Thursday, September 24, 2020


The Strymon brand is a relative newcomer in the field of stomp boxes and effects pedals. During the last five years they've quickly built a reputation for delivering awesome sounding gadgets.

My studio pedal board recently had an encounter with the Strymon Iridium which is advertised to be a guitar amplifier with a cab I.R. simulator. It's meant to either drive a full range amp/speaker or connect to a direct box and feed a sound system directly. The Iridium also has a headphone outlet on the front.


I unpacked the Iridium, it comes with a nice little switching power supply and a USB cable. There is a foldout manual that explains the basics of operating the Iridium and what all the controls do.

I plugged in a set of Audio Technica ATH50 headphones and my favorite Jackson guitar with Seymour Duncan full size humbucking pickups for my initial outing with the Iridium.

There are three amplifier simulations included, a Fender Deluxe, a Vox AC 30 and classic Marshall. There are three different speaker I.R. simulations for each amplifier.

The simplicity of the controls is a major draw for this pedal. Basic DRIVE and LEVEL controls along with BASS, MIDDLE and TREBLE tone controls deliver familiar amp adjustments.

ROOM - This knob imparts ambience, when it's full counter-clockwise the signal is dry. While not apparent looking at the pedal there are other ROOM effects with longer decay times than the default settings provide. The ROOM effect is ok for jamming but for recording I greatly prefer the ambient tones available from some of my external processors.


The Strymon Iridium feels good in your hand, it's constructed in a nice heavy duty metal enclosure with smooth turning knobs. The mini switches feel good and will probably deliver long life if you're careful with them.

The input and output jacks are solidly mounted and mated correctly with my reference-collection of 1/4" unbalanced phone plugs. 


I found the I.R. features to be interesting and useful for playing live. In studio situations I was uncertain about the tones. The speaker system you're playing any emulation through has a big impact on how well it simulates what it is supposed to be. For my testing I used a variety of Full-Range Flat-Response speaker systems along with headphones by Audio Technica and Sennheiser.


With my headphones on, the Iridium on my kitchen table and guitar in hand I carefully advanced the volume knobs and satisfying guitar tones began to emerge. This pedal is easy to use, unless you're brand new to playing guitar the controls are intuitive and feel good in operation.

While trying out the Iridium with headphones I wished for an effects loop so I could insert alternative signal processing after the preamp section. Effects must either come before the Iridium input or after the cab I.R. output because there is no effects loop.

I've owned several Fender Deluxe Reverb amps, it's a sound I grew up with. I ran the Strymon Iridium into a Klark Teknik DN200 stereo direct box and then into preamps on my Soundcraft console and out the studio monitors. This is my standard setup for direct recording.

The Iridium felt good to me as a guitar player, everything was progressive and delivered the dynamics I'd expect from a good guitar amplifier. As for whether it's exactly a Fender or Vox or Marshall I'd say it's in those tonal territories.

I tried the Iridium through a full-range keyboard amp and this was my favorite for live applications. The Iridium sounded good through a JBL powered monitor although this was the least similar to a traditional amp in a live performance situation.

I like the distortion crunch tones available on the Iridium when you crank up the DRIVE control. With Iridium set fairly crunchy you can clean-up the tone dramatically by backing down the volume control on your guitar.

Background noise and hum were low to non-existent depending on the settings of the knobs on the face of the unit. I detest hum and noise so having them low in level is a big plus. 

Iridium has a preset mode, you can create a preset and activate it with a push of the FAV button, one of two footswitches on the face of the unit. This lets you approximate a channel switching amplifier or a stomp box overdrive. Unfortunately you have no idea where the knobs are set on your alternative sound since it's a combination stored in memory. 


For performers who are trying to cut their physical load down to the smallest package possible while still preserving some classic guitar amp character and tone I think the Iridium is capable of replacing an amplifier, this is where it excels. 

The Iridium is a somewhat pricey and very specialized piece of hardware designed for the performer who wants to show up with a pedalboard and have everything else provided for them. If you're going to carry along a 30-40 pound Flat-Response Full-Range powered monitor to make the Iridium sound its best then why not just carry a good sounding combo guitar amplifier instead?

As a stone cold replacement for the real amps the Iridium purportedly emulates, it's not for me. When fed with an external overdrive or distortion pedal the Iridium did not sound or feel like any of the small tube amps I regularly play through. The lack of a "pre speaker-emulation effects-loop" left me feeling like I was constantly struggling to get the tone I was really craving. 

In most situations the Iridium depends on you providing an external direct box or speaker system to play through. I find it surprising given the importance of the direct audio connection that Strymon chose to leave off any XLR or mic level output(s).

After playing with the Iridium for a couple of weeks it was easy to pack it up and return it. If it was a lower priced device I might have been more tempted to keep it but at its $399 plus shipping price (no free shipping on unilaterally priced Strymon products) this one went back for someone else to purchase.

Good music to you!

RATINGS (Maximum of 5)

Tones 4.0
Ease of use 4.5
Build/Design 4.5
Value 3.0

PROS: Compact, good guitar sounds, nice features, low noise

CONS: Expensive, no pre-IR effects loop, limited preset effect, no microphone level output

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