Gear Review: CG-Products XR1-E Ring Modulator

This isn’t your daddy’s ring modulator pedal. In fact, it might not be like any ring mod you’ve seen before. Expertly crafted and masterly engineered in Germany it not only has any feature you could possibly hope for but maybe a few more and built to last a lifetime in typical German fashion.

Sleeky built in a silver metal finish, the XR1-E has the expected frequency control knob and a smaller fine adjustment knob for that frequency. This is extremely handy for dialing in the most precise content and avoiding over-sweeping your target but just in case they also added a carrier suppression knob to control the overing. Who does that? It’s brilliant and the only time I’ve ever seen it in a pedal ring modulator. The frequency can be switched between high and low and you’ll find the more tremolo-like effects in the low position. Waveform choices for the frequency are sine wave and triangle and both are very distinct and perfectly accurate and tuned. The final knob on the face of the pedal is a bypass knob, which is actually a mix knob. Someone was really using their noodle when they spec'd this device out.  I wish every ring mod had a mix knob.

To take things even further, CG-Products include an envelope/sample and hold/external modulation knob and a switch to select off, LFO clock, or envelope clock. There’s also a polarity switch which could really be useful from time to time depending on the source material. There’s a knob for LFO modulation amount and another knob to control the LFO frequency. The LFO section has a switchable triangle or square wave modulation. And that’s all on the face of the unit.

In the back of the pedal is the on/off switch, power in (the XR1-E takes from 6v to 15 volts. I ran it at 15v), an expression pedal input for CV control of the frequency, a ⅛” input for 1 volt per octave CV input, AM drive control, output gain control and a ¼” main output.  The ¼” main input is on the front left of the unit. This may seem counterintuitive at first for regular pedalboard users but in practice, it actually makes sense and saves cable space. The front of the unit also features a ¼” footswitch input that allows you to instantly make the mix of the pedal 100% wet. Very sweet and thoughtful.

So how does it sound? Amazing! By far the most hi-fi and beautiful ring modulator I’ve ever played.  It’s rich, harmonic without artifacts, and everything a real, true ring modulator should be. Sure, most people think of it as a special effect but few people have played a unit this deep, rich, and well crafted.  It’s no wonder composers like Stockhausen relied on them so much and went as far to have custom units built for him to perform his works. If you’re a synth player it’s more than likely you’ve never played a ring mod anywhere near as great as the XR1-E that may have been included in your analog or digital synths. For you, this may be a revelation. As for me, I use ring mods all the time in the studio to add texture on tracks and I quite like it featured on guitar (ask ring mod aficionado John Scofield about that) as a lead voice that’s not quite distortion but unlike anything else. It also works really well in the effects loop sends of other effects like reverbs and delays.

The XR1-E ain’t cheap as the one I bought set me back $500. but it was an investment that I feel is well worth it when you consider you can buy several other ring mods over time, only for them to leave you wanting and costing you more in the end. Get the CVG-Products XR1-E and stop there.  You can find them on Reverb, at limited dealers and their website: HERE.

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