Founded in 1968, Electro-Harmonix is one of the oldest pedal companies out there. They are responsible for creating some of the world’s most popular pedals, such as the Big Muff, the Deluxe Memory Man and the Soul Food.
Their huge catalog also contains pedals that you don’t see every day, and this Electro-Harmonix Freeze pedal review is going to go deep into one of their most interesting stompboxes. The Freeze is a sound retainer, meaning that it captures a very short moment of your playing, samples it, and repeats it infinitely.
It isn’t the same thing as a looper, nor you can obtain the same kind of effect with a normal looper such as the TC Electronic Ditto or the Boss RC-30. This pedal can sound very unique, and it is usable both in a solo context or with a band.
I’m going to guide you through this pedal’s main features, give you a few ideas on how to make the most out of it, and also discuss a few alternatives that you might also want to check out before pulling the trigger on a sound retainer!
Bottom Line Up Front: The Electro-Harmonix Freeze can boost your creativity and inspire you to compose and play very different guitar parts. You can use it to sample and infinitely loop a single note, a chord, or make it glitch by combining it with techniques such as slide. You can also change your sound by placing the EHX Freeze in a different place in your signal chain, and combining it with modulation, delay, reverb and other effects.
This unique pedal is also a great tool to study scales, arpeggios, improvisation and other concepts. The best thing about this pedal is that it does not try to be excellent at a lot of things. It has one goal, and it fulfills it effortlessly without taking up a lot of space, while remaining an affordable purchase. You can generally find the Electro-Harmonix Freeze for a price of around $150.
Electro-Harmonix Freeze Main Features
Three Modes – Fast, Slow & Latch
A small toggle switch on the EHX Freeze allows you to switch between its 3 modes: Fast, Slow and Latch. Let’s take a look at how these three behave:
Fast: when you set the small toggle switch to Fast, the pedal will freeze whatever you’re playing the moment you step on it, and it will sustain it indefinitely until you release the footswitch. At this point, the sampled sound will cut off abruptly. If you want to play several chords and transition between them using the Freeze, this may not be the best choice. However, if you want to use it intermittently and don’t want the samples getting in the way of your playing, the Fast mode could come in handy.
Slow: in the Slow setting, the pedal gently brings up the sound, and it also fades out gradually once the footswitch is released. There is a way to change between 3 different “Slow” presets. You need to unplug the power jack, hold down the footswitch and plug the power jack back in while holding it. At this point, the toggle switch lets you choose between 3 different fade-in/fade-out speeds.
- The “Up” position gives you 200ms of fade-in and 400ms of fade-out.
- The “Middle” position gives you 200ms of fade-in and 1 second of fade-out.
- The “Down” position gives you 800ms of fade-in and 3.2 seconds of fade-out.
When I use the EHX Freeze in its Slow setting, I generally prefer to use the setting with 200ms/1s. The one with the longest fade-in/fade-out times can be interesting for players who are into creating huge soundscapes with multiple pedals, but it can be tricky to deal with 3.2 seconds of fade-out in some circumstances. My advice is to experiment and see what works best for you.
Latch: most of the time, my Freeze is set to this mode. I love using it as a study tool, so one thing that I do very often is play a certain kind of chord (let’s say a B7#11) and practicing scales and arpeggios that work with this chord. It makes it a little bit more interesting, but I like to switch around between the Freeze and a looper, depending on what I am going for.
In a performance, Latch is also very nice if your objective is creating a pad-like sound to have something to play on top of. Laying down a chord and freezing it allows you to play a line over it, and then move on to the next chord and repeat the process. If it isn’t overdone, it can really spice up the moment! Tap twice on the footswitch to stop using the pedal.
The Level knob is quite self-explanatory. It controls the volume of the effect, which you can increase and decrease according to your needs.
Regardless of how you set this knob, the output sound will always have 100% of the dry signal at its original volume. If you play something substantially loud and freeze it, you will probably need to increase the Level knob so that it becomes noticeable.
This has pretty much become a staple when checking out products by Electro-Harmonix, but it is still worth mentioning for those who haven’t acquired any of their pedals (this is the sign you’ve been looking for to get one!). I have had mine for a long time, used it in several gigs, and it has no visible signs of wear, it has never let me down, acted strange, or made any odd noises, and I am 100% confident that it will perform perfectly for years to come.
Even though I keep mine in a pedalboard and it doesn’t get thrown in backpacks or in other places where it could get scratched and damaged by other pieces of gear, you can really tell that this pedal is made to last, and that is one thing that everyone should be taking into account before buying a product.
