Top 28 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Summer NAMM 2017

SNAMM 2017 or Feedback: 3 Days of Delay

Once more, Summer NAMM has come and gone, inspiring us at Best Guitar Effects to start pulling things off our boards in preparation for the vast influx of new units on their way to the marketplace. The energy was sentient across the span of the show floor, drawing us attendees this way and that in a 100dB haze of riffs and excited conversation. Pitches were thrown, legends were born, and I found my people. This was my first NAMM ever, and I could not have been more pleased to be a part of the action. I learned a few things about guitar pedals while I was walking proud on the show floor, first and foremost that the earnest builders behind them are kind and amazing in a way you can’t know from this side of your computer monitor or smart phone screen. The readiness with which they answered my questions and befriended me was something that, as a confessed industry amateur, I’d never experienced. I also learned that Nashville is f*cking crowded and hot!

But seriously, the Summer NAMM 2017 show floor was packed with not just human mass, but a glut of unique and incredible devices, all ready to be played and picked apart by critics and enthusiastic pedal fans. There was a hilarious amount of new delay pedals at the show this year, some of which were truly mind-blowing, others just so-so. Even though I love delay, I’m not including all of them. Not because I don’t want to do right by the builders who put their hearts and souls into building quality effects, but because this is a subjective summary of the best pedals shown at SNAMM 2017. What you’re seeing were easily the most intriguing and most innovative devices I came into contact with, and for some, after the tone requirement had been surpassed, that threshold was met by a clever feature implemented in way to make musicians’ lives easier. For other pedals included, it’s all about tone.

Without further ado, here are… The Top 28 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Summer NAMM 2017!

 

Pigtronix Mothership 2 Analog Guitar Synthesizer

 

There’s two obvious reasons that this bad mothership is at the top of the pile. Number one on the list: the pure range of synth tones in this pedal is insane. A triangle wave, square wave VCO, and sub-octave sine can be blended at any level with your clean tone to produce a palette from which a cadre of textures can be drawn. Second is the sheer thought and engineering prowess that had to have gone into the Mothership2: TRS expression, TS CV control, sub-octave output and ten parameters (made possible by five dual-concentric knobs) on an MXR-sized enclosure! Yes, that’s ⅓ the size of the original Pigtronix Mothership.

A glide knob controls the portamento between notes, while a dynamics knob determines how responsive the Mothership2 is to the transients in your playing. The choice to include a sub-octave out was smart; too much harmonic content in your low-end often produces mud when we run through guitar amplifiers that aren’t made to amplify bass frequencies. Knocking out those frequencies right off the bat and sending them to a bass amp helps to clean up the outgoing signal when it hits your amp. Plus it would probably sound massive. I have to emphasize to the uninitiated out there that despite the size, this is NOT a filter or a synth “effect.” It is a direct sequel to the original Mothership: a true analog synthesizer controlled by your instrument. In my short time listening to it, the Mothership2 produced sci-fi soundtracks, fat basslines, organic swells, and death-rays, and I have a feeling that that’s just scratching the surface.

 

Old Blood Noise Endeavors Whitecap Tremolo

When I entered the noisy SNAMM 2017 showroom, I made a beeline for the OBNE booth to acclimate to the environment with some folks that seemed like my kind of people from afar. I was not disappointed by Brady, Dan, or Seth, who readily smiled and shook my hand with offers to run me through their latest. Mounted to their demo board with their already full line-up was the yet-unreleased Whitecap tap-tremolo. The OBNE Whitecap is a tap-tempo enabled tremolo pedal with 5 different waveform variations, low and high tonestacks, volume and rate control, and an internal trimpot that controls the gain for fine-tuning the way the modulations in volume push the circuits. I didn’t work up the courage to ask to open a Whitecap up to play with the gain, but I love that it has tone pots. If you dial more high than low or vise-versa so that you can hear the effect bloom and disappear completely as you play up and down the neck. By maxing the Low EQ and cutting the high completely on the square wave voicing, I got the Whitecap to add a percussive chop to my root notes while my higher notes rang out over them. Super sweet.

 

Epigaze Audio Ascension Reverb (Prototype)

First of all, this is hands down the prettiest prototype I’ve ever laid eyes on, but looks aren’t everything; even if it instantly caught my eye, I couldn’t have expected what came out of it. Man, was I glad I’m so shallow. First off, we have three modes: a Hall, a Modulated Hall, and a Shimmer. The Height knob controls the decay time, the Mix controls the tone. Alright cool, but that’s not all: The Ascension drones a wavery, self-generated Pad, the key of which is determined by a center footswitch that cycles through the 12 chromatic notes. The level of this drone is controlled by a 2-inch side-mounted pot. There’s an effects loop and, by extension, for adding any effect you want to the wet signal of the Ascension. This is easily one of the coolest pedals at the 2017 Summer NAMM show. If I were to be so bold as to suggest any improvement to the Ascension, it would be to include some sort of means to quickly cycle through the drone’s base note in a more musical way, but this is a prototype, and even if nothing like that materializes for the Ascension, I’m still pumped for its release.

 

Neunaber Inspire Chorus

I love Neunaber. Every time I think I can’t possibly like Brian’s work any more than what’s come before, he surprises me. While I normally wouldn’t call a chorus “surprising,” nor should anyone be surprised that Nenauber added a new standalone product in the vein of the long-heralded Immerse Reverb, Neunaber’s Inspire is looking to match the Immerse’s success and set a new standard in chorus modulation. With 8 Stereo Chorus Voices based on Neunaber’s proprietary Tritone chorus found on the Expanse platform, Rate, Depth, & Mix (with full wet!) controls, and the overall quality we’ve come to expect from Neunaber, the Inspire will no doubt be one to look out for.

 

Gamechanger Audio Plus Pedal

Gamechanger Audio is a brand new Latvian company with a refreshing piece of ambient hardware: The Plus Pedal, a “sustain” pedal built to look and feel like a piano’s sustain pedal. In terms of software, it’s similar to a sampler in that it samples up to 1.5 seconds of your raw signal and plays back a slice, and it’s similar to a freeze in that it can be set to hold momentarily or infinitely. The closest comparison I can make is to the EHX Superego, but that doesn’t quite match the feel and intuitive play of the PlusPedal. There is a dual-function dry out 1/4” jack that also serves as an input for a proprietary “Wet” peripheral, which allows for 100% wet soundscape building. The Wet toggle wisely includes a dry out, so you don’t lose the capability to split your wet/dry signal if you opt for the toggle. The Plus Pedal also features a group/single toggle; put plainly, you can set it to sustain only the last notes played, or stack your slices to make a chordal drone. The left side panel sports an effects loop as well. I’m so stoked that I got the chance to meet these guys and test out their product which is very close to being ready for distribution. At the time of my writing this, there’s a Plus Pedal sitting at East Side Music Supply, slowly imbuing the Nashville community and soon the world with its fresh energy.

 

Dwarfcraft The Curse Modulated Delay

The Curse maintains Dwarcraft’s legacy of weird, powerful tone machines. It’s a modulated delay with all your basic delay parameters (feedback, time, mix, tap tempo and division toggle) and extensive controls for the modulation (modulation rate, skew/duty, depth and your choice of three shapes.) That’s enough, right? Our ol’ pal Aen said: “Nope!” It wouldn’t be a Dwarfcraft Device without some more Dwarfcraft-ish features, and we’re blessed with a single-port TRS effects loop, ⅛” CV I/O for tap tempo and modulation, and an expression input for the modulation. Unsurprisingly, this thing is outrageous fun synced up to the rest of Dwarfcraft’s stuff. There’s a kind of buggy, gritty aspect to almost everything Ben Hinz’s team does, and the clicks and crazy weird sounds this thing will make (particularly with aggressive use of the modulations) while still remaining in the realm of “musical” confirms Dwarfcraft’s self-aware design pathos.

 

Alexander Pedals Syntax Error

I spent a good amount of time hanging out with the tremendous Matt of the tremendous Alexander effects, and boy do they have a goodie coming up. Fans of glitchy, weird pedals will truly appreciate – nay, worship – the Syntax Error, the first in Alexander’s Neo series of digital effects. I’m not even sure what to call it! The closest approximation that comes to mind is half a joke: Error Generator. Okay but really, the Syntax Error is everything the Super Radical Delay and Oblivion are and more in terms of awesome weirdness, tilting that inspiration further toward the realm of filtery, bitcrushy bliss. Alexander developed a new proprietary DSP to allow for deeper customization and control to an insane degree while also managing to cram it all into a far cheaper, tiny enclosure to not just save space on your board but help you keep space filled in your wallet. On the NAMM floor, the Syntax Error offered me 3 voicings: Cube, a digital fuzz w/ rezo lo-pass filter; Ring, a ring-mod with a sample rate reducer and sample and hold capabilities; and the universal favorite, Stretch mode, which runs the raw signal of your guitar through an adjustable-length buffer and allows you to “stretch” the signal, accelerating to breakneck speed, slowing it down to a crawl or reversing it entirely. There was also a “Sample” knob which crushes the sample rate of the signal to produce squashed-out, 8-bit splats. Physically the Syntax Error features 8 total presets (4 stored directly in the enclosure, 4 recalled via an iOS editor) 8 controllable parameters in any given preset, and a dual-purpose input that yields both CV expression/footswitch control of any combination of those presets and in-depth MIDI control. I mean, you can even control the brightness on the damn LED. As if those wacky/badass voices and insane customizability weren’t enough, Matthew Farrow of Alexander opted to add a fourth voice to the Syntax Error, a “Bode-style frequency shifter with feedback and a time delay for all sorts of weird throbby flangery goodness.” Only time will tell what that means for the final product, but we’ll keep you abreast. I can already tell that Alexander will do everything in their power to max out the capabilities of that 32-bit micro-controller. I can predict with a clairvoyant degree of confidence that the Neo Series is gonna be amazing.

 

Alexander Pedals Radiacmeter

Of course, before I can catch my breath from the marathon that is the Syntax Error and its Neo ilk, we have to talk a little bit about the Radiacmeter Dist-O-Drive, Matt’s crack at a certain rare, late-70’s Japanese Distortion. The Radiacmeter actually has a lot of history entwined in the origins of Alexander. I won’t reiterate word-for-word the tale told on Alexander’s own website, but to make a long story short, the inspiration was the first pedal Matt ever pieced together and sold, circa 1995. The circuit in question was a distortion mounted inside of a piece of Cold War era military hardware, not coincidentally a device used to detect radiation called a Radiac Meter. The resulting invention was a monster piece of gear that would only fly on the most masochistic guitarists’ boards by modern standards. It is… insultingly massive.

After a few years of estrangement after the device’s sale, it was returned to the loving arms of Mr. Farrow and the Alexander crew to be disassembled and repurposed for the greater good. Out of context, why should you care? Well, while the seed of Radiacmeter shares a lot with Papa Radiacmeter, Alexander updated the circuit with nicer components and new elements, reinterpreting the pivotal distortion circuit to create a much more flexible unit. Our Radiacmeter benefits from two passive High and Low frequency tone pots that interact with each other in a dynamic way to curve the gain pattern to your liking. You have to hear it. The “Sensitivity” knob adjusts the gain on a gradient from smooth drive to atomic hellfire. Level has no surprises for us. Hearing the Radiacmeter gave me some perspective on the versatility of the new circuit. Chalk up another win for Alexander.

 

Wampler The Doctor Lo-Fi Delay

Wampler’s The Doctor is a modulated Lo-Fi Delay full of all sorts of wibbly wobbly timey wimey tones. Your dry signal stays 100% analog while the parallel blended wet delay signal is loaded into a TARDIS and propelled through time and space, courtesy of some DSP wizardry from the Time Lords at Wampler.  As a contrasting answer to the Ethereal Delay/Reverb, The Doctor is a perfect companion, squashed and angry where the Ethereal is spacey and angelic. Still, oscillation comes pretty naturally to it, giving it a kind of reverby vibe at times, and the Modulation is super lush and organic sounding, adding a warble to the repeats that balances out the grit of the repeats. A tap tempo footswitch and ¼” tap tempo I/O means syncing this with the rest of your timed effects is a piece of cake.

 

Source Audio Ventris Reverb

As we are all aware, Source Audio has followed up on the raucous success of the Nemesis delay with the Award-winning Ventris Reverb. To recap, the Ventris is the result of well over a year of exhaustive research into the world of reverb; an expression and MIDI-enabled stereo reverb with 24 factory voices and banks for 8 onboard user-defined presets (128 with MIDI,) editable with Source Audio’s proprietary Neuro Android and iOS software. Source Audio is ever closer to perfecting the Ventris’s algorithms, and the unit they brought to Nashville was evidence of their steady progress toward a fast-approaching release. As far as I could hear, all of the classic voicings were super clean simulacrum, approximating their inspirations faithfully. What makes the Ventris a truly strong follow-up to the Nemesis (and a logical contender when compared to a few obvious high-end reverbs recently released) are its dual-processors, allowing for insanely detailed and nuanced reverb voices. Not only that, but the Ventris is so powerful, running two reverbs simultaneously is a piece of cake, allowing for unique and life-alteringly beautiful textures. The team had set up a neat little preset they affectionately called the “Laser Reverb,” which is kinda sorta like running the wet tail of a long reverb into a sample and hold filter. Listening to the frequency peaks jump around sporadically was magic, and I definitely spent way longer listening to this effect than I should have.

 

Walrus Audio ARP-87 Multi-Function Delay

Designed to be a travel-friendly cousin to the Bellwether, the ARP-87 delay dominated the Walrus booth. The closeness with which the ARP-87’s analog tones related to the Bellwether’s was an impressive exhibit of the work Walrus put into the little guy, and I spent a little bit of time A/B’ing the two on the Walrus board to get a really good feel for where the two were most strongly correlated. The ARP-87 is a mono pedal, which is a continuation of the obvious consideration made for those with a travel-sized setup. The ARP-87 also doesn’t have a time knob on it. Rather, the tempo of the repeats is decided by the Tap Tempo footswitch (or CV tap tempo input jack) and division toggle, a fact which really made me consider whether any delay needs a time knob. Jury’s still out on that one. At any rate, you still also hold the Tap footswitch to max the feedback of the delay. Hold bypass to max the X knob’s modulation on the Digital, Analog and Slap Back voices, and the filter range on the Lo Fi. My only qualm with the ARP-87 is that the voices don’t retain your set tap-tempo when cycling between the four voices, so you have to retap after you switch. Small gripe I know, but it’s worth mentioning; in the face of the external tap jack, it becomes irrelevant if you’re running a board-wide clock. It seems that Walrus has a really good grasp on the target demographic for the ARP-87, and went all-in to accommodate their simpler needs without relinquishing compatibility.

 

Chase-Bliss Audio Tonal Recall Red Knob Mod

In a move thematically linked to the spirit of Summer NAMM 2017, Chase Bliss has opted to improve upon the Tonal Recall’s already near-perfect system by doubling the amount of reissued MN3005 BBD chips packed into it to increase the max delay time to 1100ms. They’ve also rounded out the oscillation for a more musical breakup and have tweaked the pedal for brighter delay tones. Chase Bliss also added a few nice companders (compressor/expander) and improved some other pieces of hardware to increase the headroom, which means more delay trails before your repeats start to cannibalize, and there’s a longer countdown-to-squeal when the hold function is active. CBA didn’t have a Blue-Knob there so I didn’t get the chance to do any A/B comparison but based on my experience with the Tonal Recall, what I did hear on the noisy SNAMM 2017 show floor and then later at the Coffee and Riffs Circle of Two filming was glorious. As advertised, the oscillations were kind to the ear and the repeats downright reflective in tone. All add to the nuanced appeal of the Tonal Recall, so if you have one, go to CBA’s web store and upgrade immediately! If you don’t, you may want to correct that.

 

Yellowcake Lida Machine

Yellowcake’s Lida Machine, named for a government mind control device known only in conspiracy circles, is a crazy cool resonant filter with 2 LFOs in series. The main LFO, when active alone, is a simple VC filter, affected by rate and depth knobs as well as a fast/slow toggle, while the second LFO can add a further arrhythmic effect with the same parameters as well as a toggle for triangle, square, or sawtooth waveforms. A clean blend is also included to allow your signal to play over the top of all the wubs and dubs you’ll be making. If you want to use a CV enabled pedal or a synth module, the Lida Machine also has a CV input. The expression is linked to the resonant frequency, allowing musical sweeps across the frequency spectrum. I get the sense that I didn’t get to push the Lida Machine to its fullest potential, but what I heard was most definitely dope. Or maybe I’ve been brainwashed?

 

Positive Grid BIAS Twin Pedals

 

Never in my life have I heard the phrase, “future of the industry” uttered more than standing at the Positive Grid booth, and I certainly never believed it with such veracity. But armed with one of the most impressive track records in the industry and an extensive repertoire of lauded VSTs and amp/effects modelers, Positive Grid may, at the very least, imply the future. This year they were showing their BIAS Twin pedal series, which are feature rich, compact versions of the BIAS effect line. Six knobs, two switches. They are all MIDI-enabled and compatible with Positive Grid’s bluetooth-augmented BIAS iOS software, which basically makes them physical, pro VSTs. As if the depth of the software weren’t enough, Positive Grid’s ToneCloud is an invaluable community tool, much like the Empress Effects user voting forum or Source Audio preset sharing community, and the commons-style format will most definitely inspire some truly creative takes. Also, with Positive Grid’s current buzz and reputation as a premier gear company, you can expect a ton of professionals flooding the scene with voices, so teasing apart how they pull it off should be a super fun exercise.

BIAS Twin Delay is a digital delay modeler with dedicated modulation and reverb engines. Voicings include digital, tape, analog, reverse, stereo and ducking, which all can play back up to 3000ms (!!!!) of delay time. In an electric blue is the BIAS Twin Modulation, a master of all mods; chorus, vibrato, phaser, flanger, rotary, tremolo, panning, chopping, ring mod… nearly everything is possible with this. Throw in a waveform toggle (sine, square, sawtooth) and a tap tempo just for kicks. The BIAS Twin Distortion, meanwhile, takes advantage of BIAS’s hyper-detailed Tone Match tech. Tube, germanium, silicon, JFET and MOSFET clipping diodes all reside inside of its wheelhouse and can be paired in any combination. A built-in compressor and noise gate make it an easy choice.

 

Way Huge DoubleLand Special

Designed for Joe Bonamassa, The DoubleLand Special is basically two Way Huge Overrated Special circuits in one enclosure. The tone parameters are high-cuts while separate 500Hz knobs allow for mid-range cut/boost at pretty relatively subtle Q. The LED sliders are the same controls as those available in the pots, an aesthetic choice made by Joe himself for at least visual purposes. One could argue that there may be a slight difference in the tweakability but thanks to the atmospheric decibels on the SNAMM floor there’s no way that I could speak to that with any real authority, and so help me if I tried. Tonewise, the DoubleLand special struck me like a mid-focused 808 made for blues. Setting the center toggle to series will let you run one circuit into another for gain-staging/mid-high gain purposes, but I think I preferred the functionality of toggling between variation of the two circuits by leaving the series option inactive. Dialing in two polarized, relatively mellow drives and keeping them mutually exclusive is an excellent way to add balance to your drive tone, especially if you’ve already got a few gain pedals on your ‘board. These are going to be limited to 1000-1500 units so make sure you snap one up ASAP if you’re interested.

 

DigiTech SDRUM Strummable Drum Pedal

It seems that DigiTech is on a roll, releasing conceptually groundbreaking and affordable products at a semi-annual pace. At SNAMM 2017, the team was showing the SDRUM, an “intelligent drum machine” with learning technology similar to their Trio Band generator. While other drum machines have a pre-established performance set you have to program in offboard software, the SDRUM’s groove is programmed by tapping the kick and snare pads on the pedal itself, or, most interestingly, strumming the muted strings on your guitar. The kick is programmed by strumming the low strings and the snare by the high strings. Once the pattern has been learned, one of 12 cymbal patterns will be added via a Hats/Rides knob on the right, the division of which can be chosen from a quarter, eighth, or sixteenth note pace via a soft-touch button. You can save up to 36 custom songs, each with 3 parts (Verse, Chorus, and Bridge) of increasing intensity. As you progress through the song, tapping the footswitch will move on to the next section, and holding the switch will stop it completely. You can also connect it to a separate Digitech footswitch or JamSync-enabled pedal for expanded control. It only does 3/4 and 4/4 time, so prog metal players won’t be using it that often, but it’s definitely going to make an incredible songwriting and practice tool, if not a cornerstone of a performance board.

 

Keeley Electronics Caverns II Delay/Reverb

The team at Robert Keeley Electronics have been in full swing the last few years, supplementing their already massive repertoire of workstations and staple units with new and innovative pedals, and this year is no different. The original Caverns was discontinued in 2015 due to some design flaws that Robert and his team deemed too glaring to let stand, but a young upstart is ready to take up the subterranean mantle. Circuit-wise, the new Caverns is made up of the Magnetic echo (which sports 650mS of delay), two mod types affecting the delay repeats (light and deep, as well as an option to bypass the modulation completely), and three reverb options (shimmer, spring, and modulated.) There are knobs to control the mix, the feedback, time & rate of modulation, decay, blend, and warmth on the reverb, as well as a rate knob for the modulation on the mod ‘verb that becomes a tremolo on the spring and a shimmer blend on the shimmer. The Caverns II doesn’t have momentary footswitch oscillation or expression control or even a tap tempo, things that some of us have come to expect from modern delays, but it would seem this is meant to be less of a super-clean delay and more of an ambient pedal. Fine by me. The only thing that pains my heart about this latest addition is that it’s not stereo, but it’s feasible that the enclosure is just so jam-packed with circuitry and potentiometers that two more jacks and more innards would have been impossible to accommodate.

 

Keeley Electronics Neutrino Deluxe Envelope Filter

Keeley has also improved upon the original Neutrino circuit by adding a blend knob and a filter direction footswitch on the left-hand side of the pedal. Being able to switch between the directions on the fly adds a whole new performance element that is so very often absent from envelope filters. According to The master cook himself, the blend knob was added as a gift to bassists who popped on the Neutrino going for that Bootsy vibe and lost all of their low-end in the sweep of the filter. Everyone has a bassist back home, so grab two when they come out!

 

MXR Carbon Copy Deluxe Analog Delay

An iconic mainstay on ‘boards everywhere, the MXR Carbon Copy finally gets a long awaited and well deserved update in the Carbon Copy Deluxe, which thoughtfully combines the circuits of the original Carbon Copy and the Carbon Copy Bright with eight BBD chips and throws in the expected chorus-y mod (now with rate and depth knobs to tweak it) into the mix. It features a tap tempo and a neat little LED display that indicates the time division of the repeats in a bright green you’d be pressed to miss from space, much less the top of your neck. Two saveable presets complete the package to this an essential upgrade if you’ve been running a Carbon Copy.

 

Adventure Audio Power Couple Boost

Christian Terjesen’s latest Adventure is a 2-stage boost with only 2 parameters: Gain and More (Gain.) You get about 25db of clean headroom in the first gainstage, controlled by the massive knob toward the top. When I say clean I do mean clean, acting as simply the means to push whatever you’re running next, be it the next drive on your board or the front of your amp. Then, by holding the sole soft-touch footswitch down for 200mS, you run the first gainstage into the “More” circuit, which does what it sounds like. It will girth up your tone to the point of complete saturation as you dial back on the teensy More knob, likely a function of the decreased headroom in the outgoing signal path. The inclusion of only one footswitch to engage both stages is a clever and space-saving way to change circuits without making the action of going from fat to fatter less of a choice. This way, you have to deliberately choose to pop on the second gainstage, hold the switch, and live with those tasty consequences.

 

Adventure Audio Whateverb V2

In case you need a refresher, the Whateverb is a Shimmer/Hall/Chorus-Flange Reverb pedal with 2 variable knobs, a blend and a “Warp” knob, which actually controls the ADAC of the wet signal, or the rate at which your signal is sampled and converted from analog to digital and back to analog again. That glissando effect is actually a smooth glide down in sample rate. When I reviewed the Whateverb a few months back, I said that it needed an expression input for the Warp knob. Well, in the new upgrade, Adventure improved the Warp’s range and added an expression input as well more solid I/O jacks! With the V2 update we can control one of the best parts of the Whateverb’s reverb engine in real-time to create full-spectrum musical pitch shifts and never have to worry about the ports breaking.

 

Fuzzrocious lunaReclipse Utility Clipping Platform Pedal

Fuzzrocious’s lunaReclipse is, in my opinion, a dark horse. A dead simple 2-knob pedal, the lunaReclipse secretly sports a veritable smorgasbord of clipping diode pairs (12 total!) in its hard rotary knob in the center in addition to being a regular old volume attenuator. The rotary knob locks when you crank it clockwise at 12 and counter-clockwise at 1. Why is this particularly important to me? At 12 o’clock, there’s a transparent boost, and for performance purposes, deftly cranking all the way in one direction between songs (extra performance points if you can nail it between measures) is easier than fumbling around the dial trying to to find the right diode pair. If one wanted to use it like a drive pedal, you could totally call it a day there and no one would judge you. From what I gleaned spending time with it and Ryan & Shannon Ratajski of Fuzzrocious, however, its real niche is to add flavor, like a water infuser full of all sorts of dirt. I wouldn’t go so far as to quite call it strictly a utility pedal, but I’m excited to hear the way it makes other effects shine. Have a sweet reverb with an effects loop like the Epigaze Ascension? Pop the lunaReclipse in there. Want a new and exciting texture over your Adventure Audio Power Couple? Run it through this motherlover. Furthermore, for those of us eager to jump into DIY pedal building, the lunaReclipse could potentially make a good reference tool for finding clipping patterns to explore.

HA! luna-Re-Clipse. Clips. I just got that.

 

Daredevil Cocked & Fearless Fixed Wah / Distortion

The brave gentlemen in Daredevil paired the circuits of their Atomic Cock fixed wah pedal and their Fearless Distortion to make a true bypass 2 channel op-amp distortion with a fixed band-pass wah. The resulting amalgamation is an aggressively gainy distortion with a set wah, The Distortion circuit is great for girthy, aggressive rhythm. Stomp on the Cock (sorry) and rip into a solo. An added clean blend helps to restore the harmonic content you lose with the wah active and helps the Cocked & Fearless feel more like your distortion than a one-trick-pony.

 

Hungry Robot Monastery, Stargazer V2, & Moby Dick V2

Last but certainly not least is the Hungry Robot Monastery, a polyphonic octave pedal named for the holy buildings in which organs/organ noises reside and bearing Hungry Robot’s quirky branding. Each horizontal row of knobs is a preset voicing; the left knobs on the Monastery are blend knobs and the right knobs control the ratio of up/down octaves. The two footswitches are the obvious bypass switch and a preset cycle switch. Playing the Monastery rewarded my earholes with well-lubricated tracking no matter where on the neck I was, already making it superior to quite a few shifters in my circle of awareness. Stupid easy, gorgeous as hell, made to be stomped. What else could you want?

I should also mention, Hungry Robot was showing off updated versions of some older pedals, namely the Moby Dick and the Stargazer, which have been fit into much smaller enclosures and slightly improved. The Moby Dick Tap Delay now features a smaller saturation control and deeper modulation than the larger Whale, while the Stargazer Reverb drops the voicing toggles that used to sit in the center and now opts for a cycling footswitch. The Red channel is the base voicing for the Stargazer, while the Blue channel is “Sparkle, the treble-boosted iteration of it, and the two can be run simultaneously in summed mono.

 

Conclusion:

There were a couple companies willing to part with info on what they were working on that wasn’t at NAMM. For example, Mojo Hand FX, acquired by Cusack in 2016, is working on a Bass pedal (or bass-oriented pedal) with 8 knobs, 2 stomps and active EQs. To quote the folks at the Cusack/Mojo Hand table, “It is huge, but it’s definitely not a fuzz.” Well, with that ruled out there’s only infinity-1 things it could be! Also really rad news: Tom Kogut of Tom Kat is working on a granular synth pedal. Based on what I heard from his board at the Big Ear N.Y.C. booth, it’s probably gonna be the last thing I see before I starve to death in the first room I plug it into. Dwarfcraft also had literature for a forthcoming sampler that they’re calling the Grazer, but it wasn’t ready for SNAMM. Take your time, boys & girls.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say that I’m not able to include everything I wanted to get to at this year’s SNAMM. There was an enormous amount of really cool things peppered throughout the conference, some of which I deeply regret missing, like NUX Audio’s Loop Core Looper and Cerberus Multi-Effects Engine/Loop or The Gulf, a Swindler Effects Chorus Prototype that was kicking around. There’s a good chance there’s more, too. The point of Best Guitar Effects is pedal discovery, so if you can think of anything I didn’t cover that you feel deserves attention, feel free to comment below for the benefit of those reading!

