ELECTRO-HARMONIX NEO MISTRESS
BY LYLE ZAEHRINGER
you’re looking for a compact, yet
versatile and cool-sounding flange.
Like delay, flanging was born through creative use of magnetic tape machines.
Applied to vocals and guitar, the unmistakable swirling effect of flanging helped
define the sound of the psychedelic ’60s.
And though the effect was originally only
obtainable in the studio by manipulating
the speed of spinning tape reels, companies
like A/DA, Electro-Harmonix, and Univox
were building stompbox versions by the
’70s. Electro-Harmonix’s Electric Mistress
remains among the most renowned of these
units and remains in production to this
day. With the release of the Neo Mistress,
Electro-Harmonix has packed much of the
punch of the original into the company’s
Nano-sized package for guitarists with limited pedalboard real estate.
Guaranteed to Blow Your Mind
With two knobs, an LED, and a footswitch, the Neo Mistress appears exceedingly simple. But like so many Electro-Harmonix stompboxes, there’s more going
on than meets the eye. Rate and Feedback
controls enable adjustments of speed
and intensity, but there’s also a Filter
Matrix Mode, similar to that found in the
Electric Mistress, that enables you to create more unusual tones outside the realm
of typical flanging.
With the Neo Mistress between my
Gibson SG and a vintage Fender Bassman,
I set both controls to 12 o’clock. The first
thing I noticed was the slowly changing
color of the status LED. At the lowest
point in the flange sweep, the LED glows
green. It then blends from orange to red
at the highest point in the flange sweep.
This handy feature gives you visual
feedback on the pedal’s rate. With both
controls at noon, the flange effect is
quite slow, evoking the sci-fi image of
my guitar being scanned by some sort
of ominous robot eye in the sky. A full
cycle of the flange wave takes about six
seconds at this setting.
Turning the Feedback control up to
about 3 o’clock increases the intensity
of the wave and lends a more focused,
resonant, and metallic tone, while
adding a sinister touch to the sound.
Setting the Rate knob at about 2
o’clock shortens the scan cycle to
about once every second. With the
Rate nearly maxed, the sweeps flutter
with almost imperceptible speed that
sound like convulsions of your con-
sciousness as it’s assimilated into the
fabric of space and time. Yes, the Neo
Mistress can sound very weird, as well
you need stereo functionality or require
more tone-shaping control.
CLICKHere… or scan this QR code with a mobile device to hear audio clips of this pedal at premierguitar.com/nov2011.
counterclockwise from this position, the
pedal enters its Filter Matrix Mode (a function that’s activated with a switch on the
Deluxe Electric Mistress). In this setting,
you can effectively freeze the position of
the flange at a fixed point on the wave, and
then use the Feedback control to increase
the resonance. Depending on where you
set the Feedback, you can get chiming but
metallic-tinged tones that sound almost
synth-like. With my Fender Stratocaster
and a high Feedback setting, the Neo
Mistress transformed the brighter tones of
the Fender single-coils into something like
a steel drum. But careful tweaking of the
Feedback knob will also bring out more
natural-sounding frequencies that can make
your tone more distinctive for breaks and
Filter Matrix Mode
The 10 o’clock position on the Rate
knob is marked with a star. Moving
For some players, one of the real drawbacks of the Electric Mistress and Deluxe
Electric Mistress is their large footprint.
The Neo Mistress addresses that concern
in a major way by fitting much of the
modulation horsepower of the original
Mistress and Deluxe into a box the size of
an MXR pedal. You sacrifice some of the
tone coloration potential you get from a
Deluxe’s Color control, for instance, but
with the onboard Filter Matrix Mode, the
Neo is still a great tool for staking out
some very distinctive—and unusual—
sonic ground in a band mix.