Zorx Electronics


by Ian Rapp

The term "Swiss Army Knife" gets thrown around a lot to describe something multifunctional and versatile. Before I lost it on a camping trip, I had such a “knife”; a behemoth of a thing that did indeed perform a lot of functions and was the size of a small first aid kit. The thing about a tool like that is, while useful in a myriad of ways and situations, you can pretty much only use one tool at a time unless you're chewing on the creepy toothpick while whittling a spear or something. Unlike a knife geared towards a certain faction of armed forces from Switzerland,’ Ghost, a collab with Youtuber/musician/artist Andrew Huang (Waveform, issue 7), has a multitude of tools at your disposal: reverb, delay, distortion, sidechain and filter, that can also be used in an individual fashion, so for those synthesists who find themselves in need while waiting for the coals to warm to temp, Ghost can be used full-on, with every tool working all on one signal, one at a time, simultaneously on numerous signals, or in any combination thereof.
Each effect is pretty streamlined; you're limited to the singular sound palette and available parameters for each feature given, but even so, there’s a grab bag of sounds—amazingly so with the small amount of controls for each feature—and seemingly has a Golden Master touch (Golden Master is the name of another of their modules, hence the pun) and all of the effects sound great and are very usable. In fact, while Ghost's 16HP size might put a noticeable bulge in your front shirt pocket, it's much less than that brick of a knife with the virtually unusable magnifying glass, and much more usable in real world situations.
Ghost can be used in mono or stereo and has different modes for stereo in correlation to its effects. For the delay, this means you can switch the taps to be either ping pong/LRLR, LRRL or Stereo. It’s interesting to switch between the three and hear the distinctions, and there are various CV inputs for controlling the repeats, time division, and even 1V/Oct, depending on the delay settings to get your Karplus Strong on. You can also tap your own tempo and control the tone of the repeats via a tilt EQ. The delay gets about 20% of the space on Ghost and it's very well implemented with plenty to tweak and dial.
The reverb takes up less space than the delay, but you get a lot with a little. There's merely a knob that says "Reverb"—no multi-select button or display to scroll through, just "Reverb”—but between this control and Tail/Pre-delay, you can get a lot of variation. The reverb sounds vast, spacious, and gorgeous with a large hall algorithm and a bit o' shimmer added in. There's a Freeze/Reverse function to play with on top of CV ins for the Dry/Wet control, Freeze, and Tail length, and the reverb is versatile and well done.
The top of the module is where the input/output and dynamic type of controls lie: Tone/Gain, Volume/Drive, Sidechain, and the Compressor. There are all sorts of ways you can dive in and really tweak the parameters of each feature, and in this case the manual is helpful. Again, some of this is more of a sort of set and forget type of thing rather than something you'd be changing frequently, so the manual diving wasn't too much of an issue. There's a bit of gain staging/driving that can be had and onboard distortion/bit crusher/sample reduction to further mangle your sound and you can even CV the distortion level, something I love to do.
It's funny that the filter knob—in pure synth style—is oversized compared to everything else. It would seem to suggest that the filter is the dominant feature on Ghost, and I suppose it can be seen that way. The filter is super versatile, with the options of LPF, HPF, or BPF, and in combination with the Resonance, the filter on Ghost can get screaming quite easily and can either be used to tailor in the desired frequency range, or patch/CV up and be used as more of an effect itself. It’s when you start chaining the various effects to run through the filter that the giant knob makes sense.
A lot of Ghost seems to be hinting at end-of-chain usage, but I found myself using it more on a single patch, usually the main focal/melody (if there was one) in order to make it stand out and take advantage of the stereo delay aspects of Ghost. I love the stereo functionality, and as long as I didn't try to too much stereo spreading in a patch, overwhelming the stereo field (and my ears), Ghost worked really well as an end-of-patch processor.
One thing that Ghost is really built around is the signal routing, and in this squeeze a lot of mileage out of just a few buttons. The routing of all the features, the order in which the signal gets fed through the delay, reverb, distortion and filter is easy to audition and results can, of course, vary drastically from say, the distortion going before the filter, the filter going before the distortion, and stuff like that. It's a cool thing to be able to do and it makes it way easier than having to patch and unpatch or use another module to do this and sometimes getting a desired sound had more to do with the signal path than the amount of each feature/parameter being applied to the signal. I love the ability to switch the routing with a button press to find the sweet (or not-so-sweet) spot and it's easy enough to only use certain effects. Since there are two inputs you can even use it simultaneously for two different signals at the same time. Ghost has its own personality when it comes to changing the delay time, and in this aspect it’s pretty interesting and worth exploring with some CV patched in. Ditto for CVing the distortion amount, which can bring an animal-breathing grit if you put a symmetrical LFO/envelope into it. Using Malstrom Audio’s Mandrake and running that through Ghost, I was able to create some killer sci-fi mildly-acid techno bass drum sounds with the reverse reverb and a bunch of delay repeats with the distortion cranked.
Using it on drums, patching Modbap’s Trinity drum module into Ghost was amazing. Nasty, gritty, distorted…just really sick drum sounds. CVing various parameters, like the pitch control on the kick on Trinity made Ghost scream its head off as if there was a ghost in the machine—a ghost in Ghost. If you’re a sound designer working in horror films I’m not sure it gets any better. There are various considerations going on here, of course, but man…scary sounds, and really good stuff.
Conversely, singing through Ghost was great. Again, cranking the distortion got a pretty good blown out vocal screamcore with nary a vocal node or polyp being produced, but vocals without the distortion and with some reverb, delay and a little compression was pretty and angelic. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for vocals in a recorded track in a studio use situation, and I can see that happening in my future, especially for some standout backgrounds with that extra something something.
As referenced, most of the controls on Ghost have dual/alternate functions, accessed with a button press or hold and this saves a lot of real estate, but can be hard to quickly assess or change due to the small nature of the text signifying what is what. In my messy man cave it’s not much of a problem, I can turn on the bright lights for my tired eyes, but during a live performance I'd find it hard to be confident in accessing some of these alternates without memorizing the location of each function, or at least having access to good lighting or high- powered spectacles. Maybe that magnifying glass would come in handy after all...In terms of setting things up, however, it's the cost of entry here. and Andrew Huang make a great team and I hope we see more collaborations between the two parties in the future. It may be called GHOST, but it’s really more of a beast, a monster…of an effects module, that is.

Price: $475