New, improved, and with more reverb types than before, the Context 2 offers many flavors of ambience and much potential for experimenting all in one compact pedal.
Great-sounding, character-filled reverb and delay.
Tons of easy access control in a small package.
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Upon its release in 2013, Red Panda’s Context carved out its own place in a crowded field of reverb and reverb/delay pedals by being the only one to draw inspiration from 1980s rackmount units. Think Alesis Midiverb II and Quadraverb, or the Lexicon PCM70.
With ’80s effects like chorus making a resurgence, the time was right for a stompbox-sized reverb that could run with the big boys of yesterday. The new Context 2 presents a major improvement over the original release. To the original version’s Room, Hall, Cathedral, Gated, Plate, and Delay modes, Context 2 adds Reverse, Spring, and Granular reverb.
Also new are stereo input/output, USB MIDI, full assignability for expression pedals, delay plus reverb in all modes, separate high- and low-frequency damping, dynamic reverb, and infinite hold.
In addition, Context 2 adds a modulation knob that changes the amount and character of different modulation types, including a square-wave tremolo in Spring mode.
Don’t expect a typical vintage Fender sound from the spring reverb though. It’s more like a preset in one of the inspirational rack units mentioned above. “There is a small amount of modulation inherent in the way the spring is implemented, so you might detect a slight pitch waver,” designer Curt Malouin says.
Though the Spring setting does sound a little different from a vintage-based effect, I found it delivered all the drippy vibe of that style of reverb, and the waver was inaudible when playing in a band.
Neither is Grain your typical shimmer effect. That mode’s granular reverb is inspired by the 1978 Ursa Major Space Station, which used multiple, modulated delay taps to create reverb. It’s a subtler sound, but no less atmospheric.
Subtlety rules in the dynamics processing as well, but with some experimentation I found that the options for ducking (which results in less reverb when playing louder) and expanding (more reverb when playing louder) yielded very expressive results.
Context lets you control a range of additional parameters – including delay time, delay feedback, modulation rate, and dynamics – by holding down the shift button while turning the knobs, and the pedal’s compact size makes quick, one-handed adjustments easy.
For more complex, multiple-knob manipulation, I welcomed the option of tapping the shift button twice to lock it in alternate parameter mode. Holding down either foot switch creates infinite sustain, with two performance variations: When holding the left switch, any notes played over the pad will have reverb on them, while notes played with the right switch pressed will remain dry.
An expression pedal or CV can be also assigned to any combination of parameters. In addition, the left foot switch acts as a preset selector to call up a single preset, thereby allowing you to switch between it and the sound currently set with the controls.
In all, 127 presets are available via MIDI or Red Panda’s optional remote foot switch, and you can control various parameters as well as sync delay and pre-delay time to a DAW clock via MIDI. A web-based editor allows tweaking and managing presets.
Anyone familiar with Red Panda pedals like Tensor or Particle knows the company follows its own sonic path. So it’s no surprise Context doesn’t sound like other reverb/delays.
But ’80s nostalgia aside, Context offers high-quality ambience with no trace of metallic harshness in the tails, a flexible tone shaping section, vast versatility in a small footprint, and opportunity to create sounds that are unique to you.
- PRICE: $299 street
- CONTROLS: Wet/dry blend, predelay, decay high- and low-frequency damping, modulation depth and rate, reverb/delay balance, delay time, delay feedback, dynamics ducking/expander. Multifunction preset/save, and on/trails foot switches
- FEATURES: Eight reverb algorithms. Delay available on all reverbs
- I/O: Input, output, and control jacks
- BUILT: Assembled in the USA
- CONTACT: Red Panda (opens in new tab)
By Art Thompson