And that was Summer NAMM 2017 for me. May you someday have a first NAMM as well if you haven’t already.

Love,

Jake

AYAHUASCA

This article is not a review of the elusive and mysterious Ayahuasca pedal from Abracadabra Audio. It’s more of a backstory of how this pedal came to be.

 

What Is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a fuzz pedal. And it’s a tremolo pedal. You can use the fuzz independently or together with the tremolo. If you cut down the pedal’s Input knob a bit, you can sort of clean up the sound to use the tremolo semi-independently as well, but it’s still quite lo-fi sounding and dirty. The pedal can also produce ring-mod-like oscillation at high Rate speeds and vibe-like sounds when the tremolo is set to Harmonic mode.

Ayahuasca is an acquired taste which may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Here’s a small dose of Ayahuasca to whet your palate courtesy of Knobs:

 

 

Ayahuasca’s tremolo isn’t super clean like the Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas. Speaking of Gravitas, maybe that’s where we should begin Ayahuasca’s origin story…

Mr. Joel Korte at Chase Bliss Audio once made me a special Gravitas pedal that had a choppier square wave and very fast Rate speeds. The talented Mr. Jack Nelson over at Dropping Acid Pedal Etching contributed a beautiful acid-etched enclosure to make the pedal extra special.

 

The original “Ayahuasca” modded Gravitas

 

This one-off Gravitas variant (similar to other choppy modded versions specially made for some Chase Bliss Audio customers but with faster Rate speeds) was essentially a blueprint for the tremolo sound heard in the Ayahuasca pedal made for Abracadabra Audio.

 

Ayahuasca’s Tremolo

The key difference of the tremolo in Ayahuasca vs Gravitas is that the Ayahuasca’s circuit uses 2 NOS vactrols in tandem for an ultra choppy analog tremolo sound when the waveform is set to Square. The idea was to make the trem as choppy as possible while retaining a 100% analog signal path, a hallmark of Chase Bliss Audio pedal designs.

The vactrol based Ayahuasca can produce a very aggressive square wave tremolo that excels at chopping up a distorted guitar signal. That inspiration led to a fuzz circuit being added to the pedal. After all, while the Gravitas is known for its pristine clean sound and subtle vintage warmth, Ayahuasca is inspired by the jungle, an often dangerous and harsh environment that warrants an equally precarious sound.

 

Ayahuasca’s Fuzz

Here’s a brief backstory on Ayahuasca’s fuzz circuit that was leaked on Reddit:

“The short version of the long story of its fuzz circuit origins goes something like this: We’re all familiar with the late 60’s fuzzes, particularly the Fuzz Face. A guy named Cláudio César Dias Baptista made a Fuzz Face inspired pedal for his brother Sergio of the Brazilian band Os Mutantes. It was called the Regulus VIII aka the “Mutantes Fuzz” and became a signature part of the band’s sound. Another builder re-interpreted that circuit and added a Big Muff Pi style tone stack that was heavily modified. Then a certain modern builder re-interpreted that circuit, further modifying it and pushing it to its usable limits and beyond to create what can be found in Ayahuasca. A main focus was to create a very wide range of usability from a 3-knob fuzz. The more I play it, the more I feel we succeeded in doing so.”

So who was the builder that re-interpreted the Regulus VIII fuzz?

It was the late Mr. Chris Bradford of El Músico Loco. The Wee Beaver Fuzz was his interpretation, and it’s one of my all-time favorite fuzz pedals. While that pedal made it onto my pedalboard on a few occasions, I often felt it was a bit limiting in that the fuzz was always full-on with the only option to cut the input gain being to reduce your guitar’s onboard volume control. This works pretty well if you like controlling your fuzz from your guitar, but I generally like being able to establish my gain level from the pedal first and adjust further from the guitar as desired. Also, when stacking a fuzz pedal with other overdrive and distortion pedals, it helps to have full control over the amount of saturation coming from the fuzz in the chain. Sadly, I was never able to discuss possible improvements with Chris as he passed away unexpectedly.

Mr. Joel Korte is the modern builder who re-interpreted the circuit from a pedal that Chris personally gave to me. Ayahuasca’s fuzz isn’t really a clone as Joel ended up putting his own unique spin on the whole thing. The input gain could also now be adjusted from its own knob for a wider range of fuzz saturation. Joel & I listened to a few circuit variations and decided on an iteration we were both happy with.

The former pedal’s unique tone control was also further modified. The tone-stack in Ayahuasca is quite possibly the most special thing about the pedal’s fuzz circuit, and we opted to label the tone knob “Color” in reference to the wide palette of textures available from this single knob.

 

The Art of Ayahuasca

So we had an insane Gravitas inspired tremolo that could get crazy fast and extremely choppy, and we had one of the best fuzz pedal sounds I’ve ever heard. We just needed the all-important art component to bring Ayahuasca to life. One person was up to the task: Hannah M. Haugberg.

Hannah is one of the most widely known pedal-painting artists. She’s painted somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000 pedals during her time working with ZVex Effects. That’s not to mention commissions for other builders.

Hannah painted the first 3 batches of Ayahuasca pedals. She and other artists may paint more to come.

 

Ayahuasca Batch History

Here’s a brief batch history of the Ayahuasca pedals released so far.

 

Ayahuasca “Jungle” (serials #1-10)
Painted by: Hannah M. Haugberg

This was the first hand painted limited batch with art inspired by the Amazon jungle.

 

Ayahuasca “Shipibo” (serials #11-20)
Painted by: Hannah M. Haugberg

This was the second hand painted limited batch with a design inspired by the visionary art of Shipibo women.

 

Ayahuasca “Cielo” (serials #21-30)
Painted by: Hannah M. Haugberg

This was the third hand painted limited batch with art inspired by the jungle and the cielo ayahuasca vine also known as “sky ayahuasca”.

 

Ayahuasca Prototypes & Other Pedals

Some other Ayahuasca pedals exist. Here are a few of the noteworthy pedals.

 

Ayahuasca “Jungle” Prototype

This pedal (also seen at the top of this page) was the 1st Ayahuasca enclosure painted by Hannah M. Haugberg. It has different labeling as final parameter names had yet to be decided upon. Interestingly, this pedal was brought by SWIM to a medicine woman to form a conduit with the spirit of Ayahuasca and receive blessings for the project… whatever that means. SWIM says it went well.

 

Ayahuasca “Jungle” #00000

This pedal was painted by Hannah M. Haugberg. It features the final parameter labeling and was made specially for Knobs. It was also photographed for product imagery seen on Abracadabra Audio.

 

Ayahuasca “Jungle”, “Shipibo”, & “Cielo” (Unnumbered)

One extra unnumbered pedal was commissioned with each of the first 3 batches. They were painted by Hannah M. Haugberg and were originally made for archival purposes. It was later decided to give these pedals away so that they might be played instead of sitting in boxes. A giveaway for these pedals was held at BestGuitarEffects.com in celebration of the site’s 4-year anniversary.

(This section may be updated with relevant information regarding future Ayahuasca batches.)

 

So that pretty much sums up the Ayahuasca story so far minus the weird synchronicity stuff that no one really wants to know. Speaking of weird stuff, what the heck is Abracadabra Audio? And what’s happening next over there?

 

The Future of Abracadabra Audio

Here’s some news and candid info. There might be some more limited batches of Ayahuasca appearing soon. The best way to stay informed is to get on Abracadabra Audio’s mailing list. There’s usually an email sign up box at the bottom of the site.

As for other new AA pedals, some things have been said between industry people and some ideas have been shared. I may continue being involved, but it’s not entirely up to me how AA progresses if it does continue to exist. If there’s something interesting you’d like to see from AA, reach out via the site’s contact page and share your idea(s).

 

Going Forth

Participating in the Ayahuasca project has been super amazing. I feel very lucky and fortunate to have had a part in helping manifest this unique pedal.

Thanks to Joel Korte & Chase Bliss Audio, Hannah M. Haugberg, Knobs, Andy Dolan, Jack Nelson, Chris Bradford, Abracadabra Audio, anyone who likes this pedal as much as I do, the readers of Best Guitar Effects, and everyone who’s doing the Great Work and making awesome things happen.

Cheers,

Gabriel

Top 17 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Winter NAMM 2017

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Best-New-Guitar-Effects-Pedals-Winter-NAMM-2017-05

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Cheers,

Gabriel

 

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

Top 15 Best “Pedals of the Year” 2016

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While we frequently update lists of the best guitar pedals (fuzz pedals, delay pedals, reverb pedals, etc.) and even keep an updated list of the best guitar pedals currently available, we haven’t previously done a “Pedal of the Year” award or anything like that. Gonna do something like that, only better….

We’re rounding up the Top 15 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of the Year 2016.

What prompted this article was a bit surprising. It reminds me of when we first launched the “Top Fuzz Pedals” roundup. A rad pedal caught my attention: the Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh. Discovering that pedal made me want to round up the best fuzz pedals on market and create a definitive “best of” list. These lists are always a work in progress as new pedals are always being released; there’s a lot to keep up with. But similar to our static Best Pedals of NAMM articles, we’re going to look back at the year 2016 and showcase the best pedals released during the year.

Of all the great pedals that arrived in 2016 (and there were plenty!), it was the Hologram Electronics Dream Sequence that surprised me the most. I got word of this pedal in January before The NAMM Show 2016. I was intrigued but skeptical of this debut offering from an unknown pedal builder, but the Dream Sequence certainly seemed like a promising pedal concept. When I finally got to spend of time with it near the end of 2016, it exceeded my expectations in a big way for being one of the few new guitar pedals to come out this year that points in exciting new musical directions. The Dream Sequence solidified Hologram Electronics as a builder to keep an eye on in 2017 and beyond.

This list is going to focus on pedals that are exceptional in many different ways, and each of these commendable pedals are a “Pedal of the Year” for making it into this list. But instead of trying to compare all the different factors possible for ranking them (tones, versatility, etc.), the ordering listed below focuses on pedals that inspire new approaches to making music with guitar. As the pedal market and media outlets become cluttered with “me too” releases and pedals that retread the same ground to death, Best Guitar Effects will make further efforts in this list and in our coverage in 2017 to focus on innovation as the most important criteria for judging the merits of new guitar pedals.

If you’re looking for new effects to take your guitar playing into new realms of creativity, surely some of these pedals will be worth further consideration.

Here are the Top 15 Pedals of the Year 2016!

 

Hologram Electronics Dream Sequence

Builder: Hologram Electronics, Pedal: Dream SequenceEffect Type: Pitch-Shifter/Octave Pedal

The Hologram Electronics Dream Sequence is one of the more exciting guitar pedals to be released in the past several years and probably the most exciting debut pedal since the Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl. While the Dream Sequence is a bit hard to categorize, it’s essentially a digital octave pedal that lets you sequence the octaves heard. It lets you blend your dry signal with 3 digital voices: octave down, middle octave (same as dry tone), & octave up.

Now there are plenty of octave pedals out there, but what makes the Dream Sequence so unique is that you can create and store presets that contain dynamic volume automation patterns for each digital octave voice. Imagine having a tremolo on each octave, but the movement can be any kind of rhythmic or polyrhythmic sequence you can come up with over 4 bars. You can even automate the various knob parameters to be saved with your presets. 12 onboard Factory presets give you a taste of the kinds of extreme pitch-shifting automation the Dream Sequence has in store for the lucid guitarists who awaken to its surrealism.

Now before you’re led on too much, it’s important to understand how you create the octave automation patterns. You create sequences of MIDI information using an external MIDI sequencer or DAW (digital audio workstation). Ableton Live works great, but Logic or any other DAW with MIDI works, too. If you’re going the DAW route, you’ll also need either a MIDI interface (you can find a cheap one for about $35) or dedicated audio interface with MIDI output.

I’ve written extensively about using Ableton Live with Guitar, and the Dream Sequence seems like it was made for this. While I prefer to run an automated effects rig and have used the Electro Harmonix HOG2 for similar functionality, only the Dream Sequence allows you to save patterns to the pedal for standalone use. You can create patterns in an Ableton Live set file, save them to the pedal, and still have a backup file of your favorite sounds for editing later. If you’re automating your rig like I do, you can just send the MIDI sequencing to the pedal in real-time and create extended automation for your music. For very complex automation patterns (or if you’re sending MIDI to other pedals, also, saving and recalling your sequenced patterns from the pedal may be ideal.

This pedal is a dream come true, and if it’s any sign of what’s to come, you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on Hologram Electronics.

 

Strymon Riverside Multistage Drive

Builder: Strymon, Pedal: Riverside, Effect Type: Overdrive/Distortion Pedal

The Strymon Riverside is a late pedal release for 2016, but there’s no doubt it’s one of the year’s very best. As an all-in-one overdrive & distortion pedal that combines analog and digital wizardry into an all-new beast, this pedal is far too versatile to pigeon-hole as a simple dirt pedal as it covers an incredibly wide range of tones from mild, responsive overdrives to heavily saturated, amp-like distortion. While these sound like “buzz” words we’ve all heard again and again, it’s when you put the Riverside next to your preferred dirt of choice that you realize just how supremely versatile it is. It wasn’t meant to emulate a particular amp, overdrive, or distortion sound; it was engineered to surpass the range of usable tones found in any single drive pedal that came before it.

The Riverside is a simple enough pedal to use; anyone familiar with their amp’s control panel will know what to do here. In addition to the 5 amp-style parameter controls you’ll notice a couple switches. The Gain switch’s 2 settings – High & Low – completely transform the pedal into 2 different styles of dirt. The Gain switch along with the Drive knob are used to access a wide range of drive tones; the character and response varies depending on where the knob is set. While Strymon hasn’t gone into great detail about the magic taking place to achieve these varying tones, it’s at least obvious that the magic happening in the digital realm allows greater flexibility in articulating how the pedal responds at different knob settings. There’s an incredibly smooth range of sweet-spot tonality throughout the Drive knob’s range. It also cleans up remarkably well with your guitar’s volume knob; the pedal varies its response to your audio input level to retain musical dynamics. The Push switch gives you an aggressive kick in the mid-range and further adds to the great sounds available.

The Favorite switch gives you quick access to a preset sound. Use it for a boost setting or have a whole different sound available for quick recall. I’m a fan of the built in gate, a sub parameter that’s great for neutralizing noise with higher gain settings.

On a side note, big kudos to Strymon for implementing a smart relay bypass so that the pedal remembers its last bypass state when powering up. This is super handy when using an effects switcher as the Riverside will always remember to power on (like 3PDT pedals) when powering up your pedalboard at a gig. If there was just some kind of MIDI implementation for accessing more of the great sounds or at least the possibility of using a TRS dual foot-switch controller for remotely accessing both of the onboard foot-switch functions. Aside from all that, the tones are flawless and far ahead of the curve compared to digital drive pedals of the past.

 

WMD Protostar

Builder: WMD, Pedal: Protostar, Effect Type: Analog Filter Pedal

Here’s a long anticipated pedal that finally dropped in 2016. When the WMD Protostar was first unveiled back at Winter NAMM 2015, it was shown under the moniker Super Fatman, the latest successor to WMD’s earlier Fatman and Super Fatman analog filter pedals. The new (and way cooler) name arrived when the Protostar was shown at Winter NAMM 2016 before its release a few months after.

The Protostar is a big deal for a several reasons. First off, it’s an incredibly deep analog filter pedal that would be at home in a Eurorack modular synthesizer rig. And in keeping with its modular roots (while taking the modular aspect of guitar pedals to the next level), the Protostar has a 9 jack CV patch-bay for connecting to other CV pedals or integrating into a hybrid pedal/eurorack setup.

The Protostar offers a potentially overwhelming amount of possibilities at first glance. At the very least you can use it as an envelope filter to get those funky, quacky auto-wah effects. Or maybe try using the envelope to control other pedals via their CV or expression pedal inputs? What about adding another pedal into the Protostar’s effects loop? How about sending that LFO to control another pedal? Maybe control the Protostar’s LFO from a different pedal? This pedal does things you’ve never fathomed until you start plugging things in and experimenting with it.

Now, if the inevitable WMD Geiger Counter Pro will finally come out already. Maybe after Winter NAMM 2017.

 

Electro Harmonix Mel9

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Builder: EHX, Pedal: Mel9, Effect Type: Mellotron Emulator/Guitar Synth Pedal

I’ve sung the praises of the Electro Harmonix HOG2 & EHX POG2 countless times. Now EHX’s innovative polyphonic guitar synthesizer technology is on prime display in the Mel9, a guitar synth pedal that mimics some of the most popular sounds of the iconic Mellotron keyboard instrument.

Sporting a similar footprint and layout as Electro Harmonix’s other “9 series” pedals (B9, C9, Key9), the Mel9 gives you 9 presets that create sounds far removed from your typical electric guitar tones. It’ll take you from The Court of the Crimson King to Strawberry Fields Forever and even sing you the Moody Blues. Some standout modes include the first several presets: Orchestra, Cello, Strings, & Flute. But all of the presets offer an interesting range of unique textures to add to your music that you’ll only find in this pedal.

Attack & Sustain knobs set the response of the wet voicing, letting you adjust how quickly the synth textures ascend to maximum amplitude and decay after a note or chord is silenced. Dry & Effect levels let you set a perfect balance between your guitar sound and the effected signal, respectively. The Effect & Dry outputs let you sum the wet & dry signals to one output (used in a standard mono effects chain) or send the two signals to separate destinations for individual processing. I highly recommend getting creative with signal processing on your wet & dry voices.

The most adventurous guitarists use guitar effects pedals to transcend the range of sounds that can be produced by a guitar and amp alone, and the Mel9 offers a palette that will surely inspire. I’ve got nothing but love for guitarists who just stick with just a guitar and amp (although they’re probably not reading this anyway), but those of you who love effects are either imagining the soundscapes you’ll create with this pedal or have already added the Mel9 on your pedalboard.

 

Source Audio Nemesis

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Builder: Source Audio, Pedal: Nemesis, Effect Type: Delay Pedal

I had my eyes on the Source Audio Nemesis for the longest time. The company had shown this pedal at Winter NAMM 2015, Summer NAMM 2015, & Winter NAMM 2016 before it finally hit store shelves this past Spring. The Nemesis was well worth the wait, and it quickly became regarded as one of the best delay pedals among the many guitarists who’ve added it to their pedalboards.

It’s not even fair to make the Strymon, Eventide, & Boss references anymore as the Nemesis has shown that Source Audio stands on their own in terms of achieving an exceptional and diverse set of delay algorithms that are among the best you’ll find in any pedal. Still, the most noteworthy aspect of the Nemesis is that for a multi-algorithm delay pedal filled with so many great sounds, it forgoes any clumsy menus in favor of tactile, hands-on control. The convenient interface and compact size make this a stellar delay pedal for cramped pedalboards or smaller travel boards.

All the expected “big gun” features are here: 12 onboard delay types, MIDI functionality, presets, tap tempo, stereo I/O. I really like the optional effects loop. If you’re running a mono rig, this’ll let you add other effects to your delays.

If you do need more control, you can dive into Source Audio’s Neuro App for deeper editing. You can create and store presets and access 12+ other delay algorithms which you can “burn” onto the onboard types if there’s something you’d like to replace. You’ve gotta hear that Double Helix engine – wild sounds! And if you already love the Nemesis and want more, there’s apparently a Source Audio reverb pedal coming soon!

 

Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall

Builder: Chase Bliss Audio, Pedal: Tonal Recall, Effect Type: Analog Delay

Okay, I knew this pedal was going to be good. You knew this pedal was going to be good. It’s good, really good. Better than good. The Tonal Recall is epicness in pedal form.

The Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall is the most notable recent analog delay pedal that utilizes the reissued Xvive MN3005 bucket brigade chips, inspired by the ones used in the most sought after vintage EHX Deluxe Memory Man & Boss DM-2 pedals. Rather than just attempt to emulate (recall?) the sounds of those classic analog delay pedals, the Tonal Recall nods to these icons of tone while exceeding the usability of the older generation of analog delay pedals in nearly every conceivable way.

The Tonal Recall sports a smaller footprint than your typical tap tempo analog delay pedal with a built in tap foot-switch. It gives you a host of tap divisions, short & long delay times, and an interesting “both” mode that utilizes both BBD chips for a weird “BBD Reverb” style ambience. You can also save & recall presets and utilize MIDI for parameter control and external control of most functions. Chase Bliss Audio’s unique “Ramping” is on great display here as you can modulate various parameters for interesting delay movement.

The biggest draws for me are probably the Tone control and the low noise floor of the pedal. The Tonal Recall offers a wider range of tones than any vintage unit, from reasonably bright to very dark, and is quieter than those once great designs. “Purists” may still argue in favor of the dusty old pedal they paid more for on the secondhand market, but there’s no denying that the Tonal Recall is a landmark release of the modern guitar pedal era and one of the best delay pedals available today.

 

Empress Effects Reverb

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Builder: Empress Effects, Pedal: Reverb, Effect Type: Reverb Pedal

When I first heard the Empress Effects Reverb back at Winter NAMM 2016, I knew it was going to be something special. The big draw of this multi-algorithm reverb powerhouse is that its 12 selectable reverb types contain way more reverb algorithms you’d guess at a passing glance. There are currently over two dozen reverb modes available with more being voting on in the Empress Reverb New Features Voting Forum. Essentially, this lets you, the reverb loving end-user help design and create the sounds to come from the Empress Reverb in the future. In addition to reverb, forum voters and Empress have been collaborating on an upcoming Looper function that should add even more versatility to this unique pedal.

Back to the features at hand, everything you’d expect from stereo I/O to presets (35 total) are here. There’s even cab filtering for running the pedal without an amp, optional expression pedal control, and even MIDI functionality when used with the Empress Midibox.

As far as the sounds go, the Empress Reverb really shines with its otherworldly offerings. The Ghost mode is a very cool take on a resonant reverb. The forum voted “Destroyer” reverb is a cool pitch-shifting/bit-crusher ‘verb. This pedal has perhaps my favorite gated reverb. The Sparkle bank now has a +1/-1 octave shimmer ‘verb (“Glummer”), also forum voted. There are many creative alternatives here to just simply creating a space for your guitar to sit in.

 

TC Electronic Sub’N’Up

Builder: TC Electronic, Pedal: Sub’N’Up, Effect Type: Octaver/Modulation

As far as simple octave pedals go, the TC Electronic Sub’N’Up is one of the best I’ve ever played. And as far as polyphonic octave pedals so, it’s also right up there with the best I’ve ever played. Tracking is impeccable. Latency is non-existent. It sounds beautiful. But that’s just scratching the surface.

While the Poly & Classic modes give you a taste of the clean polyphonic tracking and grittier octaver sounds the Sub’N’Up is capable of, the TonePrint mode teases other possibilities with its mesmerizing organ-like modulated octaves.

Digging in with the TonePrint Editor lets you sculpt incredibly deep sounds flavored with modulation and saturation. You can even tweak the EQ of the various voicings for deep and articulate octave sounds. If you love octaves, you must try this pedal; it goes far beyond any other compact octave pedal in terms of the amount of great sounds it’s capable of.

Now if TC would just release a Sub’N’Up X2 version with more onboard TonePrints, an Up 2 voice, and exp control (& MIDI while we’re at it), you’d have a contender for the best octave pedal ever made. The Sub’N’Up surpassed my expectations in a big way thanks to a sound quality that’s far beyond its measly asking price.

 

Neunaber Immerse Reverberator

Builder: Neunaber, Pedal: Immerse, Effect Type: Reverb

Let me just say that Neunaber makes arguably the best sounding shimmer reverb algorithms available in a compact stompbox enclosure. The Neunaber Expanse series was notable for their many cutting edge algorithms (The “Wet” reverb is another winner). The Expanse pedals could be configured to any other single algorithm with Neunaber’s Expanse software. The Neunaber Immerse foregoes this software connectivity in favor of providing an onboard Effect Select knob that gives you quick access to 8 different reverb settings. The sounds include Wet, Hall, Plate, Spring, Shimmer A & B, +Echo, and + Detune. The sounds are all impeccable with a breathtaking sonic detail that exudes quality much greater than its compact size.

Yes, you can run this pedal in a mono guitar rig and get stunning reverb sounds, but the Immerse sounds majestic in stereo and must be heard. The I/O jacks are fully independent, letting you feed the pedal a mono signal, a stereo input on input jacks 1 & 2, or a stereo TRS signal via input 2. Likewise, you can sum the output to mono via output 1, or output stereo via both outputs or a stereo TRS cable on output 2.

Additional useful features include a Trails switch for reverb spillover and a Kill Dry Switch for outputting only a wet reverb signal. While Neunaber pedals typically had a 3-knob layout for dead simple ease of use, I greatly appreciate the extra parameter knob found in the Immerse. Dedicated Tone and setting-specific controls are a nice touch. Some guitarists will lament the loss of presets via the ExP Controller which isn’t compatible with the Immerse. While I also mourn the exclusion of presets, the ease of use the Immerse offers particularly if you just need one great reverb sound is hard to contend with in a pedal this size. And yes, MIDI compatible version with recallable presets would be amazing.

 

EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run

Builder: EarthQuaker Devices, Pedal: Avalanche Run, Effect Type: Reverb/Delay Pedal

EarthQuaker Devices has a long history of releasing pedals that span the bounds of pretty much any notable effect type you could think of. Sometimes they merge different effects to create new hybrid effects. The Dispatch Master is a classic example of this approach, combining delay & reverb in a single, simple to use pedal. The EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run is the builder’s boldest release yet, born from a new high-powered DSP platform that’s a harbinger of the sonic adventures EQD will take us on in the future.

The Delay section has 3 modes: Normal, Reverse, & Swell. Normal is your standard delay. Reverse does it backwards. Swell lets your picking dynamics influence the amplitude of your audio signal as you play for a lush, atmospheric ambience.

There’s a slew of Tap Tempo Ratio options and a dedicated onboard Tap foot-switch. An EXP knob lets you assign parameters for expression pedal control. Try using Reverse mode with exp pedal control of Normal/Reverse. This lets you retain the Tap oscillation when pressing & holding the Tap foot-swich. It sounds truly epic.

The Avalanched Run is one of the “shoegaziest” pedals around and arguably the best EarthQuaker Devices pedal released to date.

 

Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive Deluxe

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Builder: Mad Professor, Pedal: SHOD DLX, Effect Type: Overdrive Pedal

The Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive Deluxe was the most unexpected surprise of 2016 for me. “But isn’t it just an overdrive pedal? Well, yes, and that’s kind of the point. I don’t often get excited about overdrive pedals. Frankly, there are just too many overdrives out there, and relatively few offer something that stands out among the heap. But among relatively simple medium gain drives, this one impressed me.

The SHOD DLX forgoes a generic tone knob in favor of dedicated Bass & Treble controls. They’ve been cleverly implemented by Mad Professor with the Bass being pre-distortion to shape your tone going into the clipping section; the Treble comes after the dirt to shape your high-end and round off any harshness, useful with higher gain settings and/or brighter single coil pickups. While many overdrives promise to add an extra channel to your amp, this is one of the best pedals I’ve played for exactly that purpose. It excels at taking a clean amp into crunch territory or a crunch channel into a ripping lead. Insert your own reference to the tones being sweet as honey.

The Focus knob is perhaps the star here as it changes the character and response of the pedal significantly. Lower Focus settings are warmer and less distorted. Pushing the knob to higher settings invokes a hotter sound with a slightly more aggressive treble bite. These sounds are relative and highly interactive with your guitar and amp. This makes the Focus knob more essential as you can tweak it for an excellent response with humbuckers or single coils.

While the Sweet Honey Overdrive Deluxe does fall into that category of medium gain overdrive pedals, it’s noticeably more versatile than most one-trick-pony drive pedals. With the Drive turned down and the other knobs dialed in just right, you’ll notice that it’s surprisingly transparent (as worn out as that word is when trying to describe tonally neutral drive pedals). If you’re the kind of guitarist that uses 3 (or more) overdrive pedals to cover all bases, well, add this to your list of must-try pedals. The Sweet Honey Overdrive Deluxe is definitely worth checking out and just might make you replace one of your lesser overdrive pedals.

 

Keeley Electronics Dark Side & Loomer

Builder: Keeley Electronics, Pedals: Dark Side/Loomer, Effect Types: Fuzz/Delay/Reverb/Modulation

Keeley Electronics had a big hit with their Monterey Fuzz/Vibe/Wah Workstation. The Jimi Hendrix inspired tribute pedal apparently inspired another famed guitarist tribute that nods to David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Deriving its name from the iconic Floyd record, Dark Side of the Moon, the Keeley Electronics Dark Side combines a muff inspired fuzz with some of the other classic effects Mr. Gilmour notably used in his career.

The Fuzz side has a killer Muff section. In addition to the expected 3-knob controls, a 3-position flip-switch provides options for Scoop, Full, & Flat for defining your response.

