Summer NAMM 2015: Awesome Guitar Effects Pedals
By Neal Kalra
It has never been a better time to be a guitar pedal enthusiast. Summer NAMM 2015 proved that to me. I spent a number of days hunched over a computer, bathing in it’s comforting light, scouring for fancy new things from effects builders. So I present to you my list of The Awesome Effects Coming Out of NAMM 2015.
Suggested retail price: $187.44 MSRP from DigiTech
The folks over at DigiTech are doing incredible work with their DOD re-issues. Modern upgrades to vintage pedals at affordable prices are a good equation for awesome gear. My current favorite is the 201 Phasor re-issue, a simple and beautiful sounding phaser. More info can be found here.
Now, the Meatbox is a very different story. The Meatbox is a subharmonic synthesizer, it generates sub-bass harmonies based on your input signal. The Meatbox was based on the rackmount DBX 120A subharmonic synthesizer and became known for it's ability to shake bodies and destroy speakers (literally). There was a limited run in the early 90s, and the $60 dollar pedal has recently seen asking prices as high as $300 on eBay. DOD found enough chips for an additional run of 3,000 more pieces and I absolutely want one.
Chase Bliss is putting out some of the most creative and tweakable pedals out there. Their mantra is ‘Digital Brain, Analog Heart’. You get the unadulterated feel of an analog pedal with the intense flexibility that digital controls allow. The Gravitas offers harmonic and standard tremolo. Standard is volume modulation. Harmonic is essentially turning a tone knob at set intervals, so you get different frequencies accented at a set rate and you can have both of these active simultaneously. In terms of flexibility per square inch the Gravitas beats any pedal out there. Only the above picture can do it justice.
You have 16 DIP switches to change the functionality of the pedal. You can turn your bypass switch from latch to momentary, so you can hold the effect or pump it on and off. You can generate patterned tremolos, you’ve got on board tap tempo with tap divisions. Wave shaping of both the left and right sides of the modulation wave are available with the two front switches. Expression pedal input, as well as Midi capabilities with a modified Empress Midibox are also available.
Here’s a beautiful demo from the wonderful team at Knobs:
Not yet released
Caroline Guitar Company is planning to put their own noisy twist on reverb. The layout looks very much like their Kilobyte Digital Delay, which I love. You get the same ability to distort the wet signal, this creates a destructive reverb that sounds surprisingly natural. You also have the standard issue ‘havoc’ switch that appears to create a reverb drone that eventually oscillates and degenerates. Only quick demos are available on-line. There’s a switch that seems to symbolize night/day but I have no idea what it does. It could control the tone of the reverb? Either way it should prove to be an interesting addition to the slew of non-traditional reverbs coming off the line.
Here is a very brief demo from Premier Guitar (head to 1m50s):
Approximate price: $399.00 from Deluxe Guitar Exchange
Spaceman Effects is a secretive manufacturer tucked away in Portland, OR. Often times they will contact their mailing list with the opportunity to fund a secret project. These pedals ship with no instructions and with a blacked out control dial. The pedals are always limited runs and aren’t cheap, but they are always incredibly flexible and dynamic devices. Thankfully we know exactly what the Voyager I is and it has some killer features.
You’ve got your standard tremolo controls for speed, depth, and wave shape (triangle or square). On top of that you get gain and volume controls to control for the often perceived volume drop when engaging a tremolo. Finally, and most important to me, there is an envelope control. In Freq mode the tremolo rate increases the harder you play and then slows down as the volume decreases. In Fade mode louder playing fades the tremolo effect out, as the volume decreases the tremolo fades back in. The envelope knob controls the sensitivity to attack. It’s a very unique and interesting sound you can hear below.
Another demo from Premier Guitar (head to 3m09s):
Boss is following up it’s Giga Delay with a massive addition to the delay market. It’s been over 10 years since the DD-20 Giga Delay release and Boss is making up for lost time. It’s got a new rugged enclosure, a larger and easier to read graphic display and the ability to stack two different delay types. You also get a 60 second (stereo) or a 120 second (mono) looper, the looped phrases can also have the delay effect active. It can work in True or Buffered Bypass modes, this allows your delayed signal to trail after the effect has been disengaged or while switching delay presets.
All the expected delay types are here and more. Vintage digital delay with some degradation, warm analog delay, standard clean digital delay, tera echo (which appears to be a filtered reverb modulation mix). They’ve also got bit crushing delays, reverse, and shimmer. You can use the slow-attack mode for swells and tap in patterned delay repeats. The most exciting part of this pedal, is the price. The DD-500s features put this pedal in the same ranks as the Eventide TimeFactor and Strymon Timeline, for about $150-$200 less than its competitors.
Sweetwater Demo (head to 3m15s):
Analog octave up, that's it. Add it to your fuzz, add it to your overdrive, put it in an effects loop. A one-stomp scream box. Excited to see what people can do with this.
I have always loved filter pedals. I've never been good at them. It requires re-examining your playing style as filter effects usually don’t react the same way across the entire fretboard. After watching this demo I think I’m going to have to try again.
This is Henrietta’s foray into a more robust device. Their bread and butter were the more simple 2”x 2” stompboxes with one switch and internal knobs. These were fantastic for space savers and set-and-forget players. The Big Zapper changes that with an auto-wah and filter sweeper in one. It’s got both a Smooth and Choppy channel with their own parameters and footswitches, so you can basically set two presets of the filter. If you choose to use the clock mode, the device will sweep the filter at a pre-set rate. If you chose to toggle to attack mode then the device responds to your Attack like an auto-wah. Since that wasn’t cool enough there’s also a combo mode that will sweep the filter automatically and react to playing dynamics.
Another Premier Guitar Demo:
Modular synthesis is on the rise, and for good reason. Modular synthesis allows you to patch, re-wire, and send control signals to create fantastic and otherworldly sounds. As boutique pedals get increasingly complex, Pittsburgh Modular has decided that the time for modular guitarists is now. The Patchbox is basically an enclosure for Eurorack modules with break out controls to allow you to use it with your feet. You start with a pre-amp that brings the guitar to line level and therefore makes it possible to use with modules, you can crank this for a pretty good sounding overdrive. The signal is then buffered and split into two, you can route one to an analog delay and one to a bit crusher and already you’ve got a pretty wild setup. The Patchbox has three switches, one is a general bypass switch which will route your signal through the modules or just straight back out.
The other two are programmable. They are linked to three patchable ports. So you can control three effects parameters with each foot switch. You also have two expression pedal inputs that can be routed to any control parameter on the modules. Watch below for a demo of the 16-stage phaser, analog delay, and a down-sampler(bit crusher). This has the potential to really change the sound we see coming out of guitars.
Nice demo from Reverb.com (head to 2m42s):
So there you have it! Have a favorite pedal in this list or want to add one? Let us know in the comments section below, happy hunting!