Y'all like that swooshy sound? Me too. Flanging is a truly classic effect, originally created in the recording studios of old by running two tape machines playing the same recording in perfect sync, and then gently placing one's finger on the "flange" of one of the tape reels to slow its progress, altering the synchronization to get that delightful jet plane swoosh. By the mid-70's engineers had figured out how to package this sound in a pedal-sized box with the use of solid-state IC technology. It's debatable who produced the very first of these flanger pedals, but the Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress was certainly one of the first, making an appearance around 1976, and it is also one of the most beloved of EHX's original circuit designs. The '78 Deluxe Electric Mistress was an improvement on the '76 model, with better noise, output, and power specs, and it has been a cornerstone of the company's effect pedal lineup ever since. The familiar big silver box has been in dire need of an update for some time, however, and it is finally getting one in 2015 with the new Deluxe Electric Mistress XO.
The most obvious change in the updated Deluxe Electric Mistress XO is the smaller enclosure. This most welcome improvement has been a long time coming, as the classic version's rather large, awkward housing made it a right pain-in-the-ass to tote around in this age of tightly-packed pedalboards. With all the other compact flanger options on the market, it's a wonder EHX didn't do this sooner. The other major improvement is industry standard nine-volt 200-milliamp power (wall-wart included). The old version was powered by a 24-volt power supply, which made it inconvenient to integrate into many pedalboard setups. Further welcome enhancements include true bypass switching and a red status LED. Everything else remains the same, with controls for Color, Range, and Rate, a mini-toggle for engaging the Filter Matrix, a single mono input, and a pair of output jacks; one for flanged out, and one for dry out.
I'm happy to report that, as far as my ears and fingers can ascertain, the singular analog flanging of the original Deluxe Electric Mistress has been preserved in the new XO version. I was not able to do a side-by-side comparison between old and new models, but I found the tone of the XO to be true to my experience with the original version. I was not at all disappointed. With the wide range of intricately tweakable flangers on the market today, I can see some players yearning for greater control than the Mistress XO provides, but it's hard to find fault with the pedal's tone and overall ease of use. As a longtime Andy Summers guy, plugging into this pedal practically forced me to play Police tunes, and after grabbing a handful of suspended and add nine chords, I found that all of those lush, swooshy, slow flange and chorus-like sounds were easy to conjure up. Digging into the faster range of the rate control, convincingly Leslie-esque vibrato tones became available. One of the coolest things one can do with the Deluxe Electric Mistress, though, is to engage the Filter Matrix switch, halting the flanging motion to make the pedal function as a static tone filter. All sorts of beguiling hues are available here, and depending on where the Color and Range knobs are set, one can get strange hollowed-out tones, metallic resonances, and a sound that is not unlike chimes. Stack some fuzz, drive, or distortion with the Mistress XO, and things start to get really out of hand. I've always liked it in paired with a big, burly fuzz tone in front, but the options for creative tone sculpting are practically endless.
What we like: The classic Deluxe Electric Mistress circuit has finally been re-housed in a compact package suitable for the modern era of packed pedalboards, true bypass, and industry standard power. Excellent analog tones, easy to use, and the Filter Matrix is still totally awesome.
Concerns: Guitarists accustomed to the limitless tweakability of many modern flanger designs may find the relatively basic controls of Mistress XO somewhat limiting.