The Mod side gives you an excellent multi-head delay with the 12 head patterns of a certain legendary echo machine. If that isn’t enough to sell most guitarists (and it’s all I thought I’d need), there’s also 4 modulation effects (phase, u-vibe, flange, rotary), any of which can be selected instead of delay. You’ll noticed that the flip-switch groups Phase & U-Vibe on the right and Flange & Rotary on the left. The Blend knob is used to select which of the 2 effects you’re using, but you can adjust the blend to create a hybrid sound between the 2 effects. For example, you can create a unique phaser/vibe sound which sounds very cool considering those 2 effects have similar origins.

If the Dark Side wasn’t enough, Keeley snuck out another guitarist inspired workstation pedal, the Loomer, inspired by Kevin Shields’ guitar work with My Bloody Valentine. The Loomer takes that same great fuzz from the Dark Side and pairs it with 3 reverb modes to get characteristically “shoegaze” sounds. It’s hard to pick a favorite of the two as they’ll both appeal to fuzz lovers and fans of the guitar heroes they were inspired by.

Dark Side V2 & Loomer V2: It’s important to note that these pedals originally launched with a TRS I/O jack that was later replaced with an order switch. The TRS option allowed you to patch the fuzz before an amp while routing the Mod effect to the effects loop or elsewhere in your signal chain. The V2s’ Order switch allows “on-the-fly” position reversal between the Fuzz and the various Mod effects. This is particularly beneficial with the Loomer as it allows you to experiment with “reverb before fuzz” sounds without having to re-cable your guitar rig. This is certainly a fun and welcome change that casual pedal enthusiasts will appreciate.

 

DryBell Vibe Machine V-2

Builder: DryBell, Pedal: Vibe Machine V-2, Effect Type: Vibe Pedal

This is one is short and easy. DryBell took what was arguably the world’s best compact vibe pedal (the Vibe Machine V-1) and made it better. The Vibe Machine V-2 has a few subtle but essential improvements. The new Custom setting on the impedance switch adds a 3rd option to accompany the Bright & Original settings carried over from the V-1. The Original is dark like the old Shin-Ei Uni Vibe. The Bright setting gives you a more modern sound. The Custom setting is user adjustable to any setting within the range of the other two settings. Use this mode for a setting that’s perfectly suited to your “A” guitar. You can use the other 2 settings when they’re a better fit for your “other” guitar(s).

Perhaps the best surprise is that the V-2 offers tap tempo. You might have a standard single stomp foot-switch hanging around. If not, pick up a DryBell F-1L; it has a snazzy matching paint job, too. Plug it in to unlock tap tempo (or slow/fast ramping!). DryBell provides more info about this and the host of other features on their website.

Still hoping to see DryBell’s take on another effect type. In the meantime the Croatian builder’s pursuit of the ultimate compact vibe pedal has yielded an improvement that elevates the Vibe Machine to greater heights.

 

Dwarfcraft Devices Happiness

Builder: Dwarfcraft Devices, Pedal: Happiness, Effect Type: Analog Filter

Okay, okay, I’ve gotta sneak in one more. The Dwarfcraft Happiness is just too cool. In the mold of the crafty builder’s Twin Stags dual tremolo pedal, the Happiness is a filter pedal that has high pass, low pass, and band pass modes. While you generally use the effect with the pedal’s own internal LFO (modified with the Depth & Shape knobs, LFO speed controlled by Rate), I really like being able to manually control the FREQ parameter with an expression pedal. You can take a low pass filter from fully open in the toe down position through a darkening of your sound to silence at the heel position. My one gripe is that the Filter CV In doesn’t seem to share the same full sweep range achieved from the Filter XP Input. Still, a big draw of the Happiness is the CV I/O routing as you can connect the Happiness to your modular synth rig or other CV pedals like the Twin Stags or WMD Protostar. Input a synced LFO from another source or route the Happiness’ LFO to another destination.

Two other cool things worth mentioning. Crank the Rez (with the Master set very low!), and you can create crazy drones and squeals from the pedal itself to fuel your noise rock freak outs. And flip the Scramble switch and use the Speed knob to control the speed of a “sample and hold” style filter shifting. Dwarfcraft has a cool thing going with their CV lineup, and I hope we see more.

Hope you enjoyed our Top 15 Pedals of the Year 2016 roundup. Just might have to do this again if Winter NAMM 2017 is any indication of how good a year 2017 is going to be for guitar pedals.

 

Check out the Top 17 Best Pedals of Winter NAMM 2017!

Top 10 Best EarthQuaker Devices Pedals

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Welcome to our roundup of the Top 10 Best EarthQuaker Devices Pedals!

I’ve been wanting to do builder roundups for a while on Best Guitar Effects, and it’s finally happening! We’re featuring EarthQuaker Devices for our first one. It may or may not become a regular thing. We’ll see. But what you really might be wondering is…

 

Why Start With EarthQuaker Devices?

You could simply assess the merits of a company’s products based on features and how well they meet your needs. But if you look deeper as a responsible modern consumer, it’s becoming increasingly important to look at the people behind companies & products and understand the values and practices of the businesses you buy from. I’ll spare you the long argument about why value isn’t only about price and convenience, but the people behind EarthQuaker Devices were just as inspiring as their guitar pedals in choosing to showcase this builder in a dedicated “best pedals” list.

 

A Different Kind Of Builder

Among the handful of modern boutique builders that have an expansive lineup of great guitar pedals, EarthQuaker Devices is unique not only for their eclectic range of rad stompboxes but as a forward thinking company that fosters a community environment among their customers, fans, employees, and fellow pedal builders that’s more akin to the bonds of family than a business. From proudly celebrating EarthQuaker Day in their hometown of Akron, Ohio, to welcoming rival pedal companies to their Pedal Builders Summit events during The NAMM Show, EarthQuaker Devices has long displayed a reputation for inclusion, respect for diversity, and cooperation before competition with other builders.

EarthQuaker Devices is a role model example of a company with values, yet they don’t really seem to make a big deal about who they are which makes what they represent all the more genuine. Rather than step on other small builders on their way to success, EarthQuaker Devices have shown on more than one occasion that they won’t hesitate to reach out to another builder during a time of need or tragic loss. Their consideration for their peers and efforts to raise up others reveals a comradery and compassion that you’ll rarely find in any industry. I’d even go as far as saying that EQD founders and husband & wife duo, Jamie Stillman & Julie Robbins, are like the symbolic parental figures of the modern pedal industry. Sounds corny, but I’m serious. And I’m probably not the only industry observer who would agree with these sentiments. I wholeheartedly believe that the EQD family are more than deserving of the respect and admiration they’ve earned from their peers, fans, and the industry as a whole.

If you’re unfamiliar with the people behind this company, here’s a great EarthQuaker Devices // mini movie from Knobs Demos that provides a glimpse into their world and the team behind the pedals.

 

A Different Kind Of Device

EarthQuaker Devices is an outlier builder in the pedal world. From that now unmistakeable font and those quirky graphics to the sometimes traditional, sometimes unheard of sounds contained within, each attractively styled and sonically adventurous EQD pedal belies wondrous sights and sounds to behold.

Their pedals aren’t necessarily for everyone and many of their noteworthy releases induce polarized opinions among guitarists. But the emotive responses to their pedals are a sign of EarthQuaker Devices’ bold, risk-taking attitude and the fact that they must be doing something right to have won over so many fans with their fearless designs. If you like an EQD pedal, chances are you really love it.

I really appreciate that EarthQuaker Devices has taken some hard-to-find circuits and revamped/re-released them for the masses. Pedals like the Terminal fuzz (modeled after Jamie’s JAX fuzz), Fuzz Master General (EQD’s take on the vintage Ace Tone Fuzz Master FM-2 Professional fuzz), and Spires (green channel inspired by the Rosac Electronic Nu-Fuzz) give modern guitarists access to fuzz sounds that would have remained hard to find or long forgotten if it were not for EarthQuaker Devices reviving these sounds. Even if EarthQuaker Devices releases a re-interpretation of a somewhat more common circuit (like the DOD OD-250 inspired Gray Channel or Tube Screamer relative, the Palisades), they’re up front about these pedals’ backstories and origins of inspiration. I wish this went without saying, but EarthQuaker Devices displays an honesty and integrity in this regard that some successful builders of dubious reputation should take note of.

I don’t have issues with pedals made overseas. And I don’t have a strong opinion about whether using surface-mount technology is any better or worse than hand-soldered, through-hole design. It’s all circumstantial. But I do think it’s commendable that while businesses always find ways to lower costs through less expensive production and assembly methods, EarthQuaker Devices still places focus on their pedals being hand-assembled and mostly hand-soldered in Akron, Ohio. Until the day everything is made by robots and we’re all receiving universal basic income, you’ve gotta give EQD props for employing folks while maintaining quality production standards. But again, this seems more like the byproduct of a company being genuinely aware of their place in a community rather than an attempt to make a show out of their products’ “Made In USA” origins.

EarthQuaker Devices has always had a reputation for doing their own thing and basically giving the finger to people’s expectations. Even I have a love/hate relationship with some of their design choices. The most recent issue I’ve taken with EQD is the most glaring: the company’s switch to “lazy relay bypass” for all 2016 pedal releases. This is a deal-breaker for me, and I won’t use any such pedals in my live rig or recommend them to other guitarists who use effects switchers. This only affects a small amount of musicians, most notably those of us using effects switchers and/or a rack rig and who don’t want the extra pre-show checklist item of remembering to activate lazy relay bypass pedals. (Forgetting to activate those one or two lazy relay pedals can be a nightmare when you’re in the middle of a song, hit the switcher or trigger it remotely, and your pedal is still bypassed. Why EQD, Why!?) I was obviously heartbroken when I realized EQD went this route, essentially preventing me from considering their new pedals for my personal use (that’s why this list is being published nearly a year after I first thought about writing it… much sadness), but for this list I’ll present pedals based on sounds and usability for guitarists who don’t use effects switchers. (On a side note, your pal Gabe talked to about a dozen companies at Summer NAMM 2016 to present the merits of “smart relay bypass”; the majority of builders seem understanding of its virtues.)

tl;dr …EQD rocks. You get it. That’s why you’re here, right? So let’s get to it!

Here are the Top 10 Best EarthQuaker Devices Pedals!

 

1. Avalanche Run

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Avalanche Run, Effect Type: Delay/Reverb

The Avalanche Run is one of the builder’s newer pedals and arguably the best EarthQuaker Devices pedal released to date. It combines delay & reverb in a dual-foot-switch enclosure, expanding the concept of their classic Dispatch Master with tap tempo and other surprises.

The Avalanche Run gives you 3 delay modes: Normal, Reverse, & Swell. Normal is the pedal’s regular delay mode. Reverse plays back the delay line in reverse. Swell responds to your picking dynamics to increase the volume of the entire signal path as you play. In addition to Time, Repeats, & Mix, there’s a Tone control for rolling offer either the highs or lows or setting a flat response.

In all 3 delay modes you have access to a pleasant reverb that that’s accessible via its own dedicated Decay & Mix knobs. (In Swell mode, the reverb’s Mix knob controls the length of the swell.) The reverb is what really pushes the Avalanche Run over the top as one of the best end-of-signal-chain pedals that’s also easy to use.

There are some handy auxiliary features. There’s a dedicated Ratio knob that lets you choose from 6 different tap division settings including quarter note, dotted 8th, quarter note triplet, 8th note, 8th note triplet, & 16th note. That should nearly any guitarist’s tap tempo division requirements. You can also press and hold the Tap foot-switch in Normal or Swell mode to induce oscillation; in Reverse mode this will switch between backwards to forwards delays while the foot-switch is held. There’s also a dedicated Exp knob that lets you set expression pedal control over any parameter (minus Tone) or toggle from Normal to Reverse delay mode. The last option is very useful as it lets you switch modes and regain access to Tap foot-switch oscillation while in Reverse mode.

This pedal is extra special in that it utilizes EarthQuaker Devices’ new proprietary DSP platform. This is an interesting sign things to come as this builder is known for their sometimes outlandish effects, and this new found power will surely yield some interesting new surprises in the years to come.

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2. Palisades

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Palisades, Effect Type: Overdrive

When is a Tube Screamer not a Tube Screamer? When it’s the EarthQuaker Devices Palisades. EQD surveyed the land of TS808 inspired overdrive pedals and took notes Then they shredded them and rebuilt the a pedal from the ground up that took the iconic style of overdrive into all new territory.

The Palisades gives you 6 different clipping options via the Voice knob: No Diodes, LED clipping, MOSFET clipping, Asymmetrical Silicon clipping, Symmetrical clipping, & Schottky Diode clipping. This produces a range of ways to set the response of this super versatile overdrive pedal to your liking.

The other very unique feature of the Palisades is its Bandwidth knob. This sets the overall frequency response of the pedal and can produce thin and brittle tones or make your guitar sound really thick and heavy. This is the most important knob for dialing in your overall sound.

In addition to the pedal’s Volume, Tone, & Gain A knobs, there’s a foot-switchable 2nd channel with its own Gain B knob, and a foot-switchable Boost function with a dedicated knob as well. Rounding it all out is a Normal/Bright switch and an optional Buffer switch. If you’re looking for a gnarly rock ‘n roll overdrive machine, the Palisades kicks ass. If you think the Palisades looks awesome but want something a bit smaller, try the shrunken down EarthQuaker Devices Dunes.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Palisades review.

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3. Afterneath

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Afterneath, Effect Type: Reverb

The EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath is another hybrid pedal featuring delay and reverb, but it’s more of an infernal reverb from the underworld with a glitchy little multi-tap delay on the front. The Drag knob adjusts the spacing between the delay taps and warps the pitch of the reverb if you turn the knob while sound is decaying. The Diffuse knob smears the delayed taps for a less obvious delay sound. The Reflect & Length increase reflections and extend the reverb decay, respectively, working together to form the Afterneath’s cavernous ambience. The Dampen knobs adjusts the tonal character, and the Mix dials in the amount of reverb in the mix.

The Afterneath was an instant classic when it was released, and likely rank among the very best EarthQuaker Devices until they somehow improve upon it. I’m still crossing my fingers that EQD one day solves the supposedly impossible feat of making the Drag knob expression pedal controllable.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath review.

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4. Bit Commander

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Bit Commander, Effect Type: Analog Octave/Guitar Synthesizer

The EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander is an unmistakeable pedal. If you ever hear someone kick this thing on out of nowhere, you’ll always notice that this pedal commands attention. Jamie stumbled upon created this awesome analog guitar synthesizer while testing out possibilities while working towards the Organizer. I’m glad this deviation happened, as the Bit Commander simply rocks.

It gives you separate level controls for an octave down (Down 1) and a -2 octave sub voice (Sub). Bringing in these massive low-end tones unleashes what you might say is the company’s signature “EarthQuaking Device”.

The Up 1 knob brings in a ripping analog octave up, similar to what you’ll find in EQD’s Hoof Reaper and Tentacle pedals. You can also use it by itself or with the Base (a squared version of your dry tone) for awesome drive and splatty tones that stack very well with other pedals. Seriously, it’s awesome and adds extra versatility when you’re not using it for monophonic sub synth tones.

Also, the Bit Commander is my personal favorite EarthQuaker Devices pedal if that means anything to you. ;)

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander review.

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5. Rainbow Machine

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Rainbow Machine, Effect Type: Pitch-Shifter/Modulation

The EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine is the release that solidified EQD’s reputation as a builder of weird and crazy pedals. It’s a pitch-shifting modulation machine that takes your guitar to bizarre, kaleidoscopic realms inhabited by clockwork elves. The Pitch knob sets the amount of shift from a 4th down to a 3rd up. The Primary & Secondary knobs dial in the level of the pitch shifted signal and its additional octave up or down voicing. The Tracking knob delays the pitch shift and is particularly interactive with the Magic knob when that function is activated via the Magic foot-switch. You can induce dizzying, spiraling fractal ascents with pitch shifts above the root sound or fall into a rabbit hole of vertigo when detuning the pitch shift. Trippy as hell. Not for everyone. But the Rainbow Machine is definitely one of the best EarthQuaker Devices pedals for psychonautic guitarists who swallow the pink pill.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine review.

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6. Hoof Reaper

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Hoof Reaper, Effect Type: Fuzz

The Hoof is the original EarthQuaker Device, a fuzz pedal based on the classic green Russian Big Muff. The Tone Reaper is EQD’s take on the classic 3-knob Tone Bender. Put ’em together, throw in a killer octave up, and you’ve got the EarthQuaker Devices Hoof Reaper.

This pedal is a gnarly beast of fuzz awesomeness. It’s hard to go wrong with 3 styles of vintage fuzz goodness, but EQD pulled off the Hoof Reaper exceptionally well. You can use the 3 circuits individually or in combination for a wide range of fuzz sounds. The order of the effects is preset to Octave → Tone Reaper → Hoof which is arguably the most effective signal flow. This lets you apply the Octave up front when needed or feed the Octave and/or Tone Reaper into the Hoof which can apply final fuzz shaping and EQing. Probably the simplest and most versatile multi circuit fuzz pedal out there.

Also, while the original Hoof Reaper has a germanium flavored Hoof section, there’s also a Cloven Hoof Reaper that uses silicon transistors instead. It’s a matter of personal taste really as both sounds are great.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Hoof Reaper review.

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7. Disaster Transport SR

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Disaster Transport SR, Effect Type: Delay/Reverb/Modulation

The EarthQuaker Devices Disaster Transport SR is a lo-fi dual delay, reverb, and modulation workstation. It gives you two delay lines which you can run in series or parallel. One of the delay lines has optional modulation. The other has optional reverb. Expression pedal control unlocks the Bleed option messing with the series/parallel signal path to juxtapose between interesting rhythmic variations. Its complex signal path may seem like a lot to take in at first, but the Disaster Transport SR rewards guitarists who take a ride on this rollercoaster of interesting sounds and textures. This is possibly your signature delay pedal right here.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Disaster Transport SR review.

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8. Spires

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Spires, Effect Type: Fuzz

The EarthQuaker Devices Spires takes a silicon version of EQD’s discontinued Dream Crusher fuzz and pairs it with their take on the Rosac Electronic Nu-Fuzz, a pedal I would probably never have heard of if Jamie Stillman didn’t reimagine it for this pedal. The Spires is a simple dual fuzz box that’s full of radness.

The Green channel brings in the Nu-Fuzz, a full-on vintage flavored beast with a level (labeled Green) and Tone knobs. The Red channel has its own level control (labeled Red) and a Fuzz knob instead of Tone. The Red side is smoother. The Green side is more aggressive. The Red’s fuzz knob has a useful range of fuzz sounds as you cut back the fuzz, but you can also get similar sounds by cutting back your guitar’s volume knob. The Green channel also cleans up well in this manner, and it’s harshness can be tamed for a warmer, woollier fuzz tone. The Spires is a rockin’ dual fuzz pedal that reveals more versatility when used in conjunction with your guitar and amp settings.

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9. Spatial Delivery

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Spatial Delivery, Effect Type: Envelope Filter/Auto Wah

The EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery is a voltage controlled envelope filter. It’s all about funk filter sweeps and auto-wah. If that’s your bag, you’ve gotta try this pedal. When I first saw it, I speculated that it might be EarthQuaker Devices’ version of the Maestro FSH-1 Filter Sample/Hold, a favorite of Mr. Stillman. But the Spatial Delivery is an original digital creation that to my surprise is incredibly smooth and pleasing to listen to.

In addition to Up Sweep and Down Sweep modes, the Spatial Delivery has a Sample and Hold function for random voltage controlled filtering, the speed of which is set by the Range knob. This reminds me of the random pitch shifting of the Arpanoid and is a lot of fun for making weird sci-fi noises.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery review.

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10. Transmisser

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Transmisser, Effect Type: Reverb

The EarthQuaker Devices Transmisser is “a modulated reverb with extra-long decay fed to a highly resonant filter”. That sums it up nicely in a way that’s easy to understand. This pedal is sort of a variation of the Afterneath… only it’s nothing like the Afterneath really except for being a reverb and having a reverb mangling Warp knob that’s sort of similar to the Afterneath’s Drag control. I’d say that while the Afterneath captures the enclosed sound of a massive subterranean cavern, the Transmisser is a more open reverb that traverses outer space after being blasted through a wormhole.

The big fun here is the Freq knob that sets the frequency of the resonant filter. You can use an expression pedal to manually control it for extra fun. The Rate sets the speed of an always present modulation. The modulation has a slightly jagged feel for an asymmetrical movement. It’s a quirky touch that may or may not appeal to everyone. Just remember that this pedal is for those who like it weird. The Warp knob changes the feel of the entire pedal and essentially gives it a looser, deeper, & warmer sound or a tighter, more focused sound. Decay and Mix set reverb length and wet signal amount, respectively. The Darkness knob is your tone control. It’s a strange pedal from a strange land, ready to team up with the Spatial Delivery for 70’s space prog excursions.

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Runner Up: Gray Channel

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Gray Channel, Effect Type: Overdrive

Screw it. Let’s throw in one more classic inspired pedal to finish the list. The DOD OD-250 Overdrive Preamp in its various iterations is regarded as a classic, hard-clipped dirt pedal. The EarthQuaker Devices Gray Channel is a tribute to the sought after “gray box” version. It expands on the old 2-knob pedal with 2 channels, each having their own Gain and level controls (labeled Green & Red). Each channel also has different clipping options. The Green side gives you Silicon, None, & Germanium; the Red side has LED, None, & FET. This adds up to a well-rounded range of drive tones that’ll take you from your clean sound to mild drive and heavier saturation with one or two stomps.

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That concludes our Top 10 Best EarthQuaker Devices Pedals! Tell us your favorite EQD pedal in the comments!

Top 20 Best Reverb Pedals of 2017

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Welcome to Best Guitar Effects’ long awaited Top 20 Best Reverb Pedals. The purpose of this article is to explain what reverb is, what it’s for, and help you decide if you need a reverb pedal in your guitar effects arsenal. (Spoiler: you probably do.) We’ve also rounded up the 20 best reverb pedals and will provide some insights to help you decide which one is best for you.

 

What Is Reverb?

Reverb is the persistence of a sound after it occurs as it reflects off of surfaces in the environment until its amplitude (audio volume) reaches zero. Think of it as the sound that lingers in the air after it originally occurs. I like to say that Reverb is the sound of space.

 

Do I Need A Reverb Pedal?

Reverb is an essential tool for creating a “space” for your guitar to exist within a mix, live or in the studio. While stereo panning moves your guitar placement on a horizontal field of left and right, reverb creates a sense of depth by moving your guitar closer or further away in a mix. A dry guitar sound will be up close and have an “in your face” presence; adding reverb will create an ambient atmosphere and a sense of your guitar being pushed to the back of the mix.

 

Reverb Vs Delay

A delay pedal produces repeats of your guitar playing. A reverb pedal produces ambient reflections of your guitar playing. These effects are similar in application as they’re both typically used at the end of a signal chain or in an effects loop to create an ambient guitar sound that has more presence in a mix.

 

Using Reverb With Delay

It’s common to use reverb & delay pedals together, typically with delay coming first and being fed into the reverb. This combo will create repeats of your playing while the reverb creates a space for it all. However, interesting results can be achieved by reversing the order to reverb then delay. Try a digital delay pedal after a reverb pedal to delay your reverb trails and extend the reverb decay even further. Or use an analog delay pedal with modulation to add warmth and movement to the reverberated delay trails. You could even place a reverb before a fuzz pedal and bath your guitar in noise. There are no rules, so experiment!

 

Types of Reverb

There are many different types of reverb, each having different applications. These are some of the common reverb types found in guitar pedals.

  • Spring – Spring reverb is created naturally by a mechanical system that uses a transducer and pickup at opposite ends of a spring to create and capture vibrations within the spring. Many guitar amps have included spring reverb, most notably the Fender Twin Reverb, and cumbersome amp-top spring reverb units are also available. There are many reverb pedals offering digital emulations of spring reverb, and a few companies have even released real analog spring reverb pedals.
    Best for: surf/rockabilly tones, vintage amp style reverb, “boingy” sounds
  • Room – Room reverbs are used to simulate the natural sound of an acoustic space, typically a small room. These reverbs generally have short reflections that dissipate quickly. Room reverb can be used as a substitute for a slap-back echo type sound or in conjunction with a slap-back delay to further enhance the effect.
    Best for: short/moderate reverb, slap-back echoes
  • Hall – Hall reverb is used to simulate the kind of reverberation found in large concert halls (not the hallway in your home). Hall reverbs are generally much bigger sounding than room reverbs with more reflections and much longer decay times. You’ll sometimes find variations of hall style reverbs with names like “cathedral”.
    Best for: long/very long decay, complex reflections, large sounding reverb
  • Plate Reverb – Plate reverb units were huge machines that fed audio into large hanging sheets of metal to produce a reverb sound that is more focused than a hall reverb while still capable of very long decay times. The EMT 140, a 600lb monstrosity, is the most famous plate reverb. As plate reverb was primarily a studio effect, engineers could apply a delay before the reverb for a pre-delay effect as well as fine-tuning its frequencies with EQ.
    Best for: short to long reverbs, focused reverb
  • Pitch-Shifted aka Shimmer – Shimmer, or pitch-shifted, reverb effects have become very common in guitar pedals in recent years. These reverbs add harmonies to the reverb for otherworldly sounds. Octave up intervals (1 and/or 2) on the wet guitar signal are commonly used to produce an ethereal, halo-like aura in the upper frequencies of the reverberated signal. Other musical intervals including an octave down are also common.
    Best for: “heavenly” reverbs, unnatural ambience, pitch-shifted reverb
  • Other Types of Reverb – There are many less common types of reverb that are worth mentioning. Reverse Reverb was created in the studio by recording the reverb trails and reversing them so that they lead into the sound source; some pedals create interesting variations of this with simulated reversed trails. A Gated Reverb will silence or reduce the level of the reverb when your guitar’s volume drops below a certain threshold; this creates a bigger sound while you’re playing but doesn’t muddy up the mix with reverb between your playing. Convolution Reverb uses audio samples and complex algorithms to simulate real acoustic spaces. I’m aware of one pedal that’s attempted this (with limited options); there’s certainly room for a pedal builder to innovate here. Other reverbs may add bit-crushing, modulation, delay, and other effects for unique hybrid reverb sounds.

The reverb pedals on this list aren’t necessarily in order from best to worst, but we’ve put a few standout pedals towards the top of the list that are pushing the boundaries of what a dedicated reverb pedal is capable of. Each of the pedals listed will cater to guitarists with different needs, and there should be something here that will be right for you.

Now here are the Top 20 Best Reverb Pedals of 2017!

 

Eventide Space & H9

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Builder: Eventide, Pedals: Space/H9, Reverb Type: Multi

Space… the final frontier… of reverb. We’ve gotta talk about the Eventide Space and give a shoutout to the H9 Harmonizer as well. Everyone knows that Eventide has been in the business for decades making highly regarding rack effects processors. The company made a big splash in the guitar pedal game with their “Factor” series stompboxes. Eventide’s Space evolved from those pedals, expanding the digital display with a huge panel that can show 12 characters, handy when using presets. This pedal also marked a release of such high quality reverb effects that Space may arguably be considered the best pre-H9 pedal from Eventide.

What makes Space such a landmark release? In a word: BlackHole. This algorithm alone be may worth the price of admission for the endless amount of inspiration it brings. It’s a vast wormhole of tone, a hall blasted to infinity. When you’re ready to come back from your voyage to the stars and gaze at them from our terrestrial domain, try the Shimmer algorithm. It’s probably the best I’ve heard, not surprising considering Eventide’s long-held dominance in the pitch-shifting arena with their Harmonizer products. Space’s Reverse reverb is also one of the best of that reverb type I’ve heard, delivering backwards and forwards reverb and delay-like repeats. The Spring algorithm is surprisingly good and has plenty of parameters for constructing a pretty convincing digital spring reverb. The classic Room, Hall, and Plate modes are all great with Plate being a personal favorite. ModEchoVerb combines chorus or flange with reverb and echo; feed it some distortion drenched guitar and go nuts. DualVerb gives you 2 independently controllable reverbs. MangledVerb is an overdriven/distorted reverb with detuning. And TremoloVerb takes a massive reverb and applies tremolo to the trails; plenty of waveform options (and dynamic control!) make this one a lot of fun. DynaVerb applies a model of Eventide’s Omnipressor for an adaptable, dynamically processed reverb with gating qualities.

Space has stereo I/O (and sounds amazing in stereo), an Amp/Line Output Level switch and Guitar/Line Input Level switch, MIDI I/O, Expression Pedal & Aux Switch inputs, a programmable HotSwitch for onboard expression, true analog bypass, 100 presets (nameable with 16 characters), and tap tempo with MIDI Clock Sync/Generate.

