Top 17 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Winter NAMM 2017


Here we are. Another year of NAMM. Another roundup of the best guitar pedals of this year’s show.

After covering The NAMM Show for several years, I’ve noticed that it takes more to impress me than it once did. I’m not a brand loyalist, and I don’t really get excited about a pedal just because it’s a new release from a fan favorite builder. I maintain a healthy skepticism towards the builders that have innovated in the past, looking for any indication that they’re resting on their past successes or running out of ideas. Ultimately, I seek out pedals and gear that may inspire new perspectives on creating music with guitar, the “best guitar effects” that will produce the sounds in music yet to be heard.

There were several pedals at the show that are pushing boundaries (and not just musically as I’ll discuss more near the end of this article). While there were many more pedals at this year’s NAMM Show than listed here, this article will focus on the very best pedals, narrowed down even further than previous Best Pedals of Winter NAMM lists to place greater emphasis on the innovative guitar pedals that are most deserving of your attention.

As always these initial impressions do not constitute a final review verdict in any way. The busy NAMM Show floor isn’t an ideal listening environment, and many of these products are still in development and may change and evolve before their actual release. But overall I feel positive about this assessment, and it should give you a great starting point for researching the best guitar pedals from Winter NAMM 2017 for any new additions to your pedalboard.

Now here are the Top 17 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Winter NAMM 2017!


Empress Effects Echosystem


I’d been waiting on this announcement for quite a while: a successor to the Empress Effects Vintage Modified Superdelay. But what Empress Effects unveiled at Winter NAMM 2017 is something on a whole different level warranting a new name for a new generation of delay tones. This isn’t a novel update to the Superdelay. It’s the Echosystem Dual Engine Delay, and it’s shaping up to be a game changer.

What sets the Echosystem apart from the multi-algorithm delay pedal pack? Well, let’s start with the fact that it’ll give you 25+ delays modes out of the box. You can use these modes individually or use 2 delays at once in dual parallel, dual serial, or left/right. The possibilities for stacking delays are staggering.

Let’s get back to the Superdelay (and VMSD) to contrast and elaborate on the known improvements made. While I was a huge advocate for the merits of the Vintage Modified Superdelay, it was mono only. The Echosystem has stereo I/O. The VMSD wasn’t MIDI enabled. The Echosystem will support extensive MIDI implementation. And if you’re a fan of the classic Superdelay sounds, you can expect to see plenty of them here. The user generated multi tap possibilities will return as will my personal favorite algorithm, the reverse octave up (it wasn’t in the NAMM units, but Empress Effects assured me it’s on the way). Expect to see some of the builder’s renowned tape delay sounds making a return.

The Echosystem sports a similar design to the company’s hit Empress Reverb. You can expect to find the pedal’s 25+ delay modes indicated by the RGB LEDs next to the 12 mode types. All the expected classic delay types are covered: Digital, Analog, Tape, Reverse, and many more. There will be Delay + Reverb types as well. Whisky (similar to the Reverb’s “Beer” mode) is where the more outlandish and bizarre delays will reside (like the must hear “stutter” delay). Kudos to Empress Effects for a dedicated Lo-Fi section as the sounds at NAMM are already promising. And yes, there will be a dedicated Looper function to come. Expect to see more forum voting for new modes as well.

Not even scratching the surface here, but let me make a closing statement. As excited as I was about the Empress Reverb, my expectations for the Echosystem are above and beyond, and this may be the new digital delay to beat when it drops this Spring.


WMD Geiger Counter Pro


So what happens when you take an analog distortion engine and feed it into a computer to be filtered, bit-crushed, and mangled by 700 or so wave tables? I’ll tell you what happens. Faces melt. Heads explode. Old worlds are destroyed, and new ones are formed form the ashes. The WMD Geiger Counter Pro is the sound of armageddon and sonic revolution happening simultaneously.

Been waiting on this pedal… for… ev… er. But fear not as the delivery of its payload is imminent. The Geiger Counter Pro is your post-rock, post-apocalyptic survival tool-kit. So many options here. You’ll be tweaking this one for a long time to come.

Dedicated “Samples” & “Bits” knobs induce bit-crushing. Crank the Bits clockwise for a Gate, sure to come in handy when dropping megatons of gain on your audience. The Bank & Table knobs dial in the wave tables for mathematic destruction – or deconstruction – of your audio signal. This will decimate your sound beautifully, resulting in harmonically complex textures. There’s also a dedicated Filter for some some classic synth-style low-pass filtering. This’ll tame the extremities and maybe get you jonesing for the epic WMD Protostar. There’s also a dedicated knob for the optional Tone circuit and a Mix control.

You can save and recall a host of presets from the pedal itself. With deep MIDI implementation you can take even deeper control on the pedal. Got a modular synth rig? There are 2 assignable CV ports (that are also expression pedal compatible) for crazy external control possibilities. WMD is about to drop a bomb on the pedal world. Brave guitar players will dare to detonate the Geiger Counter Pro; those who can’t handle it: take cover.

On a side note, as my expectations for this pedal are very high, it’s important that I mention the one area of pre-release constructive criticism I have. The Samples knob has a huge range of great ring-mod style tones to be dialed in. The Fine button near the knob jumps the range to a smaller area in the upper register. Since it sounds so great using the Samples knob to tune the pitch to a note that’s in key with what you’re playing, it might be interesting if the Fine button allowed “fine tuning” in the range where the knob is currently set instead of jumping to a different register with a limited tuning range. Just a curiosity of mine that might allow more flexibility.


Red Panda Tensor


The Tensor is the most exciting Red Panda pedal since the Particle. Yeah, I just said that. When I heard that this pedal could do “tape stop” effects, I was excited and had to check it out. When I discovered that it could “stretch” your playing, I was more deeply intrigued. When I heard the smooth expression pedal controlled pitch-shifting in selectable intervals spanning -2 to +2 octaves, I was blown away. When I sampled and played audio via the Hold function and had it loop, play in reverse, and bounce back in forth, well, I was already communing with the clockwork elves, so I can’t really explain how beyond stoked I was. But when I returned from this all too brief journey and heard about something else that might make it into the production version, I imagined musical possibilities that could make the Tensor one of the most creative and inspiring pedals released for years to come. As it stands, the Tensor will be amazing. But if you’re really intrigued, cross your fingers with me in hoping it becomes a perpetual bridge to the fractal universe.


Source Audio Ventris Reverb


So you’re familiar with the Nemesis Delay, right? It’s one of the best delay pedals to come along in recent years. Well, Source Audio are about to release the similarly awe inspiring Ventris Reverb. This is another example of a pedal that looks very promising and may further exceed expectations before its release.

The biggest wow factor of this compact treasure trove of reverb is that it boasts an extra processor from the Nemesis Delay. This gives you true reverb spillover when changing from one preset to the next, a dream come true for guitarists who use multiple reverb sounds within a single song. While the Ventris looks like it may allow users to run two reverbs in parallel (and in stereo), I’m hoping Source Audio can crack the code to allow stacking reverbs in series (and in stereo, of course).

Like the Nemesis, the Ventris has presets, MIDI implementation, Neuro App connectivity, and a host of onboard parameter knobs that negate the need for menus. In addition to the Neuro App, a desktop compatible app is on the way for arguably more convenient preset editing.

Expect the reverbs onboard (and the ones to come via the Neuro App) to be stellar. It won’t be a question of whether or not this pedal is any good. I’m expecting greatness. But if I find a worthy excuse to forgo stacking the Eventide H9 & Strymon BigSky for series reverb, the Ventris may greatly exceed my loftiest expectations.


Chase Bliss Audio Brothers


For those of you waiting for Chase Bliss Audio to stop innovating, don’t hold your breath. Brothers is a veritable playground of analog dirt/boost circuits that can be run separately, in series, and/or in parallel. The pedal has 2 sides, a JFET side & an IC side, each providing Boost, Drive, & Fuzz modes that were conceived by different minds. Mr. Joel Korte of CBA tackled the IC side (B), giving us a nice vanilla boost, a Tube Screamer inspired overdrive, and a ’77 IC Muff style fuzz. The JFET side (A) was designed by Wes Kuhnley and Peter Bregman of Resonant Electronic Design. Essentially, side A provides interpretations of the company’s Graviton Boost, Manifold Drive, and Acceleron Fuzz. That’s a whole lotta dirt in a single pedal that could potentially wipe a whole slew of pedals off your pedalboard. Will all the routing possibilities considered, that’s like 33 different dirt options from a single pedal.

As Chase Bliss Audio did with the Tonal Recall at Winter NAMM 2016 before its Spring release, Brothers was shown at this year’s NAMM to get more feedback. I’m personally enjoying the sounds of the circuits when combined in series or parallel. (Disclaimer: I’m also helping CBA beta test it before release.) The trajectory is looking solid for yet another hit as Brothers is certainly unlike any dirt pedal to become before it and will likely be much greater than the sum of its parts.


Neunaber Iconoclast


Neunaber is known for making some of the best reverb pedals you’ll hear, the Immerse being their most recent and notable offering. The Iconoclast looks to further extend Neunaber’s hold on the end of your signal chain by boasting what is arguably the most advanced speaker emulation technology in a dedicated compact pedal to date.

With overdrive, pre-amp, and amp-in-a-box pedals achieving increasingly spectacular sounds in recent years, sounds that are more than sufficient for recording with or running live in an amp-less direct to mixing board guitar rig, an advanced speaker simulation pedal of this quality is long overdue.

You’ll notice that there’s no foot-switch as the Iconoclast is an “always on” sort of effect. The pedal’s 3 middle knobs labeled Low, Mid, & High provide dead simple contouring of the frequency response of your virtual stereo speaker cabinet. The Gate knob lets you cut noise from your signal chain. A Headphone knob sets the volume for the dedicated headphone output, useful for late-night bedroom jamming or running an extra stereo signal to some other destination.

That’s only the tip of this immense iceberg. Connect the Iconoclast to your computer via USB, fire up the Iconoclast Software, and take complete control over the tonal sculpting that this innovative pedal offers. I experienced this at NAMM and got a taste of the dynamic interaction between audio signal and the Iconoclast thanks to its real-time on-screen feedback. While our ears have grown accustomed to flawed and irregular frequency responses from actual speakers, it was intriguing to see a grotesque, jagged speaker impulse response juxtaposed with the smoother and tonally balanced EQ curves from the Iconoclast. You can use the editor to sculpt a smoother, more balanced version of your favorite IR. You can also tweak the many Gate and Output parameters for ideal response and integration with your guitar setup.

It’s not surprising that Mr. Brian Neunaber has taken such a hi-fi approach and displays great expertise in this area considering his background developing professional speakers for QSC Audio. The sounds produced by the Iconoclast are beautiful and yet another compelling reason for leaving the amp at home when gigging.


Catalinbread Belle Epoch Deluxe


The Belle Epoch pedal was Catalinbread’s compact digital emulation of the legendary Echoplex EP-3. That pedal is dead now. Catalinbread just killed it. Long live the Belle Epoch Deluxe Echo Unit CB-3.

Okay, the story isn’t that simple. And many folks will undoubtedly still love and appreciate the original Belle Epoch just as countless music fans still love the classic recordings that contain sounds made with an Echoplex.

The Echoplex is famous for two reasons: beautiful delay echos & equally beautiful tonal coloration when used as a preamp. Catalinbread has attempted to distill the essence of both in two distinct products.

Mr. Howard Gee spent months studying the circuitry of the iconic EP-3, painstakingly attempting to reproduce a component accurate recreation of the famed unit heard of countless iconic recordings. In the Belle Epoch Deluxe, you’ll get a static EP-3 preamp sound along with a glorious emulation of the kinds of delay echos heard from a vintage Echoplex along with some DMM style modulation thrown in. Howard had only to follow his muse and trust in the many loved records and tones that have become part of his DNA. I don’t think he was led astray as the sounds at NAMM were killer.

I know there are guitarists who will gripe about there not being tap tempo. Did Jimmy Page have tap tempo? No. If you want glorious runaway echo oscillation, it’s here. If you want expression pedal control over delay time or feedback, the CB-3 has it. If you want a mojo that’s been lovingly crafted and unattainable from your typical multi-algorithm delay with digital tape echo mode, you’ve gotta hear this. And if you just want a killer Echoplex preamp sound and don’t need the delay, then keep reading…


Catalinbread Epoch Pre Preamp/Buffer


Catalinbread went the extra mile and made a little something extra during pursuit of the EP-3 holy grail. The Epoch Pre is meant to be the ultimate pedal solution for any guitarist who wants the distilled sonic elixir of EP-3 preamp tone on their pedalboard.

Just as guitarists would set an Echoplex on their amp to run directly into it when pre-amping, the Epoch Pre is meant to add that final tonal touch to your guitar signal before it hits your amp.

The Epoch Pre uses the same large components and up-converted voltage as the Belle Epoch Deluxe, hence its seemingly larger size for a “boost” pedal. And while this pedal boasts the same Echoplex flavor as the Deluxe, the Epoch Pre takes the EP-3 preamp concept a bit further.

The Early/Later button lets you get early EP-3 sounds with that characteristic mid-range bump or later sounds with a broader frequency response. The Bias lets you go from the classic EP-3 sound to a hotter, wider sound. The Boost foot-switch gives you a second preset amount of boost. The optional Buffer lets you drive long cables back to your amp. The Balance controls volume from minimum to noon settings and creates subtle frequency and phase shifts at higher settings. You even get two outputs.

Catalinbread may have just released the ultimate EP-3 inspired booster pedal.


Atomic Ampli-Firebox


Atomic & Studio Devil previously teamed up to release the Atomic AmpliFire, a powerful DSP based amp & speaker simulator that put plenty of quality sounding emulations on your pedalboard. While the AmpliFire is an excellent solution for leaving your amp at home in favor of a unit that’ll fit on your pedalboard, it was still a bit larger than some guitarists would prefer. If size was your most notable gripe with the AmpliFire, the Ampli-Firebox may be the solution for you.

Essentially, this pedal trims all the fat, cutting out the onboard effects (except for an amp-style Reverb) while maintaining a full set of of amp-style controls. Guitar pedal junkies are increasingly ditching multi-channel amplifiers in favor of a single great clean amp foundation and using pedals for overdrive and distortion tones. If that’s all you need, the Ampli-Firebox can give you that clean amp with speaker cabinet sound and run the signal to the FOH (front of house) mixing board via the ¼” output or XLR output. If you need a Boost, there’s also a dedicated foot-switch and Level for that as well.

