Bixonic recently released the Bixonic Expandora EXP-2000R, a reissue of the earlier EXP-2000.
The Expandora has more going for it than a great name. It’s established a reputation as a great source for a variety of distorted sounds. It’s been used by Bush, Megadeth, ZZ Top, Bootsy Collins and other artists.
The EXP-2000R retains the look of earlier versions, but improves on them by bringing to the front dip-switches that were previously inside the case. It also adds a switch to toggle between Bass and Guitar settings. As a result, the Expandora is like having eight distortion pedals combined into one.
The Expandora is housed in a brushed aluminum housing. Some players may not like its “tuna can” design, but it’s a refreshing alternative to the standard pedal block.
The case feels solid and substantial. The overall build quality appears to be very good.
The Expandora runs off a battery or a 9V DC power supply (not included). To change batteries, you have to remove one screw on the back.
The front face has three sets of controls:
- Dip-switches that determine change the actual distortion circuit;
- Gain, Tone and Level knobs to adjust levels; and
- A bypass foot-switch.
All the controls feel solid and operate smoothly. The dip-switches are small enough that you won’t accidentally bump them, but not so small as to be fiddly.
The Expandora has a completely smooth metal bottom. Bixonic includes 4 adhesive circles that can be applied to the bottom of the case to help keep the Expandora in place. Depending on your playing style, you may need to secure the pedal to keep it from sliding.
The Expandora delivers a wider range of sounds than most distortion pedals. The dip switches let you switch between eight different circuit configurations. The first two dip-switches control the basic drive structure, and have four options: Crunch, Overdrive, Distortion, and Forbidden. A third dip-switch adjusts the overall tone of the Expandora for guitar or bass. The result of these unassuming dip-switches is that you can instantly change the overall sound of the Expandora dramatically.
The three pot knobs give you complete control of the pedal’s sound. The first knob controls the Gain of the input, along with the distortion. The second knob adjusts a high-frequency filter, which lets you control the brightness of the output. The final knob controls the level of the output.
With guitar, the Expandora sounds great, capable of excellent blues, rock and metal sounds. We couldn’t resist going straight to the “Forbidden” settings. According to Bixonic’s documentation, Forbidden mode “inflicts unacceptably hysteric sound onto your audience.” They aren’t exaggerating. Sick!
Since this is Synthtopia, we had to see what sort of twisted results we could get using the Expandora on other gear. We tested it with a Future Retro 777, one of the ultimate bass-line synths, and with a cheap drum machine, the Korg ER-1.
The 777 is modeled on the most important synth in techno, the Roland TB-303. Running the 777 through the Expandora added a whole new range of sounds, many of them sick and wrong. The Bass dip-switch option works well with techno sounds.
The ER-1 is an analog-modeling drum machine has a great variety of analog-style sounds. Unfortunately, its built-in distortion effect is lame, with no control over distortion level. We tacked the Expandora on the output, and found that it could warm up the sounds a little, or turn the clean output of the ER-1 into industrial noise. We don’t know how many musicians will want to abuse their equipment like this, but it did demonstrate the Expandora’s flexibility.
The Expandora will appeal to players that want a variety of analog distortion effects. If you tend to always use the same sound, a less-capable pedal will probably meet your needs.
At high gain levels, the Expandora circuits adds noise to the output. This was most noticeable on the Forbidden setting. The noise levels are not unusual for a distortion circuit, though, and can be eliminated with a noise gate if objectionable.
The Bixonic Expandora is a solid, well-crafted distortion pedal, capable of a very wide range of effects. Guitarist looking for a distortion pedal should put it on their short list. The range of circuit configurations possible through the dip-switch settings makes the Expandora very useful with other instruments, too, especially bass and bass-line synth.