The Eventide H9 Harmonizer features all of Space’s algorithms plus the H9 exclusive SpaceTime which combines chorus-like modulation with twin delays based on TimeFactor’s Vintage Delay algorithm and a reverb inspired by Space’s Plate algorithm and Eventide’s UltraReverb native plugin. It sounds awesome, and you’ll find a demo of SpaceTime in our Eventide H9 Review. While Space is still a particularly formidable pedal thanks to its tactile knob control, guitarists who want a diverse array of Eventide’s effects, the SpaceTime algorithm, and the smaller form-factor of the H9 may find that pedal to be an even better fit for their setup.

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Empress Effects Reverb

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Builder: Empress Effects, Pedal: Reverb, Reverb Type: Multi

The Empress Effects Reverb is a different kind of multi-algorithm reverb pedal. It looks deceptively standard with its type selector knob and 12 algorithms, but the RGB LEDs next to each type will light up in different colors to select from multiple variations under each reverb type. At the time of this writing there are at least 29 different reverb algorithms available in the Empress Reverb.

What’s more interesting is that while Empress Effects launched the Reverb with over 20 reverb effects, many of the new reverbs are being created in collaboration with users of the Empress Reverb pedal via the Empress Reverb New Features Voting Forum. Empress is also working on an integrated Looper (yes, a looper in a reverb pedal) that’s being developed with feedback from the community being taken into consideration. Basically, this pedal offers a lot of room for expansion, so if you own the pedal and have an interesting idea you’d like to see implemented in the pedal, share your idea and be part of the collaborative process of expanding this pedal.

When I first hear the Empress Reverb at Winter NAMM 2016, it was the Ghost mode that really stood out for me. It’s a resonant reverb that creates haunting ambience. The new “Glummer” reverb under the Sparkle type adds +1 and -2 octave voices and is a standout mode. The Gate mode under the Beer type is front runner for the best gated reverb I’ve found in a pedal. I also fell in love with the Glitch reverb Beer mode. Plenty of strange sounds in here for guitarists looking for something a little… different.

There’s also an array of more traditional Hall, Plate, Spring, and Room reverbs and several Modulation reverb types with the flange reverb and tremolo reverb being a couple of my favorites. The Delay + Reverb modes are all worth exploring. Ambient Swell is excellent. The Reverse sounds are great. And the Lo-Fi settings offer expectedly brittle, filtered reverbs. Stereo I/O, 35 presets, and the expression/MIDI input round out this exceptionally versatile reverb pedal.

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Strymon BigSky

Builder: Strymon, Pedal: BigSky, Reverb Type: Multi

Rounding out the “big 3” of dedicated multi-algorithm reverb pedals is the Strymon BigSky. Aside from the stunning sounds (which we’ll discuss in a moment), this pedal is a big winner if you have a MIDI based rig or used a MIDI effects switcher. It’s the easiest MIDI enabled reverb pedal to integrate in your rig and Strymon has a full list of MIDI functionality and commands in their BigSky reference manual.

But even if you have no interest in MIDI and just need a multi-algorithm reverb pedal to use “as is”, the BigSky has more than enough sounds and options available to make it a worthwhile investment. The 12 included reverb machines span the history of reverb with Spring, Hall, Room, & Plate modes. The BigSky has become arguably the most popular modern ambient reverb pedal thanks to its Swell, Bloom, & Cloud reverb machines. The Chorale reverb adds resonant vocal-like qualities to the ‘verb. The BigSky’s Shimmer has 2 voices each tunable to intervals ranging from -1 octave to +2 octaves. The Magneto machine is an exciting Delay/Reverb that could have been found in the Strymon TimeLine; it uses 3, 4, or 6 simulated playback heads to create its rhythmic echoes. The Nonlinear machine features a few distinct reverb types including reverse reverb sounds and gated reverbs. The Reflections machine is a “psycho-acoustically accurate small-space reverb” according to Strymon. It lets you position your amp anywhere within its virtual space and creates its reverb sounds in accordance with the reflections within that space. You’ve gotta hear this in stereo to fully appreciate it. Actually, every single one of these reverbs sounds amazing in stereo.

The pedal’s 300 presets are easy to select via the foot-switches. You can also name your original reverb creations. Even if you don’t dive into the menus, the surface controls make it easy to get usable sounds or search for a usable preset on the fly. It’s extremely low noise. The dry signal stays 100% analog. It’s got buffered or true bypass. There’s also a Cab Filter switch for simulating the sound of playing through a guitar speaker cabinet (I’ve personally used it for gigs with satisfactory results). And there’s an expression pedal input for controlling parameters in real-time. The Strymon BigSky will be a staple on this list until the day Strymon releases its successor.

Read the Strymon BigSky review.

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Spaceman Orion

Builder: Spaceman Effects, Pedal: Orion, Reverb Type: Analog Spring

I got to hear the Spaceman Orion when it was unveiled back at Summer NAMM 2015. Even through a little custom made headphone amp, I knew this 100% analog spring reverb pedal was going to be something very special. A few builders have attempted putting real spring reverb into a pedal, but the Orion stands out for several reasons.

The Orion is much smaller than your old amp-top spring reverb unit. That’s due to the reverb coming from an Accutronics Blue Reverb 2-spring module. The spring reverb is suspended inside the pedal (by springs of course) so that it doesn’t create jarring noise artifacts when engaging and disengaging the pedal. Also, the soft-touch foot-switch is relay controlled for quiet switching. Essentially, this design is optimized for stage performance, and even loud rumbling and stage noise will have minimal impact on the spring unit. Very cool. Still want a spring reverb pan crash? Give the pedal a mild kick. But if kicking your pedalboard is too risky for you, put the Orion in your amp’s effects loop and have your guitar tech give it a light bump against a hard surface to rattle those springs.

A simple and usable control setup includes a wet/dry Blend, Tone for brightening and darkening the reverb, and Dwell for expending the decay time of the reverb. The Volume knob sets your makeup gain for ensuring a consistent output level (or providing a little boost), handy when dialing in a lot of reverb.

It’s worth noting that being a real analog spring reverb pedal, the Spaceman Orion isn’t as pristinely quiet as modern digital reverb emulations. However, if real analog tone and mojo is what you’re going for, this pedal has plenty of it. The Orion shouldn’t be mistaken for a clone of a particular vintage spring reverb unit. Instead, it offers an all new spring reverb sound in a stage friendly pedal that spring reverb fans and analog gear lovers will find pleasing and musical.

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Old Blood Noise Endeavors Dark Star V2

Builder: Old Blood Noise, Pedal: Dark Star V2, Reverb Type: Pitch-Shifting/Other

The Old Blood Noise Endeavors Dark Star V2 takes their cult hit reverb pedal and adds expression pedal control. The awesome sounds of this pedal make it one of the more interesting experimental reverbs out there. OBNE calls it a “pad reverb”, meaning it’s meant for big atmospheric, textural effects, the kind that invoke emotions from the soundscapes you weave with it.

There are 3 reverb modes in the Dark Star V2: Pitch, Delay, & Crush. The Pitch setting gives you dual pitch-shifted voices each of which can be manually dialed in to any interval from -1 octave to +1 octave. The Delay mode brings in a delay line after the reverb to extend the ambience into the empty void of space. The Crush reverb adds a single pitch-shifted voice from the Pitch mode along with a sample rate reduction control that reduces your signal to bits.

The Dark Star V2 does bring back the handy Hold function which will spike the CTRL 1 parameter to its maximum, great for wild pitch jumps, but plugging in an expression pedal is where things really get fun as you can shift the pitch through its range for surreal reverb sounds. Everything about this pedal from its sounds to its beautiful artwork make it a modern masterpiece of experimental reverb greatness.

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Free The Tone Ambi Space

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Builder: Free The Tone, Pedal: AS-1R, Reverb Type: Multi

The Free The Tone Ambi Space was destined to be a solid reverb pedal considering the impeccable sound quality of the company’s Flight Time Digital Delay & Tri Avatar Stereo Chorus, but the Ambi Space surpassed my expectations for several reasons. First, it’s definitely the easiest to use multi-algorithm reverb pedal with presets. The interface is simple, making it a dream for performing guitarists who need only a few (up to 4) different reverb sounds but don’t want to spend all day tweaking to find the perfect setting.

The 6 available reverb modes all sound great. I actually love the Spring mode which is rare. I rarely use the Spring settings of any multi-algorithm reverb pedal, but I really like the feel of this one even though it’s more of a pristine hybrid spring reverb sound as opposed to a 100% accurate emulation of a real spring reverb tank. The Plate, Room, & Hall settings are all function workhorse reverbs that perform their duties well. The Cave & Serene are unique takes on a hall-style reverb that have unique reflection patterns and density. Cave has a dynamic sound in its reflections that I really like, and Serene is my favorite Ambi Space reverb for lingering atmospheric sounds.

The Ambi Space’s surprisingly small size makes it a great travel board ‘verb for gigging guitarists who need great sounds, a few presets, and yes, stereo ins & outs. The Ambi Space is excellent in stereo. There’s even a Kill-Dry switch for wet/dry guitar rigs and an Input Level switch for line or instrument sources. Kudos to Free The Tone for the MIDI in jack that allows preset selection, activating/bypassing the pedal, and CC control of parameters. Also, the absolutely silent switching ensures zero noise when activating/bypassing the pedal. It’s no surprise that the Ambi Space is such a great performance reverb pedal considering Free The Tone’s background in building systems for professional musicians. This one is highly recommended for performing guitarists who just want a few reverb sounds while still keeping their compact pedalboard setup as simple as possible.

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Catalinbread Talisman

Builder: Catalinbread, Pedal: Talisman, Reverb Type: Plate

The Catalinbread Talisman might be this builder’s best kept secret, and more guitarists need to experience this awesome plate reverb. Why does this pedal rock? While hall reverbs are great for big ambience and long decays, their complexity often clutters up a mix and takes over the frequency spectrum. Plate reverbs have a more focused and refined sound; they’re more dense for a reverb that’s more like an extension of the sound(s) they’re applied to. The Talisman creates a focused extension of your guitar sound as well as a long sustaining ambience.

If you’re using a plate reverb in the studio, you might want to roll-off the low frequencies to keep the low-end from getting muddy. The Talisman’s High Pass knob does this very well, keeping the low end in a band mix very clean. You might also apply some delay on a mixer’s aux send to stagger the reverb’s timing. The Pre Delay knob functions in a similar way, providing up to around 100mS of delay before the reverb is heard.

The Mix, Time, & Vol knobs round out the Talisman’s parameter set. Mix is your wet/dry blend. The Talisman can extend the reverb decay to infinity via the Time knob. In the default buffered bypass mode (true bypass is an internal option), the trails spillover when you disengage the pedal. You can let huge trails sustain while you play over them. The Vol knob controls an analog preamp that can give a substantial amount of volume boost. This remains active in buffered mode and can add to your overall sound and push your amp harder if you crank it. It cleans up with your guitar’s volume knob, too. Don’t let the Talisman being just a plate reverb fool you into thinking it’s a one-trick-pony. There’s a powerful amount of versatility housed in this amulet of great reverb tone.

Read the Catalinbread Talisman review.

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Red Panda Context

Builder: Red Panda, Pedal: Context, Reverb Type: Multi

The Red Panda Context is arguably the most conventional pedal released from this builder, yet no other compact reverb pedal sounds quite like it. While Red Panda pedals like the Particle & Bitmap venture into bizarre sonic frontiers, the Context contains reverb effects that will appeal to a wider audience of guitarists. But don’t assume that the Context is a run of the mill reverb pedal. The 6 reverb algorithms included are each bold and musical in their own ways and can still venture into uncharted spatial territories.

The Room effect has the typical shallow reflections and snappy reverb you’d expect to find, but as you push up the Decay the walls of this room collapse, leaving you floating in space. The Hall mode is similar to the Room with a bigger cluster of early reflections. You can get shorter room-like sounds and send your guitar out the airlock when you max the Decay. The Cathedral setting is like a bigger, brighter hall. The Cathedral’s decay also seems to have a mild modulation on the trails. It’s a great variation of a hall-like theme, and if it’s a bit bright at first, Damping the sound helps. The Gated reverb seems more like a variation of a Room reverb in it sounds and how it’s controlled. The Decay controls the Gate Time, to cut off the reverb after you’d quite playing, but the smaller sound of the reverb is dissimilar to how it would sound to gate a hall reverb, for example. The Plate is another great reverb for long washes of trails. This one sounds greatly fully wet with long decay (controlled by Delay on this mode). The Delay knob combines a standard digital delay (the most “normal” delay Red Panda’s ever created) and reverb, an essential combination and adds extra utility to the Context. Yes, you can control the reverb length and delay feedback separately for shallow or huge sounds. This pedal is massive far beyond its humble size.

Read the Red Panda Context review.

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EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath/Transmisser

Builder: EarthQuaker Devices, Pedals: Afterneath/Transmisser, Reverb Type: Other

I have to mention the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath & Transmisser at the same time as they’re both similarly messed up pedals although they produce quite different sonic results. It’s important to point out their similarities and differences to help you get an idea of which one might be suited for your reverb explorations.

The Afterneath takes your guitar signal and multiplies it like a multi-tap delay-ish effect, replicating your playing with a ping-pong like series of delay taps. This is fed into a huge, cavernous reverb that can linger for eternity if you crank the Length knob. The Drag knob sets the spacing of those delay taps and can warp the pitch of the reverb trails by turning it in either direction while the reverb is sustaining. This pedal is one of the best EarthQuaker Devices pedals and is quite unlike anything else out there. Well, except maybe the Transmisser…

The Transmisser may seem like the new Afterneath at first, but you’ll see that it’s actually its own unique flavor of reverb once you look closer and have a listen. The Transmisser does big reverb, too, but it’s not quite as over the top huge sounding as the Afterneath. But where it does go off the rails is with the Freq knob that controls the frequency peak of a resonant filter placed after the reverb. This is also expression pedal controllable for extra sweepy fun. There’s a strange modulation that’s always present, the speed of which is controlled by the Rate knob. It’s slightly modulating the reverb and the Freq & Darkness parameters depending on where the Warp knob is set. Sound confusing? It’s easier to get the hang of when using it. The Warp knob can also mangle the pitch of the reverb in a somewhat similar way to the Afterneath’s Drag control. While the Afterneath is still my personal favorite of the two, you gotta hand it to EarthQuaker Devices for again pushing reverb into new outlandish territories.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath review.

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Mr. Black SuperMoon

Builder: Mr. Black, Pedal: SuperMoon, Reverb Type: Modulated

One look at the Mr. Black SuperMoon and its artwork should give you an idea of what to expect: big expansive reverb with a modulated ebb and flow that pulls like the Moon on the tides. See that guy on the pedal? Put a guitar in his hands, and that’ll be you when you plug into this thing.

The SuperMoon is a pedal for guitarists who like their reverb pedals dead simple yet full of lively sounds. The Reverb knob brings in your level of reverb up to a 50/50% mix. The Decay extends the reverb trails from 300mS to over 30 seconds. The Sway knob brings in the modulation which adds a slow moving detuning effect that warps the pitch of the reverberated signal. It’s a mesmerizing sound that’s executed flawlessly. Despite the numerous attempts from other builders to create similar modulated reverb sounds, Mr. Black’s SuperMoon is still something very special. On a side note, I love that it’s not soft touch bypass and still switches silently for no loud pops as you engage/disengage the pedal.

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Adventure Audio Whateverb

Builder: Adventure Audio, Pedal: Whateverb, Reverb Type: Shimmer/Room/Other

When the Adventure Audio Whateverb was first unveiled on a breadboard back at Summer NAMM 2015, it was apparent that this would be a pedal worth keeping an eye on. The pedal finally materialized in a nice, sparkly enclosure with an appearance that evokes the sounds you’ll find in this pedal. The 3 modes – This, That, & Otherb – offer some unique choices for guitarists who want something a little different in a reverb. “This” mode features a flanger on the reverb for a metallic modulation. The Warp knob seems to affect the delay time to alter the character of the flanging. “That” mode is a room reverb with High Tide & Low Tide controls to change the tonality of the room sound. I like to crank the Decay for a big hall-like ambience. The Warp knob seems to affect the density of the reflections for a compounded or sparse sound. It’ll also warp the pitch of your trails. The “Otherb” mode is where the Whateverb’s shimmer is housed, giving you an octave up sheen to your reverb. The Warp increases or decreases the offset of the shimmer effect as well as warping the pitch if you turn it while trails are sustaining. Speaking of trails the pedal also has a buffered bypass for spillover trails, but, you know, Whateverb.

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Digitech Polara

Builder: Digitech, Pedal: Polara, Reverb Type: Multi

A few years ago Digitech came back swinging with a stream of new releases that have redefined the company for the modern era of guitar pedals. The Digitech Polara is one such pedal that has garnered attention for being an affordable multi-algorithm stereo reverb machine filled with great Lexicon quality sounds.

The Room & Hall modes are great go-to ‘verbs for creating the ambience of real space. The Spring mode is solid, particularly at lower Liveliness (aka Tone) settings and nails a surfy springy-ness better than a lot of spring emulations. The Plate mode is awesome and sounds great no matter where you set the knobs. Try maxing everything out with this one for some big ambience that doesn’t overwhelm with infinite decay although some of you might wish it could. The Reverse mode is another standout, taking your guitar into a 100% wet reversed ‘verb ambience. This one’s fun for experimental and shoegazy sounds. The Modulated mode evokes the big ambience of the Hall & Plate modes but with a swirling movement that adds interest to your reverb trails. And finally, the Halo verb adds some shimmering octave up brilliance to your playing. It’s a really great sounding and stable shimmer. While I wish there was greater control to bring out the octave voice a little more, you can still get a great sound by cranking the Liveliness and adjusting the Level to taste. All these reverbs sound excellent in stereo, and the optional spillover trails option is icing on the cake for one of the best bargains you’ll find in a multi-algorithm reverb pedal.

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Catalinbread Topanga

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Builder: Catalinbread, Pedal: Topanga, Reverb Type: Digital Spring

The idea was to take a bulky Fender 6G15 spring reverb unit that utilizes tubes, springs, and a resonating metal pan and stuff it into a tiny pedal utilizing ones & zeros, resistors, and capacitors. Sounds easy, right? I doubt it was, but the brave pedal builders in Portland, Oregon, were up to the task. The Catalinbread Topanga Spring Reverb is the result.

The familiar Dwell, Tone, & Mix controls are here, giving you control over the length of the reverb, the overall brightness or darkness of the ‘verb, and adjustment of the mix from dry to fully wet. The Vol knob lets you boost your signal output which is useful for compensating for any loss in volume when cranking the Mix.

The vintage style reverb tones are some of the best you’ll find without using real springs. If you just want the smallest and best sounding spring reverb, the Catalinbread Topanga is probably your pedal. There’s also a “secret” modulation mode if you want something a little more modern.

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Neunaber Immerse Reverberator

Builder: Neunaber, Pedal: Immerse, Reverb Type: Multi

The Neunaber Immerse takes the high quality reverb algorithms from the builder’s Expanse line of pedals and makes them all readily available via a dedicated selector knob. Neunaber has garnered much praise for their detailed reverb algorithms, and the Immerse is the easiest way to access them all without needing an app. Their shimmer reverb algorithms are legendary and are right up there among the best you’ll find in pedals costing much more. The Immerse’s 2 shimmer ‘verbs will make this pedal worth the price of entry for some guitarists. Neunaber’s signature Wet algorithm is also here along with a variation with detuning and one with echo for solid reverb + delay sounds. And there are great sounding Hall, Plate, & Spring modes worth exploring. Switchable options for trails and kill dry round out the feature set. And let’s not forget the stereo I/O as the Neunaber Immerse is most impressive in a dedicated stereo setup. The Immerse may arguably be the best stereo reverb pedal in an enclosure this small. It’s certainly the best stereo shimmer reverb in a pedal this size.

Read the Neunaber Immerse review.

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Keeley Electronics Loomer

Builder: Keeley Electronics, Pedal: Loomer, Reverb Type: Multi/Fuzz

The Keeley Electronics Loomer is a landmark release from Robert & Co. for several reasons. Essentially, the pedal’s goal was to capture the sounds of early 90’s “shoegaze” alternative rock, particularly the reverb laden guitar sounds of My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields.

The Loomer has 3 reverb modes. Focus emulates the sound of the Soft Focus patch from the Yamaha FX500 multi effects processor from the late 80’s. This mode cascades a dense reverb, 2 delays (250mS & 380mS), and a 4-voice chorus to create a lush, mesmerizing reverb. The Reverse mode emulates similar reverse reverb effects from the period and has a couple interesting additions. It includes an optional envelope triggered vibrato that detunes your guitar when you strum, and the Warmth (Tone) knob is in the style of a Fender Jazzmaster’s rhythm pickup tone control for getting your ‘gaze on. The Hall mode includes an optional shimmer effect controlled via the Depth knob that blends in a “halo-esque” ascending octave up feedback loop.

Aside from the great reverb modes in the Loomer, there’s a dedicated Muff inspired fuzz section that’s excellent in and of itself. Try feeding the reverb into the fuzz for more shoegazy fun. The Loomer is one of the more exciting pedals from Keeley Electronics and definitely worth looking into if you want more versatility from a reverb pedal.

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Walrus Audio Descent

Builder: Walrus Audio, Pedal: Descent, Reverb Type: Multi

You’ve gotta love the Walrus Audio Descent. It’s got a killer style like all Walrus Audio pedals, and this might be best reverb pedal sporting a trio of algorithms. It’s got a huge Hall sound that’ll cover smaller to absolutely cavernous sounding reverbs. There’s a Reverse mode that is one of my personal favorite reverse reverb algorithms in any pedal. And then there’s a dedicated Shimmer mode with the expected octave up plus an octave down that contribute to the Descent’s absolutely huge reverb sounds. And guess what? The shimmering octave up and booming octave down and be applied to the Hall & Reverse settings as well. Game changer right there. The pedal also gives you 3 foot-switchable presets, expression pedal control, and dual outputs. Probably still Walrus Audio’s best pedal to date.

Read the Walrus Audio Descent review.

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Caroline Guitar Company Météore

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Builder: Caroline Guitar Company, Pedal: Météore, Reverb Type: Other

When I first saw this pedal I mistook for a lo-fi reverb in the vein of the company’s Kilobyte Lo-Fi Delay. But the Caroline Guitar Company Météore (pronounced “May-Tay-Or”) was inspired by a tiled train tunnel in France. Weird, right? Wait till you hear how it sounds. It has a bright, crashy tonality with jagged reflections that somehow manage to blossom into a beautiful mess of wonderful noise. I mean that in the best possible way. There’s also an integrated drive circuit that further trashes up the sound in amazing ways. Even at full on settings, it doesn’t get overwhelming and remains remarkably playable. The Havoc foot-switch creates infinite decay when pressed and held, further fueling this pedal’s desire to be on your live pedalboard. Bedroom guitarists will still dig the Météore, but this pedal is begging to be played on stage. But fear not… if you’re not shopping for a reverb for your live ‘board. Get out there. Start a band. Get a Météore. And rock out like you mean it. \m/

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That concludes our Top 20 Reverb Pedals of 2017. Thanks for reading.

“But wait,” you say, “I only counted 19 pedals!”

We’re leaving a spot open to fill with an exceptional reverb pedal yet to be decided upon. If you have a suggestion, let us know in the comments.

Top 16 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Summer NAMM 2016

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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Top 75 Best Modern Guitar Pedals

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There are many lists of the so-called “Best Guitar Pedals of All Time”. We all know the classics, and a short-list wouldn’t be complete without pedals like the Maxon built Ibanez Tube Screamer, Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, Thomas Organ/Vox Crybaby, Klon Centaur, Digitech Whammy WH-1, Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi & Deluxe Memory Man, ProCo Rat, and the original MXR Phase 90 & Dyna Comp. Many of these guitar pedals (and countless others) have helped create some of the greatest guitar sounds of all time.

But we’re not here to hammer home the undeniable reputation of the past classics. If all the best guitar pedals had already been made, we wouldn’t be experiencing the golden age of guitar pedals we’re having today.

To keep music moving forward, it’s important to draw upon all the history that came before and forge ahead into uncharted territory. Sure, many of us will always want to grab our favorite vintage guitar and just plug right into our favorite old amp, but even the most traditional guitarists can find inspiration from adding an exciting new pedal to the mix.

This list focuses on the most innovative guitar pedals available today – pedals with a proven reputation among modern guitarists and pedals that may be signaling where the industry is headed. Many modern interpretations of iconic pedals are featured here, but this article aims to be more of a testament to the kind of bold creativity that sets apart the creative visionaries from the cloners (with a few exceptions of clones done exceptionally well). Some of these pedals create new sounds unlike anything heard previously, and some pedals utilize modern technology in creative ways.

You’ll notice multiple pedals here from several MVP builders who’ve been advancing guitar pedal design well beyond the status quo. Strymon arguably reigns supreme in the eyes of many guitarists when it comes to primarily DSP based guitar effects. Chase Bliss Audio is currently leagues ahead of other analog pedal builders with their fusion of digital control and 100% analog effects. Eventide holds the key to the future of digital effects and may continue revolutionizing how guitarists use and interact with pedals. Electro Harmonix is another long-running company who still maintains an innovative edge in a crowded market place. EarthQuaker Devices creates a wide range of great guitar pedals ranging from traditional sounds to the fringes of sonic exploration. Empress Effects just changed the game with an expandable DSP masterpiece. Source Audio has revealed themselves as another big player in digital effects. Xotic Effects is a leader in recreating classic tones for discerning guitarists. And TC Electronic remains a key company to watch as they continue offering high quality effects at very competitive prices.

This list has been 3 years in the making. It will continue to evolve and expand to include more great pedals that deserve recognition. The idea is that if it’s truly an innovative pedal, it should be included here. If you think we missed a great guitar pedal or think something not listed here should be brought to other guitarists’ attention, please leave a comment and voice your opinion.

A “best of” list such as this shouldn’t be regarded as the final word on what you should be playing. Consider this a starting point of where to look for your next guitar pedal. If you just want to sound like Clapton, Hendrix, or Gilmour, a different resource may better suit your needs. But if you want to venture into uncharted musical territory with your guitar, some of these innovative guitar pedals may be right for you. Use your own ears and your best judgement when buying guitar pedals and try keeping the GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) in check while you decide which pedals will best serve your music.

“The Next Level?”

I’ll provide a brief commentary for each pedal with ideas for design improvement. These are more so notes to builders and other guitarists who often think, “What if…?” While these are the best guitar pedals of today, the best of tomorrow is yet to come.

Now here they are, the Top 75 Best Modern Guitar Pedals!

 

Eventide H9 Harmonizer

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Builder: Eventide, Pedal: H9, Effect Type: Multi-Effects

Eventide has been a reputable name among professional studio engineers since the 70’s. Their H910 Harmonizer forever changed music with real-time pitch shifting. In the 80’s the H3000 become one of the premier guitar multi-effects rack units, used to legendary effect by Steve Vai on Ballerina 12/24 from Passion and Warfare. Eventide later shook up the stompbox world with their TimeFactor delay & ModFactor modulation pedals, followed by the PitchFactor Harmonizer & Space reverb.

The Eventide H9 Harmonizer is arguably the company’s most revolutionary product to date. The H9 starts with a compact stompbox foundation that features sounds from their entire lineup of pedals. You can get an H9 Core with their iconic H910/H949 algorithm preloaded. The standard H9 Harmonizer has 9 effects from their range of pedals including the H9 exclusive Ultratap. (You can buy additional algorithms via the H9 Control app.) Or you can get the H9 Max and have access to the entire collection of Eventide stompbox effects including the aforementioned Ultratap and other H9 exclusives like Resonator, EQ Compressor, CrushStation, & SpaceTime as well as any new effects that are released. I’d recommend getting the H9 Max. You can then add up to 3 other H9 Core/Harmonizer units to your Eventide account and have all units “Maxed” out with all effects.

Aside from the massive library of Eventide guitar effects there’s a wealth of other features that make the H9 an essential modern guitar pedal: Stereo I/O, Pre/Post effects routing in mono, 99 presets, extensive MIDI functionality, exp pedal control, true bypass, tap tempo, and the H9 Control app.

The Next Level? More algorithms! While Eventide takes their time with the quality H9 exclusive effects they create, it would be nice to see more risky & obscure effects. How about bit-crushers, insane granular delays, choppy pattern tremolos, synth-style high/low pass filters, modern plugin style synthesizers (oscillators, baby!), organ effects that outdo everything else, and more. There’s just so much untapped potential. How about an open source platform, so the world’s best VST effects creators can bring DAW effects to pedals? Also, an expanded double or triple H9 would greatly expand the possibilities.

Read the Eventide H9 Harmonizer review.

