Maestro by Gibson unveiled a phaser, tremolo, envelope filter, boost, and compressor in late 2021.
So What’s Going On Here?
Maestro, Gibson’s recently revived pedal branch, has unleashed 5 new effect pedals. Two modulations, the Mariner Tremolo and Orbit Phaser, a boost (Titan), a compressor/sustainer (Arcas), and lastly an envelope filter (the Agena) are now added to the lineup they started 2022 off with. At first glance, the Orbit Phaser was the pedal that really stuck out to me, with optionable 4- or 6-stage phasing. The Mariner Tremolo nicely follows the trend of dual harmonic/classic tremolo pedals, an important feature for a trem pedal to last on my board. Lastly of the non-utilitarian pedals, the Agena Envelope Filter
The Titan Boost and Arcas Compressor/Sustainer bring just as much tone shaping as the maybe more exciting modulation selection above. I will admit, it can be hard for me to get excited about either of these pedals in a vacuum, but it is true that they are both far more important to crafting a good tone than I care to admit. I rarely use compressor, but had some fun with the Arcas and its sustain knob.
The truth is that I like both of these pedals, but I like one much more than the other. The Orbit Phaser was a ton of fun, especially because it felt a lot more modulated than the MXR Phase 90 I usually use. Now, I’m not sure if that is true in terms of schematics and circuitry, but the Orbit definitely excelled at reaching more flanger or rotary speaker-like sounds.
Layered over my overdriven amp tone, I had endless fun with the width and feedback knobs, which combine to give you a bit more control than a typical depth knob would. It can be dialed in a bit more subtle, the same way I use phaser for lots of “London Calling” era Clash sounds. But the heavily modulated shimmer it brought to picking patterns was a huge plus for me.
The Mariner Tremolo brings a lot of utility to your board too, even if it wasn’t as inspiring to me. In part, that’s because I was really wowed by the JHS 3 Series Harmonic Tremolo, which does a lot of the same for less money. The Mariner has a great feature, the ability to switch between harmonic or classic tremolo sounds, and it gets extra points for the shape knob. Much like the Boss TR-2 that I used for years, you can alter the shape between square or triangle waveform. A lot of this may sound superfluous, but these are the features that keep a tremolo on your board for a long time.
It did a bit of everything sonically for me, but it definitely took a lot of tweaking to pull out obviously different sounds. For someone with a more fine tuned ear for tremolo, that may be a blessing. For me, it got the job done and added in some nice textural harmonic sounds.
What About The Agena Envelope Filter?
Admittedly I’m not expert in envelope filters. Sure, I’ve messed with my brother’s GFI Systems Rossie a few times, but I don’t play enough Grateful Dead or hardcore funk to ever know what I’m doing with one. While the envelope filter has worked its way a bit into indie rock in the past, I definitely settled in to using the Agena to liven up some chord sequences in alt-rock settings.
Despite not knowing much, the Agena was super easy to dial in, with the nice feature of being able to apply the filter to the high or low frequencies of your tone. However, once I had my footing a bit, I used it as an auto wah for lead tones, at a 4:31 in the video, felt like I had stumbled on that great Weezer guitar sound from “Perfect Situation”. Especially with some dirt kicked on after the filter, there was a lot of fun to be had here. For that reason, and the easy to use controls, I give this envelope filter a high passing score.
Sharpen Your Sound With The Titan Boost and Arcas Compressor
Both of these pedals were a mixed bag for me. I love the control options and sound shaping that the Arcas provided, but it had that same high pitched squeal and hiss that the FZ-M had. For a pedal that will be always on as a sound shaper, that’s basically inexcusable. I was a bit more lenient on it in past reviews because the controls are brilliant, especially for bass with that toggle controlling high or low sensitivity to picking attack. When I’m playing louder music, the hiss is not really an issue, so in some settings it is still useable for me. However, when recording precise bass tracks for my more indie-leaning music, it’s not really helping as much as it is hurting.
The Titan boost was highly useable, and offered quite a bit of oomph to my digital guitar tone. In fact, it made the amp basically breakup into a nice, crisp drive sound. I don’t really use (or believe much in) using pedals as clean boosts, so I mostly focused on using it to boost the amp or drive pedal sounds. What makes the Titan different is how much control it gives you over the EQ profile, with high and low pass filter options depending on how you configure the toggle switch and tone knob. This is awesome for many players, but is not something that is awesome for me. It sounded great to kick in and drive my sound, working more as a standalone drive pedal for me. But for me, the price tag was a bit steep for a boost pedal, but again that’s more subjective than objective.
Overall, Maestro did a good job adding some modulations and utilities to complement their initial pedal run. I love the Orbit phaser and Agena Envelope Filter, and can see both being used by me a lot in the future. The Titan, Arcas, and Mariner all had great features that captured my interest, but I’m not sure how long each would last on my board. The Mariner is fantastic in terms of feature set, but it is a bit more expensive than lots of equally great competitors. The Titan is a great light overdrive, but just not something I would have much use for over my Interchange Noise Works II or Archer pedals. The Arcas is on the verge of brilliance, but needs to get rid of the same noise that plagued the FZ-M.