The Orbital Pitch Pedal by ALABS is a high-quality pitch-shifting guitar pedal with 9 different pitch options, a momentary switch mode, and an interesting automated mode.
In this review, I’ll walk through the main features, what the pitch effects sound like, and how you can use this pedal.
ALABS Orbital Pitch Pedal Features
The Orbital Pitch pedal is one of four debut pedals in the “Adam Adventures” series from ALABS. All four pedals pack a lot of features and selectable modes, which gives you a lot of flexibility over the effects.
Check out my reviews of the other pedals in this series here:
- ALABS Timeslip Delay Pedal Review
- ALABS Nova Drift Modulation Pedal Review
- ALABS Cetus Reverb Pedal Review
Here are the main features of the Orbital Pitch pedal:
- 9 Pitch Shifting Settings (+Oct, +5th, +4th, +3rd, Unison, -3rd, -4th, -5th, -Oct)
- 32-bit Digital Signal Processor
- Microtonal pitch modulation
- Stereo output with microtonal pitch variation
- Tap Tempo (selectable 1/4 or 3/8 beat division)
- Momentary pitch effects
- Automated expression control mode
- Selectable Analog Buffer Bypass or True Bypass Modes
- Analog Dry-Through
- External Power Supply Only (not included)
- 250 mA power draw (9V)
ALABS Orbital Pitch Pedal Ease of Use
The Orbital Pitch pedal includes quite a few features that may not be obvious at first glance.
This can make the pedal seem hard to use compared to some other pitch pedals, but the main functions are simple to figure out.
There are nine different pitch options you can choose from as shown in the below left knob:
The pitch options are:
Simply turn this knob to select the pitch you want the pedal to shift to, then adjust the mix to adjust the balance between the original dry signal and the pitch-shifted signal.
Then you can adjust the tone by turning the Tone knob (read the note later on this) and the Rate and Detune knobs to adjust any detune modulation you may want to add or remove to your tone.
You may notice that the Tone knob also has a ‘Glide’ label. This is because that knob controls both parameters. Which parameter the knob currently impacts depends on the position of the toggle switch to the right:
When the toggle switch is in the upper position (glide mode), the knob will adjust the Glide parameter.
When the toggle switch is in the lower position (creative mode), the knob will adjust the Tone parameter.
I was already comfortable with this setup after testing out the ALABS Timeslip Delay Pedal as it uses a similar idea. But it isn’t obvious that this is the way the knob works unless you read the manual.
In normal operation (the toggle switch in the down position), when you press the footswitch it activates the effect. Then when you press it again it turns the effect off. It acts just like any other effects pedal.
An alternative mode you can use is to set the toggle switch to the upper position (labeled with a comet icon). In this position, the footswitch will be set to momentary operation.
What this means is that the effect will only turn on while the footswitch is held down. Then when you release the footswitch, the effect turns off.
As mentioned earlier, when the toggle switch is in the upper position, the Tone/Glide knob will be set to control the Glide parameter.
You can hear what Glide does in the demo clips later on, so have a listen to them to get an idea of why it’s such a great feature to include.
One interesting thing I discovered while experimenting with the momentary function is that you can flip the function of the footswitch.
Normally, when you press down on the footswitch the effect will activate, then it will go back to bypass mode when you release the footswitch.
It works well when you want to turn the pitch effect on for short bursts.
Alternatively, you can set the footswitch to turn the effect off when it is held down. The pitch effect will be on when the footswitch is released. This works well when you want the pitch effect to be on all the time except for short times when you want it turned off.
To do this, set the toggle switch to the lower position, activate the effect with the footswitch, then set the toggle switch back to the upper position.
If this sounds confusing, it’s pretty easy to figure out in person and it’s a nice addition to the standard momentary function.
Creative ∞ Mode
The “∞” mode is a unique feature found on all four of the “Adam Adventures” series of pedals.
This mode lets the pedal memorize or “record” any changes you make to the Rate, Detune, Mix, and Tone knobs within 5 seconds. Then you can “playback” those exact changes at any time.
So for example, you can get the pedal to memorize gradually increasing the Detune from 0 to 100% over five seconds. Then when you activate the “playback”, you will hear the Detune gradually increase over the five seconds.
This mode definitely takes this pedal from a simple pedal to use to something a bit more complicated that is hard to describe in text. But it’s an interesting feature you might want to experiment with if you like coming up with wild effects.
