Update: It looks like the makers of the DropTune have gone out of business. If you are considering buying one of these be warned. No more firmware updates!
I have added the last firmware update I got at the end of this post. Use it entirely at your own risk. If you use the upgrade and subsequently damage your DropTune I can’t be held responsible. There’s also PDF instructions for the upgrade and a scan of the manual that came with the pedal.
The Morpheus DropTune is an interesting pedal which – at least on the face of it – offers players of 6-string guitars the possibility of entering the world of 7-string tone without investing in a 7-string guitar. Even better, because the DropTune is capable of lowering the tuning of your guitar sound in half step decrements you can play in a number of dropped tunings without retuning or swapping guitars.
You can read a detailed explanation of the features of the pedal on the Morpheus web site so I won’t go over the same ground here. Instead here are some of my experiences with the DropTune.
I have to say, the sound quality isn’t at all bad considering what this pedal is trying to achieve. As a polyphonic pitch shifter it has to alter the pitch of a complex wave form containing multiple notes played at once.
However, I don’t think this is an entirely transparent process; there are definite artefacts in the sound. For example comparing the sound of a 7-string guitar tuned to B with that of a 6-string guitar tuned to E but dropped using the DropTune is a bit like comparing 2 JPG photographs at 2 different resolutions, one high and one low. There’s a slight shimmer to the sound, almost like a tiny bit of chorus has been added.
I also find that for rapid lead guitar parts it feels like there’s a little bit of a delay in processing the signal. The delay tiny but noticeable, as if each note’s attack has been clipped.
I’ve made a quick recording to compare the sound between a 7-string guitar and a 6-string dropped using the DropTune. I’ve recorded a riff using an Ibanez Universe 7-string tuned to B and then recorded the same riff using a 6-string Ibanez JEM 777FP tuned to E through the DropTune. The basic guitar tone is provided by the Angel P-Ball preset on a Line 6 POD XT Pro.
The first half of the following recording is played using the 7-string and then at around 23 seconds there’s a switch to the 6-string. I wanted this to be a realistic test so there’s a backing of drums and bass, and the guitars are double-tracked with one panned hard left and another hard right.
Here’s the same thing again but with the drums and bass removed.
Finally, here’s the recording with single tracked guitars.
Construction and Design
The construction of the unit is both stylish and robust with solid metal construction throughout. The foot switches – of which there are 3 – are of the classic stomp pedal design. There are 2 foot switches for moving up and down the preset list and an effect on/off switch. The unit is pretty chunky being about 6½ inches wide at the front. This means the switches are nicely spaced; there’s not much chance of stepping on the wrong switch by mistake.
On the back of the unit is a trim level knob. You need to use this to set an appropriate input level for your guitar. If there’s a potential weak link on the unit this is it. I don’t think the knob would stand up very well to a beating but it’s tucked around the back of the unit so that shouldn’t be a problem. I haven’t had any issues myself.
The power supply is not typical for stomp boxes being 12V at 500mA. Most of my stomp boxes run off 9V at 200mA but the DropTune takes a bit more juice than that.
Overall the construction of the unit is sound as a pound.
The DropTune includes a USB interface that can be used to update the device to the latest firmware. Mine is running the version 1.2, the latest firmware update at the time of writing. The update comes as a Zip file that includes version for Mac and PC based systems.
Installation is pretty easy. You just plug in the DropTune using a USB cable and run the installer. I have never had any problems doing this.
Overall, I think the Morpheus DropTune does an excellent job. At the time of writing you can pick up a DropTune for around £145 in the UK. That’s considerably cheaper than investing in a new 7-string guitar and it also offers the jobbing guitarist huge flexibility. There’s no need to cart multiple guitars around to cope with different tunings. Just pop the DropTune in your gig bag and you’re good to go.
Seeing as the company has gone bust I’ve made the last firmware update – version 1.2 – available here. By all means download and use yourself but do so at your own risk. If you brick your DropTune or damage it in any way I can’t be held responsible.