Misha Mansoor of Periphery Outlines the Ultimate Metal Pedalboard

As lead guitarist and musical neural center of Periphery, Misha Mansoor spends a lot of time thinking about tone. The band has stayed on the forefront of progressive metal for years now, with Misha's playing, programming, and general musical vision providing the throughline of the band's discography.

When I picked up the phone to chat with Misha, it only took about five minutes to recognize that he is, undoubtedly, a pedalhead of the highest order. While primarily using a Fractal Axe-FX rig live these days, his studio remains a carousel of different effects, and his tonal obsession has even recently led to the launch his own pedal company: Horizon Devices.

Knowing that his pedal knowledge was second to none, we offered Misha a simple challenge: outline for us the ultimate pedalboard for players looking to achieve the sounds of his school of metal. Below, you'll find his picks and his explanations as to why he included these effects.

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Walrus Audio Deep Six

"I’m pretty picky with compressors because I find a lot of them usually say they won’t affect EQ but totally do. A lot of them will cut the low-end and brighten up your tone, which — that early in the chain — is kind of crappy because it makes everything sound thinner.

“The most transparent one that I’ve used that also still sounds like it’s doing something is the Deep 6. They really killed it with that circuit. It’s transparent enough that you can keep it on for distorted stuff and it won't really affect your signal too much.

“If you’re going from clean to distorted, you don’t have to tap dance and switch it every time you’re switching. There probably are compressors that have a bit more character, if you just want it on a clean channel, but they won’t sound very good if you’re switching over to distortion. This is just a set it and forget it kind of compressor."

TC Subnup

"I use this pedal in a very specific way to create an octave below the note. I run it to where it’s basically the only octave you’re getting. A lot of our music has the bass doubling the guitar, so this method can reinforce that sound.

“Chords will get messy, but if you want to reinforce the relationship between the bass and the guitar, this can link the two in a really nice and make it sound huge.

“The one setting I use on it is octave down with the mix around 40 or 50 percent."

T-Rex Replicator

"This effect actually has the tape cartridge in it and is fairly large. I love taped tape delays, and you might as well have the real thing. I have an [Echoplex], too, but I can’t put that on my pedal board, so this is the next best thing.

“Real tape delays have a character about them that is difficult to replicate with the pedal because of the unpredictable nature of tape. So you get these imperfections that are unexpected and random, and they have a very warm characteristic and almost ethereal characteristic to the repeats that can just keep on going without getting in the way.

“With normal delay pedals, you have to choose between something that repeats a self-oscillation or something that cuts off at four or five repeats. There isn’t a middle ground, but this does that really well.

“The hidden trick on the Replicator is the chorus, where it modulates the delay repeats. I love modulated repeats on delays, but I don’t really like chorus pedals. There’s no chorus pedal this board; I prefer having modulated repeats on the delays than an actual chorus pedal."

Catalinbread Echorec

"The reason that I picked the Echorec is for the modulation and rhythmic delays. It's a very specific sound, and you can get tastefully modulated rhythmic delays for certain things.

“You’ll also notice that both of these [delays] are before the gain stage. If I want to get that post-rock-y sound, this is it. If you put that delay for before the preamp — if it’s got any grit — it will give you those in-your-face repeats with that post rock delay trail sound."

Earthquaker Devices Afterneath

"Earthquaker is a company I really like because they seem to have stuff that no one else quite does. I don’t know what the Afterneath is, exactly. It’s like somewhere between a delay and a reverb and seems to be a reverb that is made up of very granular delays. It’s not a pedal that any other multi-fx or modeling unit has been able to nail. Again, it's before the gain stage, and if you want that post rock effect, you can get that here as well."

Horizon Devices Precision Drive

"This is my company. When it comes to Modern, low-tuned metal, a lot of people don’t understand that the tones that they are expected to make or hear is a result of a high-gain amp being boosted. There’s this misconception that if you spend two or three grand [on an amp], you won’t need any boost pedals in front of it, but that’s just a misunderstanding of what is going on. You have low frequencies that are hitting the amp that the amp was not designed to receive, and you can end up with a flubby tone.

“This pedal not only fixes that, but is a modern solution to the problem.

“Previously, the solution was using a Tube Screamer-style overdrive, which was basically appropriating old technology and mixing it with other old technology to create a new sound. The Precision Drive, on the other hand, is a pedal that is designed around and optimized for that modern rock/metal setup.

There’s this misconception that if you spend two or three grand [on an amp], you won’t need any boost pedals in front of it, but that’s just a misunderstanding of what is going on."

“It works as a traditional overdrive, too, but the main intent was to create the modern metal overdrive. That’s where the attack knob comes in. It actually determines how much of the low-end comes out, and that affects how the midrange is pushed, and those two things together allow you to set it up for any tuning, any gauge, any amp. It gives you flexibility in that specific realm.

“Also, overdrive pedals, by nature, add noise, so we put a gate on it so that it would eliminate any extraneous noise caused by the pedal. If anything, it tightens it up. Which, for metal, is obviously very welcome."

MXR 5150

"This pedal is great if you don’t know what amp you’re going to be going into and need a solid gain stage. If you’re going into a specific amp with a dedicated drive channel and fx loop, all of the pedals I listed would go in front, everything I will list after this will go in the loop. However, if you’re just going through the clean channel of an amp, this pedal is where you’re going to get your drive.

“The 5150 is about as good a gain pedal as I’ve come across. It’s an actual preamp, and it sounds great.

“It does have the same problem as the amps, though, where lower tunings and thicker strings can sound a bit flubby but together with the Precision Drive, it sounds incredible. It sounds legit. This is the way that you can ensure that if you’re playing through god knows what, you can at least just use the amp’s clean channel and be good to go."

TC Sentry Gate

"This Noise Gate is mainly here to get rid of any extraneous noise. In metal and [with] our style of noise, tight gating is a thing. We play a lot of staccato riffs, where we want stops between mutes to be dead silent. So this is set in the way to do that.

“Not all gates are created equal, but the Sentry tends to be a bit smarter. You don’t want it to choke anything up, and it's pretty smart in that regard. They did a good job with this pedal."

Free The Tone Flight Time

"The Flight Time is basically like a [TC] 2290 in a box. As far as a digital delay goes, it’s very customizable. I’m very picky about my modulation on my delay pedals, and I think its modulation is dialed in beautifully.

‘Despite the fact that it’s a digital delay, you can really customize the repeats, like if you want to have more of that bucket brigade kind of sound. You can customize all of that stuff, and it’s got some cool features."

Strymon Timeline and BigSky

"I feel like I can talk about both of these in one fell swoop since the Strymon pedals don’t need an introduction.

“If you’re not using an Axe-FX, these are the kitchen sink for both delay and reverb and in stereo. They are the only stereo pedals on the board, so if you have a stereo setup, they're great for that.

“One of great things about these is that you have your presets, so you’re not locked into any one sound. I do like to be in dBucket mode and the dTape mode on the Timeline, but it's got cool things like ice and reverse and lo-fi. It's all just clever takes on delay that you can’t really get from any other pedal, unless you get a pedal that specifically does that one sound.

“A lot pedals have the versatility, but not necessarily the sound quality. The reason I have the Timeline and BigSky is that the quality is there. It’s on par with the effects quality of the Axe-FX, and I can fit it easily on the pedalboard."

Lead image via theHorizon Devices YouTube Channel

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