The only downside with this mode is that you unfortunately can’t memorize changing between the pitch settings. It would have been nice to be able to jump around with different pitch-shifting settings for some wild effects. But being able to change the other four knobs still gives plenty of options for interesting effects.
ALABS Orbital Pitch Pedal Sound Quality
The sound quality of pitch-based pedals can vary significantly from pedal to pedal, so I didn’t know what to expect before trying the Orbital Pitch pedal.
It’s generally a good idea to place pitch-based pedals towards the start of your pedalboard so it receives a dry signal from your guitar. This will help the pedal track the pitch better and produce better-quality results. Of course, breaking the rules is often a good way to discover interesting effects, so if you buy this pedal or any other pitch-based pedal, try mixing up the order of your pedals to see what works best.
But for these demo clips, you’re hearing the pedal in the best possible scenario as my guitar is directly connected to the pedla’s input jack.
Both left and right outputs were recorded, so you’re hearing the stereo output of this pedal. Use headphones for the best results.
Important Details on Pitch Pedals
There are two main things to consider when looking at the sound quality of a pitch-shifting pedal: latency and pitch quality.
Latency is the delay between when you play a note on a guitar and when you hear the pitch-shifted signal. Zero latency means that you hear the pitch-shifted signal at the same time as your original guitar tone. The larger the latency, the less usable pitch-shifted pedals become.
The pitch quality is the overall quality of the guitar tone you hear of the pitch-shifted signal. Some pitch-shifting pedals produce horribly digital-sounding tones, while others can feel almost as natural as the original guitar signal. Keep in mind that a pitch-shifted tone will never sound 100% the same as your original guitar tone. But a good-quality pitch pedal can get pretty close.
One more thing to keep in mind with pitch-based pedals is that the further away the pedal shifts the signal, the worse the latency and sound quality will become.
An easy-to-hear example of this is in my review of the Flamma FS08 Octave Pedal. Listen to the -2 Octave pitch setting and you’ll hear significantly higher latency and worse quality tone. As the Orbital Pitch pedal only shifts the signal up to one octave (up and down), you won’t hear high latency in these examples.
Learn more important details about pitch-based pedals in my Guitar Effects Course. Understanding the limitations of effects pedals and how they work can help you get the most out of them.
Listen closely to both the latency and the quality of the pitch-shifted parts in these clips to get an idea of the overall quality of the Orbital Pitch pedal.
Analog Dry Through and Bypass Modes
One side note about sound quality is that this pedal uses analog dry-through circuitry to keep your original signal intact.
The original tone is kept analog and the digital pitch-shifted signal is mixed in for the output.
This means your original signal doesn’t go through analog-digital and digital-analog (AD DA) converters. It’s a nice feature to see included on a pedal with a low price point.
Both True Bypass and Analog Buffer Bypass are selectable bypass modes, so you have the freedom to choose which mode you prefer.
Orbital Pitch Pedal Tests
Here are a few clips demonstrating all nine pitch-shifting settings.
Here’s the Octave Up setting with 50% wet/dry mix:
I turned the detune knob all the way down to zero for all of these clips (except the demonstration of the detune effect) to produce the cleanest quality tones. The detune effect can sound great, but it can also hide the quality of the pitch shifting (similar to how distortion can hide sloppy technique).
You can hear in the above clip that there is very minimal latency and the quality of the pitch-shifted tone sounds great. In person, I can feel that the latency is lower than a couple of other pitch-based pedals I compared against on my pedalboard.
Here’s the 5th Up setting:
This clip shifts the signal a Perfect Fifth up (learn about intervals in this lesson). A simple way of thinking about this is that it turns single notes into power chords.
It’s a very usable effect and sounds great when combined with other effects. I spent quite some time jamming with this setting with a high-gain tone as well as experimenting with the detune knob.
Here’s the 4th Up setting:
Here’s the 3rd Up setting:
Here’s the Root (unison) setting:
This setting doubles your original guitar tone. In other words, it creates a copy of your original guitar signal without any pitch shifting.
At first, it might not seem like this is very useful. But when you start to play around with the detune settings, it becomes obvious how useful this effect can be. It can make it sound like two guitarists playing the same part at the same time. The Mimiq Doubler by TC Electronic was basically built with this idea in mind.
The root option also works well with the stereo output as each channel is slightly shifted in pitch to each other, so you end up with a wide stereo sound.
Here’s the 3rd Down setting:
The further a pitch pedal shifts the pitch down, the higher the latency will be (the larger the gap between the dry note and the pitch-shifted note). If you listen carefully to this clip and the next three clips, you may notice the latency increase slightly.