If you get something that is fragile and easy to break, it will not be a good investment in the long term, nor it will be trustworthy enough to play gigs with, as you want to eliminate all potential sources of trouble while playing live.
Soft Switch – Practical and Convenient
Aside from being a small pedal that will not take up a lot of space on your pedalboard, the Electro-Harmonix Freeze features a soft, silent switch that makes operating it a breeze and a pleasure. Some players have mentioned that the older version of this pedal had a switch that produced an audible click when stepped on, and if you use this pedal in certain moments in which the guitar is the only instrument playing, this click can bother you a little.
Also, a switch like this is slightly harder to press on time while performing. It is similar to having a delay with a tap tempo switch that you can’t accurately press on time. With the Freeze, this means that you might not capture the exact moment you meant to capture, leading to a potentially awkward sample.
Fortunately, the newer version solves these two issues easily with the soft switch that is now used by Electro-Harmonix on their Freeze pedal.
Complete Specifications of the Electro-Harmonix Freeze
You can check the complete specifications of the Electro-Harmonix Freeze below.
- Circuit: Digital
- Bypass: Buffered Bypass
- Audio: Mono
- Power Supply: 9.6VDC-200mA power adapter included
- Dimensions (in): 4.5 x 2.75 x 2.1
- Current Draw: 140mA
- Inputs: 1 x 1/4″
- Outputs: 1 x 1/4″
- Year Released: 2010
- UPC: 683274011103
- Weight: 1.4 lbs
Pros and Cons of the Electro-Harmonix Freeze
As with any piece of gear that you can buy today, the Electro-Harmonix Freeze has its strong points and its disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look at these to help you figure out if this is going to be your next purchase:
There are literally hundreds of overdrives, distortions, delays, reverbs and other kinds of pedals, making it hard to choose one and stand out with the sounds they produce. The EHX Freeze, however, is a very unique kind of pedal.
Even though it can only do one thing, it can be used in many different contexts in a lot of creative ways. Pairing it with other pedals like modulation effects or reverb, as well as placing it in different places within your signal chain can further expand on the sounds you can get from the EHX Freeze.
- Silent Switch
The first version of the Electro-Harmonix Freeze had a switch that would emit an audible click when it was pressed. Fortunately, the newer version features a soft switch that is inaudible when you use it while playing. This can avoid unnecessary noises if you usually play smaller, more intimist gigs where the sound of pedals being switched on and off could be inconvenient.
When I first tried the Freeze, I had my hands on one of the first versions, and this was something that bothered me just a little bit. Once I got around to buying one, I was very happy when I realized that they had improved this, most likely due to customer feedback.
- Inspires Creativity
You can use the Electro-Harmonix Freeze in a variety of ways, starting with choosing whether you want to freeze your playing only momentarily, as you press and release the switch, or have it in latching mode, where you can lay down a pad-like chord and then play on top of it, changing chords as the song progresses. If you want to get some ideas, my recommendation is to check players who already use it.
I went to see Bill Frisell live with a friend of mine and we had already been talking about the Freeze, but after seeing him use it so tastefully, we ordered one for each of us the following day!
- No Battery
Although being unable to power the Freeze with a 9V battery is not a huge deal breaker for me, since I mostly use isolated power supplies such as the MXR Iso Brick, it would be nice to have that possibility.
Sometimes I like to play gigs or sessions with very small pedalboards that I put together in just a few minutes, but I rarely want to unmount any of the power supplies that are installed on my main pedalboard. Depending on the situation, I might want to use batteries or separate power adapters.
- No 100% Wet Option
When you are using the EHX Freeze, your dry signal is always passing through the pedal, and there is no way to eliminate it to have the “frozen” sound exclusively. This would have been a great addition to the pedal, and it would help guitarists produce even more convincing pad-like sounds with a press of a footswitch.
Even though this isn’t a feature that exists in this pedal, I still think it is 100% worth getting and using for this kind of scenario. Remember that you can pair it with other modulation and time-based effects to further shape your frozen sounds.
Other Pedals to Check Out as Alternatives to the Electro-Harmonix Freeze
The Electro-Harmonix Freeze is a very unique pedal, and unlike overdrives, delays and other popular stompboxes, there aren’t hundreds of alternatives to look into if you’re in the market for an effect like this. Nevertheless, there are still a few interesting choices that might be more appealing to you, depending on what you are looking for and your current budget.
Some of them focus on sustaining your sound, and others offer it as a side feature, something that happens with a number of modern reverb pedals.
Let’s take a look at some of my personal favorite Electro-Harmonix Freeze alternatives:
The SuperEgo+ by Electro-Harmonix is a multi-effects pedal that features a synth engine, chorus, tremolo, echo, pitch shifting, 4 different freeze modes, and more.