The AmpliFire provided several amp options, many of which are very, very good. The Ampli-Firebox can accommodate up to 9 amp models accessible via onboard flip-switches. A Cab switch also lets you select from 3 different speaker cabinet impulse responses. (Amp and speaker sounds can be selected/changed via USB connectivity.) While this pedal will let you play through a gig-worthy single amp option (with boost), I wish Atomic included a MIDI input for allowing easier selection of the 9 amp models from a switcher when gigging. I’m sold on the idea of having one excellent amp sound at my feet, but I’d rather not do “the bend” and mess with knobs/switches when playing a gig. This will be an excellent product. A 1.5 hardware update with a MIDI in will be even better.


Fox Pedal Novaplex Delay & Quiver


Been waiting on the Novaplex Delay for a while. And now Fox Pedal have another interesting looking pedal to watch for: the Quiver Harmonic Tremolo.

Essentially, these are two digitally controlled effects pedals with some deeper functionality. The Novaplex is a digital delay; the Quiver is an analog harmonic tremolo. Both pedals feature tap tempo, plenty of parameter controls, tap divisions, and Modulation on the Novaplex and Waveform options on the Quiver, respectively.

Back at Summer NAMM 2016, when Fox Pedal first teased the Novaplex Delay, there was an intriguing external control pedal (the Storehouse) that was intended to allow preset selection on upcoming pedals. Now, if you look carefully near the bottom right knobs of each pedal, you’ll see “MIDI”. There’s a dedicated full-size MIDI input jack on both of these pedals. I was shocked to see this at Winter NAMM 2017. So many builders claim they simply don’t have room for a full-size MIDI jack on compact pedals, but Fox Pedal is attempting the task. Effects loving guitarists who want ultra-compact MIDI enabled pedals, these will definitely be worth watching out for. And, yes, they look gorgeous as always. (Note: forgot to snap photos of these while at The NAMM Show. This photo is from the Fox Pedal Instagram account.)


Amptweaker PressuRizer


I love guitar compressor pedals. It became an area of study for me to discover the nuanced differences that various types of compressors can have on the sound of a guitar and understand how compression changes my approach to playing guitar. While there are relatively few compressor pedals that push the creative boundaries of how compression is applied, the Amptweaker PressuRizer is definitely one such pedal that offers a few noteworthy deviations from the norm.

The PressuRizer boasts a compression chip from THAT Corp, the company known for the kind of high grade VCA compression whose lineage can be traced back to the legendary dbx 160 compressor units. The key parameter controls are the Sustain & Volume knobs, similar to the basic approach of an old OTA style comp like the MXR Dyna Comp or Ross Compressor. Then there’s a Wet/Dry Blend knob that blends in your compressed signal with your dry signal for New York style parallel compression. The Tone knob has a greater range of usability than most with the unique ability to apply a subtle mid scoop to the compressed signal for a less cluttered, more transparent mid-range.

There are a few other surprises that offer even more performance flexibility. The Limit section lets you activate an optional Soft or Hard limiter-like effect that further tames dynamics. The Bloom section lets the wet signal increase from silence at a Fast or Slow speed; with a blended wet/dry signal, this helps retain a natural pick attack with increased sustain. For guitarists who like to leave their compressor “always on”, you’ll appreciate that you can hold the foot-switch to activate an “always on” mode that lets the foot-switch be used for an optional clean boost when needed. The pedal even has a smart relay bypass that recalls previous bypass status, a very convenient consideration for guitarists who use effects switchers. This pedal will surely be gold.


DigiTech FreqOut


The DigiTech FreqOut sounded awesome at NAMM. If you’ve ever tried inducing singing harmonic feedback onstage, you’ll know of the few challenges involved. First, it helps to have deafening volumes, far louder than what may be allowed in a smaller club venue or that would be preferred for ideal cabinet miking. Heaps of gain helps. And if you can soundcheck early, you’d also want to make tape lines on stage of where to stand to induce the exact feedback notes you want to hear. Forget all of that. The FreqOut can induce controlled feedback at any volume or gain level in any of its 7 available harmonic pitch intervals.

Essentially, the FreqOut looks at your signal and hones in on those preferred harmonics to create its singing feedback pitches. It’s ideal to use in momentary mode where you step on the foot-switch at those precise moments to add a majestic beauty to sustaining notes. If you kill the dry signal you can induce ebow-like sounds as well. Gain & Onset knobs control how much feedback is blended in and how long it takes for the feedback to increase to full intensity, respectively.

The FreqOut isn’t the first feedback inducing pedal to hit the market, but DigiTech has certainly created what will likely be the best feedback pedal released to date.


Rainger FX Deep Space Pulsar


The Rainger FX Deep Space Pulsar reminds me of years past, driving to band practice while listening to Daft Punk’s Discovery. That record and Homework were the precursors to my growing interest in electronic dance music over the years and sparked my interest in applying studio effects and sound design techniques to live guitar. Sidechain compression is one such effect that has long been a staple of dance records, and this pedal does one thing: pumping, throbbing volume attenuation similar to the effect of using side-chain compression.

The pedal includes a kick drum mic for integrating this pedal into a live setting with an acoustic drummer. Just plug the mic into the pedal and place it into the sound hole of the kick drum to let the drummer’s kick hits induce the pedal’s pumping effect. A Pad switch lets you increase the sensitivity to pick up softer kick hits.

If you don’t have a kick signal to feed into the Deep Space Pulsar, you can use the included Igor foot-pad to tap in a tempo. It’ll even allow corrective taps to keep the pulsing on the beat if you’re manually syncing along to a rhythm source.

What I’m most excited about is the possibility feeding the pedal a kick drum from a DAW (like Ableton Live) or a drum machine. Lately I’ve been using an Empress Effects Compressor in my signal chain to get that side-chain compression effect by feeding a kick drum from my laptop through the audio interface to the pedal. My one wish is for the Dip to have a dynamic sensitivity option so that you could feed it a quieter or louder kick drum for gentle or hard driving pumping.

The Deep Space Pulsar is the first pedal since Rainger FX’s own Minor Concussion sidechainer that focuses solely on this effect. You can also invert the ramping effect for a trem-like sound that some musicians may find use for. The Deep Space Pulsar is a compelling little pedal to consider if you’re a sidechain compression enthusiast.


DigiTech CabDryVR


The DigiTech CabDryVR is a dual cabinet simulator that has some noteworthy features to make it worth considering for an end-of-signal-chain replacement to using a real speaker cab. It features a selection of 14 guitar and bass cab impulse responses, 7 for guitar & 7 for bass. Cab A & B are output via 2 separate outputs. This allows you to match cabinets on both outputs or use 2 different cabs for your stereo setup; pair with 2 different preamp or amp-in-a-box pedals for a sound similar to miking 2 separate amps for a stereo spread. I’d also imagine that a band with 2 guitarists could run into each signal path for 2 distinct sounds from the same pedal. Or maybe feed a bass and keyboard into the bass cabinets, also.

On Cab B the Small Combo 1×8” speaker is replaced with a Dry option for a direct through sound if running one side into an amp and the other to a different destination with cab emulation. Both Cabs also have individual Level & Size knobs for adjusting volume and perceived size of the cabs. It sounded pretty nice in DigiTech’s amp-less demo rig at NAMM. I’m expecting it to live up in actual use as well.


Dwarfcraft Super Wizard


On the wild west coast where Winter NAMM 2017 took place, this mysteriously shrouded pedal beckoned me to plug in and make some bizarre sounds. Unfortunately, the harsh NAMM conditions (i.e. noise levels from nearby booths) can make it difficult to really hear the nuances of the gear you’re trying to listen to. But from what my ears struggled to hear on the chaotic NAMM show floor, the Dwarfcraft Super Wizard made enough of an impression to be included here.

The Super Wizard comes from a pedigree of the builder’s previous releases that should give you an idea of what to expect that’s probably better than what I can explain. Dwarfcraft previously took their insane Pitchgrinder and transformed it into the calamitous Wizard of Pitch, a pitch mangling sonic assault weapon. They stuffed the Wizard of Pitch into the Super Wizard and combined it with their Minivan Echo, a lo-fi digital delay with oscillation and mangled delay sounds. The result is a chaotic instrument that warps your guitar into ambient, soundscapey new textures. A couple momentary foot-switches give you real-time performance control over the insanity that ensues when you activate the pedal.


Electro Harmonix Blurst


I’m a big fan of synth style filtering, particularly low-pass filters. The Electro Harmonix Blurst Modulated Filter brings you an analog low-pass filter with adjustable resonance. Instead of being envelope controlled (like an auto-wah or auto-filter), the Blurst is LFO controlled for automated rhythmic filtering. Tap tempo and 3 Tap Divide options provide flexibility for live syncing. The 3 Shape options let you choose from triangle, rising saw-tooth, or fall saw-tooth waveforms.

Perhaps the most exciting aspects of the pedal are the expression pedal modes. These give you the option of controlling either the Range, Rate, or Filter. Controlling the Filter via exp pedal disengages the Rate & Range knobs for a manual sweeping through the entire frequency range. This sounded killer at NAMM. While the Blurst definitely supports CV input for control over the selected exp pedal parameter, I’m hoping to get confirmation that CV control also allows control over the full filter sweep. If so, this pedal will be a force to be reckoned with if hybrid modular/CV rigs are your thing.


So those are the 17 best all-new guitar pedals shown at Winter NAMM 2017.

But there’s one more pedal I’d like to tell you about that wasn’t exactly new for NAMM but still worth mentioning…


Rabbit Hole FX A ‘Merkin Fuzz


This rad little stars ‘n stripes themed fuzz pedal wasn’t new for Winter NAMM 2017. It actually came out this past October. But while looking for pedals that push boundaries in some way, the A ‘Merkin (or just ‘Merkin for short) caught my attention. Here’s why…

Rabbit Hole FX is a pedal builder from Durham, North Carolina. You may have heard in 2016 that NC passed something called HB2, the “bathroom bill” that sparked a statewide civil liberties uproar primarily because many viewed it as a “deeply discriminatory” attack against LGBTQ citizens. This led to boycotts of the state by businesses and performers which resulted in millions of dollars in lost revenue. Pro-equality voters made their voices heard in the gubernatorial election this past November, ousting seated governor Pat McCrory, a vocal supporter of the bill. Organizations like EqualityNC are still working diligently to repeal HB2 and promote equality in the state of North Carolina. Rabbit Hole FX is currently donating 100% of profits from sales of the A ‘Merkin Fuzz to EqualityNC. Not “a portion of” or some small percentage – ALL profits.

This is a big deal for several reasons. First, overturning and preventing discriminatory legislation seems like a pretty good idea. I’m sure patriotic Americans and anyone who respects civil liberties will agree. But the gesture represents something else worth talking about.

Rabbit Hole FX is a small boutique pedal builder. The A ‘Merkin Fuzz is only their second pedal offering. Newer businesses generally place a big focus on profits and expansion, but Rabbit Hole FX saw an opportunity to make a difference in their local community and took action. With only 2 products currently available*, one of their two income streams is being donated to this cause in its entirety.

Big companies sometimes donate small percentages of profits to charitable institutions. For companies with large capital reserves, such contributions may be quite sizable. While a greater monetary sum donated to a worthy cause can have a larger impact and significantly contribute to positive change, I’d argue that a smaller contributor who’s given a greater percentage of their available resources is more committed to making a difference and is likewise more deserving of any bestowed recognition. Imagine the impact it would have if more companies contributed a greater portion of their resources to making a tangible difference in the world.

Today there is no shortage of issues that need attention. One person can only do so much. A single small business can only do so much. Many people working towards common goals can do a lot more.

Big props to Rabbit Hole FX. I hope their dedication to the fight against injustice inspires other companies to take a stand for issues they believe in.

*The Chaosmic Fuzz is the builder’s first release. The A ‘Merkin Fuzz is the second. The upcoming Rabbit Hole FX Phaser was shown at Winter NAMM 2017 and will be the builder’s third release.

Best wishes to everyone in 2017. May your musical journey be one of progress.




Now check out the Top 15 Best “Pedals of the Year” 2016!

Top 16 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Summer NAMM 2016


The golden age of guitar pedals has brought great success to dozens of small boutique pedal builders. While many of these builders have found fame with an original design or two, catapulting a handful of builders to even greater heights, there always comes a point when markets reach over-saturation. And sometimes the risk-taking ethos that once drove creativity diminishes, leaving a trail of “me, too” offerings that exist merely to fill out companies’ product lineups. It isn’t always clear when this is happening, and while I’d like to think that most of the time pedal builders mean well, sometimes less inspired pedals do make their way to market.

It’s easy to get swayed by trendy pedal builders and/or those with an interesting style or visual appeal. This article (and this site for that matter) is for guitarists who never sacrifice due diligence for familiarity or the assumed infallibility of any particular builder’s reputation. The whole idea behind using guitar pedals is the freedom to mix-and-match different pedals to create a palette of tones and effects that suits your music and guitar playing style. While it’s natural to lean towards a particular pedal builder that resonates with you, keeping an open mind to new ideas (and new effects) can open up unexpected pathways on your journey of musical evolution. Innovative effects pedals can come from anywhere, and sometimes builders fall in and out of favor or lose their way.

Yes, many modern pedal builders are filling out their line-ups to stay competitive as we near the summit of guitar pedal mania. If one of your favorite builders is doing this, chances are that many of their latest pedals are still pretty solid even if another builder makes a similar pedal that is arguably “better” by various measures of qualified criticism. We’re going to continue to steer clear of many of these less-than-stellar pedals in an attempt to keep the focus on the very best guitar pedals available today and those appearing on the horizon.

While the statements below don’t constitute a final review verdict for the pedals listed, there are some nuggets of commentary, praise, and criticism that you may find useful. As always use your best judgement when making buying decisions and don’t let your G.A.S. be fueled by the hype machine. If you’ve seen our top pedal lists for Winter NAMM 2015, Summer NAMM 2015, & Winter NAMM 2016, you already know what to expect. The pedals aren’t in strict “best to worst” order, but the most exciting all-new pedals are generally listed towards the top in accordance with the level of excitement generated.

Now here are the Top 16 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Summer NAMM 2016.


Old Blood Noise Endeavors Mondegreen


Sometimes you hear something one way, but it was actually intended to be heard differently. Like lyrics in a song. Surely you remember singing along to some song thinking you knew the words only to find out later that the singer was singing something entirely different. That is the essence of the Mondegreen delay pedal.

The Mondegreen has 3 modes: Stutter, Whirl, & Sheer. It doesn’t do the pedal justice to simply state that these modes add tremolo, chorus, & octave up pitch-shifting to the delay repeats. There’s a certain “life” to the sounds produced that make this pedal one of the more unique experimental delay/modulation pedals I’ve ever heard, recalling a uniqueness found in such quirky gems as the Red Panda Particle, Boss PS-3, & EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine.

