Damn Fine Delay – Digitech Obscura

I didn’t really face a dilemma when choosing a Delay. If anything I purchased it on a bit of a whim. Whilst talking to a friend about delay pedals (the same friend who lent me the Boss DD-500) he mentioned a few that I already had my eye on, mainly offerings from Boss and MXR. I wasn’t in a rush to spend any money as I had a few pedals that I was enjoying using. Then he said “why not try the Obscura”. I had watched Tone Reports review on YouTube a month or so prior to this conversation but hadn’t really thought much of it. I think I had presumed it costs more than it does and possibly got it confused with pedals from other brands due to the graphics being quite a change from Digitechs previous offerings.

I watched the video again and was very impressed with the Obscura. I’m not obsessed with having analogue delay pedals. Digital is absolutely fine for what I want. The Obscura has 4 modes, Analog, Tape, LO-FI and Reverse. Of these analog is by far my favourite followed by LO-FI, Tape and lastly Reverse. The reverse feature really doesn’t interest me, I would have rather there had been a different fourth mode included. Aside from this I can’t complain about the sound that the obscura creates.

This thing is built like a tank, it honestly feels like the most bullet proof pedal I’ve ever held including a few Boss pedals. Don’t get me wrong Boss pedals are pretty much indestructible but the obscura feels even more so. After a nuclear apocalypse all that will left are an unnecessary number of cockroaches and every Obscura ever produced.

The largest negative feature of the Obscura is the reverse mode. This will be some peoples favourite thing about it. I’m not saying its a bad thing, it’s just not my cup of tea. I’m sure its fantastic for ambient playing and I may learn to like it eventually. At the moment however the other three modes are different enough that I like playing around with them.

The only other slight gripes are the with the knob configuration, and this is because Digitech have had to include quite a few knobs within such a small area. So the Time and Repeats are on two knobs with one above the other, and it is the same configuration with the tone and degrade. This can be a bit tricky especially as the markings that show which knob does which is quite small so its very easy to change the wrong one.

The other problem some people may have with the Obscura is that the time setting is an analogue knob, there is no digital display to show the delay time. This would be a very tight squeeze on the front of the Obscura with the layout it has, and also raise the cost of the pedal. For me it isn’t really an issue, I don’t need a particular time of delay, I just dial it in to what sounds good, or use the tap tempo if I need a bit more accuracy. That being said a display is something that is probably expected on digital delay effects now. The Obscura however is a little bit different as its a digital attempt at an analogue delay.

The positives I have found so far of the Obscura are that it is built like a tank, it looks ace on the board. It has stereo ins and outs (which I haven’t had a chance to use yet). It runs on 9V centre negative power (no batteries, not that that bothers me) so is compatible with everything I already have. It has tap tempo and it has a nice long delay time. The other aspect that I nearly forgot to mention is that the Obscura is an altered delay so there is a certain amount of degradation that can take place, and it will also self oscillate if set in a particular way. It can get noisy and it isn’t necessarily musical all of the time but that isn’t a bad thing. It makes me concentrate a little more on my playing which is no bad thing. I currently have it set as a nice subtle echo that makes my guitar sound like its in a larger room, somewhat like a reverb with a bit of a dirty side. The other good thing about the pedal is the knob guard that stops you accidentally alter the knobs when you don’t mean to. It is also worth noting that the Obscura has a a trails switch, so you can let the trails continue after the pedal is turned off. This is a nice feature especially for ambient sounds. It is also handy that there is a switch for this on the front of the pedal and it’s not an internal switch like some pedals can be.

I will wholeheartedly recommend the Obscura. I bought it second hand for around £80, and would gladly pay full retail price if I had to get another. It does everything I want in a delay and in a very small well made package.

 

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