 

Strymon TimeLine

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Builder: Strymon, Pedal: TimeLine, Effect Type: Digital Delay

The Strymon TimeLine was the landmark pedal release that sealed Strymon’s reputation as one of the cutting edge pedal companies of today. Despite numerous attempts by other builders to dethrone this digital delay champion, the TimeLine is still the pedal to beat.

The TimeLine starts with 12 immaculately crafted delay machines ranging from classic analog delay, tape echo, and digital delay flavors to shimmering octave delays (Ice), reverse delays, lo-fi delays, and more. You can run it in mono (with the option to affect your delays with other effects) or stereo. It has 200 presets, tap tempo, optional delay trails, true bypass or buffered bypass, and more.

This pedal’s MIDI functionality is especially well integrated, making it very convenient to use with a MIDI effects switcher or automate from a DAW like Ableton Live. Strymon has been diligent with firmware updates to ensure that the TimeLine remains reliable in all situations. The TimeLine’s Looper also performs well and can have all its functions controlled externally via a MIDI controller.

In a classic Microsoft vs. Apple style battle, Boss tried to overtake the TimeLine with their DD-500, ditching their typical retro enclosure designs and stuffing in an equal number of delays while checking the boxes with similar tech specs to rival Strymon’s delay masterpiece. But the Strymon TimeLine has proven tough to beat, and Strymon will most likely be the builder to take the all-in-one digital delay concept to the next level if a “TimeLine 2” ever arrives.

The Next Level? I’d like to see the Looper be quantizable to MIDI Clock with Global Quantize settings for more precise external control. Also, it would be great to see Strymon’s flagship pedals encompass the full range of sounds from their similar smaller pedals (i.e. TimeLine’s dTape machine vs El Capistan dTape Echo). It’s also worth mentioning that some of our readers would really like to see a “Strymon H9” all-in-one pedal. That would be something.

Read the Strymon TimeLine review.

 

Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall

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Builder: Chase Bliss Audio, Pedal: Tonal Recall, Effect Type: Analog Delay

The analog delay pedal game has changed forever. Pedals like the Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man and the original Boss DM-2 are iconic analog delay pedals based on MN3005 BBD chips. The Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall brings that legacy of tone into the 21st century with presets, MIDI control, unbelievable parameter modulation (Ramping), a Tone knob, 6 tap divisions, a Warped Vinyl style mod section, tap tempo, a Hold oscillation function, and, yes, a super cool pedal name.

The Tonal Recall (you can call ‘im “Tony”) went through a surprising metamorphosis. It originally seemed like it would be the DMM/DM-2 killer everyone expected. Then it seemed to venture into a different, more lo-fi kind of delay. At the last moment, visionary Chase Bliss Audio designer, Joel Korte, decided to make it more like the crowd pleaser everyone was expecting and hoping it would be. Good call as this pedal nailed it. Simply one of the greatest analog delay pedals ever created.

To speak of its subtleties, the Tonal Recall is noticeably quieter than most analog delays with a lower noise floor than the classic and modern units I’ve heard it compared to so far. The Tone knob is another draw as you can have a reasonably open and bright delay tone or roll it back to a dark and murky “oil can” style foundation beneath your playing. The Ramping is fun and novel, giving the pedal a more experimental vibe as well. But for many guitarists just having a quality analog delay with presets will be enough to make you want to “get your a– to Mars!”

The Next Level? It’s almost too early to say as Chase Bliss Audio is still far ahead of the curve. I expect any improvements to this pedal coming in the form of very minor revision tweaks. But we can still dream about a stereo version, no?

 

Empress Effects Reverb

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Builder: Empress Effects, Pedal: Reverb, Effect Type: Digital Reverb

Been a huge fan of Empress Effects for years. Their excellent Vintage Modified Superdelay, Heavy, & Compressor pedals have shown their wide range of engineering expertise in the analog and digital realms. The Empress Reverb pushes the boundaries of everything they’ve done and further changes what we can expect in multi-algorithm guitar pedals going forward.

The Empress Reverb features 24 studio quality reverb algorithms grouped in 12 onboard categories. As you turn the type selector knob to scroll through reverb categories, you’ll sometimes see the LED change to multiple colors on a given category. Each color indicates an entirely different reverb effect. For example, the Spring type has 3 stock types of reverb. Blue is base on a Fender Twin Reverb spring tank. Green is a Fender Deluxe inspired ‘verb. Red gives you an overdriven 60’s surf type sound. The Room type has a single Blue type called L.A. Studio that emulates a small room with dense early reflections. The “Beer” type is where uncategorizable ‘verbs are stored. Expect weird and crazy sounds to come. You have to hear the Ghost type for yourself. Hauntingly good!

New reverb algorithms will be freely available, and you can easily update the pedal via SD card. Empress Reverb owners can vote for new algorithms in the Empress Effects forums, so you can contribute to the creation of the pedal’s new sounds. The future is in your hands.

The Empress Reverb sounds incredible so far, easily earning a place among the best reverb pedals available. And it’s got MIDI, presets, tap/hold functions, exp pedal control, cab simulation, stereo, and more. Can’t wait to hear where Empress (and you!) take it.

The Next Level? Put my vote in the hat for a Plate mode that expands on the Catalinbread Talisman and a Beer mode for an EQD Afterneath/Adventure Audio Whateverb style ‘verb with reverb pitch warping.

 

DigiTech Whammy V

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Builder: DigiTech, Pedal: Whammy V, Effect Type: Pitch-Shifter

The DigiTech WH-1 Whammy is an all-time classic effect, and the latest iteration holds strong to that legacy. The Whammy V has 2 modes, Classic & Chords, which take you from a WH-1 Whammy flavor to a more stable modern polyphonic tracking that’s great with chords as the name implies. Actually, the Classic mode is noticeably more stable than the WH-1, so there’s been big improvements all around.

Aside from the pitch-shifting “Whammy” effects that let you send your guitar screaming up +1 or +2 octaves or descending down to a quaking -3 octaves on the Dive Bomb setting, there’s also a range of musical Harmony intervals to choose from. You can get that 5th up harmony for playing Rage Against the Machine’s “Know Your Enemy” intro or take it down a 5th for Steve Vai’s “The Animal”. The expression pedal will even let you shift between 2 preset harmony intervals.

While DigiTech’s The Drop and Whammy DT have more drop-tuning options, you can still use the -2nd, -4th, or -5th settings for solid drop tuned playing. There are also Shallow & Deep detuning settings for chorus-like effects.

When the Whammy IV hit the scene it brought along MIDI functionality, and that’s present here as well. You can use a CC message to control the Whammy sweep and program changes to activate and bypass the pedal in any mode with either Classic or Chords tracking. This works exceptionally well in use as you can control the Whammy V remotely via a MIDI compatible effects switcher or MIDI controller or even sequence impossible Whammy automation.

The Next Level? DigiTech rules this arena as the Whammy V, Whammy DT, The Drop, and recently released Whammy Ricochet all testify. Tracking improvements are always welcome, and having all jacks top-mounted on the Whammy VI would be nice. I’d also really like to see a complete compact Whammy series pedal similar to the EHX Pitch Fork with a MIDI in & exp pedal jack. Also, DigiTech, please give us an updated Space Station XP-300 with MIDI control, and make our wildest dreams come true.

 

TC Electronic Ditto Looper (series)

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Builder: TC Electronic, Pedals: Ditto, Ditto X2, Ditto Stereo, Ditto X4, Effect Type: Looper Pedal

The TC Electronic Ditto Looper revolutionized audio looping for guitar. Surprisingly, it did so by making looping as simple to use as possible, contributing to why the Ditto Looper is one the best selling guitar pedals currently in production. The success of this pedal spawned countless companies to try to emulate the formula TC Electronic nailed with this modern classic pedal.

But it would be TC Electronic to again push looping forward with the Ditto X2. Stereo I/O is a big draw for this update as are the Half Speed & Reverse looper effects, accessed from a dedicated 2nd FX foot-switch. The Stop FX function gives the Ditto X2 the edge and makes it especially useful for live performance. There’s even the option to export a loop for DAW processing, and you can store a loop to the pedal.

The Ditto Stereo Looper is a middle ground between the previous units. Housed in a PolyTune 2 sized enclosure, it gives you the single foot-switch control of the original Ditto Looper and the stereo I/O from the Ditto X2. The Import/Export loop functionality is also present.

The TC Electronic Ditto X4 Looper is the flagship unit, housed in a massive enclosure you’ll recognize from the Flashback X4 Delay. Essentially, this pedal is like having 2 Ditto Loopers you can use in Serial mode or synced together. They’ve also split the X2’s FX and Stop functions to separate foot-switches. The dedicated Stop function is invaluable, and there are now 7 total effects that can be assigned to the FX foot-switch including Half-Speed, Double-Speed, Reverse, the super fun Tape Stop, and more. A Decay knob will set a rate at which previous layers fade out so that you can evolve your looping soundscape in new directions. The X4 also has MIDI sync to lock the loops in time with MIDI Clock.

The Next Level? Give the Ditto X4 a firmware update for MIDI control of all functions like the Strymon TimeLine, including MIDI CC’s for each FX type. Also, it would help if looper triggering was quantizable to MIDI Clock for super accurate MIDI Clock sync.

 

Dr. Scientist The Elements

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Builder: Dr. Scientist, Pedal: The Elements, Effect Type: Drive/Boost/EQ

Dr. Scientist’s The Elements is one of the ultimate Swiss Army Knife guitar pedals. It’s supremely useful as a boost, overdrive, distortion, or EQ pedal. For a long time I kept one in my chain for various needs and particularly favored it for tonal coloring in my signal chain. It has a ton of functions, none of which are tacked on, and the wide range of possible applications for this pedal makes it a defining modern guitar pedal that more guitarists need to experience first-hand.

The left flip-switch selects between high gain, for distortion and hotter overdrive sounds, and low gain for clean boosting, EQ’ing, and milder overdrive tones. The next flip-switch selects between no clipping and 2 clipping options, particularly useful for adjusting your drive character. The third flip-switch gives you a full open sound or 2 degrees of bass reduction for thinning out your sound. The far right slip-switch adjusts the mid-range frequency center for the Mid EQ knob, letting you scoop your mids in a particular band or carefully boost midrange for the perfect overdrive tone.

The EQ section can apply a significant presence to the lows, mids, and highs or reduce frequencies in those ranges. This is great for general EQ’ing and tone enhancing in your rig or for coloring your drive sounds when stacking The Elements with other pedals. I’ll often use it in conjunction with other distortion & fuzz pedals that don’t have deep tone controls. A killer pedal all around. Also, you’ve gotta love how each run has an entirely different look and visual appeal.

The Next Level? Being drive obsessed, I’d like to see variations with different drive/fuzz circuits. Also, I’d prefer a “smart” relay bypass that remembers if the pedal was on or off last time it was powered, useful for guitarists who use effects switchers.

Read the Dr. Scientist The Elements review.

 

Effectrode PC-2A Compressor

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Builder: Effectrode, Pedal: PC-2A, Effect Type: Guitar Compressor

The Effectrode PC-2A Compressor is such a tonal treasure that I’m surprised it isn’t more sought after than a Klon Centaur. Of all the pedals I’ve tried that supposedly have some kind of “magical” tone-enhancing quality, the PC-2A is the pedal I just never want to turn off. Recently, I found myself suddenly thinking this pedal was sucking my tone before realizing the PC-2A was bypassed, meaning my guitar was sounding worse without it than with the pedal simply engaged. I promptly engaged the pedal, and all was right in the world.

The PC-2A is inspired by the Teletronix LA-2A Leveling Amplifier, one of the all-time great rack compressor units. The PC-2A uses a military grade subminiature vacuum tube and audiophile grade components (including a silver plated circuit board!) in its uncompromising pursuit of beautiful and immaculate compression. It has a simple 2-knob interface for setting the “Peak Reduction” threshold and output level “Gain”. A Limit switch applies heavier compression and rounds out the LA-2A style control set.

Under the hood are an Attack & Knee trimmer for further tweaking the PC-2A to your liking. These are “set-and-forget” trimmers in most cases, but I’d highly recommend tuning them at least once when you get your hands on this pedal… if you can. Guitarists often find themselves on long waiting lists to get Effectrode pedals, and the PC-2A is their most popular pedal. Rightfully so, as it’s one of the best guitar compressor pedals ever created.

The Next Level? Guitarists with an ear for tone won’t have a problem dialing in this pedal by ear, but still, a gain reduction LED (or VU Meter?) would be useful. Also, external Attack/Knee controls would be useful for fine-tuning it with different guitars or when using it with bass & vocals.

Read the Effectrode PC-2A review.

 

Ibanez TS808HW Hand-Wired Tube Screamer

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Builder: Ibanez, Pedal: TS808HW, Effect Type: Overdrive

The Ibanez Tube Screamer is an all-time classic, yes, we all know. Today you can find countless clones and variations from nearly every guitar pedal builder out there. From original builder, Maxon, to companies like Keeley Electronics, Electro Harmonix, and countless others, there is no shortage of great pedals out there that are derived from the classic TS-808, including the affordable Ibanez TSMINI.

The Ibanez TS808HW Hand-Wired Tube Screamer is a premium boutique grade iteration that remains true to the heritage of the original Tube Screamer while offering a consistent sound that recalls the iconic mid-boosted overdrive tones made famous by guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan. While I also highly recommend auditioning the various mods and Tube Screamer variations by Robert Keeley (especially the higher-gain, limited run KE808), the Ibanez TS808HW is the defacto version to get if you’re simply chasing classic Tube Screamer tones. Once you plug in a Strat, select that neck pickup, hit the pedal, and start busting out the SRV riffs, you’ll understand why.

The Next Level? Kudos to Ibanez for keeping this pedal gem in production, but I’d still like to see the 1/8” power jack (and accompanying cable) replaced with a modern Boss-style barrel jack.

Read the Ibanez TS808HW review.

 

Source Audio Nemesis Delay

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Builder: Source Audio, Pedal: Nemesis, Effect Type: Digital Delay

The Source Audio Nemesis Delay is one of the more unique and incredibly versatile delay pedals to come along in recent years. It also sounds stunning, rivaling Strymon & Eventide in the audio quality department. It has 12 onboard delay machines and 12 more available via the Neuro app. This pedal is simply awesome and delivers quality performance well beyond its humble size.

The Nemesis forgoes menu-diving for a knob based approach. It can be simple enough to dial in if you just need one perfect delay. Or you can use the pedal with a MIDI compatible effects switcher to save & recall up to 128 presets (8 can be accessed via onboard controls). This pedal also offers some of the deepest MIDI functionality seen in a pedal in addition to it’s stereo operation, tap tempo, and plenty more features than I have room to mention.

The pedal’s classic delay types – Analog, Digital, Slapback, Tape, & Noise Tape – are excellent, and even the outlandish Degrade, Helix, Shifter, & Rhythmic variations are worth the sonic exploration. It’s essential to use this pedal with Source Audio’s Neuro App to access the 12 “secret” delay types, including the great Double Helix, Complex Rhythmic, Lo-Fi Retro, Compound Shifter, Oil Can, & Warped Record delays, among others. The Nemesis really has a unique vibe compare to other digital delay pedals and is filled with great delays & unique sounds you won’t find anywhere else.

The Next Level? Deeper onboard preset management and access to more Neuro App functionality from the pedal itself would be handy.

 

Xotic Effects Wah XW-1

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Builder: Xotic Effects, Pedal: XW-1, Effect Type: Wah Wah

Clyde McCoy was a trumpet player who experimented with a mute that would create a “wah wah” type sound. He actually had nothing to do with the guitar pedal design, but his name was used for marketing and further became synonymous with the “wah wah” pedal. While many companies including Dunlop & Fulltone have admirably attempted to reproduce the earliest wah sounds, the Xotic Wah XW-1 is one of the very best at capturing the classic vibe while pushing boundaries. Sure, Xotic Effects may not hold the “Clyde McCoy” & “Crybaby Wah” trademarks, but man, is this pedal amazing at capturing the iconic tones of those early Crybaby pedals while providing a modern feature-set for today’s guitarists.

An array of 4 knobs on the side of the pedal for adjusting Wah-Q, Bias, and Treble/Bass frequencies let you sculpt the perfect wah tone for your rig. The pedal is also 20% smaller than the classic Crybaby pedals for a little more pedalboard economy while still retaining a familiar wah feel. There’s also reliable true bypass relay switching, an LED Active/Bypassed indicator (a Godsend if you’re tired of wondering if you left your wah on or not), and fuzz pedal friendly buffering. An internal trimmer lets you set the Input Gain.

The Next Level? It doesn’t get much better than this, sound-wise. Making that Input Gain trimmer external would make it even closer to perfect. I’d personally love to see a Morley style switchless version.

Read the Xotic Effects Wah review.

 

Effectrode Blackbird

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Builder: Effectrode, Pedal: SR-71, Effect Type: Tube Preamp

The Effectrode SR-71 Blackbird is life changing. Taking its name after the Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird”, an aircraft that could fly at Mach 3+ and outrun missiles, this builder has released what is perhaps the ultimate amp-in-a-box pedal. It’s essentially an all-tube preamp sporting a trio of 12AX7s that draws heavily upon the “blackface” Fender Twin Reverb amp in the clean channel (with similarly voice tone controls). And the Blackbird soars past other amp-emulating pedals when you kick on the Dumble inspired Overdrive channel.

The Overdrive channel has 2 distinct voicings, Classic & Creamy, that go from vintage rock overdrive and bluesy saturation to very aggressive, yet surprisingly articulate and focused high-gain distortion. While I was expecting a primarily “classic” range of tones from the Blackbird, the molten lava saturation and Gain control that remains usable throughout its range won me over big time. In fact, within less than 5 minutes after plugging in the Effectrode SR-71 Blackbird for the first time, I concluded it was one of the best drive/distortion pedals I’d ever played based on tone alone.

But that Clean channel may be all you ever need. It’s got a glassy sheen and high headroom that proudly lives up to its Blackface roots. Frankly, I never want to turn it off, and it’s like to become a foundation of your tone, also. The Blackbird is impeccably low-noise and playable in any situation.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that you can change tubes and re-bias the pedal to customize it to your liking. Track down some vintage tubes and have fun making it your own. There’s also a separate direct out with a transformer that sweetens the signal, perfect for direct recording and using with a cab simulation plugin. The Blackbird is the ultimate all-tube preamp. It’s also a brainer for being a top pick among amp-in-a-box pedals as the Blackbird is essential an amp’s front-end lovingly stuffed into a stompbox.

The Next Level? Those foot-switches might be a little close to the knobs for some guitarists (extra incentive to use a 2-button remote switch, maybe). Also, I’d like to see an internal volume trimmer on the Classic side to assist with level matching for those of us who want to configure the pedal for switching between all 3 channel options.

 

Strymon Mobius

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Builder: Strymon, Pedal: Mobius, Effect Type: Modulation

The Strymon Mobius is arguably the desert island modulation pedal. If you were going to get just one mod pedal, the Mobius really does just about everything you could ever want a mod pedal to do. In its 12 effect type groupings you’ll even find multiple uncompromising variations (For example: 5 Chorus modes & 3 Vintage Trem modes). Aside from being able to use the Mobius’ great effects in stereo, the “Pre/Post” routing allows you to use effects either earlier in your signal chain or later, an ideal way to make the most of this pedal in a mono, single guitar amp rig. The Mobius also gives you a whopping 200 presets, tap tempo, full MIDI implementation, and a user friendly menu interface.

The Next Level? Really wish the Rotary had all the features of Strymon’s Lex pedal. Also, it would be great if the Filter had synth-style high & low pass filtering modes will full range Frequency control. Otherwise, it’s near perfect and stands as the mod pedal to beat.

Read the Strymon Mobius review.

 

Chase Bliss Audio Spectre

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Builder: Chase Bliss Audio, Pedal: Spectre, Effect Type: Analog TZ Flanger

The Chase Bliss Audio Spectre is the CBA pedal I’ve been most critical of, yet it also happens to be Mr. Joel Korte’s best and most inspired work aside from Tonal Recall (…so far). The Spectre is a true through-zero (TZ) analog flanger that uses twin BBD delay lines in addition to a mixable dry(ish) voice to achieve some truly awe-inspiring tones. Some people find it a little noisy, think the “whale songs” at higher Regen settings are too intense, and have trouble wrapping their heads around how “TZ” flanging works exactly. But if you click with this pedal, you’ll be mesmerized. It sounds particularly amazing after dirt, so try placing it after your fuzz, distortion, and overdrive pedals or in your amp’s effects loop. Also, after the uniquely colored “dry” sound grew on me, I found myself doulble-tracking with just the dry voice added on a second guitar track. Toanz for days.

And, yes, all the Ramping, ModuShape, presets, 16 dip-switches, MIDI functionality, CV/Exp control, etc., you’d expect from Chase Bliss Audio are all here.

The Next Level? I got a reasonably quiet unit, but noise level improvements are always welcome. Wish the Mix was rampable, too. And maybe a dedicated Volume knob. Curious what CBA could do with a slightly larger enclosure and an extra knob or two.

Read the Chase Bliss Audio Spectre review.

 

ZVex Fuzz Factory 7

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Builder: ZVex, Pedal: FF7, Effect Type: Fuzz

The original Fuzz Factory and newer Fat Fuzz Factory have attained classic status in the fuzz pedal arena, and the limited edition Fuzz Factory 7 is the current pinnacle of this circuit design. Using a pair of rare 1956 Amperex black glass germanium transistors, the FF7 has a slightly more distinctive tonal character in comparison to the standard Fuzz Factory & FFF. (See the demo in our ZVex FF7 review for a comparison.) But what really makes this pedal stand out is its 9-position “FAT” knob that lets you change the sub oscillation range for ridiculously huge low-end or very trebly and brittle tones (in a good way). A foot-switchable Tone knob lets you roll of the high-end for taming any excess harshness and rounds out what is one of the most tonally versatile and best fuzz pedals you’ll ever play. It’s complex and can get crazy but well-worth the amazing sonic journeys it’ll inspire. Get one before ZVex runs out of NOS transistors.

The Next Level? Presets, just presets. Imagine a diverse Fuzz Factory style pedal complete with FF7 style Tone knob & FAT modes with presets. Ultimate fuzz pedal right there.

Read the ZVex Fuzz Factory 7 review.

 

DryBell Vibe Machine V2

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Builder: DryBell, Pedal: V-2, Effect Type: Vibe Pedal

The original Shin-ei Uni-Vibe was a phase shifter effect that attempted to emulate the “doppler” sound of a rotating Leslie speaker cabinet. While it didn’t quite nail that sound, an all-new effect was born and made famous by guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Robin Trower, Stevie Ray Vaughan and countless others.

The DryBell Vibe Machine V-2 was a labor of love from a small Croatian builder to create the ultimate “Uni-Vibe” inspired guitar pedal. While the Vibe Machine V-1 was already the most advanced compact vibe pedal around, the V-2 takes it to the next level with features like Tap Tempo, a Custom input impedance option, and the convenience of no longer needing to open the pedal to adjust the bonus parameters. In short, it doesn’t really get any better than this pedal. The Vibe Machine V-2 nails the fat pulsing throb and gives your guitar that huge, liquidy texture and oily presence in the mix.

The Speed & Intensity control the rate and depth of the effect, respectively. There are switches for the expected Vibrato (wet only) and chorus modes as well as a Bright/Custom/Original switch for a classic “Uni-Vibe” tone, a more modern sound, or your own sweet spot in between. There’s also an expression pedal jack, essential for achieving real-time Speed control. (The Mission Engineering EP-1 works great.) The new DryBell F-1L is an essential companion for unlocking Tap Tempo or jumping between 2 speeds. There are several additional parameters including an output Volume side trimmer, Range & Symmetry trimmers to adjust the throb feel, and more.

The Next Level? Not sure what more could be done with this one. Presets, maybe? This is the vibe to get.

Read the DryBell Vibe Machine V-2 review.

 

Strymon BigSky

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Builder: Strymon, Pedal: BigSky, Effect Type: Reverb Pedal

We can’t go any further down this list without mentioning the Strymon BigSky. This mind-blowing reverb pedal comes in the familiar TimeLine/Mobius sized enclosure denoting its status as Strymon’s flagship reverb pedal. It has 12 immaculate reverb machines ranging from the expected Room, Hall, Spring, & Plate modes to more unique Bloom, Swell, Shimmer, & Chorale modes. There’s also the great multi-head echo of the Magneto machine. The BigSky produces some of the cleanest and most detailed reverbs you’ll hear in a guitar pedal.

Expected features like 200 presets, MIDI functionality, stereo I/O, and more are present, including a unique Cab Filter that’s great for using in conjunction with an amp-style pedal if you’re running your guitar direct.

The Next Level? I’ve been playing the BigSky since its release, and I still can’t really find any serious room for improvement. Maybe a Global setting for changing different Cab Filter voicings. But I’ll toss in another vote for Strymon to release an all-in-one effects processor featuring all of their cutting edge effects machines from BigSky, TimeLine, Mobius, & their other compact DSP pedals.

Read the Strymon BigSky review.

 

Bogner Ecstasy Red/Blue

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Builder: Bogner Amplification, Pedals: Ecstasy Red, Ecstacy Blue, Effect Type: Overdrive/Distortion

There’s arguably no one more qualified to attempt an amp-in-a-box pedal than the amp’s creator, so it’s no surprise that Mr. Reinhold Bogner was able to produce a very convincing reproduction of his classic Ecstasy amplifier head in pedal form. The Ecstasy Red & Blue pedals seek to replicate the 2 distinct channels of that amp, and they come as close as you could probably ever get without vacuum tubes and massive transformers.

The Ecstasy Blue covers clean and low-gain tones but can get pretty mean on the Blue mode with the Boost kicked in. The Plexi mode offers a great take on classic Marshall tones. The Variac mode is particularly useful if you want to increase the touch sensitivity and responsiveness of the pedal. The Pre EQ and Structure options let you further tweak the subtle characteristics and sound of the pedal with the Structure modes letting you emulate the vibe of various iterations of Bogner’s Ecstasy amp heads.

The Ecstasy Red picks up where the Blue leaves off and can take your guitar into even more heavily saturated territories. The mode options vary from a subtle Mellow, to a looser Full, and to a more focused Tight setting, adding to the myriad ways to create the perfect saturated tones. It’s important to emphasize that on both the Red & Blue pedals, these parameter options don’t stray too far from the Ecstasy’s core sound; these subtle options are present to let you refine the response of the pedal(s) to take your guitar playing ever closer to the pure land of sonic Shambhala and discover your own tonal Ecstasy.

The Next Level? I love the Remote input for activating the Boost/On foot-switch functions from a compatible MIDI effects switcher (using a TRS cable). I keep hearing a version in my head that’s a cross between the Red & Blue pedals. Ecstasy Purple, anyone?

 

EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run

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Builder: EarthQuaker Devices, Pedal: Avalanche Run, Effect Types: Delay/Reverb

The EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run is a standout digital delay with tap tempo and also features a simple and great sounding reverb built in. It takes the concept of their Dispatch Master delay/reverb to the next level in every possible way. The Avalanche Run is incredibly easy to use while offering plenty of great sounds. And those sounds are gorgeous thanks to EQD’s new high-end DSP template.

The 6 available tap divisions are easily selectable from a dedicated knob as are the different expression pedal options; these are signs that the Avalanche Run is about convenient use for live performance first and foremost. There’s also Normal, Reverse, & Swell modes for a solid selection of ambient focused delay options.

Be sure to try setting the pedal to Reverse mode with an expression pedal set to Toggle between Normal & Reverse. This lets you retain access to the Tap accessed oscillation when pressing and holding the foot-switch. If you’re using Normal or Swell modes with an expression pedal, you can still access the oscillation function; in Reverse mode with no exp pedal, the tap will toggle back to Normal delay mode while the Tap switch is pressed and held. A rad performace delay and arguably the best EarthQuaker Devices pedal to date.

The Next Level? I wish it had “smart relay bypass” and a TRS input for remote tapping and activating/bypassing the pedal from an external switch.

 

Dwarfcraft Devices Twin Stags & Happiness

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Builder: Dwarfcraft Devices, Pedals: Twin Stags/Happiness, Effect Types: Tremolo & Filter

The CV pedal takeover continues! The idea of using pedals is a modular approach to creating a single chain. Dwarfcraft Devices’ various CV compatible pedals take this to the next level, letting parameters of these pedals modulating parameters on other pedals. So meta, right?

The Twin Stags is a dual tremolo pedal. Each tremolo has controls for Rate, Shape, & Depth. Rate sets the speed of the trem effect. Shape adjusts the waveform from saw to triangle up to ramp. The Depth adjusts the intensity and further tweaks the feel of the trem in conjuction with the other parameters. (That’s putting it simply.) Things get more interesting when you flip the 2Mod1 switch as this lets the 2nd tremolo’s LFO modulate the 1st tremolo’s LFO for crazy polyrhythmic effects. External CV sources can be patched in to control either or both LFOs, and the LFO’s can output CV to other destinations. Expression Pedals inputs also allow control of either or both LFOs.