This pedal also has a configurable exp pedal input. I was getting some truly mind-bending sounds at SNAMM with an exp pedal and the Sheer mode’s spiraling octave up madness. On a side note, I’m still awaiting confirmation if the exp jack is definitely CV (control voltage) compatible. Will keep you posted when I’m 100% sure. Crossing my fingers that it is so the Mondegreen can be used with modular synth modules and pedals like the amazing WMD Protostar and Dwarfcraft’s Twin Stags.

OBNE’s other pedals (minus the OBNE Haunt fuzz) are also getting exp pedal inputs as well. Yes, even the epic Dark Star reverb, a great pedal that I was somewhat less excited about due to the absence of exp pedal control. If they’re also CV compatible this will be beyond amazing.

The Old Blood Noise gang have also added soft-touch switching to their non-Haunt pedals, including the Mondegreen. The relays on the pedals at SNAMM didn’t remember if the pedals were on or off when last powered. Really hoping this is addressed before the pedals ship as “smart” relay bypass switching that defaults to the last powered state would make the pedals more friendly for use with effects switchers. My heart was broken when EQD went the route of lazy relay bypass on all their new pedals for 2016, and I’m really hoping OBNE doesn’t crush my soul a second time. Lazy relay switching wasn’t an issue in the pre-effects switcher days, but having to re-activate all the lazy relay pedals at gigs is becoming more of an annoyance when a little extra programming can eliminate this minor usability problem.

Aside from my two initial critiques (which are non-issues for guitarists who don’t use effects switchers and don’t care about CV), the Mondegreen is the pedal with the sounds I found most mesmerizing at Summer NAMM 2016. Big props to Brady, Seth, & the rest of the OBNE crew for the great strides they’ve made over the past couple years to become one of the most exciting boutique pedal builders to watch in 2016. One last thing: the word at the show was that the Mondegreen’s algorithms were programmed in-house, not outsourced as with OBNE’s previous digital effects. I consider this a bold testament to their dedication towards realizing the sonic visions they’d like to share with the world.

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Dwarfcraft Devices Happiness


Dwarfcraft has been killing it lately. The Silver Rose V2 is a monster, the Necromancer fuzz rocks, and their Twin Stags tremolo is an inspiring crossover into modular effects territory thanks to its extensive CV (control voltage) compatibility. Dwarfcraft’s Happiness reaches farther into the realm tread by their Twin Stags by offering synth style filtering and CV control possibilities in a similarly Twin Stags sized enclosure with plenty of available parameter control.

You get the expected high pass, low pass, and band pass filtering modes from the State switch. A Scramble switch activates a “slightly smoothed” sample and hold function. You can use CV to modulate the Filter and Scramble function. You can also send the LFO out to modulate another effect pedal or synth module. And there are expression pedal inputs for the Filter and LFO. Tons of fun and happiness awaits your exploration.

Dwarfcraft is steadfastly carving out a nice little happy place for effects loving guitarists and modular synth junkies thanks to their Twin Stags & Happiness, and I do hope they continue down this path and release more guitar pedals in this vein.

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Fox Pedals Expanse Novaplex Delay & Defector Fuzz


Fox Pedals had several interesting pedals to show off at SNAMM. Their soon-to-be-renamed delay pedal (looks like it’ll be called the “Novaplex”) is derived from the analog voiced digital delay of their “The Wave” pedal but with a new modulation section (including a chorus mode), tap tempo, and subdivisions.

The biggest surprise is that the delay pedal has a side port for connecting to Fox Pedals’ upcoming Storehouse preset controller. While Fox Pedals is still working out how the controller will function in use, the Storehouse prototype shown at SNAMM had 4 ports for connecting to up to 4 compatible pedals for preset selection. Lots of exciting possibilities here, so expect Fox Pedals to make more upcoming pedals Storehouse compatible.

It’s also worth giving a shout-out to their mutant-muff Defector Fuzz, which takes the Russian flavored muff into interesting new territory thanks to a bit-crushing feedback mode. I definitely want to hear how this one comes along.

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Keeley Electronics The Dark Side


The Keeley Electronics Monterey Fuzz was an instant hit, taking their Workstation series of pedals into modern Jimi-fied territory. The Dark Side is an obvious nod to Pink Floyd’s classic Dark Side of the Moon LP, with the sounds within evoking a modern interpretation of various David Gilmour influenced effects. The fuzz side trades the classic “Fuzz Face” inspired flavor for a suped-up Big Muff on steroids. Think along the lines of Keeley’s Psi Fuzz but with more tonal variation thanks to a 3-way flip-switch with Flat, Full, & Scoop options. The version of The Dark Side at SNAMM had a mod section with Rotary, Vibe, & Delay/Verb modes, but the final version could be expanded with 3 foot-switches that allow fuzz, mod, & delay/verb to be used together. Keep your fingers crossed. As is, I was still blown away by the pedal and to my surprise enjoyed it even more than the Monterey. Keeley no doubt will have another hit on their hands when The Dark Side drops.

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Greer Amps Super Hornet BC 107-B Octave Fuzz


I think I can go ahead as say that the Greer Amps Super Hornet was my favorite fuzz pedal shown at Summer NAMM 2016. The BC 107-B silicon transistor based Super Hornet has a nice crunchy rhythm sound with plenty of bite and saturation at higher fuzz levels. It cleans up nicely with the guitar’s volume knob as well. Flip the Stinger switch to “On”, and you’ll get a ripping octave up fuzz sound that’s killer for leads or super splatty rhythm sounds that tear your chords apart. But what makes the Super Hornet really stand out is the Stinger mode. Just leave the Octave flip-switch set to “Stinger”, and you can press the momentary Stinger foot-switch to activate the all-analog octave up sound on a whim. Apply it to single note runs and induce analog “Whammy” like sounds. Press it while a note is already ringing out, and it sounds as if you’re hitting tapped harmonics. Can’t give you my final verdict considering the loud NAMM show environment, but it blew me away in the moments I got to spend with it.

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Hungry Robot Pedals Kármán Line


If you dig lo-fi delays, runaway oscillation, spacious soundscapes, and joysticks, the Hungry Robot Pedals Kármán Line is a pedal to check out. The left foot-switch activates the pedal, bringing in the pedal’s dark and somewhat overdriven delay echoes. The center “Swell” momentary foot-switch brings in a wave of self-oscillating delays that are actually well controlled, as in they don’t escalate into a speaker shredding, ear ripping mess. Very cool. The right “Launch” latching foot-switch activates a below the mix oscillation. This creates a pad of murky delay ambience underneath your playing. Let it run and use the joystick to control the delay time and modulation rate for out of this world delay excursions.

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Daredevil Pedals Red Light District


The Daredevil Pedals Red Light District is a straight-up rocking dirtbox that delivers raunchy to searing distortion tones. Aside from the self-explanatory Volume & Gain controls, a flip-switchable Scoop lets you dial in the width of the scoop for a tightly Q’d mid-cut for a wider drop in midrange. A Hi/Lo switch offers a little extra tonal contouring flexibility. Simple and potent, the Red Light District delivers the goods.

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Swindler Effects Red Mountain


Speaking of bandwagons and “me, too” products, almost every builder out there is doing a tap tempo tremolo now. But here’s one that offers something a little different. Basically, if you like kill-switches, the Swindler Effects Red Mountain tremolo has a potentially awesome surprise for you. Set the waveform to “st”, and the Tap foot-switch activates a stutter function. Flip the Phase toggle to set it to either “Tap = On” or “Tap = Off”. Kill-switches typically cut the signal when pushing the momentary button/foot-switch, but having the signal pass through while pressing the foot-switch could facilitate easier rhythmic timing of manual stutter effects. Aside from all the normal trem sounds, stereo outs, and tap tempo, the stutter mode could add some great experimental possibilities and make the Red Mountain something special.

A few suggestions/ideas: since the stutter mode uses the optical tremolo manually, negating the function of the knobs, it would be interesting if one of the knobs (Speed or Depth maybe?) could control the speed or duration of the stutter effect’s signal cut. Or maybe one knob could control the attack and the other control the release. Either way, the tighter or faster the stutter, the better as that would make for really tight chops and rhythmic effects.

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BAT Pedals Pharaoh


I really dig the Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Supreme, a mid-rich “doomy” fuzz pedal. Now the mastermind behind Black Arts Toneworks is co-creating a spin-off brand called Bat Pedals to downsize pedals like the Pharaoh, Black Forest, and more while making them more affordable in the process. Pedals that are pedalboard and wallet friendly sound like a win-win to me. The BAT Pedals Pharaoh is definitely one to watch out for if you like big nasty fuzz, and the BAT Pedals lineup as a whole will resonate with fans of Black Arts Toneworks.


Digitech Nautila Chorus Flange


Okay, I wasn’t originally excited about this pedal at glance. Chorus & flange is nothing new. But the Digitech Nautila delivers in a big way. You can get plenty of slow moving, light chorus and flange tones. The sound is impeccable from what I’ve heard so far. The Voices control is what really makes things interesting, taking your signal form a single voice to up to 4 flanger voices or 8 chorus voices. Yes, it sounds huge. And you can run it in stereo. The Nautila is simply a monster… a deep sea monster. Should’ve called it the “Kraken” or “Leviathan”, something more ginormous and foreboding. Digitech’s compact stomps (like the excellent Obscura Altered Delay as well) are really pushing boundaries in terms of what to expect from seemingly traditional compact effects pedals.

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Cusack Music Pedal Cracker


Okay, aside from the fact that this pedal has one of the worst pedal names in recent memory, the Cusack Music Pedal Cracker looks awesome… particularly if you’re a vocalist. The Pedal Cracker’s XLR Input & Output jacks on the right side of the pedal let you feed your microphone signal through the pedal. Then you can add a chain of your favorite guitar effects pedals via the ¼” Send & Return effects loop jacks. You can blend your Wet & Dry levels as well as control the Gain via dedicated knobs. There’s a Bypass foot-switch for activating the effects in your signal chain as well as a Momentary foot-switch for applying effects to only a certain segment of your singing. This becomes more interesting when using the Trails/Presend flip-switch. Imagine sending a single word or phrase into a delay or reverb (or both!) and having the echoes spill over while you sing dry. The possibilities for live vocal performance are staggering.

ZVex unveiled a similar device called the Pedal Thief back at Winter NAMM 2015, but it still hasn’t seen the light of day. Kudos to Jon Cusack & Cusack Music for finally getting ready to drop an incredibly useful pedal for vocalists who want to integrate guitar pedals into their live performances. I only wish it had MIDI control or at least a TRS control jack for external control over the Bypass/Momentary functions.

(Forgot to snap a pic of the Pedal Cracker at SNAMM. Grabbed this photo from the Cusack Music Instagram page.)

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Function F(x) Aftershock


The Function F(x) Aftershock is a dual-modulation pedal featuring a tremolo and phaser section. In addition to Rate & Depth controls for both effects, the tremolo gives you control over the Shape (waveshape) and the phaser lets you adjust Feedback. This pedal had some potentially interesting utility in its present form, but I’m curious if it can be expanded for even deeper control (i.e. more stage options for the phaser, maybe making the effects sync-able). It’s only a prototype but still a sign of potentially exciting things to come from Function F(x).


Boss CE-2w Chorus


Some consider the signature Boss pedal enclosure iconic. I call it archaic. Some modern guitarists hate the buffers built into every compact pedal. That’s not really an issue to me. However, the switching that always defaults to “bypassed” upon powering up ensures I’ll never use a compact Boss pedal in my effects switcher based guitar rig. Yes, I might be hard on the company sometimes, but in many ways it feels as if Boss has fallen a bit out of touch with the needs of modern guitarists. Boss was once the undisputed “boss” when it came to pedals. Not anymore.

But the Boss CE-2w Chorus is something worth celebrating. It recreates the sounds of the legendary CE-1 Chorus, the very first Boss pedal released back in 1976, and the CE-2 Chorus, the first Boss chorus pedal available in a compact stompbox enclosure. The CE-2w offers the classic CE-2 sounds with stereo output possibilities and an expanded CE-1 mode with added Depth control which was unavailable on the vintage CE-1 effects unit.

This pedal made the best pedals of SNAMM ’16 list for one reason. Yes, the CE-1 sounds great and is simple to use, but those reasons aren’t why it’s here. I’m a firm believer that the best is always yet to come, and the CE-2w is an example of this philosophy. While this pedal draws upon sounds that are 30 years old, it will essentially render the CE-1 & CE-2 obsolete in the eyes of many guitarists. Sure, the nostalgia hungry guitar player will still chase down the original units, perhaps even swearing that some minor variance in audio fidelity makes the originals superior or gives them more character and charm. For the rest of us modern guitarists seeking those original tones, the Boss CE-2w Chorus will be a more reliable, versatile, and readily available replacement that remains true to its roots.

While I still feel that Boss is resting on a reputation long since overshadowed by the innovations of many great modern guitar pedal builders, there’s an endearing appeal of Boss pedals for those who grew up playing them. Like many of you, my first pedal was also a Boss. Yet while there are still a few classic Boss pedals I’d like to see get the Wazacraft reissue treatment, I’d prefer to see more of that risk-taking spirit I remember from the Boss of old. The overwhelming success of the Strymon TimeLine seemed to shake Boss into ditching those big clunky foot-swiches in their similarly spec’d DD-500 Digital Delay. And I do appreciate a few of Boss’ design updates to their Free The Tone inspired ES-5/ES-8 effects switchers (although I couldn’t possibly recommend using any lazy relay bypass Boss pedals with them). But it’ll take more than mimicking other companies’ innovations to return Boss to their former glory; charting new territory is what once made Boss great. While I appreciate the history and lineage of this legendary company, I hope to see Boss step up their game, surprise us with something we haven’t seen before, and once again become a leader in innovation.

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Function F(x) Clusterfuzz Jr


Mini-fying pedals isn’t always the most exciting of changes, but it can provide some extra convenience for a crowded pedalboard. The Function F(x) Clusterfuzz Jr shrinks the original Clusterfuzz to a box that appears like a cross between an MXR-sized stomp and your somewhat more slender mini pedal. All the original rotary knob parameters are here, including the Nintendo tone inducing 8-Bit knob. The 5-way clipping selector knob will be reduced to a 2 or 3-way clipping toggle. I’m personally hoping they keep the original unit’s silicon clipping option although there could be a possibility of releasing 2 Jr versions with each having “no clipping” and 2 of the original’s 4 clipping options. I’m also curious if they can sneak the original pedal’s Filter switch back in as I enjoyed the additional tonal variation it offers. This pedal is a very early prototype, so we’ll see where Function F(x) takes it when it’s finally officially released.

