[review] Carl Martin Classic Optical Envelope (by Bieke)

Carl Martin is a familiar name for most players. They have been around for years now and have a reputation for making reliable, sturdy effect pedals and switchers.

Carl Martin strives to offer professional  products in the mid-price segment.

Over the years, they released a several lines of effect pedals, and one of the latest additions to the Classic series is the Classic Optical Envelope.

Carl Martin Classic Optical EnvelopeThe looks

Nice! The Optical Envelope is housed in a pale blue die cast 1590BB sized housing.

The pedal has two footswitches, the first is a buffered On/Off switch and the second for switching between High Pass, Band Pass, and Low Pass. Each filter mode has its own Status LED and there is also a status LED for the On/Off switch.

Four controls: a Q control for adjusting the sweep of the bandwidth, a Tone control that works as a separate Hi-pass filter,  a Drive control to set the threshold of the auto-wah effect and a Level control for adjusting the overall volume output.

It has the standard 9V DC plug and both in- and output jacks on the top panel. The only thing missing is an easy access battery compartment, but Carl Martin recommends using a power supply.

The sounds

Well, filter pedals are fun and finicky. Very touch responsive. On the Optical Envelope, the Drive knob is very efficient to adjust the auto-wah effect to your playing style. And it will play along nicely, it does a softer wah when you play softly and it is more dynamic when you strum harder. Along with the Q control, you can dial in all sorts of wah sounds. The Drive and Q controls are very interactive and once you dialed in the effect to your taste, the Tone control can be used to adjust the higher frequencies. Then set your Level control to taste and you’re good to go.

Ah yes, you can select high pass setting for sharper tone, band pass setting for a deeper tone and low pass, well you guess, goes even deeper, it’s the preferred mode for bass players.

Envelope filter effects can be al little frustrating and hard to dial in, but the Carl Martin is an easy to use pedal. Soundwise, it is very decent, too decent perhaps, it lacks a bit of character. Unlike the Mutron III or the Electro Harmonix Q-Tron, which is my favorite, both great pedals but very hard to tame and use effectively. The Carl Martin is more high fidelity and controllable. Personally, I prefer the gnarly, dirty filter effect and unpredictability of the Q-Tron, or the typical chewy sound of the Mutron III. Nonetheless, the Optical Envelope is a superb auto-wah, from vintage to modern sounds, from deep, slow wah to dynamic, fast wah, it can quack happily or do vowely stuff. It will always sound fairly clean, it will not get right down and dirty like a Q-Tron. It is a more refined filter sound. Still fun though. And you can always add some dirt if you want, it takes that well, which reminds me, would have been great to have an FX loop on this, like on the Q-Tron+.

The Verdict

This is not for everyone. Envelope filters are great tone shaping effects. The Carl Martin Classic Optical Envelope is trying to appeal to all players who are looking for an alternative to using a wah pedal. I was impressed by its ease of use and controllability. Soundwise, I’d put it in between an Ibanez AF-9 (it also has that sharp bite) and the Emma Discumbobulator (overly decent and clean sounding filter).

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