[review] Catalinbread Pareidolia Harmonic Mesmerizer (by Bieke)

The Pareidolia Harmonic Mesmerizer is not the latest pedal addition to the ever growing line of  Catalinbread  pedals, anyway, time for an in depth review.

Pareidolia : a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. For example, seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon, or hearing hidden messages on records or seeing Jesus appear on buttered toast.

Intrigued? I sure was upon reading that the pedal was actually inspired by the”harmonic vibrato” on the classic 1961 Fender Twin Amp. Which wasn’t a vibrato technically, more a sine wave tremolo circuit that split the signal into highs and lows, modulated and then recombined them. The result sounded like a cross between a phaser, a tremolo and even a filter of some sort, with a hint of vibrato, but yet very different.  The general consensus is that the 1961 Fender Twin Amp has the best and richest sounding tremolo ever offered on a Fender amp, a rare, desirable and sought after amp nowadays. Terribly expensive as well.

Good thing Catalinbread decided  to recreate this bit of Fender nostalgia in a stompbox.

It's in the standard Catalinbread sized compact casing, with Speed, Depth and Volume controls, and a pilot light that pulses in time with the speed. What you hear when you plug into the Pareidolia is quite literally mesmerizing. Your guitar signal is split into two; one filtered to pass highs and the other filtered to pass lows. In other words as the lows are getting louder the highs are getting softer and vice versa. Then there’s more, both are tuned to share some common frequencies in the middle so you are also getting a few degrees of phase shifting from each side. The interaction of this slight phase shift on the shared midrange frequencies results in some subtle frequency canceling while the amplitude goes up and down.  Also, it seems to speed up and slow down, which adds a bit of a vibrato wobble.  So you get a sine wave tremolo, a pleasantly voiced, filtered split signal of highs and lows with a luscious, swirly phasing overlap in the middle, topping it off with a bit of throbbing vibrato.

And there’s even more, the Volume was also designed to pull double duty as a fantastic sparkling, glassy boost when the Depth is off. The Depth control is able to go from just a slight shimmer to a wide sweep. The Rate allow to control the sweep to sound anything from slow pulse to fast stuttering tremolo. The Pareidolia can be run on batteries and has a 9v-18V DC center negative input for power.

Cosmetically, the pedal is available in several colors, the one I tested had an attractive psychedelic mint green swirly pattern. Catalinbread recently revamped all their pedals, the newer Pareidolias have a more sixties inspired psychedelic graphics, in flashy green or orange and bright pink, again very mesmerizing.

Truly a very musical and inspiring effect. It is mainly a soft, sine wave tremolo, but with the typical tremolo effect being achieved by a modulated dual filter, which adds a bit of phasing in between and as a result thereof, creating a subtle vibrato effect. Plus it can simply function as a clean booster (a very nice feature as well).  An outstanding pedal.


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