Most Alice In Chains fans are probably aware of just how clean their tone is, even for a grunge band. This genre of musing requires a certain dose of dirt and chaos, but that doesn’t mean you have to be sloppy. One person who knows exactly how to dial in some organized chaos is Jerry Cantrell with his wide selection of guitar effects. One of the more interesting pedals you will find on that pedalboard is the ISF Decimator.
What makes the Decimator so awesome is the fact that it doesn’t add anything to the tone of the guitar. Quite on the contrary, it takes something away. Noise gate pedals are a known tool in many guitar player’s toolboxes. However, to call the Decimator a noise gate would be doing it a major disservice. There is a reason why so many popular guitar players, including Cantrell, have one of these in their box of goodies. Let’s take a closer look and see what ISF Decimator is all about.
ISF Decimator Review
There are many reasons why noise gate pedals were invented in the first place, and why they are so widely used today. The most obvious reason can be observed by just plugging in your guitar, unleashing full volume and just letting go of everything. That background noise made by the pickups is something every guitar player battles with. Some pickups are worse than others in this regard, which only makes the need for a solution that much more necessary. A noise gate pedal senses when the volume in the signal drops and effectively mutes the tone when that point is reached. However, ISF Decimator takes that process to a whole new level, increasing the overall practical value of this type of pedal.
One quick glance at the Decimator might leave many wondering what all the fuss is about. ISF used what appears to be that standard Boss design, which isn’t even painted but just treated with some sort of clear coat. With that said, using a popular design such as this one has its benefits. For one, the pedal is indestructible. You can unleash all kinds of abuse and it will still get you to the end of the show. The control panel is simple, to say the least. All you get is one knob, which is used to set the threshold.
In other words, you are setting the level of volume at which the noise gate kicks in. That pretty much sounds just like any other noise gate pedal, right? Sure, but that is not the end of the story. ISF’s Decimator utilizes a patented technology that keeps the pedal working even when you are still playing. In that case, it doesn’t kill off your signal nor does it interfere with the volume. The only thing it does is remove a very fine layer of noise that is pushing through with along with the tone.
There are two very important aspects when it comes to the performance of a noise gate pedal. First has to do with its core function, while the other has a much more basic impact. Let’s start with the latter. If there is anything that can become really annoying during a gig, it’s hearing that click noise when you engage or disengage an effects pedal. ISF’s Decimator has zero issues of that nature. The pedal is silent as they come, which definitely goes along with its core purpose – to provide silence. When put to use, Decimator is just pure awesome packed into a stompbox.
What this noise suppressor does that most others are not capable of, is filter out every imaginable impurity out of your signal. Take for an example a Strat, or similar single coil guitar. These are inherently noisy due to the design of single coil pickups. Forcing three singles to be silent is a tall order, even for the Decimator. However, it kills off so much of that interference that you are pretty much left with the core, unaffected tone. It feels almost surreal. Sustain is not negatively affected, as it is the case with a variety of noise gates out there. A single threshold knob doesn’t look like much, but it is all you need essentially.
The trick with using the Decimator is to fine tune that balance. You need to carefully find the threshold level that works for your rig. The problem with doing so is that you won’t really know whether you have selected the right value right away. You will simply need to test everything out thoroughly, and that takes time. However, once you do reach that sweet spot, you won’t be able to recognize your own guitar. ISF recommends that you link the Decimator at the very end of your signal chain, however, some experimentation is recommended. Every chain is different, so you might just find a setting that works better for your specific case.
Using a noise gate pedal is something most experienced guitar players turn to. It becomes important once you really start to get into the subtleties of guitar tone. When every single detail matters, getting rid of all that background noise is something worth investing in. ISF Decimator has offered a new and rather intriguing solution to this problem. They have managed to design a pedal that is simpler than almost anything on the market while being more capable as well.
While it is definitely not the cheapest thing out there, its price is worth it. If you are the type of guitar player who has invested heavily both in your guitar, pedals, and amplifiers, skipping out on a noise gate such as this one is doing yourself a disservice. Especially considering that more pedals equals more noise. Every packed signal chains need a noise gate to keep everything in check and prevent the pedals to completely ruin the integrity of the signal. If Jerry Cantrell won’t go anywhere without one, you can only imagine what kind of effect this pedal can have on heavier genres of music.