by Andy Jones
The Meet Maude is a true bypass analog delay pedal from Canada’s Fairfield Circuitry. Considering Fairfield’s ability to regularly release standout products that overshadow their previous hits, now seems as good a time as ever to remind everyone how funky, yet functional Meet Maude—introduced in summer 2014—can be for any musical workflow. Meet Maude delivers dark, thick repeats and a number of features—seen and unseen—in a compact and rugged enclosure. Input and output are standard ¼”, and its pleasant violet LED isn’t blinding like a number of synth-friendly pedals from the last few years. Meet Maude’s controls and delay times are standard if you’re used to analog delays, with potentiometers dedicated to output [volume], bass/treble [tone], repeats [feedback], wet/dry [mix], and delay time [time], which runs from approximately 50-500 milliseconds. The volume knob introduces another gain stage to your overall signal flow, and provides an opportunity for a unique boost—though I almost always leave the level at 12 o’clock to achieve unity gain for a variety of instruments. An additional ¼” control voltage [CV] jack on the back of the pedal grants control over a few programmable parameters, selectable by microswitches inside the pedal with options for controlling feedback, delay time, or running an external effects loop. When used to control feedback or time, the usable CV input voltage range is 0 to +5 volts when the chosen parameter is set to its lowest value. Fairfield also threw in a couple switches to control some moody modulation and powerful compression.
Meet Maude demonstrates flattering tape-like echo characteristics with a darker-than-usual timbre that gives this pedal its signature sound. “Dark” and “tape-like” are oft-used descriptions, so I should define what I mean here. With a sound like vintage ¼” tape machines and cassette tape echoes, Meet Maude rounds transient peaks and filters high frequencies [we’re talking at least 10k and above] in a more pronounced way than other analog delays.
Incoming signals first hit a discrete JFET compressor, switchable between “light” and “heavy” settings. Since this is the same compression circuit included in Fairfield’s “The Accountant”compressor pedal, I’m assuming their “light” and “heavy” ratios are the same: 3:1 and 6:1, respectively. This always-on section evens out the dynamics of the feedback signal—not the dry signal—which heads straight to the mix control. In the “heavy” compression setting, feedback becomes more sensitive and things can get intense quickly.
Turned clockwise, Tone lets more high frequencies into the delay signal path. Turned counterclockwise, more lows, with the center position attenuating lower mid-frequencies a bit. Tone also interacts with the feedback control by changing its threshold. The further clockwise [brighter] you go, the faster your delay will feedback. “High frequencies” here is a relative term, as the bucket-brigade device [BBD] at the core of any analog delay always loses high end as the input signal travels from capacitor to capacitor. Meet Maude does this in a more exaggerated manner with a low-pass voltage-controlled filter gating the final delay signal output. A loud incoming signal opens the filter, rolling off high frequencies as signal level decreases, and attenuating noise.
Control over modulation comes in the form of three switchable selections for OFF, LIGHT, and HEAVY. The modulation section is pseudo-random, and may seem too limiting without a knob to dial in a setting, but I found the available settings provide plenty of flavor, and I appreciate that I don’t have to futz with knobs to get cool sounds.
While I have come to love what this pedal has to offer, I do find that the CV and output jacks could be confused for one another due to a lack of proper labeling. Also, when the output volume is at maximum there’s an intrusive hiss. I find that to be charming for a pedal like this, but it may be unpleasant to others looking for something more pristine sounding. My one true gripe is the lack of stereo in/out or linking, and if there were ever a 2.0 model. . .
I find the combination of sound and features in Meet Maude to be just right, and love its dark, saturated sound. For those looking for a unit to let them go wild or keep things conservatively vintage, Meet Maude is worth auditioning.