The Happiness is a massively powerful filter pedal built on a similar modular framework as the Twin Stags. Its Rate, Shape, & Depth knobs are similar to the Twin Stag’s controls, except in the Happiness the LFO is modulating the filter’s Frequency. The Rez controls the resonance, and you better keep this at noon or below until you’re ready to play with self-oscillation (cut the Master output down first, then crank the Rez and go nuts). The State switch selects High Pass, Low Pass, or Band Pass filtering. The Scramble switch activates a smoothed sample and hold random filtering, the rate of which is set by the Speed knob. You can also input CV to control the Filter or Scramble speed. You can output the LFO as well. And there’s exp pedal control of the LFO or Filter.

Okay, that might seem like a lot to take in unless you’ve already ventured into the land of modular synths. The good news is that this becomes pretty intuitive once you get a basic understanding of what each pedal does. Then just grab a few 1/8” patch cables and start syncing them up. The fun is endless and opens up a whole new world of inventive sound design.

The Next Level? Just give us more CV pedals! These pedals become much more fun when you connect them to other CV compatible pedals.

 

Empress Effects Compressor

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Builder: Empress Effects, Pedal: Compressor, Effect Type: Compressor

The aptly named Empress Effects Compressor is the innovative Canadian builder’s excellent take on a stompbox FET guitar compressor. It has incredibly low noise (be sure to mind your Input & Output levels for best results) and an intuitive studio style knob layout with a Ratio switch (2:1, 4:1, & 10:1) and Mix knob for parallel compression blending. The Meter LEDs can monitor the Input, Gain Reduction, or Both at once, which if anything, just looks cool even if you don’t typically monitor the response.

What really sets the Empress Compressor apart is the Sidechain Input, a feature I’d really like to see on more compressors. You can use a TRS cable to send your signal to a filter/EQ and have the pedal only respond to certain frequencies, maybe ducking when too much low-end is present, for example. Also, you can send a kick drum to the compressor for side-chain triggering for that “pumping” effect heard in electronic dance music to make your guitar move and breathe with your tracks. Very cool.

The Next Level? I’d like to see an amazingly clean VCA or FET analog compressor with Sidechain like the Empress Compressor, but with presets. Aside from having multiple compression settings for different instruments and styles of playing, this would be the ultimate compressor for electronic music if it were possible to instantly recall different Attack, Release, & Ratio settings for a different “pumping” feel with various BPMs.

Read the Empress Effects Compressor review.

 

Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret

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Builder: Catalinbread, Pedal: DLS, Effect Type: Overdrive/Distortion

The secret is out. The Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret is one of the best amp-in-a-box pedals you’ll ever play, particularly if you like Marshall flavors of grit and drive. The default sound is based on the early 70’s Super Lead amps, but you can also coax out some “Plexi” style sounds at lower Pre-Amp levels. The real secret of this pedal is its Super Bass mode, accessible via an internal flip-switch. This reconfigures the sound and tone controls for a deeper, more open sound that’s less compressed. And it begs to be stacked with other dirt and fuzz pedals, fitting considering that Catalinbread refers to this as a “foundation overdrive” pedal. In addition to the Marshall-style tone controls, you’ll find a Presence trimmer inside for tweaking the high-end to suit your rig. A killer pedal all around that never fails to impress.

The Next Level? The DLS is currently in its MKIII iteration, so it could be redesigned again. I’d like to see the Presence trimmer be external. Also, as tough as it may be to implement, the Super Lead/Super Bass switch needs to be outside so that guitarists can more easily explore those great hidden tones.

Read the Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret review.

 

Electro Harmonix HOG2

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Builder: Electro Harmonix, Pedal: HOG2, Effect Type: Octave/Guitar Synth

The Electro Harmonix HOG2 expands the range of tones available from the classic EHX POG2 with a massive 10 voice polyphony. In addition to octaves that span from -2 to +4, you’ll find intervals of +5th, +1 oct & a 5th, and +2 oct & a 3rd. There’s also a wealth of modes including the “Whammy” style Octave Bend, a (whole) Step Bend, Volume, Freeze+Vol, Wah Wah, & Filter. Also, the awesome Freeze+Gliss mode is an expression pedal controllable version of the effect that inspired the standalone EHX Superego guitar synth. (The HOG2 is also the platform from which the B9 Organ Machine, C9 Organ Machine, Key9 Electric Piano Machine, and Mel9 Tape Reply Machine, a Mellotron simulator, are all derived.) The HOG2 also has an awesome resonant low pass Filter and an Envelope section for shaping the Attack & Decay of the upper and lower octave frequencies. There’s even complete MIDI implementation that allows some unbelievably wild control possibilities from external MIDI controllers and DAWs/sequencers like Ableton Live. If you’re going deep with the HOG2, grab the HOG2 Foot Controller for preset selection.

The Next Level? Tracking is excellent, but improvements are always welcome. I wish the awesome MIDI controllable Filter was routable for separate use on the Dry Signal or other audio sources. And is there any way to shrink it while retaining all functionality?

Read the Electro Harmonix HOG2 review.

 

Xotic Effects RC Booster V2

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Builder: Xotic Effects, Pedal: RCB-V2, Effect Type: Clean Boost

The Xotic RC Booster was the best clean boost pedal I’d heard. The Xotic RC Booster V2 is even more versatile. It’s impeccably pure and true to your guitar’s tone when engaged. If you need to bring out the upper or lower frequencies of your instrument, simply apply a mild boost of the Treble or Bass, respectively. Or cut them both and raise the Volume a bit more for a mid boost. If you crank the Gain you can get a bit of mild overdrive from the pedal, but even that sounds more uncolored than most so-called transparent overdrive pedals.

Essentially, the V2 is the production version of the limited edition Scott Henderson variations. Hitting the 2nd foot-switch brings in an additional 2nd Gain knob for a bit more grit. Even the original RC Booster still outclasses just about any boost pedal you stack it up against, but the V2 is a most tempting upgrade.

The Next Level? Sounds flawless. The foot-switch spacing might be too close for some guitarists.

Read the Xotic RC Booster review.

 

Origin Effects Cali76 (series)

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Builder: Origin Effects, Pedals: Cali76-CD/Compact/TX & TX-L, Effect Type: Compressor Pedals

The Origin Effects Cali76 changed expectations of modern guitar compressor pedals by delivering a circuit and sound inspired by the iconic Urei 1176 FET rack compressor. While some companies throw around references to the “1176” in hopes of selling their wares, the Cali76 has been expertly derived from the schematic topology of the venerable rack units with painstaking attention to detail by an experienced engineer, Mr. Simon Keats. His long-standing history in guitar compression helped Origin Effects achieve a similarly iconic sound in guitar pedal form.

There have been several versions of the Cali76, including a few limited editions that have unique tonal characteristics. (See our Origin Effects Cali76 & Cali76 Compact & Compact Deluxe review for more.) The Cali76-CD is the ultimate compact version of the pedal, featuring a full parameter set and parallel compression Dry signal knob. Although, don’t discount the Cali76-C as its simpler design somehow produces a higher output level. The bigger TX & TX-L units maintain the larger circuit topology and utilize either Origin Effects’ own Iron-Core transformer or a Lundahl transformer, respectively, and can produce higher-gain transformer saturation if you’d like a little extra character. These pedals are modern masterpieces in guitar pedal design through and through.

The Next Level? I’d be curious to see a mid-sized Cali76 that brings the transformer (and germanium?) options to a smaller compact format.

Read the Origin Effects Cali76-CD & C review.

 

Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl MKII

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Builder: Chase Bliss Audio, Pedal: Warped Vinyl MKII, Effect Type: Chorus/Vibrato

Chase Bliss Audio shattered the paradigm of analog guitar pedals with the lo-fi Warped Vinyl. Fusing digital control with analog design, this pedal ushered in a bold new perspective in guitar pedal design. Then they took it even further with the Warped Vinyl MKII by adding a Tone knob and lowering the noise, simple design tweaks that make this the ultimate analog chorus pedal. You can still get those dark and murky, lo-fi warped record sounds, or you can brighten up the sound for more conventional chorus and vibrato sounds. The lo-fi noise is still available at the flick of a dip-switch. The Warped Vinyl (and MKII) also introduced guitarists to Chase Bliss Audio’s unique ModuShape modulation waveform interface as well as their trademark Ramping functionality that lets you set parameters to modulate in real-time. No company does analog modulation like Chase Bliss Audio, and the Warped Vinyl MKII is a modern masterpiece in guitar pedal design.

The Next Level? Anyone with me on wanting a stereo version in a slightly wider enclosure to accommodate top-mounted stereo I/O and a Ramp-able Tone control?

Read the Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl MKII review.

 

Strymon Deco

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Builder: Strymon, Pedal: Deco, Effect Type: Doubletracker Pedal

There really isn’t any other pedal out there like the Strymon Deco. Yes, some pedals offer some variation of simulated double-tracking using digital delay and modulation, but nothing comes close to the sounds of the Deco.

A range of tape style flanging, chorus, slap-back, and tape echo effects can be achieved by adjusting the spatial timing difference between the Deco’s 2 virtual tape reels. The sounds are beautiful to behold in mono and stereo, and modulating Deck 2 via an expression pedal lets you morph between the different tape effects in realtime.

While traditional in its inspiration and general application usage, the Deco represents the boldest release yet from Strymon and is alone its class as the best guitar pedal to capture the essence, sound, and feel of making music with reel to reel tape decks.

The Next Level? I’d just like to see MIDI functionality and presets. There are simply too many great sounds available in the Deco. It would be fantastic if Strymon made a few hardware/software tweaks to get more out of their compact guitar pedals.

Read the Strymon Deco review.

 

EarthQuaker Devices Palisades

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Builder: EarthQuaker Devices, Pedal: Palisades, Effect Type: Overdrive

The EarthQuaker Devices Palisades threw the Tube Screamer from a steep cliff and rebuilt it from the ground up to redefine the definitive rock ‘n roll overdrive pedal. Legendary guitar pedal engineer, Robert Keeley, put it best in saying, “Tube Screamers weren’t punk until the Palisades.”

This monster overdrive pedal has 2 channels, each with their own Gain controls, and a separate foot-switchable Boost section. There’s overall Volume & Tone knobs as well as a unique 5-position Bandwidth control that thickens or thins out the sound and provides unique results depending on how other parameters are set. A 6-position Voice knob lets you choose from No diodes, LED, Mosfet, Asymmetrical Silicon, Symmetrical Silicon, and Schottky Diode clipping for a range of tonal variation that eclipses any TS-808 derived pedal to date. There’s also Normal & Bright modes as well as an optional Buffer. The Palisades could be the only overdrive pedal you need and is one of the best guitar pedals to come from EQD yet.

The Next Level? I like that the Boost applies only when the pedal is activated. Some guitarists would prefer it to be independently switch-able for pushing your amp into overdrive without the TS flavor. An extra flip-switch to give guitarists the choice of operation would be an ideal solution.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Palisades review.

 

WMD Protostar

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Builder: WMDevices, Pedal: Protostar, Effect Type: Envelope Filter

I love filters – all kinds of filters – from Mu-Tron style envelope filters and the high & low pass filters of a vintage Korg MS-20 to basic wah pedals. Filters offer dynamically expressive ways to alter the tonality of your audio signal, and the WMD Protostar is the most unique and widely applicable filter pedal released.

The Protostar was first unveiled back at Winter NAMM 2015 as the new iteration of the WMD Super Fatman, complete with a modular synthesizer inspired CV patch bay. At Winter NAMM 2016 the Super Fatman got a snazzier inverted paint-scheme and an even cooler interstellar name. After some final tweaking, the Protostar finally reached the hands of guitarists.

This pedal offers a wormhole of options. The 70’s funk auto-wah effects are the most basic and sound killer; the Protostar’s built-in Compression circuit tames resonant peaks for the smoothest textures. The LFO can also modulate the filter from an extremely slow glacial churn to a warp speed pulse that folds time and space into oscillating overtones. 4 filter modes give you high pass, low pass, band pass, and notched filtering. A Send & Return even loop lets you apply another effect to the mix.

The Protostar’s biggest draw is the CV (control voltage) patch bay, and the Protostar takes CV/Exp control into bold new frontiers where no pedal has gone before. You can route the EXP OUT to control LFO Rate, LFO AMT, FREQ, or Feedback (Resonance). Or you can have the envelope (that responds to your pick attack & guitar signal) dynamically control one of those 4 parameters. You can also get crazy and have the Protostar control your other pedals with CV compatible exp pedal inputs. I’ve been a long-time advocate for pedals having expression pedal jacks that are CV compatible, and this pedal is arguably the best reason to have a few extra CV compatible pedals around. Imagine dynamically controlling your phasers, flangers, pitch-shifters, bit-crushers, and other CV compatible pedals. Suddenly, your other pedals have a host of new ways to be played. The other surprises the Protostar has in store are yours to explore.

The Next Level? There are so many crazy sounds in here that you’ll wish for presets.

  

Keeley Electronics Dark Side & Loomer

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Builder: Keeley Electronics, Pedals: Dark Side/Loomer, Effect Types: Fuzz/Delay/Modulation & Fuzz/Reverb

Keeley has been on unleashing a slew of great all-in-one “Workstation” pedals, each containing a plethora of fun and inspiring effects. One of the more successful Workstation releases was the Monterey, a classic style fuzz combined with various Jimi Hendrix inspired effects. While that pedal is a great pedal in its own right, Keeley & Co. really outdid themselves with the Dark Side & Loomer, pedals respectively inspired by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine.

Both the Loomer & Dark Side feature the same Big Muff inspired fuzz section. It’s a seriously killer fuzz that’s even more versatile than Keeley’s Psi Fuzz, one of my personal favorite Muff variations. The Level, Filter, & Fuzz let you dial in the output level, tone, and amout of gain. The fuzz section’s Flat, Full, & Scoop flip-switch lets you dial in the perfect foundation for coloring with the Filter control.

The Dark Side is the more versatile of the two pedals. Its biggest draw (aside from the awesome fuzz) is its multi-head tape delay with 12 selectable tape head configurations for great pattern delay effects. Then there’s selectable modulation variations: Flange/Rotary & Phase/U-Vibe. When the Mod flip-switch is set to either of those 2 options, the Blend knob will select from one of the two Mod choices in either extreme position. What’s extra interesting is that you can set the Blend knob in the middle to blend between the two Mod effects for hybrid modulation sounds.

The Loomer takes that great fuzz foundation and adds a reverb section with 3 unique modes. The Focus option recreates the Soft Focus patch from the Yamaha FX500. It takes a dense reverb and adds two delays (250mS & 380mS) and a 4 voice chorus. Sounds very lush. The Reverse mode gives you a backwards reverb sound in the style of the Yamaha SPX90 & Alesis Midiverb II. In Reverse Mode the Depth knob controls the depth of an envelope controlled trem bar detuning effect. The Tone knob emulates a Fender Jazzmaster’s rhythm pickup tone control. The Hall mode is a hall reverb with ascending shimmer. It’s serene and gorgeous.

The Next Level? Each of these pedals originally shipped with a TRS jack that allows you to patch other effects between the Fuzz & Mod section or route the 2 effects to different areas of your rig. Keeley recently replaced this option with an Order switch (particularly useful on the Loomer for feeding the reverb into the fuzz, shoegaze style). The verdict is out on which option is better. Perhaps we could have them both. ;)

 

Hologram Electronics Dream Sequence

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Builder: Hologram Electronics, Pedal: Dream Sequence, Effect Type: Octave/Other

It feels like I had been waiting forever for a pedal like this to come along. The Hologram Electronics Dream Sequence is a programmable rhythmic octave pedal that allows you to create sequenced octave patterns. You can record and automate knob movements to save as presets or even use a DAW like Ableton Live to control the Dream Sequence in real-time via MIDI. And yes, you can save externally sequenced patterns as presets, too. This pedal unleashes the kind of music making potential that I’ve been dreaming about.

The Dream Sequence’s 5 LED grid provides an indication of the volume levels of the 3 voices (-1 octave, middle octave, & +1 octave), the Tap Tempo rate, and the Hold status for the sample function. This lightshow display gives you an intuitive view of the octave sounds you’ll hear.

Aside from the rhythmic octave effects, you can use the Auxillary Modes to play the octaves as an accompaniment to your dry signal and set the volume manually. Whether you play with the octaves in a traditional manner or create tremolo patterns for the various octaves, all of these sounds can be saved as presets for recalling in the future. You can even save the settings of the digitally controlled analog Drive & Tone parameters.

The Dream Sequence is a new kind of instrument. By combining elements of classic effects like octave synthesis, tremolo, and analog drive with powerful rhythmic programming potential, guitarists who take the plunge into Hologram Electronics’ debut release will discover surreal dreamscapes of melody beauty.

The Next Level? In isolation the octaves sound a bit wobbly. Would love it if they could be even smoother. Not really an issue though when sequencing patterns. Also, top mounted jacks would be nice.

 

Neunaber Immerse Reverberator

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Builder: Neunaber, Pedal: Immerse, Effect Type: Reverb

The Neunaber Immerse Reverberator has the most gorgeous sounding reverb algorithms you’ll hear in a compact guitar pedal of this size. Seriously, this pedal sounds amazing and easily rivals the offerings from Eventide, Strymon, & Empress. In fact, Neunaber’s ethereal shimmer effects are the best I’ve heard in any pedal to date.

The Immerse essentially takes the great sounds of the Expanse Series of pedals and makes them easily accessible via an 8-position rotary knob. There’s even reverb+detune and reverb+echo multi-effect modes in addition to the 2 immaculate shimmer modes and equally great spring, plate, hall, and wet modes. Each of these reverb effects stands out, and there isn’t a filler sound in the Immerse.

Functional perks include mono/stereo I/O that can also handle mono to stereo and stereo to mono signals, even allowing use of TRS cabled signals on the input and/or output side. A Kill Dry gives you an all-wet signal for running parallel signal paths. The Trails switch gives you reverb spillover when bypassing the pedal. Also, the Immerse has a smart relay bypass that’ll remember if the pedal active or bypassed when last powered up, using in rigs with effects switchers.

The Next Level? I think we’re all hoping Neunaber releases a reverb pedal with onboard presets and MIDI functionality at some point. Fingers crossed.

 

Electro Harmonix Pitch Fork

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Builder: Electro Harmonix, Pedal: Pitch Fork, Effect Type: Pitch Shifter

The Electro Harmonix Pitch Fork is one of the most versatile and affordable pitch shifter pedals you’ll find. You can either plug in an expression pedal or use the foot-switch in momentary mode for pitch bends up to +/- 3 octaves. There are 11 pitch intervals for transposing or drop tuning. Also interesting is the Dual mode which gives you several presets of dual harmonies selected via the shift knob. The +1/-1 harmony setting also gives you sounds pretty close to EHX’s own Micro POG, although the levels of these 2 voices can only be blended together instead of individually. Still, the POG-like sounds add to the overall utility value of this pedal. Most importantly, it sounds great for the price and is a worthy pitch shifter pedal for budget-minded guitarists. Also, the CV control works incredibly well if any modular synth manglers want to add this to their hybrid pedal/synth rig.

The Next Level? Tracking improvements are always welcome. Knobs for blending Dual voices and adjusting output level could be useful. While using a MIDI to CV converter works well with the Pitch Fork (I tried one), I’d love to see a compact pitch-shifter with MIDI functionality built in.

Read the EHX Pitch Fork review.

 

Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas

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Builder: Chase Bliss Audio, Pedal: Gravitas, Effect Type: Tremolo

A tremolo pedal like the Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas seemed like an obvious offshoot to the successful Warped Vinyl & Wombtone pedals. Chase Bliss Audio already had a great modulation template going, so why not release a tremolo pedal? But what seemed like an add-on pedal to fill the lineup actually turned out to be an amazingly beautiful vintage inspired tremolo pedal.

Gravitas brings all the parameter modulating Ramping, ModuShape waveform editing, tap tempo, presets, MIDI, and more to a compact tremolo. The big surprise of the Gravitas is the beautiful Harmonic mode that applies the LFO to the Tone knob and the Both mode that combines the Harmonic mode with Standard tremolo. The Gravitas became a sleeper hit and is the best and most original analog tremolo pedal I’ve seen since the discontinued LightFoot Labs Goatkeeper GK3.

The Next Level? For smooth, classic tremolo, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Read the Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas review.

 

Old Blood Noise Endeavors Dark Star V2

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Builder: OBNE, Pedal: Dark Star V2, Effect Type: Reverb

Old Blood Noise Endeavors is a perfect example of a pedal company that has an entirely unique vibe that comes through in everything they do. From the art, to the packaging, and the beautiful circuits in between, you can probably tell by a glance if this pedal or this builder might be for you.

The OBNE Dark Star V2 is the second iteration of company’s unique “Pad Reverb” pedal. That effect designation should give you a starting point about what to expect. The Dark Star creates lingering pad-like soundscapes. It’s about moving people and evoking emotions through the mesmerizing journeys this pedal can take you on.

There are 3 effects types onboard – Pitch, Delay, & Crush – that alter the sounds of the Dark Star greatly. Pitch gives you dual pitch-shifted harmonies that span from a -1 to +1 octave range. Crush trades one harmony for a sample rate deduction, bit-crushing control. Delay puts a delay after the reverb that’ll carry your sound to what lies beyond eternity. V2 brings in a soft-touch bypass foot-switch and expression pedal input. An internal switch let’s the exp pedal and momentary foot-switch alter either the Reverb or CTRL 1 parameters.

The Next Level? Just needs smart relay bypass switching. Brilliant otherwise.

 

Seymour Duncan Palladium Gain Stage

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Builder: Seymour Duncan, Pedal: Palladium, Effect Type: Distortion

Since Seymour Duncan got back in the pedal game, they’ve been killing it with great pedals like the Vapour Trail Analog Delay, Pickup Booster, & 805 Overdrive. The Palladium Gain Stage is their take on the ultimate amp-style distortion pedal, and man, does it deliver the goods big-time.

The Palladium is all about gain and giving you complete control over defining your perfect distortion sound. It excels at medium to higher gain tones and is one of the best pedals you could use to add an extra crunch or lead channel to your rig. The pedal has a very tight & responsive feel that really lends to the amp-like vibe, and it’s great for both lead and rhythm playing in a variety of styles.

The Palladium rules over lesser amp-in-a-box distortion pedals thanks to its in-depth tone controls that include Presence, Treble, Mid Level & Mid Freq, Bass, and a unique Resonance knob that increases gain in the lower frequencies to emulate the massive thump of playing through a 4×12 cabinet. This versatile EQ section gives the Palladium the ability to cover a wide range of classic to modern rock, prog, & metal guitar sounds. It’s also surely no accident that this pedal can be contoured for any pickup combination considering it’s made by the world’s premier builder of guitar pickups; from single-coils to humbuckers and everything in between, you’ll have no problem pairing this pedal with any distortion hungry guitar.

The 805 Overdrive inspired Boost section (the Palladium’s icing on the cake) lets you add a little extra grit and cut for solos and adds even more versatility to an already great foundation. Also, the pedal’s “smart” true relay bypass switching remembers if the Palladium was engaged or disengaged when last powered, making it a great addition for pro guitarists with effects switchers and/or rack rigs. Now which color combo do you want, matte black & silver or glossy white & dark green?

The Next Level? A built-in gate might help tame this monster when using the more extreme gain sounds.

 

Source Audio Reflex Universal Expression Controller

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Builder: Source Audio, Pedal: Reflex, Pedal Type: Expression Pedal

There’s no shortage of expression pedals out there. I’ve used plenty and still have several from various builders. But the Source Audio Universal Expression Controller is different and changes the way guitarists control their effects in realtime.

The big draw is the Reflex’s 3 expression outputs. Each of these 3 outputs can be configured for Normal, Reverse, or CV by adjusting a few dip-switches on the bottom of the pedal. You can also program the sweep range and shape of the sweep and save your configurations as presets.

Using a MIDI switcher with MIDI-enabled pedals? A MIDI compatible lets you conveniently change presets. You can also control up to 3 MIDI parameters on your MIDI pedals in realtime. Class compliant USB-MIDI interfacing even lets you take control of your DAW. Time to fire up Ableton Live! There’s even a Sensor Out that interfaces with other Source Audio pedals (Nemesis Delay, anyone?) for control of parameters.

If you need to control more than one pedal via exp pedal, the Source Audio Reflex is the pedal to get. Bottom line: it really is the most advanced expression pedal you’ll find.

Next Level? The Reflex is amazing. The only thing I wish it could do is allow MIDI-to-EXP/CV control, but that might be for another product altogether.

 

Electro Harmonix Mel9

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Builder: EHX, Pedal: Mel9, Effect Type: Guitar Synth

Electro Harmonix has become the modern leader in compact, affordable polyphonic guitar synthesizers. The huge success and reliable polyphonic tracking of EHX’s POG, POG2, HOG, & HOG2 pedals led to them adapting that platform to create new sounds & textures with the Ravish Sitar, Superego, and more recently, the B9, C9, & Key9 pedals. But their latest offering is the boldest yet, and dare I say, the best of the “9” series pedals so far.

The Electro Harmonix Mel9 Tape Reply Machine produces sounds inspired by the Mellotron, a unique keyboard instrument where each key controls the playback of a single pre-recorded sound from magnetic tape. Think of it as an early example of a sampler. The Mel9 features 9 preset banks of sounds with many classic Mellotron inspired settings including Orchestra, Cello, Strings, & Flute among others. The Mel9 will take your guitar to Strawberry Fields, Kashmir, and the Court of the Crimson King.

While the 9 presets and dedicated Attack & Release are adequate for shaping the Mel9’s tones, more flexibility opens up if you split the signal via the Effect & Dry outputs and process your guitar and the Mel9 voices separately. While additional tone sculpting controls would have been welcome, you can’t argue with how easy it is to get great sounding Mellotron style sounds with this one simple pedal. Maybe consider adding a guitar compressor up front to even out your dynamics for a more consistent volume level. This will give you the smoothest results.

The Next Level? Electro Harmonix has been milking the “9” synth pedal format for a while. While we’re waiting on a MIDI & user preset enabled all-in-one pedal, I’d like to see a “Har9” with harps, harpsichords, and… harmonicas maybe?

 

Malekko Scrutator

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Builder: Malekko, Pedal: Scrutator, Effect Types: Bit-Crusher/Filter

The Malekko Scrutator is incredibly innovative for a number of reasons. First, this pedal utilizes Malekko’s new DSP platform which is already leading to other crazy pedals such as their Charlie Foxtrot & Sneak Attack.

In addition to the Scrutator’s awesome sample-rate and bit-reduction effects (aka “Bit-Crushing”), the Scrutator has a 2-pole resonant filter with Bandpass & Lowpass modes. You can essentially use this pedal as a bit-crusher, a filter, or both at once.

Things get even crazier when you add in an expression pedal or control voltage source. You can program the sweep range of the Rate, Filter, Q, & Bit, controlling up to all 4 parameters at once in either direction. This is what really pushes the Scrutator over the top as the ultimate compact bit-crusher/filter pedal.

Rounding it out are a Mix knob for keeping the Nintendo Power’d tones in check and an analog Preamp with level knob & clipping LED to attenuate input gain.

The Next Level? The power jack could be more conveniently located. Also, it would be handy if the relay switching remembered if the pedal was active or bypassed, very useful for effects switchers and MIDI rigs. But wherever Malekko goes with their DSP effects will be worth keeping an eye on.

 

EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine

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Builder: EarthQuaker Devices, Pedal: Rainbow Machine, Effect Type: Elven Sparkle Magic (aka pitch-shifter/modulation)

The EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine is the pedal that established EQD as a builder that embraces the fringes of sonic exploration by jumping into the rabbit hole of mind-melting guitar pedal psychedelia. The Rainbow Machine is a pitch-shifting modulation pedal that hearkens back to some of the crazier sounds I remember from the Boss PS-3.

The Rainbow Machine has controls for Primary & Secondary voices and a master Pitch knob that’ll tune the harmony voicing from a 4th down to a 3rd up. Tracking adjusts the delay time of the harmony, and a Tone knob rolls off high-end to tame the overtones if necessary.

The Rainbow Machine is all about the Magic, activated with a dedicated foot-switch and dialed in via the Magic knob. It essentially takes this pitch oscillating spice trip into even crazier otherworldly dimensions.

The Next Level? If EQD added CV control, it would be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But if they include the relay switching that they’ve rolled out on other recent pedal releases, it’ll be like someone picked all the marshmallows out of my box of Lucky Charms.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine review.

