The Effect Integrator pedal is a quick and easy way to introduce your favorite guitar stompboxes into your mic signal chain. As a former FOH guy and constant pawn-shop pedal peruser, I decided to give the Effect Integrator a whirl to see what it could offer on stage and in the studio. Anybody that's worked live sound has certainly experienced this: A singer arrives for soundcheck with two or three guitar pedals and an XLR to 1/4'' hi-Z transformer adaptor. If he or she's a "pro," then this adapter is probably taped to their cable to prove its roadworthiness. Not wanting to perpetuate the "curmudgeon soundguy" stereotype, you keep quiet and politely grab a DI, hoping for the best. Soundcheck goes fine, but naturally, by the third song of the set, you hear obnoxious crackling, and catch the singer sending death glares your way from the stage. The crowd of course assumes that this is your fault, your rig is messed up, you're bad at your job, and you're ruining the show. The show goes on (as it must), and after the singer assures you that this hasn't happened any other night of the tour... I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the times this happened to me during my 18-month stint doing FOH.
Enter the Effect Integrator from Canadian pedal makers Tribute Audio Designs. It's an effects loop housed in a compact stompbox that's simple to use, affordable, and eases the nerves of live sound engineers one gig at a time. The unit has XLR mic I/O and 1/4'' send/return for routing to the pedals. According to Tribute's webpage, the unit "works by using a preamp to bring the low-impedance microphone signal up to instrument level for driving the guitar pedal." You're given an input gain knob to adjust mic level before the effects loop, a mix control for setting the dry/wet blend, and finally an output gain, which trims the low-impedance output before it heads to the mixer or preamp. Additionally, a ground lift helps prevent any unwanted buzz. Click the pedal on: vocal effect chain in. Click it off: clean vocals. No DIs, no adapters, no crackling on every downbeat. It's that simple. Lastly, a "Tails" switch allows delays and reverbs to naturally fade after the pedal's been disengaged, instead of simply cutting off.
As for studio use, I'm a big fan of using two mics set up for a vocalist. One's typically a nice LDC with a clean gain-stage and some gentle compression, while the other is something weird and midrangey, normally loaded with distortion or hitting some kind of delay or spring. The Effect Integrator makes it super easy to run that same stunt mic through any array of funky pedals. I find that these lo-fi chains, even if initially set up just for monitoring purposes, often impart more character to a sound and to a record than any plug-in or processor applied after the fact.
The Tribute Audio Designs Effect Integrator is a good-to-have studio tool and a dream for any live performer who prefers the sound and tactility of individual stompboxes over menu-heavy vocal-effects processors. And let's be honest, no all-in-one processor sounds as interesting as an old bucket-brigade delay on a vocal.