The latency even at the -octave setting is still very good compared to many other pitch pedals I’ve tried over the years, but you can still notice it if you listen for it.
Here’s the 4th Down setting:
Here’s the 5th Down setting:
Here’s the Octave Down setting:
There’s some slight latency in the above clip, but the tone quality of the pitch-shifted signal is quite impressive.
There’s an octave difference between the low E on a guitar and the low E on a bass with standard tuning, so it’s quite a big shift in pitch.
Here’s what the detune setting sounds like. After each lick I gradually turn up the Rate and Detune knobs:
The Detune knob adjusts how far the pedal will deviate from the main pitch. With the Detune knob turned all the way up, the pitch will modulate up to 100 cent, which is quite a lot as you can hear at the end of the clip.
You can get some good chorus-style modulation by adjusting the Detune and Rate knobs, or more extreme modulation by cranking them.
Here’s what the Octave Up pitch sounds like with a 100% wet mix:
What you’re hearing in this clip is the pitch-shifted signal without hearing any of the original signal. While you can tell that the tone sounds very different from the original tone I’m using in these clips, it still sounds good. When you consider the pitch has been shifted up an entire octave, I’m impressed with the quality of the tone.
Here’s what the momentary footswitch set to glide sounds like. I increase the glide time using the Glide knob after each repetition:
What I’m doing here is playing a note, then tapping the footswitch to turn the pitch effect on and off momentarily. The first time you can hear the pitch instantly shift up and down as I press and release the footswitch.
Then as I turn the Glide knob up, you can hear the pedal glide or bend the note gradually up to pitch, then down again when I release the footswitch.
It’s a great effect and more pitch-based pedals are including a momentary function like the DigiTech Whammy DT.
I like that you can dial in the perfect glide time to suit different songs. As you can hear in the above clip, the longest glide setting is very long, so you’re unlikely to feel restricted.
Here’s an example of using the momentary footswitch to mimic the sound of a Whammy pedal:
While this obviously feels very different than using the expression pedal on a Whammy, it didn’t take me long to get the hang of it. When combined with a delay pedal, the results were very close to what you could get with a proper whammy expression pedal setup.
A lot of songs that use a whammy pedal basically rock the pedal back and forth anyway, so you can get a lot of mileage out of a momentary switch set to glide.
Overall Impressions of the ALABS Orbital Pitch Pedal
Pitch-based pedals can often be hit or miss depending on the quality of the pitch-shifting algorithms. The Orbital Pitch is a definite hit in my opinion as it sounds great and has a nice range of ways you can tweak and control the effect.
I personally love the momentary footswitch mode when combined with the glide function and I enjoy using the detune to mix in some subtle (or not-so-subtle) modulation.
While I would have liked to see some other pitch options and intervals (eg: both +octave and -octave at the same time), I’m happy with the options that were included.
The price point of all four pedals in the “Adam Adventures” series makes it easy for me to recommend them. There are pedals that cost double what the Orbital Pitch pedal costs that don’t have anywhere near the same features or quality.
For a retail price of $109 USD, the ALABS Orbital Pitch pedal is a fantastic quality pitch-shifting pedal that includes some unique features not found on typical pitch pedals.
The control you have over the momentary switch mode makes it a very expressive effect that is only rivaled by an actual expression pedal found on pedals such as the DigiTech Whammy.
The stereo output and the overall sound quality make this a solid recommendation for anyone wanting to explore pitch-based effects.
ALABS Orbital Pitch Pedal Pros and Cons
Here are the main pros of the Orbital Pitch:
- Fantastic price
- Great pitch tracking and low latency
- Momentary footswitch mode produces Whammy-like effects
- Good sounding stereo output
- Analog dry-through
Here are the main cons of the Orbital Pitch:
- High power draw (check your power supply before connecting)
- Doesn’t include a power supply and isn’t battery compatible
- Can only use one pitch setting at a time (eg: can’t use both +oct and -oct at the same time like many octave pedals)
How to Get The Most Out of the ALABS Orbital Pitch Pedal
Here are some tips to get the most out of the Orbital Pitch pedal:
- Use daisy chaining to power the pedal
- Place the pedal early in your effects chain for the best results
- Learn the basics of music intervals to understand the pitch options
Learn more about pitch-based effects and all other types of effects in my Guitar Effects Course. The course is designed to help you identify different effects by ear and combine them together. If you want to combine a pitch-based pedal like the Orbital Pitch with other effects, check out the course to learn more.