 

Rivera Sustain Shaman

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Builder: Rivera, Pedal: Sustain Shaman, Effect Type: Compressor

The Rivera Sustain Shaman is a pro-grade 2-channel VCA guitar compressor. It has a familiar expanded Ross-style control set but differs from a Ross-style comp in that it’s quieter and more transparent. The Tone & Blend let you set the amount of compression while brightening or darkening the compressed sound as you turn the Tone from a flat response at noon. Attack lets you make room for your pick attack or squash it while Sustain dials in the overall amount of compression.

Aside from the convenience of having 2 channel operation in a guitar compressor pedal, Channel B has an additional Super Sustain switch that takes the sustain over the top for killer “Fernandes Sustainer” or “Sustainiac” types of sounds without the need for a special pickup. For clean tones you’ll want to use this effect with restraint as the noise floor and volume rises (as with any compressor) as you increase “sustain”. But for screaming leads that sustain and feedback with ease, this mode is indispensable. Try using Channel A for a normal compression setting and kicking in Channel B with “Super Sustain” just for certain notes or moments when you need it. Without a doubt the most under-rated and under-appreciated pedal I’ve played.

The Next Level? A jack for switching channels via an external foot-switch could be handy. Also, some guitarists might want a smaller single channel version.

Read the Rivera Sustain Shaman review.

 

Death By Audio Apocalypse

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Builder: Death By Audio, Pedal: Apocalypse, Effect Type: Fuzz Pedal

The Death By Audio Apocalypse is a monster fuzz pedal and will likely be a staple on this list and our best fuzz pedals list as long as it’s in production. The Volume & Drive controls are self-explanatory, letting you set output level and gain. The Sweepable Frequency Equalizer knob gives you a super wide range of tonal variation and is musical throughout its range, rare in a single “tone” knob.

The 5-position mode selector is where things get interesting. The “Twin-T Scoup” gives you a heavy fuzz that’s greaty for palm-muting. The “Gainiac/War Fuzz” is a variation of what you’ll hear in the Fuzz War and discontinued Thee Ffuzz Warr Overload pedals. “Dual J-FET/Square Wave” is similar to the previous setting but with dual J-FETs and a clipped waveform for a “balls to the wall” sound according to Death By Audio. The “Octave Rect/Octavious” setting creates monster octave fuzz tones. The “Gain x1000/Wave Form Shifter” setting is an extreme and gnarly sounding fuzz for terrorizing your unsuspecting audience. (Or maybe they know what’s coming?)

The Next Level? Would be nice if it were in a somewhat smaller guitar pedal enclosure. Don’t touch the sounds… unless more modes can be added.

Read the Death By Audio Apocalypse review.

 

TC Electronic Sub’n’Up Octaver

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Builder: TC Electronic, Pedal: Sub’n’Up, Effect Type: Octave Pedal

The TC Electronic Sub’n’Up Octaver is a one of newer entries to make the list, but the incredible tracking stability and sound quality of this pedal earns its inclusion. TC Electronic has included pitch-shifting & octave effects in their flagship Nova System guitar effects processor units, but this is the first time TC Electronic has brought us a compact digital octave pedal. They obviously spent a lot of time ensuring that the Sub’n’Up can handle single notes and chords with ease.

The Sub’n’Up’s Classic mode emulates the tones and feel of classic monophonic sub-octave pedals. The Polyphonic mode is an ultra-modern take that sounds great with just about anything you throw at it. The TonePrint mode gives you a default “guitar organ” sound with modulation out of the box. This mode seems aimed at giving the EHX B9/C9 a run for their money considering this pedal offers a great organ-like sound with the regular octave modes for an incredibly affordable entry fee. Also, with the TC Electronic TonePrint Editor app, you can create a whole suite of amazing sounds with flange, chorus, and other modulation while also completely tweaking the tonality and sound of each octave voicing. This is one of TC Electronic’s most impressive offerings and hopefully a sign of more great things to come.

The Next Level? An “Up 2” voice would be nice even if you could only add it in via the TonePrint Editor. Would like to see an expression pedal input and MIDI with more available TonePrint presets for the Sub’n’Up X2 if TC Electronic should release such a pedal.

 

Free The Tone Tri Avatar

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Builder: Free The Tone, Pedal: TA-1H, Effect Type: Chorus

The Free The Tone Tri Avatar Multi-Dimensional Chorus is a stereo tri-chorus pedal that recalls the famous Roland Dimension D & Dyno-My-Piano TSC rack units in concept but offers an all-new digital tri-chorus sound. The 3 chorus voicings are staggered 120 degrees (sequentially, not in a circle) and have individual depth controls to create an incredibly lush and vibrant chorusing effect that sounds equally great in mono or stereo. The Tri Avatar also has 4 on-board presets, an expression pedal input, and MIDI functionality for integration with professional grade effects switchers and complex rack rigs. A killer chorus with impeccable design and build quality.

The Next Level? Some guitarists will have wished for vibrato sounds, but digital chorus doesn’t get much better than this.

Read the Free The Tone Tri Avatar review.

 

Sonic Research Turbo Tuner ST-300

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Builder: Sonic Research, Pedal: ST-300/ST-300 Mini, Pedal Type: Guitar Tuner

The Sonic Research Turbo Tuner ST-300 & ST-300 Mini are the successors to the company’s successful Turbo Tuner ST-200. The ST-300 pedals feature zero latency true strobe displays driven by your guitar’s analog input signal, not to be confused with the simulated strobe tuning display of other guitar tuners with so-called “strobe” modes. Both pedals feature the same unparalleled ±.02 cent accuracy of the ST-200 and are fully programmable for alternate tunings and temperaments. The pedals feature 6 tuning presets including a default chromatic mode. The reference pitch can be shifted from A=440Hz down to A=300 or up to A=599.9 in .1 Hz increments, letting you create an A=432Hz guitar tuner preset or just about any other elusive tuning.

The noteworthy changes from the ST-200 to these pedals as follows. The ST-300 Mini is smaller and more compact. The bigger ST-300 has optional Pass-through Modes, letting the signal always pass through the pedal; the foot-switch can then be set to either turn the tuner on and off or mute the output. The ST-300 has an extra power output for daisy-chaining other pedals when using an external power supply. Both pedals feature a new relay bypass that fades the signal in and out to prevent clicking, a very handy feature. While I was initially concerned about the pedal defaulting to “bypassed” when powered on via external power supply, you can set both pedals to default to “on” (even though it’s not currently mentioned in the ST-300 Mini’s manual). This is extremely useful in rigs with MIDI effects switchers.

The Next Level? Some will wish the ST-300 Mini had the Pass-through modes of the larger ST-300. But these are arguably the best guitar tuner pedals currently available.

 

Spaceman Orion

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Builder: Spaceman, Pedal: Orion, Effect Type: Analog Spring Reverb

I fell in love with this pedal back at Summer NAMM 2015. Pedals don’t always live up to the hype after NAMM, but I came to view the Orion as something even more special once I has able to spend more time with it. Now don’t assume this pedal is an emulation of the spring reverb found in your Fender Twin Reverb or your favorite old amp-top unit. The Orion is an all-new spring reverb design that should be judged on its own merits.

Spaceman built the Orion first and foremost as a live performance reverb. It’s size is evidence of that as this pedal is much smaller than any clunky amp-top reverb relic. The spring unit inside is also suspended within the pedal so that stage vibrations don’t cause disruption to the smooth ‘verb sounds. (You can give the pedal a kick if you want to get a pan-crash effect. It’s solidly built and can handle some unabusive bumps.) The switching is also very quiet, so activating the pedal doesn’t yield an unpleasant reverb pop.

The controls are practical and essential, with Volume, Blend, Tone, & Dwell fulfilling their self-explanatory functions. The Tone is particularly useful for dialing in dark and brooding reverb tones or very bright reverb. Some settings can be a bit noisy, particularly if you go for those super bright reverb sounds. The noise shouldn’t be an issue in a mix, but guitarists who’ve been spoiled by pristine digital spring reverb emulations might be taken aback by the Orion’s old school analog charm. But those who love real analog spring reverb will surely get what the Orion is all about and love it for what it is.

The Next Level? Any improvements to the noise floor would be appreciated. Top mounted jacks would make it even more pedalboard friendly.

 

Keeley Electronics Compressor Pro

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Builder: Keeley Electronics, Pedal: Compressor Pro, Effect Type: Compressor Pedal

The Keeley Electronics Compressor Pro is the Oklahoma based builder’s flagship compressor pedal. Keeley is one of the definitive names in guitar compressors, and this is the company pulling out all the stops. It’s incredibly transparent (as a good VCA comp should be), and it’s got a range of studio-style controls, including a rarely seen Knee control for a Soft or Hard attack curve. The Auto mode is incredibly useful as this bypasses the Attack & Release knob settings to let the compressor (with true RMS level detection) respond naturally to your input source material, basically giving you a quality compression sound without needing to painstakingly tweak it to dial it in just right.

On a side-note, the Keeley GC-2 Limiting Amplifier is in essence a simplified version of the Compressor Pro. If you need an all-purpose comp, the Compressor Pro may be the best choice, but the preset hard knee and Threshold, Ratio, Gain setup of the GC-2 make it excellent for brick-wall limiting duties in a complex rig with a lot of pedals. It’s great for taming volume spikes anywhere in your signal chain. While I personally favor the GC-2, the Compressor Pro can cover these duties and more, making it a more versatile pedal overall.

The Next Level? Some guitarists may like to see a dedicated Blend control for parallel compression. I’d just like to see a Sidechain Input for letting an external audio source trigger then compression of this excellent pedal.

Read the Keeley Compressor Pro review.

 

Totally Wycked Audio Great Divide 2.0

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Builder: TWA, Pedal: Great Divide 2.0, Effect Type: Octave/Synth Pedal

The TWA Great Divide 2.0 is an all-analog monophonic octave synth pedal. It lets you blend 5 voices (including your dry signal). It has a -1 Oct, a Sub that’s tunable from -1 octave to -2.6 octaves, a screaming Octavia style +1 octave, and a Syn voice that gives you various chopped, squared, & modulated tones and is also tunable down to -2.6 octaves. There’s an Envelope switch as well as a slew of internal trimmers for customizing the sound and response of the pedal. While the EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander is another favorite and a worthy cost-effective alternative, the Great Divide 2.0 surpasses it in its sheer range of sounds and options.

The Next Level? The Great Divide 1.0 prototype had presets but would have been too costly to produce. If a builder could nail sounds & tracking this good in a smaller enclosure with presets, minds would melt & heads would explode.

Read the TWA Great Divide 2.0 review.

 

Chase Bliss Audio Wombtone MKII

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Builder: Chase Bliss Audio, Pedal: Wombtone MKII, Effect Type: Phaser Pedal

The MXR Phase 90, the EHX Small Stone, the Mu-Tron Phasor II & Mu-Tron Bi-Phase – all classic phasers, but the Chase Bliss Audio Wombtone eclipsed everything that came before. The Wombtone MKII sweetened it even more. Starting with a Mu-Trun inspired foundation, the Wombtone takes it to luscious sonic extremes and adds all the signature CBA features like presets, MIDI implementation, Ramping functionality that modulates parameters, and the ModuShape waveform editor. The MKII also adds an extra 2-stage phasing mode to go along with the 4 & 6 stage modes from its predecessor. You can use an expression pedal to control any Ramped parameters or manually sweep the phase or create notched phase effects when no parameters are set to Ramp. This pedal is dripping with mojo. If you want the ultimate analog phaser pedal, nothing comes close to the Wombtone MKII.

The Next Level? It’s hard to imagine improvements here except maybe a stereo version or even more stage options.

Read the Chase Bliss Audio Wombtone MKII review.

 

Strymon DIG

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Builder: Strymon, Pedal: DIG, Effect Type: Dual Digital Delay

The Strymon DIG isn’t to be confused with the great Dual mode from their flagship TimeLine. The DIG features 3 all-new digital delay machines inspired by classic 80’s digital delay rack units. The 24/96 mode comes the closest to the TimeLine’s pristine dual but adds some dynamics processing for a very consistent and smooth sound. The adm mode offers a sound that favors rhythmic playing. 12 bit offers a warmer, more lo-fi digital delay than the other 2 variations. A plethora of tap divisions lets you create ultimate dual delay ambience while tap tempo keeps things in sync. The DIG is yet another fantastic delay pedal from Strymon.

The Next Level? Really wish this one had onboard presets and MIDI. Like with the Strymon Deco, there are just too many great sounds in this pedal.

Read the Strymon DIG review.

 

Dr. Scientist BitQuest

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Builder: Dr. Scientist, Pedal: BitQuest, Effects Type: Multi-Effects

The Dr. Scientist BitQuest is one of the most fun and uniquely inspiring pedals I’ve ever played. It’s filled with 8 cool effects: flanger, HP/LP filter, bit crusher, infinite reverb, notch filter, ring mod, pitch shifter, and delay. Also, there are two modes of operation – clean & fuzz – making this pedal a killer “fuzz + other effect” in addition to using it to mangle other dirt pedals or whatever else you want to destroy/alter. Between pedals like BitQuest, The Elements, and nanotechnology-infused Heisenberg Molecular Overdrive, Dr. Scientist is one of the more avant-garde and exciting effects pedal builders to keep an eye on.

The Next Level? Maybe a slightly bigger enclosure with more effects (i.e. crazy sounds), stereo, presets if possible, an extra exp jack for manipulating another parameter, and MIDI since we’re dreaming here. That would be the ultimate BitOdyssey.

 

Fairfield Circuitry Randy’s Revenge

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Builder: Fairfield Circuitry, Pedal: Randy’s Revenge, Effect Type: Ring Modulation/Low Pass Filter

The Fairfield Circuitry Randy’s Revenge is primarily a ring modulator, an effect that creates inharmonic, bell-like, often metallic sounding tones. The Freq knob controls a fast LFO that generates these frequencies. When set to the range of Hi speeds, it generates screaming pitching overtones; when set to low speeds, its sounds range from soothing tremolo to inducing bell-like, resonating frequencies. Square & Sine wave options further adjust the character of these strange tones and when dialing in trem sounds, they’ll give you either a smooth vintage tremolo or hard choppy sound. There’s also a built-in Low Pass Filter which can be used to tame the higher frequency tones or apply a general high frequency roll-off to your sound.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspects of this pedal are its connectivity possibilities. You can use an expression pedal to control the Freq, LPF, or both at once. Furthermore, you can route CV sources to control either or both of these functions and even control the oscillator from the pedal or an external CV source while outputting the VCO to another device. The modular synth pedal takeover continues.

The Next Level? This pedal is already too good the way it is. Maybe a resonance control for the LPF could be interesting.

 

Atomic AmpliFire

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Builder: Atomic Amps/Studio Devil, Pedal: AmpliFire, Pedal Type: Amp-Sim/Multi-Effects

The Atomic AmpliFire is one of the more surprising pedals I’ve played in the past year or so. I’ve been disappointed by digital amp emulators more times than I can count, but a few companies like Fractal, Kemper, and now Atomic Amps & Studio Devil have defied expectations. Also, while Boss, Line 6, & others have been doing the amp-sim/multi-effect floorboard thing for a while, the reasonably compact Atomic AmpliFire is finally a product that can more easily integrate with the guitar pedals you already have instead of attempting to replace your whole pedalboard.

The AmpliFire has dual ¼ & XLR stereo outs for running directly into a mixer or audio interface. There’s also a mono/stereo effects loop for placing delay, reverb, or modulation pedals between its virtual pre & power amps. And the AmpliFire having its own onboard effects means it can replace redundant pedals on your pedalboard if you need it to. The AmpliFire’s 3 foot-switches are fully programmable and can be used for activating a boost, engaging onboard effects, or even activating the effects loop, among other things. Full MIDI implementation means you can use it from a MIDI compatible effects switcher as well, so you can change AmpliFire’s amps & onboard effects along with external guitar pedals all at once.

AmpliFire originally started with 10 amp models, but Atomic have already been rolling out software updates with more, including an awesome Friedman BE-100 inspired model that’s a great Marshall Plexi alternative. You can mix & match cabs and load 3rd party speaker impulses for more customization. Also, more guitar effects including a quad-tap delay are on the way. Atomic’s commitment to advancing this already great product through continuous software development is what really impressed me and makes the AmpliFire worthy of consideration. It’s become a staple of my grab’n’go gig rig.

The Next Level? Just keep giving us software updates with more amps, more effects, and maybe more options for bank/preset selection from the foot-switches. A larger screen for easier effect editing would be helpful if there’s ever a hardware update.

 

Xotic Effects EP Booster

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Builder: Xotic Effects, Pedal: EP Booster, Effect Type: Boost Pedal

The Echoplex EP-3 become as highly regarded for its preamp as its delay echo tones after guitarists such as Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, and later Eric Johnson among others took notice of the tone-enhancing effects the Echoplex’s preamp had on their overall sound. The Xotic EP Booster has been the most successful attempt at recapturing the vibe of plugging into an EP-3 for its tonal magic. I’d say there’s arguments to be made for just how accurately it reproduces the sound of a given vintage example of an EP-3, but regardless, modern guitarists have decided by and large that the EP Booster is something special in its own right.

In addition to providing up to 20dB of boost via the single knob, there’s an internal dip-switch for lowering the minimum boost from 3dB down to 0dB if you just want some magic sprinkled on your guitar tone without a signal boost. You can also activate a “Vintage” mode which cuts a little high-end for what some guitarists argue is a more authentic Echoplex preamp style sound. The EP Booster is a definite modern classic guitar pedal.

The Next Level? Come on, Xotic Effects, give us a version with at least the “Vintage” mode accessible via an external flip-switch. That would be worth paying a few extra bucks for.

Read the Xotic EP Booster review.

 

EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath

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Builder: EarthQuaker Devices, Pedal: Afterneath, Effect Type: Reverb

The Afterneath is one of the best EarthQuaker Devices pedals and one of the most unique reverbs ever devised. The Drag knob controls the spread of a bunch of short delays, creating stuttering, “pingy” effects. Turning this knob while letting notes and chords sustain creates mind-warping sounds that must be experienced to be understood. Well, you still may not fully comprehend what you’re hearing, but few would deny that the sounds of the Afterneath are indeed awesome. You can Diffuse and smear out the tones and Dampen the reverb for darker sounds. Pushing up the Reflect will make it oscillate into an endless expanse of reverb. One of EQD’s crowning achievements so far.

The Next Level? The limitations of the reverb chip used disallows expression pedal Drag control, but if that could somehow happen, more amazingness would ensue.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath review.

 

Morley Steve Vai’s Bad Horsie 2 Contour Wah

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Builder: Morley, Pedal: Bad Horsie 2, Effect Type: Wah

It doesn’t get more modern than optical & switchless. If you’ve had an old wah get worn-out pots, this may be the wah for you. If you hate not being sure if you’ve clicked the wah on or off, again, this may be the wah for you. I’ve been a long-time fan of Morley’s wah pedals with the Bad Horsie 2, Mark Tremonti Wah, & Maverick being solid contenders, especially for live performance. I gravitate towards the bigger units for “lively” stage shows although you can get by on the smaller Maverick if you have a cramped board or don’t move much on stage. Between the Tremonti & the Vai, I don’t just recommend the Vai model over the Tremonti because I’m more of a Vai guy; it’s the expanded options that edge the Bad Horsie 2 as the winner in Morley’s lineup.

The default Bad Horsie 2 wah sound is voiced to the maestro, Steve Vai’s tonal preference. If you want to carve out your own sound, the pedal gives you an extra foot-switch that activates the Contour Wah mode with dedicated Contour & Level knobs for dialing in the tone and loudness.

Also, just in case you’re not sold on the whole “Optical Is Better” spiel, and want classic pot-based wah tone, Morley just upgraded their line-up with the M2 pot-based switchless wahs. Will keep you posted if one of them can top the Bad Horsie 2.

The Next Level? The only possible issues would be tone or size related, but Morley has several wahs that sound different and are smaller if your needs call for something else.

 

Pigtronix Infinity Looper

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Builder: Pigtronix, Pedal: Infinity Looper, Effect: Looper Pedal

The Pigtronix Infinity Looper was groundbreaking when it first came on the scene several years ago, and it’s still one of the best looper guitar pedals available. What makes it so enduring? Forget the marketing hype. The bottom line is that the Infinity Looper gives you two sync-able stereo recording loops with no noticeable latency and sounds immaculate thanks to its pristine 24-bit / 48kHz high-definition sound quality. The sound quality alone puts Infinity in a class of its own. You also get the expected Reverse mode and a unique “Stutter” mode for glitchy fun. Varispeed allows you to play back loops in half-time or double-time. You can also store 50 presets (100 Loops!) and export HD audio via USB. I’m a big advocate for MIDI integration, and Pigtronix made great effort to allow complete external MIDI control and MIDI clock syncing with quantizing for using Infinity Looper with a DAW such as Ableton Live. That’s not even scratching the surface. And big props to Pigtronix for consistently improving the Infinity Looper via firmware updates, a testament to their commitment to excellence.

The Next Level? Individual MIDI CC control for Record, Overdub, Play, & Stop functions on both loops that override the “Infinity Rules” would make sequencing via DAW or playing with an external MIDI controller much more intuitive.

 

J.Rockett Archer

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Builder: J.Rockett, Pedal: Archer, Effect Type: Overdrive/Boost

The Klon Centaur is a modern legend regardless of the hype or if it suits your particular guitar playing style. Its mild overdrive tones and great clean boosting give the Centaur some very desired sounds in conjunction with the right guitar and amp. The J.Rockett Archer gets pretty darn close to sounding like an actual Klon Centaur. J.Rockett worked with Klon designer, Bill Finnegan, when he was initially setting out to build the Klon KTR Overdrive, the Centaur’s successor. When the partnership ended J.Rockett decided to create what some consider the ultimate “Klone”.

The differences between this unit, the Archer “iKon”, KTR, Wampler Tumnus, an actual Gold or Silver Centaur, and even the EHX Soul Food along with any other reasonably accurate Klone aren’t “apples to oranges” – it’s more like comparing Granny Smith apples to red delicious or Fuji apples. Ultimately, if you’re that sensitive about your tone, you may need to try a few variations of this “iKonic” circuit to pick the one you like best. Either way, it’s hard for most sensible guitarists to argue that the second-hand Centaurs on eBay are worth their inflated prices in comparison to the strikingly similar tones you can achieve for far less with the Archer.

The Archer gets listed here over other Klones for its spec-accurate (and compulsively response measured) circuit, very Klon-ish tones, and its efficient design with top-mounted jacks.

The Next Level? Give us a flip-switch for Silver & Gold “iKon” diodes in a single pedal. While I like the sturdy steel enclosure, a lighter folded aluminum enclosure would be nice for minimizing weight on flight gig boards.

Read the J.Rockett Archer review.

 

Wampler Ego Compressor

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Builder: Wampler, Pedal: Ego Compressor, Effect Type: Compression

The Wampler Ego Compressor is hands-down the best Ross Compressor/MXR Dyna Comp inspired comp I’ve heard. It wins for 2 reasons. It’s incredibly low-noise, surprising for an OTA style comp. And the Tone knob & Blend help to create a sense of transparency, more so than with most other MXR/Ross style compressors. Wampler recently announced a Mini Ego Compressor that supposedly delivers the same great sounds in a smaller pedal enclosure, but many will still appreciate the greater control of the full-sized Ego along with the space-saving top-mounted jacks on the latest hardware update.

The Next Level? Since the Ego Compressor doesn’t use “smart” true relay bypass, I tend to always grab either the Xotic SP Compressor or equally quiet Free The Tone Silky Comp instead. Really wish Wampler would update their relays to make their pedals more effects switcher friendly.

Read the Wampler Ego Compressor review.

 

Menatone’s The King.

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Builder: Menatone, Pedal: The King., Effect Type: Overdrive/Distortion

Menatone is one of the more surprisingly obscure boutique pedal builders out there although Mr. Brian Mena has been on the scene for 20 years building point-to-point wired classics such as the Red Snapper, Workingman’s Blue Overdrive, and King of the Britains. Utilizing a new through-hole design to alleviate costs, Menatone’s The King. is arguably the current pinnacle of Brian’s Marshall inspired dirt pedals. (Yes, that’s “The King *period*”)

6 knobs give you a wide range of tonal variation with the Drive & Gain being essential to dialing in cleaner JTM45 inspired clean and bluesy tones to Plexi crunch and more modern high gain sounds. The internal trimmer and Modern/Vintage switch are also essential to tuning this pedal to suit single coils or humbuckers.

The Next Level? It would be handy if the internal controls were accessible without having to open the pedal.

Read The Menatone’s The King. review.

 

Electro Harmonix Soul Food

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Builder: EHX, Pedal: Soul Food, Effect Type: Overdrive/Boost

Okay, one more “Klone”. The Electro Harmonix Soul Food is the company’s take on the famous (or infamous) Klon Centaur. While the mega hyped Klon sells for ludicrous amounts on the second-hand eBay market, the Soul Food produces a similar vein of sounds for a tiny fraction of the cost. This budget friendly pedal can be used for overdrive tones or simple clean boosting and even has optional buffering and true bypass modes. A great value and an important reminder that great tones can be found in affordable pedals.

The Next Level? Would love to see a premium “Made in NYC” version that uses boutique grade components while still priced within reason, the fine dining experience if you will. Come on, Mike Matthews, give us a second helping!

Read the EHX Soul Food review.

 

Pigtronix Keymaster

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Builder: Pigtronix, Pedal: Keymaster, Pedal Type: Effects Loop

The Pigtronix Keymaster is a wildcard. It does a lot more than a guitarist may need it to, like impedance matching between all kinds of audio sources and letting you use microphones with guitar pedals. Okay, those things can actually be quite useful. But what’s really unique about this pedal is that it allows you to combine 2 guitar pedals or 2 separate chains of guitar pedals in parallel. This means you can blend 2 different effects on your pedalboard or 2 entirely different pedalboards full of pedals. I once spent an afternoon combining dozens of distortion, overdrive, and fuzz tones into all sorts of interesting hybrid dirt sounds. Imagine running 2 modulation pedals in parallel. Crazy potential here. Hook an expression pedal up to the Keymaster for maximum fun. There’s also a Series mode for letting it act as a simple dual effects loop switcher, but it’s really all about the Parallel mode. In Boost & Out Boost knobs let you adjust levels to compensate for lower volume effects.

The Next Level? It might be neat if the Crossfade knob could be controlled via CV & MIDI.

 

Strymon El Capistan dTape Delay

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Builder: Strymon, Pedal: El Capistan, Effect Type: Delay

The Strymon El Capistan is notable for 2 primary reasons, and I’m not talking about the fact that its name is a portmanteau of El Capitan Beach, a Southern California locale, and a “capstan”, an essential component of a tape deck’s transport mechanism. No, ole El Cap has 2 other big things going for it. One, it’s one the best sounding emulations of tape echo you’ll find in a pedal or anywhere else, and two, it has tap tempo. It would be a mistake to understate how these two simple aspects of the El Capistan have changed the way guitarists achieve delay sounds reminiscent of real tape echo. No more cleaning tapes, rollers, spindles, and performing other maintenance to keep your tape echo machine running. Just get an El Capistan, and amaze your fellow guitar playing buddies when you invite them to the studio and do a double-blind test between your classic analog unit and this little pedal. And to be able to get the El Cap’s luscious tape echo repeats perfectly in time with your music via a few simple taps seals its reputation as an essential modern guitar pedal. Leave your real tape echo at home; gig and tour with El Capistan.

The Next Level? While Strymon does allow use of their favorite switch to recall a preset, I’d love to see MIDI integration if there’s ever a hardware update.

Read the Strymon El Capistan review.

 

Red Panda Particle

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Builder: Red Panda, Pedal: Particle, Effect Type: granular delay/pitch-shifter

Does it get more modern than the Red Panda Particle? Forget about tape echo, bucket brigade chips, and digital delays. The Particle chops your signal into bits and warps your guitar beyond recognition in the most beautiful and dissonant ways imaginable. Sure, it’s digital, so you can get a simple digital delay sound out of this little pedal. There’s also some cool reverse delay sounds in here. (Tip: use an expression pedal to switch between forwards and reverse delays!) But with all the crazy pitch-shifting possibilities and LFO modulated & random settings (in addition to plenty of other modes), the Particle is a must play for guitarists who like to tread new ground. And seriously, hook an expression pedal to this thing or get it into your modular synth rig via control voltage. Every noise making experimental musician needs to experience what this Red Panda Particle can do.

The Next Level? Presets & MIDI. That’s it. Make it happen, Red Panda! Maybe CV inputs for all knobs while we’re getting crazy.

 

JHS Pedals Muffuletta

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Builder: JHS Pedals, Pedal: Muffuletta, Effect Type: Muff Fuzz

This is the pedal we all wish Electro Harmonix made years ago. Seriously, a whole collection of tones inspired by the Big Muff Pi’s most sought after incarnations, what fuzz loving guitarist wouldn’t want that? Luckily for gearheads, JHS & the wizard behind Cusack Music made this idea a reality.

