-pitched sounds ranged from ultra-high squeals and hisses to saw-toothed buzzes to growls and flatulent splats. Plugging a Boss EV-5 expression pedal into the CV input unleashed even more possibilities, from subtle filter-like sweeps to major mayhem. I didn’t have the optional cable adapter that would have allowed me connect the Geiger Counter to my Moogerfooger pedals, but I’m sure that would have been more fun than barrel of modulators.

Just to be clear, while the Geiger Counter won’t replace your Ibanez Tube Screamer or Boss DS-1, it can produce some frighteningly cool overdrive and distortion sounds—but they are merely the proverbial icing on this tasty bit-mangling, tone-torturing, signal-crushing cake.


KUDOS Truly unique. Seemingly unlimited distortion sounds from fuzzy to freaked out.
CONCERNS Unwieldy wave table names.
PRICE $349 retail/ $299 street
CONTACT William Mathewson Devices (WMD), (303) 549-9205; wmdevices.com

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