Stompbox: TWA GD-02 Great Divide Multi-Voice Octaver

March 3, 2014
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Although this is the "MK II" version of the Great Divide, don’t be too concerned if you missed the original 2011 model—as only six were ever made. The GD-02 Great Divide ($399 street) costs half that of the original, delivers the same performance, and actually adds several new features that expand its sound-crafting capabilities. The pedal is powered by any 9-volt power supply, and features TWA’s proprietary relay-based S3 truebypass switching, which automatically defaults to bypass mode should the pedal lose power (a nice touch for gigging musicians). The entirely analog Great Divide features three independent octave effects—octave up, octave down, and a variable Sub voice—along with an analog synthesizer of sorts. There are individual faders for the three octave voices and the synth, as well as a Dry signal fader, allowing the five sounds to be blended together mixer-style. Connecting an optional expression pedal creates a master volume control, and the expression pedal jack also serves as an effects loop for patching in additional pedals or devices.

The surprisingly robust Synth section provides a choice of five intervals (unison, octave down, two octaves down, octave plus a fifth down, and two octaves plus a sixth down) and four waveforms (saw+pulse, chopped saw+pulse, square, and modulated square). The diverse sounds it produces range from singing and fuzz-like to fat and funky to downright flatulent—and, because there are no oscillators, on some settings it even handles chords. The Sub voice is similarly flexible, allowing you to choose from the same four intervals offered on the Synth. It has the capability to sound truly immense, particularly combined with some of the Great Divide’s other voices, or when driven by a fuzz pedal. The two octaves plus a sixth down setting can be especially dramatic.

The octave-up and octave-down functions are relatively straightforward, though you can change the response of the former by engaging the Envelope switch, which alters its characteristics in various ways, depending on how several internal trimpots are adjusted.

That’s right, I said internal trim-pots, of which there are ten, along with two switches. Two of the pots are global: Input Gain may be used to compensate for different pickups but will also produce overdriven sounds, and Sum is a master output level control with gobs of gain. Others let you tweak individual effects. For example, the -1 Oct LPF, +1 Oct LPF, and Syn LPF pots all dial in more or less highs, while the X-Mod switch lets you modulate the octave-down voice using the Sub Clock, for increased resonance and edginess. Sound geeky? It is, but inveterate knob twiddlers will likely be delighted.

The Great Divide has a big and very vibey sound with lots of personality and enough quirkiness to keep things interesting. The tracking is quite good and the pitches relatively stable, though I obtained the most consistent results when playing above the 10th fret. This was particularly true of the lower-frequency sounds, which tended to get a little wobbly and even shift pitch randomly when notes were sustained for very long. Remember, this is an analog pedal— the low octaves and intervals are created by subdividing the input frequencies and the octave-up voice is the product of harmonic distortion, so you aren’t always going to get the sort of pitch stability you get with digital multi-octave devices.

My favorite thing about the Great Divide is its flexibility. Besides handling standard octave-fuzz, octave-down, and synth-like sounds with ease, it allows you to create complex clusters of sounds, such as combining the Synth and Sub voices with their clocks set to two octaves plus a sixth down, and then adding in bits of the dry and octaveup voices; or using that same combination with a fuzz; or adjusting the attack envelopes of various voices to yield cello- and flute-like sounds; or pushing the pedal into wacky self-oscillation freakouts.

Of course, not everyone will be enamored with those possibilities—but if, like me, you are a musician who can’t resist the siren call of unexplored sonic horizons, and are happily willing to pay the fare to get there, the Great Divide beckons.

Kudos Chockablock with cool sounds. Super tweakable.

Concerns Internal controls inconveniently located.

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