Review: Electro-Harmonix Attack Decay

Considering that many fuzz, boost and distortion boxes cost considerably more than this amazing piece of gear, the Attack Decay is one hell of a bang-for-buck champion.
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Electro-Harmonix Attack Decay

Electro-Harmonix Attack Decay

The original attack decay from the 1980s was dubbed a “tape reverse simulator” for its ability to produce backward tape sounds as well as reverse volume swells, bowed-instrument textures, synth sounds and tremolo effects. This modernized version also provides synthesizer-like control over the attack and decay of the notes played into it, and it adds such features as Poly mode (which cleverly puts each note though separate volume envelopes), three user presets, gain, tone and volume controls for the Harmonix fuzz, an effects loop and an expression input that allows for pedal or CV control over every knob. The Attack Decay comes with a 9.6-volt AC adapter that more than covers its minimum current requirement of 140mA.

This pedal is a natural for sound designers and sonic spelunkers (watch the video demo by EHX’s Bill Ruppert below for some great examples of what it can do). That said, it can easily be deployed in a gig rig to get such things as evocative volume swells, thick, sustaining fuzztortion tones that work superbly for slide or chunking out massive rock riffs (adding controls for the fuzz circuit was definitely a good call) and a seemingly endless variety of wacky modulation effects.

In fact, I found myself using the Attack Decay a lot for its juicy-sounding tremolo effects. This mode can be accessed by holding down the bypass foot switch while clicking the Harmonix/preset switch and using the attack and decay controls to set the speed and depth. Activating Poly mode with the pedal set for tremolo takes things in very interesting sonic directions, too, as the notes passing though different volume envelopes create a trippy form of modulation, with randomized tonalities that can sound gorgeous and otherworldly, whether you’re flat-picking melodies or arpeggiating chords.

Run through my Fender Deluxe Reverb using a Reverend Gristlemaster, the Attack Decay sounded so cool for all of the above that I could make a case for using a couple of them for quick access to different effects. Heck, at a buck-twenty-five each, it’s a modest investment for the amount of firepower that this pedal puts at your feet. Of course, the user-defined presets make it possible to access three different sounds, and it’s super simple to save whatever you come up with.

While I didn’t find the synth-oriented sounds as useful myself, the Attack Decay does cool staccato effects (with or without fuzz) and can delve into woodwind-like and Metheny-esque timbres. There are myriad parameters that can be tweaked to make this pedal suited to your particular application. For example, the internal compressor can be defeated, the location of the fuzz can be changed in the FX loop and three different envelope curves can be selected for the mono-mode volume envelopes, among other things.

It all adds up to very powerful multi-effects pedal. To call it a “tape reverse simulator” only hints at its potential, especially when delays, reverbs or other devices are patched into it. Considering that many fuzz, boost and distortion boxes cost considerably more than this amazing piece of gear, the Attack Decay is one hell of a bang-for-buck champion and well deserving of an Editors’ Pick Award.


Attack Decay

PRICE $125 street

CONTROLS Volume, blend, attack, decay. Mini knobs for H.vol, tone and Harmonix. Three preset buttons, Poly button, sensitivity control
FOOT SWITCHES Bypass, Harmonix/preset
EXTRAS Effects loop, expression pedal input, Poly mode, three user presets

KUDOS Fabulous array of sounds. Smart features