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Eventide H9 Sculpt Algorithm


Hot off the heels of Eventide’s awesome CrushStation distortion, fuzz, and octave algorithm comes Sculpt, a massively flexible distortion multi-effect for their H9 Harmonizer, H9 Core, & H9 Max stompbox units. The Sculpt algorithm starts with a unique crossover distortion effect that lets you manually set the high/low crossover point and individually adjust High & Low Drive. You also get a Compressor and Low Boost, both of which can be applied pre or post distortion. There’s also Pre & Post Filter sections and a dedicated Envelope Filter control for dynamically controlled auto-wah style filtering.

The Eventide H9 Harmonizer isn’t new, but it’s the one guitar pedal that just keeps on giving (yes, I’ve said that before). You’ve probably already seen the Eventide in our list of the Best Modern Guitar Pedals, and it’s new effects like the Sculpt algorithm that keep this pedal on top. This particular algorithm won’t suit everyone’s tastes, but it’s futuristic vibe certainly keeps with the forward thinking mentality that keeps Eventide at the forefront of innovation in guitar effects. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere I’d like to see even more effects that defy expectations and push the boundaries of guitar effects. I’ll cross my fingers for VST plugin style synths and more mind-bending effects. Eventide has the definitive platform with the H9 for making the most insane DSP effects a reality.

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That concludes our list of the “Top 16 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Summer NAMM 2016”. Thanks for reading!


In case you missed it, here’s our Top 51 Best Pedals of Winter NAMM 2016!


Top 51 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Winter NAMM 2016


In the tradition of our definitive best guitar pedal round-ups for Winter NAMM 2015 and Summer NAMM 2015Best Guitar Effects is bringing you the decisive review of the best guitar pedals that really stood out at this year’s NAMM Show.

NAMM recently reported in a press release that smaller builders of boutique guitar pedals are driving innovation, so it’s no surprise that we’ve seen such a big turnout of exciting new products from several up-and-coming and established boutique builders.

In 2014 the pedal industry experienced record growth, with 2015 showing more phenomenal expansion. If you’re a guitarist and love guitar effects pedals, there’s never been a better time to be seeking pedals to fill your pedalboard. There’s no shortage of pedals that’ll take your music to interesting new places.

The challenge presented by this industry growth is that while brands fill out their pedal line-ups with “me too” releases to capitalize on selling other types of effects that may not fall within their strongest areas of expertise, guitarists need to be diligent in choosing the pedals that benefit their music, not the ones that’ll simply make your pedalboard look “cool” or impress fellow pedal nerds or brand loyalists.

This article almost ended up becoming a Top 80 and was originally looking like a less critical roundup, but it was carefully trimmed down to include the guitar pedals listed below. You can find full NAMM release archives elsewhere. This list chronicles the guitar pedals that stood out from the rest in terms of quality, features, or other innovations as described throughout. As the market continues to be over-saturated with guitar pedals, we’ll continue to maintain our focus on the products and companies that are driving innovation and the pursuit of sonic excellence.

DISCLAIMER: We’ve learned that the NAMM show-floor isn’t the best place to assess the final quality of a pedal. Our “Best Guitar Pedals of NAMM” articles are simply based on initial product impressions. We often get to play and hear these pedals at the show, but some may not have been playable. Also, the noise conditions make it difficult to really distinguish the actual sound quality of certain products. While this article will undoubtedly fuel the hype surrounding some of the products featured, trust your ears as always and try to make sober and informed buying decisions. With that being said, we hope this gives you a great place to start your search for the latest and greatest guitar pedals that’ll inspire your music.

Here are the top 51 best guitar effects pedals of Winter NAMM 2016!


Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall


This is it. The guitar pedal the world has been waiting on for 30 years. Tonal Recall is here. Ever since Chase Bliss Audio came onto the scene with the ground-breaking Warped Vinyl, guitarists have imagined what it would be like if the Minnesota-based boutique builder released an analog delay pedal. But Chase Bliss Audio didn’t want to put out just another delay pedal. Seriously, there are enough mediocre delay pedals out there already. Chase Bliss Audio wanted to release the ultimate analog delay pedal.

For this Herculean task, company founder & engineer, Joel Korte, sought to “recall” the “tonal” qualities of arguably the most prized analog delay pedals ever created: the Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man and early Boss DM-2 Analog Delay pedals that contained the ultra-rare and coveted MN3005 bucket-brigade delay chips. Upon reaching this zenith of analog delay tone, the Chase Bliss Audio mastermind tamed the analog beast with complete digital control. While still a work in progress in the iteration playable at NAMM, it’s on the path to delivering what it intends to accomplish and very well could be the be-all, end-all analog delay pedal.

It’s also important to note that while this pedal intends to capture the nostalgic sound and tone of those classic MN3005 based analog delay pedals, the Tonal Recall brings these sounds into the 21st Century with deeper modulation control, Tone shaping of the delay sound, Chase Bliss Audio’s unique Ramping functionality, presets, MIDI, and more. While mainstream pedal-building conglomerates often attempt to capitalize on nostalgia by rehashing retro products with minimal so-claimed modern enhancements, Tonal Recall is on course to deliver the ultimate old-school analog delay experience in a modern pedal format.

Regarding the Tonal Recall’s MN3005 chips, the original NOS Panasonic MN3005’s have long been out of production, becoming ever more scarce and sought-after as the years passed. Fortunately, a Chinese chip builder called XVive teamed up with original Deluxe Memory Man creator, Howard Davis, to reproduce MN3005 chips that capture the sound and tone of the originals. While many poor-quality knock-offs of MN3005’s exist, the XVive MN3005’s have been given the nod of approval by Howard, Joel, and other reputable ears for tone. Just beware of some lesser builders using the MN3005 as a cover for releasing otherwise rubbish pedals. You’ll no doubt begin to see some companies adding this mention on their product spec sheets going forward.

Fortunately, Chase Bliss Audio has proven their reputation for releasing pedals of uncompromising quality. The recently released Spectre Analog TZ Flanger as well as their Warped Vinyl MKII Analog Chorus & Vibrato, Wombtone MKII Analog Phaser, & Gravitas Analog Tremolo all push the boundaries of those types of effects. The Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall is set to shake up the industry more-so than any modern delay pedal released since the Strymon TimeLine.

This will be a hard buzz to kill, and Tonal Recall is one pedal I hope lives up to the monumental hype when it’s officially released in May 2016. Aside from what it is and what it aims to accomplish, Tonal Recall earns its top position among the best guitar pedals of NAMM because it’s the best example I’ve seen of a company giving guitarists exactly that they want without asking. For companies striving to make a “hit product”, few companies have nailed the sales moment as well as Chase Bliss Audio has with this pedal. And they’re one of the few companies who could pull this off. The question isn’t whether or not it’ll be great, but just how great it is.

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Empress Effects Reverb


The Empress Effects Reverb was the biggest surprise of the show and could be the new best reverb pedal available when it hits the market this Spring. The Canadian builder has already accrued a standout reputation with such releases as the Vintage Modified Superdelay, Heavy, and Compressor, and the Reverb will surely take their reputation to the next level. What makes it so special? Everything.

Housed in a familiar 3 foot-switch enclosure the size of their Superdelay, the Reverb boasts stereo ins/outs, expression control, MIDI functionality, a ton of presets separated into differently colored banks, and 12 categories of reverb effects controllable with an array of surface knobs that negates the need for menu-diving.

While the 12 reverb categories may appear to signify a standard of only 12 different reverb algorithms, there’s more than meets the eye on tap here. Yes, there’s “beer”. But we’ll get to that in a moment. As you turn the selector knob to choose from the 12 reverb categories you’ll notice the RGB LED sometimes change to a different color on the same reverb type. Some of these categories have up to 3 different variations of the particular type of selected reverb. These may be entirely different algorithms based on a particular style of reverb.

But those are just the stock sounds, and here’s where things get more exciting. There’s an SD card slot on the back of the pedal so that you can download and add new reverb effects to the pedal in the future. There are already around 20 different reverb effects available with more to come. The RGB LEDs for each effects type can add a new color for each new algorithm Empress Effects releases in the future. The Empress Reverb is the boldest stance against planned obsolescence since the Eventide H9 (which is still going strong), and we haven’t even talked about how good it sounds.

There are already many standout reverb effects in the pedal although my listening experience was confined to stereo headphones. The Plate modes were great. The Sparkle section had some of the more pleasing shimmer reverb effects I’ve heard. The 3 different Reverse reverbs were mesmerizing. The Ghost mode will be a real draw as it’s one of the most original reverb effects I’ve heard and worthy of its dedicated type on the pedal. Seriously, some guitarists will buy this pedal just for the Ghost reverb effects. Lo-Fi was another standout with heavily filtered reverb spaces. The “Beer” category is where the more experimental or other uncategorizable reverbs will be placed. A glitchy, stuttering reverb was in here as well as a surprisingly playable gated reverb. All-in-all the Empress Effects Reverb looks like one of the more exciting pedals to watch for this year and will surely be the new must-have reverb pedal popping up on effects savvy guitarists’ pedalboards.

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Strymon Zuma & Ojai High Current Power Supplies


Okay, these aren’t pedals, but every guitarist who uses pedals needs a quality power supply. And I don’t think I’ve ever been quite this excited about a power supply before, let alone 2 power supplies. And it’s not because of the California love shown in the names. (I’ve spent many great weekends in Ojai, California, and Zuma Beach is one of my favorite spots in Malibu.) It’s the ground-breaking new perspective on pedal power presented by Strymon with the Ojai & Zuma that make these products stand out.

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2016-61According to Strymon the Zuma is the “most technologically advanced” effects pedal power supply available. The Ojai is its smaller sibling. The Zuma has 9 outputs; the Ojai has 5. All outputs are individually-isolated, ultra-low-noise, and get this, they’re all high-power, pushing 500mA of current each. That’s enough DC power for just about any pedal available today, from your 2-knob fuzz pedal to your power hungry Strymon TimeLine. And if your mind isn’t blown yet (and it should be), you can chain power supplies together as your pedalboard grows. You can add an Ojai to a Zuma or connect several Ojais together in series.

Oh, they’re also world-tour ready with automatic international power compatibility built-in. That’s one less issue to worry about on the road. And the reliability Strymon have become known for with their BigSky, Mobius, El Capistan, & DIG pedals (among others) is an early assurance that the Ojai & Zuma High Current Power Supplies will be worth keeping on your radar and most likely on your pedalboard. I confirmed with Strymon at the NAMM Show that they’ve spent months testing these units, leaving them on with an entourage of their flagship pedals connected. You’re looking at what’ll most likely become the new standard in pedal power.

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WMD Protostar & Geiger Counter Pro


The WMD Geiger Counter Pro and new version of the Super Fatman were 2 of the most exciting pedals of Winter NAMM 2015, and they’re both back this year, nearing release, and with the Super Fatman reimagined as the Protostar.

The Geiger Counter Pro takes the wavetable, bit-crushing distortion to new sonic extremes thanks to CV control of 2 parameters, more control, presets, and now MIDI. The MIDI capabilities have been added since last year and promise complete control over every aspect of the pedal. This is an upgrade worth waiting for as the Geiger Counter Pro will surely be one of the most versatile and devastating sound mangling distortion pedals when its payload is detonated sometime later this year.

The Protostar is an all-analog filter pedal with digital selection of its 4 different filter modes. The filtering can be LFO controlled via expression pedal or CV. You can also patch in step sequenced patterns for rhythmic or random filtering. The coolest feature of this pedal is how you use modular synth style patch cables to achieve various functionality possibilities. The Protostar just begs to be added to a modular synth setup or hybrid guitar/synth effects rig. So excited about this pedal, and I hope its success leads to more interesting modular style hybrid effects pedals.

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Source Audio Nemesis


The Source Audio Nemesis is finally here. This is the 3rd NAMM Show in a row we’ve been preaching about the Nemesis, and it looks like the wait is finally over. While some companies have tried to ape other companies’ successful formulas for a flagship digital delay pedal, Source Audio have gone in an entirely original direction with the Nemesis. It’s smaller than any other delay pedal in its class, it has 12 onboard delay machines with 12 more available via the Neuro App, it offers a full array of parameter control without needing complex menus, it has multiple tap divisions, 4 onboard presets (128 via MIDI), full MIDI control with MIDI I/O and beat clock sync, stereo inputs & outputs, and more. The Nemesis should be in stores as you’re reading this, so you know what to do.

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Keeley Electronics Tone Workstation


Keeley Electronics have been releasing pedals at an incredible rate over the last few years, and many guitarists haven’t been able to keep up. The great news is that Keeley’s new Workstations are each the combination and pinnacle of the types of effects the Keeley crew have been releasing and offer a lot of bang for your buck in terms of the ranges of effects each one offers.

The Keeley Electronics Tone Workstation is perhaps the biggest draw, featuring a Keeley Compressor with Blend, a Drive/Boost stage that’s selectable between a Katana or 1962 (Bluesbreaker), and finally, a Drive section centered around a Red Dirt overdrive with the “Baked” & “Mod+” Tube Screamer mods. Supposedly, John Mayer has been testing out the circuit chain for a while to help Keeley get it right. This will most likely be regarded as the new ultimate Keeley overdrive pedal when it starts shipping in a few months.

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EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run


The EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run is a big deal for several reasons. First, EQD have been secretly working on a high-powered DSP platform, and the Avalanche Run is the first pedal to utilize it. What you’re looking at here is a combined reverb & delay pedal in one enclosure. Since delay & reverb are typically used in conjunction at the end of a signal chain this combination is a match made in heaven. The Avalanche Run helps fill a void in the market I’ve been hoping to see addressed by more products for a while. EarthQuaker Devices already realized they were on track with the Dispatch Master. The Avalanche Run takes that concept to the next level with several operating modes, stereo I/O, tap-tempo, tap-hold for oscillation, 6 sub-divisions, and more. What’s most exciting about this release is that EarthQuaker Devices is entering a new frontier with this DSP platform for imaginative sonic exploration that will probably yield even more exciting pedals in the vein of imaginative modern classics like the Rainbow Machine, Afterneath, Organizer, and Arpanoid.

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Neunaber Immerse Reverberator 

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2016-07Neunaber has been making waves recently with the gorgeous sounding algorithms in their chorus, delay, and reverb pedals. A hallmark of their products, which typically come in mono and stereo versions, is the spacious beauty of their surreal stereo modes. While Neunaber pedals such as the Wet Reverb & Seraphim Shimmer can be reconfigured for different algorithms with Neunaber’s Pedal Customizer Software, the Neunaber Immerse instead gives you a convenient center knob for selecting between 8 different high-quality effects algorithms. The Immerse has a high quality buffer, useful when placed at the end of your signal chain, external kill-dry & trails switches, and an analog dry signal for clean signal purity and no latency. The pedal can also be used in mono or stereo for adapting it to any rig and a variety of different instruments besides guitar. If you’ve never played a Neunaber pedal before, the Immerse Reverberator should probably be at the top of your list of pedals to try from the brand.