It is more expensive than the Freeze, but you also get a lot more possibilities with the SuperEgo+. In my case, I really just wanted something small and simple, and I wasn’t interested in the synth engine or the other effects since I already have them in separate pedals. However, I can definitely see how it might allow players to take their “freezing” game a step further.
The Electro-Harmonix SuperEgo+ can be found for a price usually around $280.
Gamechanger Audio PLUS Sustain Pedal
Gamechanger Audio has released some of the most interesting, cool-looking and innovative effects of the last few years, and the PLUS Sustain definitely checks all of those boxes effortlessly. The first thing you notice is that it looks exquisite, since you’ve probably never seen a guitar pedal that looks like a sustain pedal from a piano before.
The PLUS captures and plays a high-resolution recording of what you play, and you can tweak several parameters such as Blend, Rise, Tail and Sustain. This one certainly has a lot more bells and whistles than the Electro-Harmonix Freeze, but it comes at a price.
The Gamechanger Audio PLUS Sustain is not a very budget-friendly pedal. It will set you back around $380.
Neunaber Wet Reverb v5
The Neunaber Wet Reverb has been spotted in many people’s pedalboards recently, and it is because it can create both subtle and gargantuan reverbs with little to no effort.
Aside from being a great reverb pedal, it also features what Neunaber calls “Infinity Hold”, which resembles the EHX Freeze. There are a few differences in the way they work and sound, but that is to be expected, since the Freeze is designed to perform this single function. Some of the Neunaber’s advantages include the possibility of shaping your sound with the tone knob and stereo sound.
The Neunaber Stereo Wet Reverb is generally sold for a price of around $200.
Walrus Audio MAKO Series R1 Reverb
Walrus Audio is one of my favorite pedal brands, and when the Mako Series R1 Reverb was announced, I immediately decided that I would get it once it was released. It includes several amazing reverbs, a great degree of customization and useful features such as MIDI control.
The reason why I considered it to be a potential Freeze alternative is its Sustain/Latch footswitch (the one on the right side) which allows you to freeze your current reverb sound, and then play over it while retaining the reverb algorithm.
This is a great feature, since some pedals that can freeze the reverb decay deprive you of it when you play over the sample, leaving you with a dry sound that can be awkward to use in some contexts.
The Walrus Audio MAKO Series R1 Reverb pedal can be found for a price of around $350.
Boss RV-500 Reverb
The RV-500 is Boss’s flagship reverb pedal. It is truly one of the most complete reverbs I have owned, but I got to a point where it seemed like I wasn’t making the most out of all that it has to offer. The degree of control you have over a huge list of parameters can be a bit overwhelming, but if you are into meticulously crafting your tones, you can sink dozens of hours into programming the RV-500.
One of its features resembles the Electro-Harmonix Freeze, letting you snap a moment of what you’re playing and sustaining it infinitely. Like the Walrus Audio Mako Series R1 Reverb, your tone remains the same as you play over the “frozen” sample, as opposed to being forced to play with a dry sound. You can assign this function to the footswitch on the far right side of the pedal, but it can also be used to access other features.
The Boss RV-500 reverb pedal is usually sold for a price of around $400.
Electro-Harmonix HOG2 Harmonic Octave Generator
The HOG2 is one of the most complete octave generator pedals out there. It might not be cheap, but you get what you pay for.
Aside from being able to control 10 intervals of pitch, dual envelope generators and several expression modes, the HOG2 even has its own expression pedal (included in the box) that allows you to further explore its endless possibilities.
It has two different Freeze modes that you can also pair with the expression pedal, something that you can’t do with the EHX Freeze.
The Electro-Harmonix HOG2 is quite expensive, with a price tag around the $560 mark. However, it does much more than just freezing your sound.
While the Boss ME-80 is not a pedal in a stompbox format, it contains a freeze effect, which is why I decided to mention it in this guide.
If you were already thinking of getting a multi-effects pedal, you might appreciate knowing that this one offers this kind of effect.
With the ME-80, you can also use the freeze effect in conjunction with the onboard expression pedal, opening up more possibilities than you could with the EHX Freeze.
Aside from all of this, you also get a huge catalog of Boss effects, COSM preamps, several patch presets, and you can even connect it directly into your DAW of choice and record music conveniently without any hassles.
The Boss ME-80 multi-effects pedal generally costs around $360.
The Strymon BigSky is undoubtedly one of the most popular reverb units in the world. You see it in countless pro pedalboards, and it isn’t by chance, it really is an excellent addition to anyone’s setup.
