When the Strymon Timeline came out 5 years ago, the market for the delay, reverb, and modulation market was slim to none — its only real competition being the Eventide Time Factor or the Line6 DL4. But for the recently released Strymon Volante, it is a bit more competitive. For those who missed it, the pedal debuted at NAMM2019 alongside other innovative devices such as the AKAI Force, a newly released standalone music production performance device. Its launch comes in a time when pedals such as the Source Audio Nemesis Delay, the Eventide H9, and the GFI Specular Tempus exist and are available on the market. This raises an interesting question: Is it even worth getting a Strymon Volante?
First off, the Strymon Volante is the brainchild of veteran Sound Designer and Strymon co-founder Pete Celi. The National Association of Music Merchants credits Celi's continuous innovations in pedal design to his focus on detail and love of sound creation, characteristics that truly shine when you take a look at what the Volante is packing. The Volante is basically what you get when you take another beloved Strymon pedal, the El Capistan, and add a little more muscle to it. The muscle, in this case, comes in the form of a multitude of delay voices under the Volante's arsenal.
The three different delay types are drum, tape, and studio. The drum delay type is Strymon's unique interpretation of a Binson Echorec, which means that this setting will give off the sonic profile of the sound of spinning platters and spinning wires when creating the delay effect. The tape is derived from the Echoplex, so you'll be getting something closer to the tape delay effect. The last type is the studio, which sounds closer to a reel-to-reel tape deck, and is by far the cleanest sounding of the three delay types.
However, it's in the playback function that the Strymon Volante truly shines. By pressing different combinations of buttons, you'll be able to get delay sounds that would be much harder to get if you were to use a traditional delay pedal. The pedal also allows you to control various other settings, such as wear, mechanics, and spring. The wear is pretty self-explanatory as it controls the amount of wear on the tape. Mechanics, meanwhile, alters modulation and adds vintage crackle sounds. Lastly, the spring setting is another interesting feature built into the Volante, as it allows you to blend in spring reverb with your delay to add some extra ambience to your guitar playing.
Now, where the Volante falls short is the number of presets available. This pedal only gives you access to eight presets at a time. One way you can get around this problem is to use Strymon's proprietary favourite switch or a MIDI switcher. Using the MIDI gives you access to more presets, but the Volante doesn't come with a screen, so it'll be a little difficult to keep track of which preset you're currently using. Another downside would be the Volante's bulky size, and considering that it's basically just a tape delay, you may want to be using that pedalboard space for something more economical and essential.
So is it worth getting the Volante? Well, it depends. If you value the tape delay setting, the Volante is truly one of the best pedals you can get right now. Despite its flaws, you'll be hard-pressed to find a pedal that gives you quite the same effect as the Volante.