Product Review: Electro-Harmonix Superego

Before you dig in to this, I recorded a demo of the Superego, which you can listen to here:

I’ve been making ambient guitar sounds for a long time, mostly by cascading a few delay pedals into one another, and doing volume swells (I have gotten a lot of mileage out of this). But it’s an old trick, and lately I have been looking for different ways to make interesting sounds without resorting to rack gear, MIDI, or a real guitar-synthesizer, or something even more outrageous.

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The Electro-Harmonix Superego pedal caught my ear, and the video demonstrations looked promising. EH claims the Superego samples “granules” of sound and makes a synth bed out of them. Granules? OK, whatever. It sounded cool, and I wanted to try one out. I resolved to wait until a used one showed up on eBay. One did, and after another eBayer’s surprise bid-retraction, the Superego pedal was on its way to my cluttered home studio for review.

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Aesthetics leave a bit to be desired. The plain aluminum case is only emblazoned with a logo on the face, leaving the sides bare. This is probably all it needs, considering it is going to be buried in a crowded pedalboard, but it seems a little cheap to me. Add a coat of paint, EH. Seriously. It’s a $214 pedal.

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Basic functions are covered in the manual, which is amply present online. So I will just say it has four easy-to-use knobs and a single mode switch, so basic operations are simple.

Skipping the sample & “Freeze” functions, the two obvious settings are these:

  1. Have your dry -signal volume adjusted to match the sound your guitar makes, so you hear a note or chord exactly as if played without running through the effect, and then to adjust the effect level to blend in the synthesized “trail” to follow it. It’s a bit like playing a long reverb that changes as soon as you do.
  2. Turn the dry signal all the way DOWN, and play the Superego like it’s some sort of guitar synth.

These are the two settings I used in my recorded demo (again, here: ). 

The Superego features an effects-loop; a send and return. This is SURPRISINGLY important. By itself,the pedal sounds -quite honestly- disappointing. There are ways to get it to work reasonably well, but I wasn’t thrilled by it. However, running the synthesized sound out of the loop and through something as simple as a modulated delay produces stunning results, which are no doubt the reason the YouTube videos feature this approach so much. I ran a delay through it, but found that this confused the synthesis engine. So I killed the delay, and ran it the delay in the Superego’s loop. Glory! Sadly, this limited the delay I chose to being only a mono effect, but for live guitar applications, mono is fine.

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I’m almost convinced that EH is releasing pedals knowing full well that they can release obvious upgrades of the same pedals later, because I could imagine the Superego having a lot of additional features. In general, I found it an interesting tool, but not interesting enough that it stayed with me.

Pros: interesting concept, allows for some different approaches previously unavailable without bigger and more-complex gear.

Cons: Looks a little homemade, really needs another dedicated effect to shine.

Have you used a Superego? How did it work out for you? Any cool/interesting discoveries? Share your thoughts if you have them.

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