Read the Neunaber Immerse review.

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Free The Tone Tri Avatar


Made playable to the public for the first time at NAMM, we already had the pleasure of reviewing and demoing the Free The Tone Tri Avatar Multi-Dimensional Chorus. Inspired by the sounds of the old Tri Stereo Chorus & Roland Dimension D rack units, Free The Tone sought to create an original chorus voice in guitar pedal form. The Tri Avatar’s 3 voices are spaced evenly in sequence by 120 degrees and in stereo they’re also spread across the left, right, & center channels for a massive chorus effect. It sounds great in both mono & stereo and is easily one of the best chorus pedals available today. The Tri Avatar also has expression control, 4 on board presets, MIDI implementation, and uses Free The Tone’s HTS (Holistic Tonal Solution) switching circuit.

Read the Free The Tone Tri Avatar review.

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Diamond Compressor SL


We recently compared the original Diamond Compressor & Comp Jr in our roundup of the best guitar compressor pedals, but there was actually another discontinued version we didn’t include: the Diamond Comp SE. The Comp SE was a limited run pedal meant to commemorate Diamond’s 10th anniversary and featured upgraded audiophile components including Takman carbon film resistors, WIMA polyprop caps, 20 gauge oxygen free hookup wire, and an audiophile grade Analog Devices FET-input opamp. The Comp SL brings backs the premium pedal for those who must have the highest possible performance. Check back to see what our take on it is after it’s released.

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Walrus Audio Luminary



The Walrus Audio Luminary is another pedal unveiled at last year’s NAMM Show and showing up again this year. It’s a polyphonic octave pedal that gives you 4 additional voices (+1 Oct, +2 Oct, -1 Oct, & -2 Oct) with Dry/Wet control, Attack, Filter, and Flutter knobs. If you appreciate the kind of quality Walrus Audio has been maintaining with the Janus fuzz/tremolo, Descent reverb, and Aetos & Phoenix power supplies, you have reason to be excited about the Luminary. Walrus Audio is spending a lot of time to get this right, so here’s hoping it’ll be worth the wait when it drops later this year. If you love multi-voice octave effects, the Luminary looks like a pedal to keep an eye on. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

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Eventide H9 SpaceTime



The Eventide H9 Harmonizer has been the pedal that keeps on giving since it came out a couple years ago. What made the pedal such a landmark release is that while some companies release DSP based pedals that become obsolete in a year or two, the H9 Harmonizer keeps gaining new effects and abilities.

The SpaceTime is a new algorithm for the H9 that combines reverb, delay, and modulation in one algorithm. It starts with a chorus-like modulation. Then you have twin delays based on the Vintage Delay algorithm from the Eventide TimeFactor. The reverb is a cross between the Space pedal’s Plate reverb and Ultra Reverb native plugin. The delay and reverb can be placed in series or parallel, and all effects can be used individually.

If you haven’t already purchased an H9 (or 4), the black unit pictured above may be released very soon. Check with Eventide for details. Now if we can just convince them to release more algorithms…

Read the Eventide H9 Harmonizer review.

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EarthQuaker Devices Spires & Gray Channel


EarthQuaker Devices was killing it this year. The Spires & Gray Channel are a couple rad-looking and sounding 2-channel pedals. We all know EarthQuaker Devices can make a killer fuzz pedal. Hoof Reaper. Awesome. Fuzz Master General. Super awesome. And EarthQuaker Devices blew minds (and maybe speakers somewhere) with the killer Palisades overdrive pedal.

The Spires delivers fuzz carnage in 2-flavors, recreating an oldie called the Rosac Nu Fuzz and bringing back EQD’s discontinued Dream Crusher with a silicon flavor. It unleashes an assault of fuzz with a Tone knob letting you color it accordingly.

The Gray Channel is based on a certain famous grey box overdrive, the legendary DOD 250, with the Green & Red Channels having 3 different clipping options on each side (Green: Silicon, None, Germanium – Red: LED, None, FET) for a wide range of smooth and beautiful crunch. Basically, EarthQuaker Devices pulled a similar move like they did by killing the Tube Screamer to create the Palisades. The DOD 250 has been completely reimagined to heighten and improve what made that classic pedal so special by creating a versatile tone monster of an overdrive pedal that your guitar is going to love. The Gray Channel is already one pedal I can’t wait to spend some more time with.

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Seymour Duncan Palladium


The Seymour Duncan Palladium Gain Stage is yet another bold offering from the Santa Barbara based pickup maker, further staking their claim to your guitar effects pedalboard. The Palladium is a full on attempt to add a completely new channel to your amp. You get a full EQ section including Bass, Mid section (with Level and sweepable Freq from 255Hz to 1.1kHz), Treble, and Presence controls. Level and Gain are self-explanatory. Then there’s the Resonance which provides a bottom end gain boost for the extra thump of a loaded speaker cabinet. The foot-switchable Boost section draws from Seymour Duncan’s inspiring 805 Overdrive for a hot-rodded solo lead boost when needed. It should also be available in the 2 colors pictured for a more personally expressive touch.

Read the Seymour Duncan Palladium review.

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Way Huge Overrated Special

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2016-14This George Tripps creation under Dunlop’s Way Huge brand was made for Joe Bonamassa, a guitarist familiar with great overdriven tone and that nearly impossible to attain amp sound from the legendary Dumble Overdrive Special. Poking fun at the ludicrously hyped and expensive amp with its name, the Overrated Special Overdrive is designed to give you a bold and punchy sound with a pronounced midrange. Drive, Tone, & Level controls give you a familiar starting point, while a 500Hz control also lets you boost or cut your lower mids for a thinner or more girthy tone.

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Dwarfcraft Devices Necromancer & Twin Stags


Dwarfcraft Devices had two awesome offerings that were playable at NAMM. The Dwarfcraft Necromancer contains the Super Fuzz side of the killer Silver Rose V2 and adds a 3 band EQ for sculpting your wall of fuzz. The mid control is voiced at the same frequency as the Mids switch letting you further add or cut midrange when the switch is engaged for greater control. Considering how awesome the Silver Rose V2 is, the Necromancer will obviously be one of the best Super Fuzz style fuzz pedals around when it drops in 2016.

The Twin Stags made my brain explode upon hearing it and induced a temporary lapse of reason and understanding. This was a good thing as the Twin Stags will be a ground-breaking release for Dwarfcraft Devices. What you get is a dual tremolo pedal. Both tremolos have knobs for setting the Rate, Shape, and Depth of the effect. Where things get interesting is when you flip the switch on the surface to sync one tremolo to the other. This lets you dial in unique, poly-rhythmic tremolo patterns. Where things get even more interesting is that there are 2 CV inputs on the right that allows you to use external control voltage sources to modulate one or both tremolos. Then on the left you have 2 LFO outputs to allow the Twin Stags’ LFOs to modulate other pedals, synth modules, or whatever musical devices you feed them into.

(After having my mind blown by the Twin Stags, I forgot to snap original photos of these pedals. When you hear it for yourself, you’ll understand. These images are republished from the Dwarfcraft Devices Instagram page.)

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Audio Damage FreqShift & Fluid


It was about a decade ago that I first used Ableton Live to record and process guitar, and I was inspired by the wild effects offered by processing a guitar with VST software plugins such as those by Audio Damage. (Their Discord plugin brings back memories.) While it’s possible to process a guitar in real-time via software plugins, the latency induced by running it in and out of the box is typically unacceptable. I’ve long dreamed of the day that experimental VST plugins once available only as software would somehow be made available in stompbox form. Fortunately, Audio Damage are just the sonic pioneers to pull something like that off, having already released various software-based effects in Euro-rack form.

The FreqShift Stereo Frequency Shifter adds additional frequencies to the audio signal and all of its harmonics. This alters the timbre of the sound in a manner unlike any other familiar effects processors. It can start out subtle and get wildly extreme. Each knob’s range can be programmed for use with expression pedal or CV control. Also, this pedal has stereo ins & outs for frequency warping across the stereo field.

The Fluid Stereo Chorus is a pristine digital chorus pedal, reminiscent of a Roland Dimension D. It offers 4 & 6 voice modes for a very thick and lush chorus effects. Stereo ins & outs and CV/Exp control are also present.

Another pedal based on Audio Damage’s Spectre Stereo Freeze module was shown that’s still in development. These pedals will get a snazzier visual overhaul before they’re released, and you can expect to see these and other effects pedals from Audio Damage in the future.


JHS Pedals See-Saw Modular Volume Pedal


Ah yes, the JHS Pedals See-Saw. Now this pedal has a few interesting ideas that may catch your interest. Since many volume pedals (such as the classic Ernie Ball 6180 VP JR) have a dedicated tuner out jack, it’s surprising that it took this long for a company to release a volume pedal with a built-in tuner. But that’s only part of what makes the See-Saw more exciting than your old Ernie Ball volume pedal. The See-Saw is an active, modular volume pedal with change-able I/O interfacing. You can configure it for mono, stereo, and XLR input/output routing. This makes it a potentially interesting tool to use with non-guitar instruments, microphones, and other sound sources in the studio. Oh, and if you’ve been disappointed by pedals with breakable strings or faulty potentiometers, the See-Saw is optically controlled for a stable and reliable volume sweep. You can also adjust the taper and toe-down volume level. The See-Saw also supports Templeboard’s Quick Release system for easily mounting on a Temple pedalboard. While the JHS Pedals See-Saw could spark a new trend in hybrid tuner/volume pedals (TC Electronic PolyTune Volume Pedal, anyone?), expect the novel modular idea to be a hallmark of this product.


Malekko Sneak Attack


Malekko has been killing it lately. Seriously. Look up the Scrutator & Charlie Foxtrot to see what kind of insane guitar pedals they’ve been releasing lately that utilize their new DSP platform. The Sneak Attack is a cross between a tremolo pedal and the old Boss SG-1 Slow Gear. It’s been in the works since before last year’s NAMM, and it should be arriving soon. The Sneak Attack gives you control of the shape of the waveform as well as the Attack & Decay length. You can then set it to trigger the volume modulation via LFO or the dynamic threshold of your playing for interesting auto-swell style effects. You can also plug in a remote button foot-switch (such as Malekko’s Lil Buddy) to control either the tap tempo in LFO mode or to manually trigger the waveform when Auto Thresh is set high. The Sneak Attack is yet another creative and inspired effect in a trend that will surely continue in upcoming Malekko pedals.

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Alexander Super Radical Delay & Oblivion


Alexander Pedals upgraded their gnarly 80’s Radical Delay pedal with a ton of useful features. Tap tempo is here. You get 3 onboard presets (128 via MIDI!). There’s full MIDI implementation. Gotta love that. And of course there are the 4 totally bodacious delay modes: Mod (pristine digital delay with modulation), Glitch (digital delay with glitched out bit-crushing effects), Bend (spiraling pitch-shifted delay effects), & Flow (filtered delay with 4-pole resonant filter). The real kicker is that you can turn the delay all the way down for chorus effects, glitchy robot sounds (domo arigato…?), pitch-shifted harmonies, and phasing. This looks like one totally rad delay pedal.

Another surprise up their sleeve was the Oblivion Vintage Delay, derived in appearance and classic delay flavor from their Amnesia delay. But this pedal seems to have a lot more going on to make it an entirely different beast with Analog, Tape, Oilcan, & Multi delay modes. A similar feature set to the Super Radical Delay means this will be another versatile alternative in your search for the ultimate delay pedal.

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Boss Vocoder VO-1


Now this looks fun! I’ve complained in the past about Boss/Roland not doing enough to draw upon their near-peerless expertise in synthesizers to bring guitarists more synth inspired effects. The Boss VO-1 Vocoder brings those classic singing robot vocal sounds made famous by the likes of Daft Punk, Kraftwerk, and others simply by singing/speaking into a connected microphone while playing along with your guitar. The VO-1 also features a Talk Box mode for those squelchy vocal effects made famous by Peter Frampton, Slash, and Joe Perry to name a few. The Advanced mode offers a new modern vocoder sound with enhanced clarity, and the Choir mode lets you create surreal emulated vocal effects without using a microphone. While a pedal like this may seem to have novel appeal for more traditional guitarists (that Talk Box mode will be tempting though!), I’d like to see more effects with crossover interest for guitarists who fuse guitar with electronic music. While Boss/Roland have been known to delve into guitar synthesizer pedals, I give big kudos to Boss for putting out a risky and weird pedal that harkens back to the time when Boss was undoubtedly the boss of guitar pedals.

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Seymour Duncan Catalina Chorus


The Seymour Duncan Catalina Chorus is a real analog chorus pedal utilizing bucket-brigade chips. What makes it so special, you ask? The most unique draw of this pedal is its Dynamic Expression mode that lets you control the depth of your chorus with your picking dynamics. It’s also one of the few chorus pedals to offer a Delay control for altering the sound and character of the wet chorus signal. The Dynamic Expression mode is also foot-switchable for going in and out of the volume sensitive mode. This allows you to kick it in for moments when you want the pedal to be more responsive to your playing. The Catalina Chorus also has a Tone control for brightening or darkening your chorus sound as well as the expected Rate, Level & Mix controls. This looks like it could be another great offering that’ll sit well with the Santa Barbara based company’s Vise Grip, Vapor Trail, 805 Overdrive, and Pickup Booster guitar pedals.

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Mu-Fx Boostron 3

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2016-22It was refreshing to see Mr. Mike Beigel back on the scene again a couple years ago making pedals under the moniker of Mu-Fx. He is, after all, responsible for the creation of some pretty legendary effects, most notably, the Mu-Tron III, recently revived as the Mu-Fx Tru-Tron 3X. While partially branching away from the designs that heralded his original success, Mike & Mu-Fx have sought to reinterpret a trio of classic effects within their Boostron 3. It starts with a boost section based on the Alembic Stratoblaster, a retrofit guitar input jack that added an onboard gain/boost effect. Then you get a Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer type of compressor section (which is inspired by the product that Mike Beigel also helped create). Lastly, a drive circuit ends out the trio that draws its inspiration from the legendary Pro Co RAT LM308 op-amp distortion pedals. Also worth noting is that the enclosure is significantly smaller than previous Mu-Fx releases and should be the new compact form factor used primarily going forward.

