Those of you who have ever played a WMD Geiger Counter will know how intimidating it can be the first time you get your mitts on one. I never thought a pedal could be intimidating, but the Geiger Counter defiantly proved me wrong. It is a 5 knobbed, 4 footed, one screened beast and taming it can be quite the task, mainly due to the wide range of the controls that push way beyond what most manufactures would deem reasonable limits.
Firstly read the manual (or RTFM as we say in Somerset)! Next read it again, it’s only one sheet of A4! You really need to understand the Geiger Counter to get the most from it so make sure you are familiar with what everything does before you start twiddling! Once that’s done the first thing that I do when trying to find a new sound with the WMD is to really think about the kind of sound I’m going for. Do I want lofi cleans, gated fuzz, wild trebly distortion, digital mess etc. I then look at the Wave Table WMD provide and try get a feel for what is what. I’m no expert, but the waves in the range 20-2B look a lot more like how I would expect an analog wave to look, than say waves 90-9F. In fact the only change between these waves that is obvious from the table is the frequency. As they look pretty standard I would go to these waveforms first for cleanish settings as they look pretty regular. Similarly the waves A0-A7 are so square that hard clipping is guaranteed, so these waves are not going to sound anything like a nice analog signal – just look at the attack and decay – it is non-existent! The wave is the very definition of a digital signal! These waves are going to sound nasty especially at lower sample rates. To be honest, although I look at the wave table a lot, my understanding and imagination limit my perception of the effect a specific wave will have on my signal (other that rough it up a bit) so a lot of the wave table section of the Geiger Counter is pure experimentation for me. Anyway, I usually settle on a wave to mess with, which tends to be the first in the family of wave shapes (have you noticed there are generally groups of similar shaped waves, which tend to get more extreme as they progress?). The tamest and cleanest wave is defiantly 20, and I use this one if I want to use the Geiger Counter to add textures and undertones or overtones. If I want to create a wall of digital noise I would generally use something irregular and nasty like D7.
Next I tend to set all the controls to a standard, which is the tamest setting for most tables, generally. I put:
- Gain around 9 o’clock (most waves will need this set above minimum, but I tend to hold back a bit)
- Tone around mid way
- Tone enabled
- Sample Rate on fine mode (red light) and set to max. The reason I set Sample Rate to fine mode is because most of the useful settings I have ever found with the Geiger Counter tend to be with only a slightly reduced Sample Rate. You can always revert to normal mode and drop the Sample Rate lower if you need to later, but I rarely do.
- Bit Depth to max, and the toggle set to Bits.
The first thing I tend to do next is adjust the Bit Depth to the level that gives me the maximum output at the desired sound. Some Bit Depth settings will add gain without adding any noise, and you can get some wonderful distortions by tweaking this properly. This control can really affect the over all sound of the pedal, and I like to get this right first. It is also worth toggling to Mask mode and scrolling the entire range of the control to see if a particular sound jumps out at you. Some waves seem to work better in Bits mode, some in Mask, so you really just need to play with it and ‘feel out’ the right setting for the mood your in. I usually try the full range of the Bit Depth control in both Mask and Bits mode, and then try it pre and post wave. In Mask mode this is generally a ‘taste’ control, and you will find what you like best pretty quickly. This is actually a very complex control that shifts function quite a bit between Bits/Mask mode and it is worth reading the manual to get you head around it.
Next I tend to set gain, but before that you need to determine if you are using the Tone control. Sometimes with certain waves you won’t get any sound with the tone control enabled, and will have to disable it to let the hotter signal hit the wave table. I generally use tone, unless I have a wave that struggles to get a hot enough signal with it on. It’s super easy to over do the gain if you disable the tone control when you can get a good signal with it enabled. Anyway, set the gain as desired, and I usually tweak this and the Tone control in conjunction with each other to get a good base sound. I usually prefer the lower gain settings, and I quite like keeping the tone lower, but I do use it to its full range. It really depends on the wave you decide to use and your setup. For lofi settings that a lot of people seem to go for with the Geiger Counter you want this rolled back quite a bit.
Next, I tend to adjust the Sample Rate slowly by rolling it off to get just the right amount of ‘clang’. By reducing the Sample Rate you can reveal some interesting textures, but lower it too much and you will start getting a glitchy/cutting signal, which can be pretty cool, but can also become overwhelming quickly. I find the most useable settings have a very slightly reduced sample rate that adds a tiny bit of ‘clang’ like a subtle ring mod, but maintains the general feel of your overall tone. This is the money shot of the Geiger Counter in my opinion, and can make or break an incredible sound. For newcomers it is easy to overdo as it is one of the more predictable controls, but setting it too low too quickly will severely limit the different sounds you can create.
The best bit of advice I can give you is to write down good settings, and also other pedals and settings in your set up. The Geiger Counter is super responsive to other pedals and even changing guitar can really alter the sound you get from it, more than any other pedal I have ever tried. I would seriously try to place it before anything that compresses your signal to much – distortions (and obviously compressors!) will compress the dynamics of your playing and one of the things the Geiger Counter responds well to is changes in dynamics. I made this word document that I use for writing settings down on and I store them all in a big ring binder. Trust me you will never recall them otherwise! Lastly defiantly try and use it with an expression pedal, it opens up hours of fun and endless possibilities!
Click here to download my WMD Geiger Counter User Settings sheet as a PDF