Dreadbox Hypnosis Effect Processor

Nostalgic Time Machine in a Box

Ryan Gaston · 09/18/20

At Perfect Circuit, we're suckers for new synths and retro-style effects. We've just recently started carrying products by Dreadbox FX, and have since been trying them out with basically every other piece of gear we can get our hands on—and we've been happy to discover just how gnarly Nyx and Erebus can get, how great the affordable Chromatic Series modules are, and how simply powerful and flexible Typhon is (more on Typhon here).

Of course, we couldn't help but try to hunt down the perfect pairing for Hypnosis, Dreadbox's peculiar and delightfully retro-inspired time-based effect processor. Luckily, we happened to have a Yamaha DX7 on hand at the time, which felt like an appropriately-styled companion. Full disclosure—I don't always get along with the DX7, which I think is a fairly common sentiment...but adding the Hypnosis really brought it a new layer of life and animation, making it surprisingly fun an exciting to play. Check out the video above for some fun tinkering with this pairing—after just a few minutes playing, it became clear that there's a lot of territory to be unearthed with this setup.

What is the Dreadbox Hypnosis?

Dreadbox's Hypnosis is a delightfully vintage-looking time-based desktop effect processor...and while that might sound like a mouthful, it's really not too complex. The Hypnosis is comprised of three effect sections, each dedicated to a different aspect of time-based effect processing: an analog chorus/flanger, a clean digital delay, and a spring reverb (with interesting pre-delay processor). This combination of effects is a pretty ideal end-of-chain effect setup for synth players, allowing you to add some lush spatial movement, echoes, and a sense of space all in a single piece of gear.

(Oh by the way—if you're curious to know more about the nuts and bolts of how different time-domain effect processing works, check out this article, which steps through different types of time-based effects using the Make Noise Mimeophon. For now, though, back to the Hypnosis!)

The first section on the Hypnosis is an analog BBD-based Chorus/Flanger. This allows you to create everything from metallic comb filtering to lush, swirling Juno-esque tones. This section features an integrated three-waveform LFO, making it easy to create everything from slowly spinning chorus effects to jarring, high-feedback flangers. The signal then passes into a stereo digital delay, with up to 450ms of delay time. The Delay can be completely clean, but it also offers both BBD and Tape emulation modes for keeping things a bit more old school. My favorite part of the delay, though, is the "Freeze" button, which sets the feedback to maximum and closes off the delay's input, allowing for playable stutter and repeat effects. I found it particularly fun to play chords, press "Freeze," and then to manually change the delay time to warp the pitch of the repeating sound. In Tape mode, this is great for creating almost Portastudio-like pitch bends on the fly.

The signal then passes through to an analog spring reverb, using a small internal three-spring tank to create classic bouncy, dripping reverb tones (complete with the pleasant noise and potential for feedback you'd expect from a real spring). What's particularly interesting about this reverb, though, is that it offers a continuous pre-delay control, which allows you to apply a zero-feedback delay to your sound before it hits the reverb tank. That alone is a pretty standard feature on a reverb, but where it gets interesting is the reverb section's integrated LFO—which allows you to continuously modulate the pre-delay time. At slower modulation speeds or depths, this effect is subtle, and feels somewhat like your sound is moving through space (with the time between the initial sound and its reverb tail continuously changing). However, at higher speeds or depths, you get the familiar pitch warping that comes along with delay modulation—allowing you to introduce vibrato, pseudo-chorusing, or outright wacky pitch modulation effects between the delay and reverb sections.

Of course, the real fun of the Hypnosis comes from experimenting with different combinations of these effects. Though I was initially tempted to just leave all the effects on all the time, I found as I played that each individual effect had a lot of interesting tricks up its sleeve, and that I was able to unearth some really fun and inspiring effects by focusing my attention on subtle changes to each individual section. Truthfully, given their characteristic sound and their unique features and quirks, I think each of these effects would be a blast even on their own—but when combined, they form a hugely powerful end-of-signal-chain processing path that could work great for synths, drum machines, modular gear, guitars, microphones, or even processing tracks from your DAW. And given the internal preset memory and support for a wide range of signal levels, it's easy and straightforward to interface with basically any device and to get to sounds that you like quickly and reliably.

I had particular fun pairing the DX7 with the Hypnosis. Practically impossible to program in real time, I usually find it difficult get into playing the DX7. I'm usually the type of person who prefers playing by exploring how a sound can change over time, and the workflow of classic FM synths just doesn't allow the hands-on interaction that makes me partial to modular synths or most analog synthesizers. However, the Hypnosis felt like it added a layer of life and playability to the DX7, making it much easier to just settle on an interesting enough preset and focus on manipulating the effects themselves.

That, for me, has been one of the most exciting aspects of the Hypnosis—it adds a huge amount of character and playability to anything you plug into it...even something as stubborn and particular as a DX7, a synthesizer I historically have been very on the fence about. My experience using it with other instruments has been identical; even bland sources spring to life, and instruments that already inspire you find new depth and direction. I'm left feeling that, if you're looking for a way to gain completely new perspective on an otherwise familiar instrument, the Hypnosis is an excellent solution.