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Catalinbread Bicycle Delay & SFT


The Bicycle Delay is a psychedelic utopia of swirling pitch-shifted delay craziness. It’s unlike any other delay I’ve heard and may be a potent portal of discovery for guitarists whose music ventures into entheogenic frontiers. The parameters are cleverly named with Lucidity controlling mix and Mood adjusting between ascending or descending pitch-shifting effects. I haven’t heard another delay that sounds quite like this pedal at all, so the Bicycle Delay wins for sheer sonic originality.

The new version of the SFT is an update to their Ampeg style foundation overdrive. (If you haven’t checked out one of these “foundation overdrives” before, Catalinbread’s Dirty Little Secret does a great Marshall Super Lead/Super Bass.) The new SFT sounded pretty nice at the show. The major obvious difference is that there’s now a “Stones/Stoner” switch which selects between two different levels of gain. The Stones setting has a decidedly classic rock vibe going on while the Stoner setting offers higher levels of gain that will compliment down-tuned “stoner” rock & metal genres. I noticed that the gain sweep sounds incredibly smooth throughout the knob’s range in both modes, so this pedal should provide a very playable experience whether you gravitate towards the milder or heavier sounds it offers.

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Electro Harmonix Lester G & Lester K


Electro Harmonix brought their new Leslie Rotating Speaker emulating pedals to the show. The Lester G is the “deluxe” version with a focus on guitar. It has a built-in compressor and expression pedal input as well as an Acceleration control for setting how fast the pedal changes between Slow & Fast speeds when the Speed foot-switch is pressed.

The Lester K is a slightly stripped down version designed for keyboards that excludes the compressor section, Acceleration knob, and expression pedal input. Interestingly, it also has stereo inputs. The Lester K is still a suitable alternative to guitarists who don’t need the compressor or want to conserve a little more space on their pedalboard. Is it just me or are both versions begging to be paired with the Electro Harmonix B9?

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EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2016-25This was a pleasant surprise. While Jamie Stillman of EarthQuaker Devices is a known fan of the rare and sought-after Maestro FSH-1 Filter Sample/Hold pedal, the Spatial Delivery is not a recreation of that circuit. Instead this pedal offers a digital filtering that sounds surprisingly smooth and responsive. In addition to Up Sweep and Down Sweep filtering, there’s a Sample/Hold mode for speed adjustable random filtering. Hearing this mode makes me recall the Arpanoid and its quirky randomness. The random and temporal nature of that pedal is what draws me to the charms of the Spatial Delivery’s Sample/Hold mode. The Spatial Delivery has a unique sound and feel and may be just the auto-filter/auto-wah type pedal to bring some psycho-space funk to your pedalboard.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery review.

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TC Electronic Ditto X4 Looper


TC Electronic have had great success with their best-selling Ditto Looper and Ditto X2 Looper pedals. Now the Ditto X4 Looper looks to up the ante and stake its claim as the ultimate twin loop looping pedal. Housed in a familiar enclosure the size of the Flashback X4 Delay, the Ditto X4 allows easier access to various functions across its 4 foot-switches. The first 2 foot-switches are dedicated to Loops 1 & 2, like having 2 Ditto Loopers side by side. Then there are dedicated foot-switches for Stop & FX. The Ditto X4 includes 7 different loop effects including Once, Half, Reverse, Hold, Double, Fade, and Tape Stop. A Decay knob lets you set the rate at which older loops fade out when layering new parts. There’s also full stereo I/O, 4 dip-switches for performance customization, and MIDI implementation that includes syncing to MIDI clock and CC & program change control over certain functions. This is definitely one looper pedal to watch out for.

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Amptweaker Tight Metal Jr, Tight Rock Jr, & Tight Drive Jr


Amptweaker had smaller versions of their Tight Metal, Tight Rock, and Tight Drive pedals at the NAMM show. All 3 of these “Jr” versions feature the same great base tones of their larger siblings but in a condensed package for a better fit on “tighter” pedalboards. All 3 pedals feature Gain, Tone, & Volume knobs, an onboard Noise Gate, and a Fat/Tight switch. While the Tight Drive Jr and Tight Rock Jr feature Plexi/Smooth EQ switches, the Tight Metal Jr lets you tweak your EQ with a Thrash/Smooth switch. The smaller size of these pedals compared to their larger predecessors means that it should require less pedalboard disruption should you wish to replace one of your other overdrive or distortion pedals with one of these. Maybe it’s about time your tone got a little tweaking.

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Keeley Electronics Delay Workstation


The Keeley Electronics Delay Workstation is a delay & reverb powerhouse with tap tempo. It also has expression control, a tap input, and stereo outs. The Delay & Reverb sections each have 8 different modes available for an incredibly wide range of effects combinations. While it almost seems like delay + reverb pedals were a new trend at this year’s NAMM Show, no other pedal at the show displayed this wide a range of delay + reverb possibilities. The delay and reverb can also be used independently although the foot-switches are close enough together to activate them both simultaneously when you’re going on ambient excursions.

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Wampler Mini Ego Compressor

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2016-29The Wampler Ego Compressor is arguably one of the best guitar pedals made by this company and definitely one of the best guitar compressor pedals available. In terms of that classic Ross Compressor/MXR Dyna Comp style of compression, the Wampler Ego Compressor is arguably second to none thanks to the in-depth control it offers. The Wampler Mini Ego Compressor promises to capture the style of compression that made its forebear so impressive in a more space-saving enclosure. The only compromises that have been made are that the Tone and Attack knobs are replaced with 2-position flip-switches. The Tone switch selects between a maxed-out bright tone and a fully dark sound. The Attack switch selects between settings that are around the larger Ego Compressor’s 3 o’clock & 9 o’clock knob positions. This pedal will no doubt be a hit when it drops. But this wasn’t the only mini compressor pedal to be shown at NAMM…

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Keeley Electronics Compressor “Mini

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2016-30Keeley’s legendary Compressor got downsized for the NAMM Show with a variation of the classic 2-Knob Compressor on display. This version features a Blend control for dialing in some of your uncompressed signal. There’s also an internal switch for brightening up your sound, a feature that compensates for the slight darkening effect that is common with an OTA style of compression. Considering how popular the legendary Keeley 2-Knob & 4-Knob Compressors are, this pedal will also surely be a hit.

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Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone Micro

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2016-31Pigtronix also had a miniaturized version of their Philosopher’s Tone compressor pedal at the NAMM show. While the “Grit” is gone, all the other parameters are intact, including the Blend function and Treble knob to compensate for any perceived loss of high-end. The one curiosity that remains is whether the ratio of compression is the heavier squash from the original Philosopher’s Tone or the slightly more refined sounding Philosopher’s Rock which came later. Assuming the Philosopher’s Tone Micro has the improved feel of the Philosopher’s Rock with the deeper control of the original Philosopher’s Tone all in this micro format, this pedal could be a hit as well.

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DOD Looking Glass Overdrive

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2016-32Following up from last year’s collaboration with Black Arts Toneworks for the Boneshaker distortion pedal, DOD have partnered with Christopher Venter of SHOE Pedals to bring out the Looking Glass Overdrive. This is a remarkably versatile pedal that aims to be used with a wide variety of instruments. There’s an Input Filter for taming brighter guitars, hybrid Bass & Treble controls that function pre and post gain, and toggle selectable Dual Gain Stages. This results in a pedal that should be adaptable to various musical situations. It sure sounded great for mild to moderate gain applications at the NAMM Show.

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Supro Drive

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2016-33There have been several guitar pedals released over the past few years that have sought to emulate the sounds of classic Supro guitar amps, but the Supro Drive is perhaps the most exciting attempt at capturing that elusive sound. Part of this pedal’s magic is in its internal transformer which offers a richer saturation and response than what your run-of-the-mill Supro copying overdrive pedal offers. A large amp-style flip-switch lets you tweak the pedal’s response from Bold to Rich and yields the kind of satisfying feel that you’d expect from controls on an amp. Volume, Tone, & Gain controls give you convenient overdrive pedal style control and an expression pedal input lets you modulate the Gain in realtime for greater flexibility. This pedal was secretly shown back at Summer NAMM 2015, and we were kindly asked not to reveal it at the time. It’s been in the works for a long time, and considering how much effort Supro has made to get it right, this should be the Supro style overdrive pedal to buy once it hits store shelves.

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Ibanez Analog Delay MINI

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2016-34Ibanez expanded upon their very successful Tube Screamer MINI with several mini pedals, the Ibanez ADMINI being the biggest surprise, delivering real bucket brigade analog delay tone in a very compact package. While recalling the classic Ibanez AD9, it has the 3 staple controls of Blend, Delay Time, & Repeat. The legacy of the AD9 will be enough to sell some guitarists on this pedal, but anyone looking for a small, space-saving and budget-friendly analog delay pedal will want keep this one on their radar.

Read the Ibanez Analog Delay MINI review.

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J. Rockett Hooligan, .45 Caliber, & Lenny


J. Rockett Audio Designs had a slew of new pedals available at the NAMM Show sporting a similar appearance to their hit Archer “Klon Centaur” overdrive pedal. The Hooligan is a simplified version of the WTF Fuzz with a few tonal tweaks. It’s meant to be more musical and inspiring fuzz pedal. The .45 Caliber is an overdrive pedal inspired by the legendary 1962 JTM 45. JRAD have had this one in the works for quite some time and are finally content that they’ve nailed the sound and feel of those classic amps. I think I’m most excited about the Lenny, a colored boost pedal originally inspired by the Dumble Steel String Singer that ended up becoming its own unique thing. Boost sets your level while Tone tweaks the high-end content. This could be another one of those great little pedals that adds some magic to your sound.

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Vemuram Budi


Vemuram is a boutique pedal builder from Tokyo, Japan, that has been gaining in reputation among guitarists with discerning ears for tone. They’ve had a new FET booster pedal in the works for some time and the Vemuram Budi was on hand at Winter NAMM 2016. The pedal makes me recall another favorite, the Xotic RC Booster, in its layout and potential usage applications. The emphasis here is on the Boost knob that will dial in the richness and saturation of the boost effect. This will be a pedal to keep an eye on for the tone connoisseurs with distinguished tastes and demanding tonal requirements for the pedals that make it onto their pedalboards.

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Wren And Cuff Sonder & Irkalla


These pedals are just straight up winning. First off, the original artwork on these pedals by artist, Tony Coppin, is a welcome visual collaboration that sets the tone for the kinds of sounds these Wren And Cuff creations produce. The Sonder is an analog chorus/tremolo with tap tempo for the tremolo section. You can dial in the overall depth/mix of the effects individually and add a little volume boost if needed, then kick the whole thing on with a single stomp. The vibe is very moody and hypnotic, with just enough control to be inspiring without being overloaded with too many options. The Irkalla is a simple 2-knob dirt device. There were some solid mild drive/distortion tones on hand, but the real fun was in cranking up the gain knob. Along with achieving maximum saturation, you’ll notice that the red clipping LED is visible in Irkalla’s heart and pulses accordingly with the intensity of the clipping of your guitar signal. It’s little touches like these that add to the audio/visual aesthetic and appeal of these pedals.

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Friedman BE-OD

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2016-38I’m always a little cautious of amp companies dropping a line of new pedals. With many amp makers seeing a hit in sales in recent years and the pedal boom exploding in the aftermath, more and more amplifier manufacturers have suddenly appeared on the scene with whole line-ups of mediocre pedals. But Friedman is an amp company that has made a solid niche for themselves in the amp realm, weathering the storm better than most thanks to their top-tier Plexi inspired amps. Among the Friedman pedals announced at the show, the BE-OD in particular seemed to be an initial strong showing from the amp maker. The pedal offers a Pres control in addition to Bass & Treble knobs for more subtle articulation of the high frequencies. A Tight knob also helps characterize the feel of the overdrive sounds this pedal creates. Among the recent wave of amp companies trying to enter the pedal arena, Friedman is one to keep an eye on.

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Boss Vibrato VB-2W

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2016-39Ever hear of the Boss VB-2? It was an old vibrato pedal from Boss, regarded by some fans today as an all-time classic. Functional units sell for exorbitant amounts with the second-hand eBay prices to prove it. In continuing the trend of their Wazacraft line of effects pedals, Boss is reviving that classic pedal as the VB-2W. The pedal’s Standard mode seeks to accurately reproduce the sound and feel of the original VB-2’s analog bucket-brigade pitch-shifted warble. The Custom mode provides a more modern vibrato sound. A Rise Time control lets you set how long it takes for the vibrato to be applied when activating the effect. You can also use an expression pedal to adjust the Depth. While many great modern guitar pedals provide great vibrato and chorus sounds in a single pedal, the VB-2W may still find some love with nostalgic guitarists or those who don’t need much more than a decent vibrato pedal.

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Lightning Wave Ghost, Doom, & Astro


These pedals are just too original not to mention, so here’s a little bonus to close things out. Lightning Wave is a builder from New Zealand who had a few intriguing digitally controlled analog modulation pedals on display at NAMM. Ghost is an optical tremolo. Doom is a wah-style filter effect. Astro is a 4-stage phaser (upgradable to 6 or 8 stages). There are plenty of interesting things going on here to talk about. That massive slider on the pedals can be used to manually create the modulation waveforms for the pedals. You can save and recall presets. There’s tap tempo. On the Astro phaser, you can add circuit modules to increase the stages of the phasing. These seem like very interesting pedals for guitarists who like to experiment with weird and unorthodox pedals. I’d personally love it if the Doom filter had the modular functionality for low-pass and band-pass filtering modules. But these are the kind of original outside-of-the-box guitar pedals that make the NAMM Show so fun to attend and exemplify why boutique pedal builders continue pushing boundaries towards interesting new sonic frontiers.


That concludes our Top 50 Best Guitar Pedals of Winter NAMM 2016. See you at Summer NAMM 2016!


Top 42 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Winter NAMM 2015


This year’s NAMM show was intense. There were many more exhibitors than last year and, yes, a ton of new effects pedals shown at the 4-day event here in Anaheim, California. Best Guitar Effects was there to check things out and see which new guitar pedals stood out above the rest. This article chronicles our initial impressions in what is presented here as the Top 42 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Winter NAMM 2015.

A quick disclaimer: NAMM isn’t an optimal environment for thoroughly evaluating gear. Many of these products are in prototype stages and some weren’t even playable. This article is meant to be a starting point for your own research in the coming months to find out which pedals you’re personally most excited about. While we’re always seeking out the “best of the best”, we use the term loosely for our annual NAMM article. More accurately, it could be said that these are simply the pedals we’re most excited about. Follow your ears, not the hype.

There are a lot of really unique stompboxes here along with plenty of traditionally inspired pedals for those seeking modern versions of classic effect sounds. I personally walked away feeling like this was the best NAMM show in years for effects loving guitarists. I’d also have to say the “MVB” (Most Valuable Builder) would be a tossup between Catalinbread, Walrus Audio, and ZVex, with each company showing several interesting new products at this year’s NAMM show. Now scroll on! All will be revealed.

