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6 Month Strymon Iridium Review

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  • 6 Month Strymon Iridium Review

    Where to begin? In 27+ years of playing and performing, I am always on the hunt for a smaller, better, more versatile rig. I was early to the lunchbox lo-watt game, but the biggest problem was lunchbox amps are usually single-channel, one-trick ponies. So I always have a 3 channel amp in my arsenal... So much for small. I have tried Zoom modelers, Digitech, Line 6, and even got to play around with an Axe Fx ii and they all suffer from the same issues, they sound like an amp that is mic'd in a room, which is played back in a room and they don't act like real amps. I.E. Not convincing enough for live playing, at least for me, and with parameter tweaking overload, is just too complicated for something that should be so simple. Enter the Strymon Iridium. Simple, focused, and the money was spent in the right places to make it do what it does really well. It is not without issue though...

    I got one after 6 months of watching every known video and review that I could find. It seemed like a no brainer. The models sounded right, and the pedal could be utilized in ways that expanded beyond the options on the front. I was excited when I got it but was quickly let down. I used earplugs initially because most all reviews had direct sounds, so it should sound good right? Well for me it was so shrill, bright, and wirey that I was instantly looking for solutions. I twisted the High tone knob and it either didn't get rid of enough, or it just got too wooly; there was no middle ground. It sounded horrid to me no matter what I did. I went into the software and messed with the IR's and tone parameters, and while this improved things, it was still not right. And so the Iridium sat, and every other week I would play it again through a PA speaker, through an amplifier ( with the IR's turned off ), or through my DAW, and no matter what, it was just too bright, brittle, and plastic sounding. Then I had a breakthrough!

    I realized many had pedals in front of theirs, maybe that was it? I am not much of a pedal guy, so I didn't have an arsenal of pedals and options at the time I got the Iridium. I had started getting other pedals to use for test-bedding a guitar amplifier I am designing and building. The sound improved when I put a pedal in front of the Iridium. It reduced the highs a little and seemed to round out the sound a little. Still, nothing to write home about though. After watching a couple more recently made videos and asking what the heck they did to get the sound they got, it was abundantly clear that either my ears are messed up, I have a defective unit, or the guitar I had been using predominately was just way off. I noticed most of the reviewers that had a sound I was amazed by had one thing in common, a humbucker-equipped guitar. I had not really used anything other than a single-coil guitar up till this point and didn't assume a humbucker would make a significant difference. Well, that seemed to be the issue after all. I plugged in my Schecter Banshee with a JB bridge pickup that I re-wound to more of a medium output PAF spec. and that immediately changed the whole game. The amps sounded right, the brittle, plastic, and horrid HF content went away and the sound in the earbuds or the PA speakers sounded SOOO much better! The tone controls actually did usable things, the VOX amp sounded like a VOX and the Punch amp actually sounded like a hot-rodded Plexi. But why does it sound so bad for me with single coils?

    The issue I am having with single coils is an answer I am still working out. It seems to me that there is an impedance issue with the Iridium that just makes single-coil pickups sound like absolute horrid crap. I tried using DI boxes, pedals, and other things, but the way the Iridium loads things down seems to be the big issue as best I can tell. It is not as bad with humbuckers or at least it is right with humbuckers. So I still have some tweaking to do. Having nailed down the core of the issue for me though, I can say that with humbucker guitars, the Iridium does in fact sound the most realistic and correct of any modeler I have tried yet. My only major gripe is that it doesn't have a built in FX loop. I think I will try using a stereo to dual mono cable next for the input to see if that helps with the impedance loading. I will report back as I find more info.

    In conclusion, if you have $350-400 burning a hole in your pocket and you want the smallest, most well rounded modeler that you can get, already have effects and play humbucker equipped guitars, the Strymon Iridium is probably the best you can get. It allows plenty of control over IR's ( although I wish they made an IR editor type software like Two Notes ) and fits very well on any pedal board. With a little bit of time and creativity, I think it could open the door to being one of the most powerful tools in a guitar arsenal. You could bypass the internal amps and use it as a dedicated IR loader, using other preamp pedals instead. With a multi-switch, you can even switch to different IR's even. With a midi switcher, you could make a pedalboard that covers every imaginable amp and pedal you desire. I wouldn't mind hearing your thoughts as well though. Perhaps I missed something? I have recently turned into more of a single-coil player, so for me, I must make it work with single coils better than it currently does. How about you?

  • #2
    Great review. I haven't tried the Strymon, but I do find modelers like the Fly Rig and Fractal AX8 & FM3 sound better with humbuckers, too.
    Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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    • #3
      Depend of the single-coils but sometimes a Tube Screamer without any gain is the answer (at least in my case).
      Depending also of the modeler, I sometimes get better results with my Godin Exit 22 equipped with EMG (60/S/S), probably because the analog input is not acting like a real amp and the active pickups are acting like a buffer.
      And on my Katana, I'm getting better results with single-coils and better yet with noiseless. Let figure...

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      • #4
        DEFINITELY DRIVE THE INPUT OF THE IRIDIUM -It's designed for it.

        For single coils I use a compressor operating at +3 over unity and a klone to smack it into life.

        “For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts.” Yvonne Chouinard

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