Aside from the marvelous reverb algorithms and features such as MIDI, stereo, expression pedal input and a cab filter switch, the BigSky also has a freeze function. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is the most recommendable option because you lose the reverb sound once you engage the freeze, which can be a bit deterring.
The Strymon BigSky Reverb can usually be found for around $480.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about the Electro-Harmonix Freeze
Question: What does the Electro-Harmonix Freeze do?
Answer: The Electro-Harmonix Freeze is a “sound retainer” pedal. What it does is it takes a sample of what you are playing the moment you hit the switch, and plays it back infinitely. You can choose to freeze what you’re playing only while you press the switch, or use the “latch” mode to create an infinite pad of whatever chord or note you play.
You can pair this pedal with other effects and play around with its placement on the signal chain. For a pedal with just one volume knob and a 3-way toggle switch, there are a lot of sonic possibilities you can explore with the Electro-Harmonix Freeze.
Question: Is the Electro-Harmonix Freeze a true bypass pedal?
Answer: No. The Electro-Harmonix Freeze is a buffered bypass pedal, meaning that it contains a buffer, it might slightly color your tone even when it is switched off, and it will also kill your sound if something goes wrong with the power source, something that wouldn’t happen if it were a true bypass pedal.
One is not necessarily better than the other, though. In fact, having a couple of quality buffers in your signal chain (at the start and finish, for instance) can be beneficial as it will mitigate some of the high-frequency loss that occurs when you run a lot of long cables between your guitar, pedals and amplifier.
Question: Is the Electro-Harmonix Freeze a noisy pedal?
Answer: The Electro-Harmonix Freeze is not a noisy pedal. I use it in a pedalboard that has a total of 10 pedals, all connected to a high quality isolated power supply, with good patch cables. I have never noticed any extra noise after I have added the Freeze to the signal chain, nor when I am actively using it. The electrical installations of wherever I am playing can influence the amount of noise, but regardless of that, this pedal doesn’t add anything significant.
Question: Are there any alternatives to the Electro-Harmonix Freeze?
Answer: Even though the Electro-Harmonix Freeze is a pretty unique and rather unusual pedal, there are still a few options on the market today that can accomplish a similar effect. Some of the ones found on the list below were designed with this function in mind, and others, such as the reverb and octave pedals, have it as an additional feature. Here are a few alternatives to the EHX Freeze:
• Electro-Harmonix SuperEgo+
• Gamechanger Audio PLUS Sustain Pedal
• Neunaber Wet Reverb v5
• Walrus Audio MAKO Series R1 Reverb
• Boss RV-500
• Electro-Harmonix HOG2 Harmonic Octave Generator
• Boss ME-80
• Strymon BigSky
Question: Which guitarists use the Electro-Harmonix Freeze?
Answer: There are many guitarists in the current music scene that have incorporated the Electro-Harmonix Freeze into their pedalboards, and since it is such a unique pedal, it opens up the door for everyone to use it in different creative ways. Here is a small list of musicians that are known to use this pedal.
Check them out to see how they use it and you might be inspired to find your own ways of exploring the Electro-Harmonix Freeze!
• Bill Frisell
• Noel Gallagher
• Unknown Mortal Orchestra
• Joey Landreth
• Estas Tonne
• Billy Strings
• Gilad Hekselman
• Wayne Krantz
• Steve Gunn
• Rotem Sivan
Question: Can you power the Electro-Harmonix Freeze with a 9V battery?
Answer: Unfortunately, you cannot power the Electro-Harmonix Freeze with a 9V battery if you want to, but the good thing is that the brand includes a power adapter in the box. You can also disregard that adapter and connect the pedal to a power supply of your own, such as the MXR Iso Brick or a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus. Its current draw is 140mA.
Closing Considerations about the Electro-Harmonix Freeze
In summary, the Electro-Harmonix Freeze is an excellent pedal choice if you are looking for something that is somewhat unusual, and that can be of use in rehearsals, live concerts and even while you are studying your instrument by yourself.
Although there are more pedals that achieve this kind of effect, the Freeze is one of the most affordable pedals that can pull it off easily, it is well built, comes with its own power supply, and doesn’t take much of your precious pedalboard space.
If you feel like you don’t need a pedal dedicated to this, but you would still like to be able to have infinite sustain every now and then, maybe you would prefer having something like the Walrus Audio MAKO Series R1 Reverb or the Boss RV-500, both reverb pedals that also have an infinite sustain option.
My Electro-Harmonix Freeze will definitely be with me for a very long time. Even if I am not using it a lot for live performances, I love to play chords, freeze them and practice different scales over them to further hone my improvisation skills.