Here they are… the Top 42 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Winter NAMM 2015.


Catalinbread Antichthon


It’s getting to hear pedals like this that make going to NAMM worthwhile. But then again, nothing else is quite like Catalinbread’s Antichthon. For all the clones and rehashes of pedals that are continually spawned to no end (though many are great!), it’s the unconventional new instruments of inspired creativity that push music to exciting new frontiers. With a name inspired by the Greek concept of a counter-Earth that revolves around an unseen center fire, the Antichthon offers a new universe of possibilities for adventurous guitarists who seek bold new sounds. With controls for Time, Space, Gravity and Volume, the Antichthon conjures up inspiration from parallel universes where the laws of physics are dramatically different from our own. Want a less abstract description of what this is? It sounds like a fuzz/tremolo that’s very responsive to your volume dynamics, hence the custom “Gor/Antichthon” purple volume knob that Catalinbread designer/alchemist Howard Gee had on his guitar to further control the Antichthon (The pedal will hopefully ship with a custom Antichthon “Strat” style knob). Inspiring, unconventional, musical, and fun, there isn’t much not to like about the Catalinbread Antichthon.

Visit Catalinbread for more info about the Antichthon.

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T-Rex Replicator

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-02There are plenty of great digital tape echo delay emulations out there. Some of them are actually pretty excellent. But what if you’ve just gotta have the “reel” thing? The T-Rex Replicator is a 100% analog tape echo delay/chorus with 2 playback heads. It also has tap tempo. Yes, that means real authentic tape echo delay that you can sync to your music. It aims to be sturdy and reliable enough to take on the road unlike your old Echoplex and Copycat and uses custom tapes that are easily replaceable. Just imagine having real analog tape echo on your pedalboard. Thanks to the bold ambition of T-Rex a dream for many guitarists may soon come true this Fall. This is definitely a pedal to keep an eye on.

Visit T-Rex for more info about the Replicator.


Keeley Compressor Pro


We’ve been waiting for this one since Winter NAMM 2014. The Keeley Electronics Compressor Pro shown at this year’s Winter NAMM 2015 sports a slight redesign. Now it has a single foot-switch and a row of LEDs for metering of the compression, not to mention Robert Keeley spent a year fine-tuning it to perfection. Essentially, this is meant to be Keeley’s take on a fully featured studio-grade compressor for your pedalboard. Fans of Keeley’s legendary 2-knob and 4-knob compressors or anyone seeking a pristine compression pedal for their pedalboard will definitely want to look into this one.

Visit Robert Keeley for more info about the Compressor Pro.

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Source Audio Nemesis Delay


With 12 Delay models, Tap Tempo, 4 presets, and MIDI I/O, the Source Audio Nemesis Delay is the new DSP delay powerhouse on the scene. It’s loaded with an assortment of delay sounds and plenty of tweaking options from its convenient surface controls, making it a potential candidate for anyone seeking plenty of delay sounds and menu-free simplicity. If you want to dig in deeper you can use Source Audio’s Neuro Effects Editor for Mac & PC gives for even more control. The Nemesis’ array of delays and compact size will certainly make it a tempting choice once it’s released this Summer.

Visit Source Audio for more info about the Nemesis Delay.


Walrus Audio Luminary


The Luminary is essentially Walrus Audio’s take an creating the ultimate digital octave pedal. With its upgraded SHARC DSP processor this pedal can deliver pristine +1, +2, -1, and -2 octave tones. You can also adjust the Attack for octaves that fade in. If you dig the lo-fi digital warble of older pitch shifting pedals, you can still dial in a similar sound with the Luminary’s Flutter knob. It gives you 3 presets, too.

Visit Walrus Audio for more info about the Luminary.


WMD Super Fatman (new version)


What do you get when you combine modular synth routing with WMD’s original “end all envelope filter pedal”? The new Super Fatman. This could be the ultimate filter pedal for anyone seeking real synth-style filtering effects. Notch, High Pass, Band Pass, and Low Pass modes are available. Use it with guitar, bass, synthesizers, or combined with your favorite guitar synth pedal. You can route the LFO to affect other parameters (Feedback and Frequency are good places to start), and even route an expression pedal (or use CV) to manually control the filtering. This is another pedal to watch for adventurous pedal junkies.

Visit WMD for more info about the Super Fatman.


Mojo Hand FX Extra Special

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-07After already releasing a successful Dumble-inspired dirt pedal with the DMBL, Mojo Hand FX have revisited the classic concept with the new Extra Special. While it features a similar Jazz/Rock switch like the DMBL pedal and actual Dumble Overdrive Special amplifier, the controls and circuit are a bit different from the DMBL. The Gain and Accent controls work together to dial in the feel and response of the pedal with the overall vibe being perhaps more suited to those who want a little something extra in terms of gain and response. I definitely want to try this one again. You should check it out, too.

Visit Mojo Hand FX for more info about the Extra Special.

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DOD Boneshaker (designed by Black Arts Toneworks)

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-08In what is perhaps the most unexpected collaboration of the show, DOD teamed up with Black Arts Toneworks to deliver the new Boneshaker distortion. Imagine a new variation of the doom fuzz sounds Black Arts Toneworks are known for combined with a 6-knob parametric EQ section (3 knobs for Low, Mid, & High with 3 Freq knobs). The Boneshaker offers some of the most in-depth tone shaping you’ll find on a compact dirt pedal. There’s also an emphasis on the low-end for guitarists who like to drop-tune or who play 7, 8, & 9 string instruments. Definitely want to get some playtime in with this one. P.S. Uli Jon Roth asked if he could use one for his pedalboard when playing in Anaheim during NAMM week.

Visit DOD for more info about the Boneshaker.

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Walrus Audio Vanguard


Take a phaser and feed it into another phaser, and you have the Walrus Audio Vanguard. This will be another one of those unique pedals for those who like sounds that are a bit unconventional. It doesn’t have to be too extreme though as you can set the second phaser to a lower depth setting for just a little extra modulation. With 3 presets and expression pedal control, it all adds up to one of the most unique phasers you’ll probably ever encounter.

Visit Walrus Audio for more info about the Vanguard.


Electro Harmonix Super Pulsar Stereo Tap Tremolo


The new Electro Harmonix Super Pulsar Stereo Tap Tremolo is one of the most feature packed tremolo pedals ever released. This pedal just looks awesome. Some of its features include 8 presets, stereo operation, expression control, tap division, wave inversion, envelope control, and more all while retaining a 100% analog signal path.

Visit EHX for more info about the Super Pulsar Stereo Tap Tremolo.

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Wampler Plexi-Drive Deluxe

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-11If Wampler’s original Plexi-Drive wasn’t flexible enough for you and the Pinnacle Deluxe is too “brown” for your tastes, the new Plexi-Drive Deluxe may be just what you need. Essentially, it’s aiming to capture the sound of a Marshall JTM-45 in a pedal, and it certainly has a british rock ‘n roll vibe going on from what I heard. Just like how Wampler’s Latitude Deluxe Tremolo arrived mid-way through NAMM 2014, the Plexi-Drive was a nice mid-show surprise that made me glad to have come by the Wampler booth late. Wampler fans already know the kind of quality to expect, and if you’re new to Wampler this may end up being a good pedal to become familiar with.

Visit Wampler for more info about the Plexi-Drive Deluxe.

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Catalinbread Talisman & Zero Point


The Catalinbread Talisman is a plate reverb pedal inspired by the EMT 140. Basically, they’ve taken the hulking reverb behemoth made famous on countless recordings since the 70’s and have attempted to capture the sound in a pedal. At NAMM it sounded awesome. The Zero Point essentially aims to capture the sound of true zero flanging, letting you activate the pedal and use its momentary bypass foot-switch to accent certain passages with more authentic flange sounds than your run of the mill LFO flanging pedal. It certainly seems to offer a unique and simple way to add more authentic sounding flanging to your pedalboard.

Visit Catalinbread for more info about the Talisman & Zero Point.

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Walrus Audio Bellwether


Walrus Audio also unveiled the Bellwether, their 1000mS all-analog delay pedal with tap tempo and modulation. This eye-catching pedal also features a Tone control knob for darkening or brightening your repeats, useful for sculpting your ideal delay sound if you don’t like your analog delays all dark all the time. Expression pedal control and stereo operation round things out. Looks like it should be rad.

Visit Walrus Audio for more info about the Bellwether.

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Keeley Mini Red Dirt Overdrive

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-14The Keeley Mini Red Dirt Overdrive has already gained notoriety for it’s hot-rodded Tube Screamer overdrive tones. This mini version sounded just like the standard sized version in “Lo” mode at the NAMM show. There will also be at least 1 (maybe more!) dip-switch inside for even more tonal variety and tweaking. If you were looking at the Red Dirt Overdrive before but wouldn’t mind saving some pedalboard space, keep an eye on this one. Uncompromising Keeley quality in a micro sized pedal sounds like a win to me.

Visit Robert Keeley for more info about the Mini Red Dirt Overdrive.

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WMD Geiger Counter Pro

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-15The original Geiger Counter was insane as anyone who’s ever come across it surely agrees. The WMD Geiger Counter Pro takes the wave-table, 8-Bit, bit-crushing overdrive pedal of digital destruction to chaotic new territory with expanded control parameters, assignable dual CV/expression control, and a ton of presets with 2 dedicated foot-switches for easily switching among them. The Geiger Counter Pro is a sound-mangling beast of a pedal and is definitely something to keep an eye on if you like unconventional pedals, unique distortion effects, and plenty of tweakability.

Visit WMD for more info about the Geiger Counter Pro.


ZVex Woolly Mammoth 7

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-16Following the runaway success of the ZVex Fuzz Factory 7 (my new all-time favorite fuzz pedal), ZVex have now multiplied their Woolly Mammoth pedal by 7 as well. This pedal adds a Bass, Mid, & Treble Marshall-style tone stack as well as a foot-switch to select from 2 different output levels. Whereas the ZVex Fuzzolo took the Woolly Mammoth to minuscule levels, the Woolly Mammoth 7 takes it over the top. Oh, and the little window on the face of the pedal shows off its germanium transistors, and this particular prototype has a really cool hand-painted mammoth Ganesh graphic by in-house ZVex artist, Hannah. Super cool.

Visit ZVex for more info about the Woolly Mammoth 7.


Source Audio Reflex Universal Expression Controller


While it’s not exactly a guitar effect pedal itself, the Source Audio Reflex Universal Expression Controller looks like the ultimate effects expression pedal. It can send up to 3 expression or CV signals, MIDI CC messages, as well as 6 LFO wave shapes. You can also store up to 128 pedal configurations and customize the range and type of each control signal being used. This should be an essential pedal for guitarists who want to take control of several effects at once.

Visit Source Audio for more info about the Reflex Universal Expression Controller.

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Bogner La Grange


This overdrive/distortion pedal was shown at last year’s NAMM show and now has a row of flip-switches that takes it from looking Uberschall to more Ecstasy in terms of control options. Reinhold Bogner and Co. are taking plenty of time to get the La Grange done right, so here’s hoping that it’ll be worth the wait. “Just let me know if you wanna go to that home out on the range… A haw, haw, haw, haw.”

Visit Bogner for more info about the La Grange.


Catalinbread Valcoder

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-19The Catalinbread Valcoder is inspired by the tube driven tremolo on old Valco amps and is designed to capture that distinct retro style tremolo effect. Its unique Input control allows you to boost the signal as it enters the circuit to add a tube-like grit to the sound before it hits the tremolo for a characteristically warm and vintage sounding tone. This pedal certainly has some mojo and will take you Down By The Seaside. It’s yet another pedal wonder from Catalinbread this year add to their versatile range of unique effects pedals.

Visit Catalinbread for more info about the Valcoder.

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EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V3

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-20Speaking of Valco inspired tremolo pedals, EarthQuaker Devices have revised the Hummingbird V3 to add expression pedal control of the Rate as well as 3 speed modes of operation. This is a very choppy tremolo that now thanks to the expression pedal control lets you pull off some really cool rhythmic ramping effects. At extreme settings it starts emitting some crazy ring-mod like sounds, making it a potential tool for more traditional tremolo effects as well as some aurally punishing extreme and bizarre noise effects.

Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Hummingbird V3.

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Amptweaker Fat Metal

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-21The Amptweaker Fat Metal takes the Tight Metal distortion sound to doomier, thrashier, death-metal territory. Compared to the Tight Metal I noticed that the Fat Metal had less emphasis on the high frequencies, providing a thicker mid-range presence and a slightly looser feel overall. This might be a better choice for sludgier styles of heavy guitar playing when compared to the Tight Metal. It also retains the signature SideTrak function which lets you activate another pedal when bypassing the Fat Metal. If you dig corpse paint, fast tremolo picking, and heaps of gain, the Fat Metal is probably for you.

Visit Amptweaker for more info about the Fat Metal.

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J. Rockett The Dude


J. Rockett makes some very tone conscious pedals. (I really dig their WTF Fuzz in particular.) Last fall they released the Klon Centaur inspired J. Rockett Archer, and sitting next to it on their Winter NAMM 2015 pedalboard was The Dude. This enclosure was actually empty, but they plugged in the single black boxed prototype to give me a taste. Simply put, this is an incredibly transparent overdrive. If you just want to lightly overdrive your signal and push your amp while retaining the pristine sound of your guitar, keep your eyes peeled and ears open for this one. It would be a shame to overlook The Dude.

Visit J. Rockett for more info about The Dude.


Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-23What can I say about the Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini really? Ibanez shrunk down the legendary overdrive and kept the JRC4558 IC chip that made the original TS-808 Tube Screamer an all-time classic. Being a huge hit since the blues rock revival of the 80’s, the Tube Screamer is arguably the most cloned, copied, and imitated guitar effects pedal of all time, but it’s good to see Ibanez still carrying the torch to bring the iconic sound to new audiences. Apparently, guitarists still can’t get enough of the Tube Screamer, so Ibanez will surely sell a ton of these. Gotta love how they kept the classic Tube Screamer appearance and made a similar looking custom mini enclosure. With the TS808HW covering the high-end crowd, it’s great to see the TSMINI available for budget-minded guitarists.

Visit Ibanez for more info about the Tube Screamer Mini.

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Big Joe Stomp Box Company Texas Screamer

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-24Before Johnny Winter passed away last year, he had auditioned more than 30 overdrive prototypes for a new guitar pedal that would be able capture his classic signature sound. The circuit he finally approved of is found here in the Big Joe Stomp Box Company Texas Screamer. With a simple 3-knob interface and a cool graphic inspired by Johnny Winter’s own chest tattoo, this pedal will be of interest to many blues rock and Johnny Winter fans who’d like to try to add a bit of his legendary sound to their own music. This pedal certainly seems like a great tribute to the legendary blues icon.

Visit Big Joe Stomp Box Company for more info about the Texas Screamer.

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Black Arts Toneworks Black Shadow


The Black Arts Toneworks Black Shadow is gritty, valve-inspired overdrive pedal with a 2-knob Baxandall EQ tone section. It’s simple to use and raunchy with attitude to spare. And you’ve gotta love the motocycle graphic and those chrome knobs.

Visit Black Arts Toneworks for more info about the Black Shadow.


Dunlop Cry Baby Mini Wah


Finally Dunlop downsized their wah enclosure, but who would’ve thought they’d take it this far? The Cry Baby Mini Wah captures classic wah sounds thanks to its 3-position internal selector switch all while remaining about the size of a Boss pedal. This just might be the coolest gift idea for guitar players ever.

Visit Dunlop for more info about the Cry Baby Mini Wah.

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Seymour Duncan Vise Grip Compressor

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-27Seymour Duncan have been getting back in the pedal game in a big way lately. (Their new Vapor Trail Analog Delay and 805 Overdrive pedals are both awesome.) Now they’ve unleashed the Vise Grip Compressor pedal with a blend control and huge sustain. Essentially, it appears to be a shrunk down and re’vise’d version of the old Seymour Duncan Double Back compressor. The original’s “Double Back” function was essentially a blend control. Even the Full, Mid, High tone filtering function is here to add compression emphasis only to certainly frequencies if desired.

Visit Seymour Duncan for more info about the Vise Grip Compressor.

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Electro Harmonix Cool Vibes Modulator

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-28The new Cool Vibes pedal from Electro Harmonix gives you classic Uni-Vibe style sounds from its 2 settings, Chorus and Vibrato. You can also use an expression pedal to control either the Speed or Intensity of the effect. There’s nothing like a good vibe machine to help you nail those classic Jimi Hendrix Machine Gun style Uni-Vibe tones. Electro Harmonix has been releasing a ton of amazing pedals in the past few years with an even distribution of classic and never before heard effects. I’m glad they’re finally putting out a vibe pedal that should be a worthy addition to their lineup.

Visit EHX for more info about the Cool Vibes Modulator.


EarthQuaker Devices Fuzz Master General & Park Fuzz Sound


EarthQuaker Devices had 2 new fuzzes for Winter NAMM 2015, the Park Fuzz Sound, a reissue of the classic original with an extended gain range, and the Fuzz Master General, a vicious octave fuzz in the vein of the Ace Tone Fuzz Master FM-2 and Super Fuzz. Really digging on the Fuzz Master General. It might be a best fuzz pedal contender.

Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Park Fuzz Sound & Fuzz Master General.

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Fuzz Master General: See the lowest price on Amazon.

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Big Joe Stomp Box Company Empire


The Empire is a 2-channel overdrive pedal from Big Joe Stomp Box Company. It has 9 knobs, 2 foot-switches, and flip-switches for order reversal, buffering, and Firm/Sponge character adjustment for both channels. This is a pedal to check out if you’re looking for a versatile overdrive for your rig.

Visit Big Joe Stomp Box Company for more info about the Empire.

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Oddfellow Effects Caveman Overdrive V2


I got to play the original Caveman Overdrive at Winter NAMM 2014 on a board filled with other high-end overdrives including a pair of Klon Centaurs and, if memory serves me correctly, an Analog Man King of Tone. It certainly sounded like it could hang with the best to me. For the Caveman Overdrive V2, Oddfellow Effects listened to customer feedback and have achieved an even more amp-like response with a more carefully attenuated high-end response. The boost can also now be placed before or after the overdrive.

Visit Oddfellow Effects for more info about the Caveman V2.

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Keeley Mini Katana Clean Boost

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-32The Keeley Mini Katana Clean Boost retains the 2-mode operation (boost & overdrive) of the original FET-driven Katana boost pedal in a new pedalboard friendly size. What’s not to like? The original standard-sized stompbox Katana Clean Boost pedal was interesting in that its single boost level control knob was mounted on the side. This could allow you to roll your foot across it for adjustments. Since the Mini Katana Clean Boost still has a single knob, you should still be able to turn the knob with the side of your foot assuming it’s securely fastened to your pedalboard.

Visit Robert Keeley for more info about the Mini Katana Clean Boost.

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EarthQuaker Devices Sea Machine V2

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-33The Sea Machine V2 is EarthQuaker Devices’ classic chorus pedal, squeezed into their standard sized enclosure and updated with new art. I’m always happy to see EarthQuaker Devices refined their designs and making more efficient use of a smaller enclosure. This pedal apparently didn’t need a spec revision like the recently updated Grand Orbiter and (also at NAMM 2015) Hummingbird V3. If you were looking at the Sea Machine before, the new V2 is definitely even more tempting. Now if we could only convince the mad geniuses at EarthQuaker Devices to add expression control to The Depths. ;)

Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Sea Machine V2.

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Seymour Duncan Shape Shifter Stereo Tremolo

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-34The new Shape Shifter Stereo Tremolo is an update of Seymour Duncan’s original Shape Shifter tap tempo tremolo pedal. Tap tempo, wave shape options, phasing adjustment, and a Speed indicator LED round out this pedal for those who want a tremolo that isn’t too simple or too complex. This looks like yet another example of Seymour Duncan refining their already solid designs to make them even more useful for modern guitar players. This new version also has stereo operation which will provide you with ultra wide stereo pulsing effects if you run it into 2 amps.

Visit Seymour Duncan for more info about the Shape Shifter Stereo Tremolo.

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TC Electronic Viscous Vibe & Helix Phaser

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-35TC Electronic finally added a couple more modulation effects to their TonePrint enabled arsenal of pedals, the Viscous Vibe and Helix Phaser. Both are stereo enabled and allow you create your ideal sound with the TonePrint Editor. While I generally like to see an expression input on Uni-Vibe style pedals like the Viscous Vibe, that Speed knob looks big enough to be foot-controlled for realtime rate control. The Helix Phaser should also provide a lot more flexibility than your average phaser pedal. Since these are by TC Electronic you know they’ll be solid, reliable, and have great-sounding algorithms.

Visit TC Electronic for more info about the Viscous Vibe & Helix Phaser.

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Helix Phaser: See the lowest price on Amazon.

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Keeley Aurora Reverb

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-36Keeley’s new Aurora Reverb gives you 3 different styles of digital ‘verb – hall, plate, and room – in a simple pedal that should live up to Keeley’s standard of reliability and performance. Robert Keeley has really been expanding the company’s line of effects lately, and if haven’t checked them out in the past few years, you should have another look as the entire brand of pedals has received an attractive visual overhaul. Keeley is really setting the stage with a quality line-up that covers the essentials. The Aurora packs enough diversity and tweaking potential for covering most basic reverb needs.

Visit Robert Keeley for more info about the Aurora Reverb.

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ZVex Pedal Thief


The ZVex Pedal Thief lets you reroute pedals from your guitar to a vocal mic. Sure you could let your singer steal your pedals, but if you sing and play guitar live, you could use a single chain of pedals with your guitar or vocal signal. This is an interesting and novel idea that may actually have more practical uses than you’d think at first. And there’s still a little more ZVex weirdness to come…

Visit ZVex for more info about the Pedal Thief.


ZVex Bomb Pop


What looks like a one-off novelty is actually a very real product that ZVex plans to release. The Bomb Pop features 5 of ZVex’s most popular pedals (Fuzz Factory 7, Double Rock, Instant Lo-Fi Junky, Super Hard-On, & Wah Probe) in a very eclectic boutique multi-effects pedal. The effects can be used in series, or you can re-route them to your liking with patch cables (the Super Hard-On boost is always at the end). Very interesting and perhaps still not even the craziest product ZVex showed this year.

Visit ZVex for more info about the Bomb Pop.


Red Panda Raster

Top-Best-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2015-39My biggest disappointment of Winter NAMM 2015 is that I didn’t get to hear the Red Panda Raster firsthand. As a huge fan of the Red Panda Particle (a staple delay pedal for those who like it weird), I cannot wait to hear the crazy sounds the Raster makes. It’s essentially a delay with pitch shifting “integrated into the feedback loop. It delivers a wide range of sounds including harmonized delays, reverse delays, chorus, arpeggios,infinite descents, self-oscillation, and continuously evolving sound scapes.” Red Panda are one of the most unique and innovative effects makers around, and the Raster will probably be another showcase of their one-of-a-kind design aesthetic. (A hat tip to Effects Database where I found this image and info.)

Visit Red Panda for more info about the Raster.

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So those are our top picks as far as guitar effects pedals are concerned. But here’s 3 more interesting guitar pedal-related products to check out that were shown at NAMM 2015.


Walrus Audio Phoenix Clean Power Supply


I really enjoyed the Walrus Audio Aetos, and the avian inspired power supply has spread its wings to become the Phoenix, a 15 output clean power supply for larger pedalboards. The Phoenix has 8 9VDC (100mA), 4 9VDC (300mA), 1 18/9VDC (100mA), and 2 12/9VDC (100mA) outputs. A courtesy outlet on the back lets you plug in wall warts for pedals requiring more than 300mA. In short, this thing looks epic.

Visit Walrus Audio for more info about the Phoenix Clean Power Supply.

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Empress Effects Buffer+ Stereo


The Empress Effects Buffer+ Stereo is a Swiss army knife utility pedal that offers plenty of signal routing possibilities (AB/AY), a foot-switchable or always on boost, noise gate features on both of it’s signal paths, a mute function with tuner output, and more. Essentially, this looks like it could be a great tool for guitarists who have a stereo rig and need a little extra care maintaining the integrity of their guitar signal over long cable runs. The Buffer+ Stereo has a 100% analog audio path and intends to ensure that the purity of your playing is maintained. This photo was taken atop the single pamphlet Empress Effects had at the show which gave examples of over a dozen routing possibilities. Keep an eye on their website as product information becomes available.

Visit Empress Effects for more info about the Buffer+ Stereo.


ZVex MIDI Light Show


When I stopped by to check out the ZVex booth, seeing their giant KISS-inspired light display had me bringing up using MIDI to control a DMX lighting system. Then it was pointed out to me that essentially the ZVex MIDI Light Show was doing something even better… giving bands a unique and less costly system for creating their own stage lighting system. If you’ve checked out our Ableton Live review and all the ideas I’ve presented for using software to automate effects changes (no more guitar tech needed to do your switching!), it would also be worth considering using the ZVex MIDI Light Show to create automated lighting effects for your performances. Or you could simply control lights with a keyboard, other MIDI controller, or even your feet since the MIDI Light Show is a floor-based system.


And just one more thing… There was one pedal announced outside of NAMM that we’d also like to bring to your attention…


Origin Effects Cali76-G & Cali76-G-P


My jaw hit the floor upon hearing about the 2 Germanium Editions of the Cali76. We just finished our epic review of the Cali76-STD, Cali76-TX, and Cali76-TX-LP (and more recently the Cali76 Compact Deluxe & Compact), so these should be equally amazing in their own way. It’ll be a strictly limited edition, so DO NOT miss out on the Cali76-G & Cali76-G-P if you’re interested. Here’s the full info sheet from Origin Effects:



Two years in and our 1176-inspired FET compressors have gone global, with a host of well renowned artists whole heartedly embracing the designs. The Cali76 is widely acknowledged as being the best pedal-based compressor money can buy and with good reason…

Origin Effects is rapidly approaching a land-mark occasion, having shipped almost 2000 pedals. Given the hand-built nature of our products this feels like a big deal, and certainly a milestone to be celebrated! We decided to honour this occasion by releasing a limited run of compressors featuring a very special vintage-style NOS germanium-transistor output stage.

Germanium is a chemical element prolific in early transistor technology. The wide adoption of germanium transistors marked a global shift away from valve technology, allowing for some exciting advances in audio technology. This ultimately had a profound effect on the recording industry and was the enabling factor for a whole host of magical guitar gadgets. With such a well of creativity unlocked, many of the resultant tones have earned a permanent place in our collective psyche.

Our intention was to embody some of the unique sonic attributes of this magical period in time. We’re confident that you’ll agree that our limited edition germanium options offer a valuable new flavour to the Cali76 line-up.

Cali76 Standard Germanium Edition, production limited.

Cali76 Parallel / Germanium Boost Edition, production limited.



The Cali76 Standard Germanium Edition, comes in a wholly familiar package. The top-mounted controls are identical to the stock Cali76-STD and the compressor circuitry operates in exactly the same manner. The addition of a balanced germanium-transistor output stage accounts for extra sonic possibilities. A rear-mounted headroom control can be adjusted to obtain the desired amount of break-up from the germanium circuitry.

The Cali76 Parallel / Germanium Boost Edition draws inspiration from 2014’s limited run of Cali76-TX-P pedals. The parallel-compression feature allows dry-signal to be blended with compressed signal to deliver rich sustain with a dynamic integrity that allows loud transients to emerge uncurtailed. The boost function is wide-band and transparent. While the germanium output stage is always active, a variable-headroom control applies to the boost-mode only, allowing for switchable access to a world of harmonic break-up.

Staying true to the valve-like implementation of the earliest germanium designs, both units feature a fully-balanced output stage, totally free from global negative feedback, utilising NOS transistors. This means that overdrive characteristics are gradual and harmonically rich, with a fast transient-recovery characteristic. If desired, saturation can be finely adjusted through the use of the aforementioned headroom control.

Low impedance balanced outputs are obtainable using a TRS connector, allowing the unit to output to consoles, preamps, DAWs etc… This allows the unit to be used in your recordings to add warm compression to vocals, acoustic, piano, drums… you name it! Inserting an unbalanced guitar cable will configure the unit as a standard effects pedal, with a conventional single-ended output.”

I hope you’re as excited about this one as I am. The Cali76-G and Cali76-G-P should have a very cool vintage vibe and will surely sit well alongside the Cali76-STD, Cali76-TX, and Cali76-TX-L versions. And since Origin Effects means it when they say “Limited Edition”, you’ll want to keep an eye on their website for when they start taking preorders.

Visit Origin Effects for more info about the Cali76-G & Cali76-G-P.


So that’s about it. Winter NAMM 2015 was awesome. Can’t wait to see what next year brings. And yes, there’s Summer NAMM 2015, also. In the meantime I hope this article helps you discover which new guitar effects pedals will inspire you to keep playing guitar and making music.


Until next time here’s a cool photo from the Houses of the Keeley.




UPDATE: Check out the Top 30 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Summer NAMM 2015!




Also, if you’re a beginner guitarist, definitely check out our guide to the best online guitar lessons.