The JHS Pedals Muffuletta is a veritable history lesson on the EHX Big Muff Pi. It delivers modes based on 5 legendary BMPs: the early Triangle Muff, the ’73 Ram’s Head Muff, the late 70’s “Pi” Muff, the Civil War era Muff, & the Russian Muff. JHS even included their own new take on the Muff circuit. People talk about cloning like it’s a dirty word, and JHS Pedals has a received a lot of criticism over the years for copying circuits. But this is an example of how to do it right. Make something inspired the originals, but present it in an all-new form.

The Next Level? The Muffuletta is great the way it is, but wouldn’t it be weird if EHX released their official take and sold it for 1/3 the price?

 

EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander

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Builder: EarthQuaker Devices, Pedal: Bit CommanderEffect Type: Guitar Synth/Octave

There’s no justification for not including the EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander on this list. It doesn’t matter if we already have the Great Divide 2.0 on here. Every time I hear this pedal, its massive tones and sheer simplicity inspire me. If you ever catch EQD at NAMM, any other convention, or at their HQ in Akron, Ohio, check out one of the display pedalboards. Give this pedal a stomp, and it’ll always grab attention. But put it on your own board, and wield the massive, earthquaking power yourself to wreck havoc upon your band’s own audiences.

While the Bit Commander gives you heavy -1 & -2 octave options, it also has a mean octave up, and the Base tone is squared for a more aggressive sound. A Filter tames it, but you may not want to. And I’ve gotta mention, this is my personal favorite all EarthQuaker Devices pedals.

The Next Level? I dream of a version of this pedal with a CV controllable LPF section.

 

Free The Tone Flight Time

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Builder: Free The Tone, Pedal: FT-1Y, Effect Type: Digital Delay

The Free The Tone Flight Time quickly grabs attention thanks to its Back To The Future “DeLorean” interface. That’s right, no knobs, all buttons. But it’s what’s under the hood that makes the real difference, and the Flight Time gives you some of the most articulate and customizable digital delays you’ll ever hear. Maybe that’s why Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour added 2 of these pedals to his live rig.

Among the noteworthy features are the expected Tap Tempo & plenty of subdivisions. There are also high & low pass filters that let you fully contour the tonality of your delays. Modulation is present with tweak-able Rate & Depth. There’s also an Offset parameter that lets you adjust the fine timing of the delays for a more rushed or laid-back feel. And the Flight Time’s unique BPM Analyzer option will make real-time adjustments to its tempo if your drummer’s groove speeds up or slows down a little. Yes, it surprisingly seems to work pretty well. I’m a big fan of the MIDI implementation and automating the Hold function for stuttering glitch effects. And of course there are 99 preset slots to save & recall your delay sounds. Optional Spillover is savable per preset, too.

The Next Level? Just make it stereo and maybe include some unique panning options.

Read the Free The Tone Flight Time review.

 

Xotic Effects SP Compressor

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Builder: Xotic Effects, Pedal: SP Compressor, Effect Type: Guitar Compressor

This pedal is a gem. The Xotic SP Compressor is one of the best “always on” compressors you’ll find for adding a little squash and even-ness to your sound. It’s also one of the more minimally colored Ross-style compressors. There’s dip-switches inside for further tweaking the sound and feel of the compression, and the flip-switch on the outside gives you 3 different levels of compression. The value for money is certainly worth mentioning, but I think Xotic could’ve charged at leave $20 more for it, and the SP Compressor would still be a great value.

The Next Level? I’d like to see the flip-switch on the top replaced with a variable mini-knob. Maybe add some premium components to reduce the noise floor even further.

Read the Xotic SP Compressor review.

 

Source Audio Programmable EQ

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Builder: Source Audio, Pedal: Programmable EQ, Effect Type: EQ

The the Reflex Universal Expression Controller, the Source Audio Programmable EQ is a utility pedal, only an EQ is technically an effect and can have considerable influence on your tone and overall sound. It provides easy access to 7 EQ bands including 125Hz, 250Hz, 500Hz, 1K, 2K, 4K, & 8K. An optional extra band for 62Hz give you additional low-end flexibility, particularly useful for bassists.

A big draw is the fact that the Programmable EQ gives you access to 4 presets. This lets you shape your sound around certain songs or different guitars. There’s also a MIDI input for selecting presets via MIDI, activating/bypassing the pedal, or even directly controlling parameters. An Output mini-knob lets you apply additional clean volume boost if necessary. The Programmable EQ could essentially be your ultimately boost pedal for carefully defining the frequencies that interactive your amp when you push it into overdrive.

Also, if Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour added 2 Programmable EQ pedals to this live rig, you know it’s gotta be good.

The Next Level? More presets & more EQ bands!

 

Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Supreme

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Builder: Black Arts Toneworks, Pedal: Pharaoh Supreme, Effect Type: Fuzz

The original Pharaoh fuzz was a big, wooly, Muffish fuzz pedal with a serious stone rock and doom metal vibe. The Pharaoh Supreme kicked it up a notch with a variable Input control replacing the Pharaoh’s Hi/Lo switch. It also gives you 6 different clipping options, dwarfing the Pharaoh’s 2 options. It’s a big mean fuzz with tonal presence throughout the frequency spectrum. Even if you boost the highs, the Pharaoh Supreme still lets you beef up the low-end. The full mid-range is another hallmark of this pedal. It’s the ultimate version of the signature offering from Black Arts Toneworks, and it’s the kind of modern guitar pedal that offers way more flexibility than your old 2-knob fuzz pedal.

The Next Level? The more I play this pedal, I do find myself wanting even more mid-range control and a way to tighten up the lows even more.

 

Eventide Space

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Builder: Eventide, Pedal: Space, Effect Type: Reverb

Space – the final frontier in multi-algorithm reverb pedals. The Eventide Space sought to boldly go where no pedal has gone before. While the Eventide H9 includes all of Space’s algorithms (including the new H9 exclusive SpaceTime reverb delay), this pedal still gets special mention because it’s just that good.

After the success of the Eventide TimeFactor, PitchFactor, & ModFactor, reverb was obviously one of the next effects arenas to conquer. But Eventide pushed the boundaries of their “Factor” platform, dropping that word from the name and adding a bigger, easier to navigate digital display. It’s all about the incredibly high-quality sound reverbs, many of which were derived Eventide’s acclaimed rack processors. And there’s one included effect that’s a real standout: BlackHole. This effect puts your guitar (or any source material) in a sonic vacuum and must be heard to be appreciated.

I could argue against the H9, considering it relies heavily on an app for in-depth control. The Space remains crucial due to its intuitive interface and tactile hands-on control on your pedalboard or in the studio. The Space is definitely one of the “big 3” of the best reverb pedals around, and until Eventide releases a BlackHole plugin, some studio engineers will keep one of these pedals on hand for external processing.

The Next Level? Eventide has already gone there in a lot of ways with the H9. I’m imagining a future platform with all the effects of H9 (including Space) and their famous rack units – everything! – with more tactile knob control like the Space.

 

Electro Harmonix Glove

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Builder: Electro Harmonix, Pedal: Glove, Effect Type: Overdrive

It’s no secret that the Electro Harmonix Glove is this builder’s take on the classic Fulltone OCD. But the Glove is half the price and sounds arguably as good, although maybe a little darker or warmer. The Glove overdrive sports a simple 3 knob layout of Gain, Tone, & Vol. The Tone is a high end rolloff. The Gain is versatile enough to allow the Glove to function as a boost when set to minimum. Pushing the Gain higher brings in a mild to medium crunch. Taking it past noon brings is a hot-rodded distortion that instantly adds a second channel to any clean amp.

The Shift switch takes your tone from a flatter sound to having a bit more presence in the mids and upper mids. The Shift also works well for helping maintain brightness with cleaner settings. Be sure to open the pedal and try flipping the Internal Voltage Switch. This bumps up the voltage from 9 to 18 volts (be sure to use only a 9-volt power supply) and gives you a more open, less compressed sound. A lot of versatility for a very reasonable price makes the EHX Glove a worthy consideration for budget minded guitarists.

Next Level? I think guitarists would be willing to pay a little extra for a premium “Made In NYC” version.

 

Diamond Compressor (Series)

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Builder: Diamond Pedals, Pedals: CPR1, CPR-JR, CPR-SL, Effect Type: Guitar Compressor

The Diamond Compressor is one of the most noteworthy pedals to come from this Canadian builder. The idea was to make a “channel strip” for a guitar with studio grade optical compression, EQing, and Level adjustment. The original Diamond Compressor was a success and won over the hearts of guitarists. Then they wanted it smaller, so the Diamond Comp Jr was made. It captures a similar sound & feel of the larger version but in a compact pedal with top-mounted jacks. Diamond also once released a Comp SE, a special edition with premium components. The Compressor SL is the production version of that pedal with similar components and the regular wiring of the original Diamond Compressor. Which should you get? Most guitarists like the way the original and JR slightly enhance your guitar sound; I prefer the more transparent sound of the SL. The choice is yours.

The Next Level? The next level is enlightenment. They are already perfect. Well, maybe top-mounted jacks on the bigger units.

 

Keeley Electronics 30ms Double Tracker

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Builder: Keeley Electronics, Pedal: 30ms Double Tracker, Effect Types: Double Tracker/Chorus/Reverb

The Keeley Electronics 30ms Double Tracker is an exceptionally special pedal. It’s all about capturing the vibe of classic double-tracking techniques used in the studio and having them on your pedalboard.

The 30ms Double Tracker gives you 3 modes: Dimension, Abbey Mode, & Slapback. Dimension is a chorusing effect with 2 voices that are tuned with the Tuning knob. The Abbey mode adds a modulation that’s inspiring by a tape machine. The Slapback mode extends the Time to 30ms-120ms. In all 3 modes the Reverb knob adds ambience inspired by a 1960’s chamber reverb.

The biggest draw is probably the Double Tracking Pro Mode, accessed via an internal dip-switch. This changes the control layout to give you individual tuning control over the 2 double tracked voices. It sounds good, very good. You can even use a TRS cable on the pedal’s output to achieve lush stereo double-tracking. You’ve gotta play this pedal if you dig gorgeous clean, chorused or double tracked guitar. Definitely a modern classic.

The Next Level? Will let you know if I think of anything. Maybe a second output to make stereo operation a little easier to use.

 

That concludes our roundup of the Top 75 Best Modern Guitar Pedals currently available. If there are some effects pedals that you think should be included in a future update, please let us know in the comments.

Top 20 Best Delay Pedals of 2016

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Here it is… the Best Guitar Effects 2016 update of the best delay pedals available today. In the tradition of our Fuzz Pedal, Guitar Compressor, & Guitar Synthesizer roundups, this article aims to showcase the very best delay pedals in the world today.

There are a lot of delay pedals out there for guitar players. Many of them are pretty decent. Some aren’t so great. And a few pedals are truly amazing delays that rise above the heap with the potential to take your music to the next level. These select few delay pedals are the best of the best.

The pedal market has expanded significantly over the past few years. That means more diligent research is required to find the best delay pedal(s) to suit your needs.

The goal of this article is to help you make the best decision when buying a new delay pedal. Your music will benefit from it, and you’ll be supporting great builders who make the best guitar pedals available for guitarists and effects using musicians.

Some builders have multiple delay pedals featured on this list. That’s because these companies offer more than one pedal that eclipses what the competition has to offer. Remember, it’s about showcasing the best delay pedals you can buy today.

The pedals aren’t listed in numerical order. Each pedal here has unique features that set it apart from the rest. But we’re starting the list with a couple new releases that are pushing the boundaries of innovation among delay pedals. You’ll also see a few old favorites that have proven their worth over the past few years. But in the end the best delay pedal for your needs can only be decided by you!

One last thing. While this list is a great starting point for finding the best delay pedal, please consider what your music needs most and be cautious of the excessive hype out there. There’s a lot of sponsored articles and biased content out there, but with diligence and persistence you’ll learn how to look past the clickbait to find sources for information you can trust. Good luck, and may you find the best guitar pedals to suit your needs.

Now here are the Top 20 Best Delay Pedals of 2016!

 

Source Audio Nemesis Delay

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Builder: Source Audio, Pedal: Nemesis Delay, Type: Digital Delay (multi algorithm)

The Source Audio Nemesis Delay is a pedal I’ve been looking forward to for quite a long time (…since Winter NAMM 2015, Summer NAMM 2015, & Winter NAMM 2016). It’s a powerhouse digital delay pedal in a reasonably compact format that features 24 delay engines (12 onboard, 12 accessed via Neuro app). That’s a pretty big deal already. Then there’s Stereo I/O, Tap Tempo, Hold a.k.a “Freeze” control, and complete MIDI functionality with up to 128 presets recallable via MIDI. And that’s just scratching the surface really.

The Neuro Mobile app offers incredibly deep control and preset management along with access to the 12 additional delay engines. Any of those delay engines can be downloaded and “burned” to any slot on the rotary encoder knob. The extra delay engines are definitely worth exploring as you’ll find a dark and warbly Oil Can delay, a Complex Rhythmic delay that offers more multi-tap variations, a high-passed Dub delay, and much more.

The real genius of the Nemesis Delay is in the sheer amount power it offers from its simple-to-use surface knob layout. No menu diving needed. Couple that with world-class delay sounds, and the Nemesis Delay is a winner if flexilibility, impeccible sound quality, and ease of use are paramount to you. And should you want to explore everything this pedal has to offer, the MIDI functionality and Neuro Mobile app possibilities are a huge bonus when you want to get adventurous and want to dig deeper.

Be sure to explore the Intensity knob with each delay type as it functions differently in each mode. For example, in Analog Delay mode, the Intensity will act as a tone style control, giving you range of Dark, Warm, & Bright sounds. In the Shifter Delay the knob will select from pitch shift options including -1 Octave, +Minor 3rd, +Major 3rd, +4th, +5th, & +1 Octave. This gives you deeper control from the surface of the pedal without the need for menus.

Source Audio have been doing great things for about a decade now, but the Nemesis Delay will no doubt be the pedal that takes this ambitious builder to new levels of success. It was a long time coming, but the Nemesis Delay was well worth the wait.

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Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall

Builder: Chase Bliss Audio, Pedal: Tonal Recall, Type: Analog Delay (digitally controlled)

(UPDATE: this section edited to reflect last-minute product changes before its release.) We said after Winter NAMM 2016, “This is it. The guitar pedal the world has been waiting on for 30 years.” The Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall indeed lives up to the lofty hype everyone felt after NAMM… but it took a few twists and turns getting there.

The Tonal Recall draws upon the legacy of the iconic Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man and Boss DM-2 with its replica MN3005 bucket brigade delay chips. The Tonal Recall’s signature sound is characterized by repeats that are darker than a Deluxe Memory Man but generally brighter than a DM-2. I wouldn’t say this pedal nails the DMM sound as it is clearly darker even with the Tone knob maxed out. The repeats also dissolve into a gritty saturation, particularly noticeable with higher Regen settings in Long delay mode and when playing the guitar strings lightly. Tonal Recall offers a unique delay sound that’ll surely please anyone seeking a more “lo-fi” flavored analog delay experience. Designer, Joel Korte, had a last minute change of heart to update the pedal from its original “lo-fi” sound (heard in some published demos) to a cleaner sound more akin to what guitarists expect from a traditional analog delay. Essentially, this has taken Tonal Recall from being a cool, niche “dirty” delay to quite possibly the most versatile analog delay pedal ever made. It now encompasses a beautiful range of tones that fans of the Boss DM-2 & Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man will surely appreciate. After hearing both versions firsthand, I can’t stop saying “wow” in regard to the final, cleaner version. The Hold function can induce some that gritty saturation if you’ve still gotta have it. These changes realign Tonal Recall with initial expectations and will surely give the pedal a wider appeal.

Now combine this unique delay foundation with a modulation section that has 3 waveforms (square, sine, & triangle). Add in 6 Tap divisions. Then add options for Short delays (short enough for pseudo-Warped Vinyl style chorus!), Long delays, and a “Both” mode that uses both BBD chips to create a beautiful wash of smeared, “reverby” decay. Crank the Regen or push & hold the Tap switch for oscillating feedback, and you’ve got the new analog delay wet dream of ambient & lo-fi loving shoegazers.

The big draw of all Chase Bliss Audio pedals is their ethos of fusing all-analog effects with advanced digital control. This means dead-on tap tempo, savable & recallable presets, MIDI implementation, and more. Never before has an analog delay pedal offered MIDI control and preset selection, and that alone will be worth the price of admission for some.

And one last thing… the Ramp knob. Nearly all parameters (except Tone) can be modulated independently or simultaneously via the Ramping functionality. You’ve never heard an analog delay pedal make sounds like this. Guitarists looking for something truly unconventional and inspiring will appreciate the morphing analog delay sounds and less than pristine tonal character that you’ll only get with the Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall.

Read the Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall review.

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Strymon TimeLine

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Builder: Strymon, Pedal: TimeLine, Type: Digital Delay (multi algorithm)

The competition is fiercely attempting to close in on Strymon’s commanding lead in the realm of multi-algorithm digital delay pedals. One major player has even attempted to create a spec-by-spec spin-off of this pedal’s winning delay formula. But make no mistake, the Strymon TimeLine is still the boss when it comes to immaculate delays in a single self-contained pedal.

The Strymon TimeLine felt like a second coming in the world of digital delay and DSP processing. With a hulking colossus of a processor and an engineering team who knows how to make the most of it, Strymon dropped a bomb on the pedal world when they released the TimeLine. With 12 of the best delay machines the world has ever heard (and an excellent 30-second Looper) there is a breadth of delay sounds on tap that few pedals can even hope to contend with. And the TimeLine happens to be the ultimate delay pedal in terms of complete MIDI implementation, allowing you to control any parameter or function (including all Looper functions!) from any MIDI-compatible controller, pedal switcher, or sequencer/DAW such as Ableton Live. Whether you just want to drop it on your pedalboard and play or integrate it into your mad scientist MIDI guitar rig of doom, the Strymon TimeLine covers all grounds with ease and efficiency.

Read the Strymon TimeLine review.

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Eventide H9 Harmonizer

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Builder: Eventide, Pedals: H9Type: Digital Delay (multi effects)

Yes, the Eventide H9 Harmonizer is much more than a delay pedal. It’s the ultimate multi-effects stompbox. But if you were to use the H9 on your pedalboard for just its delay sounds alone, it’s still an exceptional value and may replace any other delay pedal you currently use.

A standard H9 comes preloaded with the Vintage Delay and Tape Echo delays. Additional delays can be purchased from the H9 Control app. An H9 Max comes loaded will all algorithms gives you all 9 acclaimed delays from the Eventide TimeFactor… and then some. The H9 exclusive Ultratap algorithm is a one-of-a-kind multi-tap delay that’s inspiring to behold. Then there’s also the recently released SpaceTime algorithm with fuses the TimeFactor’s Vintage Delay with a huge plate reverb and some modulation for good measure to create an outstanding all-in-one algorithm that’s an excellent last effect in your signal chain.

And let’s talk about the Eventide TimeFactor. I still remember when the pedal was first announced. Yes, I joined the many guitarists whose jaws collectively hit the floor when first hearing that Eventide would be bringing their acclaimed studio effects expertise to stompbox pedals. The TimeFactor was one of their first guitar pedals and is still going strong today. The biggest draw of this pedal is its use of twin delay lines across all 9 of its cutting edge delay algorithms, allowing rhythmically complex and tonally diverse delays that no other pedal can match (except the H9, of course). Its brilliant knob layout makes dialing in syncopated twin delays a synch, too. There’s also a dedicated (and recently refined) Looper, and I personally like “hacking” the pedal for series operation by cascading one delay into the other and using it in my amp’s effects loop. But if you don’t need the looper and want the amazing algorithms of the TimeFactor plus a whole lot more, the Eventide H9 Harmonizer might be the way to go.

Read the Eventide H9 review.

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Walrus Audio Bellwether

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Builder: Walrus Audio, Pedal: Bellwether, Type: Analog Delay

For a while it seemed like every pedal builder was cranking out an analog delay pedal with tap tempo. Well, the Walrus Audio Bellwether is one of the best ones that checks off on all the important features. Most importantly, it starts with great sound quality. Then it gives you 4 tap divisions. Bypass-able modulation with Rate & Depth knobs. Time, Repeats, & Level knobs are here. Then there’s the Tone knob which lets you roll off the high-end for super dark delays. There’s also a Tap In jack for a tap tempo remote and a TRS FX Loop, useful for coloring your delays with any other effect imaginable. (I like to grit up the delays by putting a boost, drive, or distortion pedal in the FX Loop.) Not to mention Walrus Audio has some of the coolest and most attractive pedal artwork in the business, so the added style will appeal to those you take pride in the choice pedals selected for their tidy pedalboards. The Bellwether is simply a rad analog delay pedal.

Read the Walrus Audio Bellwether review.

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TC Electronic Flashback Triple Delay

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Builder: TC Electronic, Pedal: Flashback Triple Delay, Type: Digital Delay (multi algorithm)

Okay, the TC Electronic Flashback Triple Delay is truly an epic delay pedal. It basically takes the awesome delay sounds found in the Flashback X4 and Flashback Mini Delay and multiplies them by 3. Yes, you get 3 delay engines that can be used independently or simultaneously(!!!) in Serial or Parallel modes. In Serial mode you can create an absolutely mesmerizing wash of ambient echoes. In Parallel mode you can have all 3 delays occurring in their own little worlds of tandem repeats. Tap Tempo with 11 different tap subdivisions gives you unprecedented rhythmic control, so you could have that 2nd or 3rd delay hitting at just the right rhythmic moments. Very cool for unorthodox rhythmic patterns. And yes, any of the 12 onboard delays & 4 TonePrint delays can be assigned in any combination you can dream up. This pedal is an absolute beast, and nothing else like it exists on the market today. The Flashback Triple Delay is one of the most inspiring delay pedals any company has ever released. Big props to TC Electronic for creating such a unique and inspiring guitar pedal.

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Free The Tone Flight Time

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Builder: Free The Tone, Pedal: Flight Time FT-1Y, Type: Digital Delay

Yes, the Free The Tone Flight Time looks like the panel in Marty McFly’s DeLorean from Back to the Future. It also recalls the iconic TC 2290 Dynamic Digital Delay rack unit. Now take the cool retro looks and merge that with some of the most pristine digital delay you’ll ever hear. Don’t want it so cold and digital? Apply some High Pass Filter for a warmer analog-like sound. Need it brighter? Cut the lows with the Low Pass Filter. Bring in some Modulation with the Rate & Depth for some subtle 2290 style movement. Tap Tempo with 10 Sub-Divisions? Check. 99 Presets? Check. Trails savable per preset? It’s here. And all this is accessed via Flight Time’s micro buttons, an interesting interface among guitar pedals in that it does way with the traditional knobs we’re all familiar with. It all adds to the charm of this distinctive stompbox.

An interesting draw is the automatic BPM Analyzer functionality. Activating it with make the pedal listen to the music via a Mic on the pedal, and it will make minor adjustments to your tempo automatically to keep your delays in sync. This is handy in a live jam when your drummer is drifting a little. Surprisingly, it works. You can also Offset the delays from the time division for a more rushed or laid-back feel. Pro guitarists will appreciate all these little things, and complete MIDI functionality will let you integrate the Flight Time into any tour-ready rig.

Read the Free The Tone Flight Time review.

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Strymon DIG Dual Digital Delay

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Builder: Strymon, Pedal: DIG, Type: Digital Delay (twin delay)

Simply put, the Strymon DIG is an immaculately sounding digital delay pedal. It’s one of the easiest to use and twin delay pedals out there and has plenty of options for creating complex or subtle rhythmic delays. It has 3 modes – adm, 24/96, 12 bit – that each offer a difference in character, adapting this pedal to different styles of playing. Tap tempo, expression control, and stereo outputs (and optional stereo ins via TRS cable) add extra utility. Be sure to try the secondary functions as you can further tweak the tone, change the delays from series to parallel, and even activate a ping pong delay mode when using it in stereo among a few other things. The DIG is Strymon’s magnum opus in the realm of 80’s rack delay emulation.

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Digitech Obscura Altered Delay

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Builder: Digitech, Pedal: Obscura, Type: Digital Delay (multi algorithm)

Don’t let the fact that this pedal is digital mislead you. The Digitech Obscura is all about warm ‘n gooey flavors of delay. It starts with 4 different delays: Analog, Tape, Lo-Fi, & Reverse. Then you get a dedicated knob for Level and stacked knobs for Time/Repeats & Tone/Degrade. That’s a lot of control from such a small pedal. Then there’s a Trails switch. I know, awesome, right? And it even has stereo I/O. You can also hold the foot-switch for 3 seconds to activate the Tap Tempo mode. From here you can tap in your delay time to sync to the music or tap in various times to have the pedal warp the pitch of your repeats as it ramps to the new tempo speed.

The Repeat Hold function is super fun if you’re the kind of guitarist who likes to reach down and twist knobs to make crazy sounds. You can turn the Repeats knob past 3 o’clock to grab and continuously repeat a section of your playing. Then start messing with the Time, Tone, & Degrade knobs for chaotic fun. Activate the Tap Tempo mode to make things even crazier. So much fun. Try running guitars, drums, and all kinds of instruments into here. Be sure to sample or record the output as you can create all kinds of wild rhythms and glitched out sounds.

By the way, the delay types are all awesome. Tape is a favorite and has plenty of tape-style mojo. The Degrade adds some serious wow & flutter style warble. Analog is nice and warm with the Tone knob making it even darker. The Lo-Fi delay is nice ‘n gritty. Reverse is expectedly fun to play. Lots to like here. The Digitech Obscura Altered Delay is a great return to form for the company and pushes the boundaries of what can be expected in a single stomp delay pedal.

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Ibanez Analog Delay Mini

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Builder: Ibanez, Pedal: ADMINI, Type: Analog Delay

The Ibanez AD9 needs no introduction as it’s one of the classic 3-knob analog delay pedals. And just as Ibanez shrunk the venerable Tube Screamer down to become the TSMINI, the Ibanez ADMINI is a tiny format 100% analog delay pedal. All the warmth you’d expect from a quality analog delay can be found in this tiny gem. Delay Time ranges from a quick 20ms to a respectable 600ms. The Repeat knob’s range will go from a single slapback echo to full-on runaway oscillation. The oscillation starts early and manages to have plenty of usable range before it gets too out of control. It can even oscillate indefinitely and duck when you play over it while adding new textures to the layers. This pedal needs to be experienced firsthand to be appreciated fully. At the price Ibanez is giving these things away for, the Analog Delay Mini is a steal.

Read the Ibanez Analog Delay MINI review.

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Rainger FX Echo-X Digital Delay

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Builder: Rainger FX, Pedal: Echo-X, Type: Digital Delay

What happens when the mad genius behind the Dr. Freakenstein fuzz pedal decides to make a delay? Apparently, you get the Rainger FX Echo-X Digital Delay. This little monster is one of the more original and adventurous interpretations of a digital delay pedal I’ve come across. The Echo-X is an ambient digital delay that smears your repeats into long cascading trails of atmospheric bliss. You can use the included Igor foot controller to modulate the Rate or Feedback or even use it in Send mode to have only certain portions of your playing feed into the delay effect. Very fun. You can also adjust the input signal going into the pedal and overall output volume in addition to the standard 3-knob delay controls of Rate, Feedback, & Level. It’s also worth noting that the Echo-X’s compact form-factor has top-mounted jacks for super convenient placement on any tightly packed pedalboard. A killer design from one of the true punk outliers in the pedal game. Rainger FX nailed it.

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Catalinbread Echorec

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Builder: Catalinbread, Pedal: Echorec, Type: Digital Delay (Binson Echorec sim)

The Binson Echorec is a legendary multi-head echo machine famed for its hypnotic delay effects. The Catalinbread Echorec is a digital delay pedal inspired by those iconic sounds. The Echorec pedal gives you 12 playback head combinations for plenty of interesting multi-tap rhythmic delay patterns. The pedal also has a varying and much longer delay time (up to around 1000ms!) that really lets the rhythmic patterns stand out. Cranking the Swell knob can take the Echorec into beautiful self oscillation. The Tone will let you change the color of your repeats from dark and brooding to bright and metallic.

The verdict is out on whether or not this pedal nails the Echorec sound; opinions on the matter vary greatly. But this pedal does pack some great delay tones, and it’s certainly much smaller and more affordable than a real Binson Echorec. Not to mention the longer delay times. This pedal was a labor of love for the Portland based pedal builders who realized this vision, and it’s a modern classic to many guitarists.

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Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail

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Builder: Seymour Duncan, Pedal: Vapor Trail, Type: Analog Delay

The Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail completely blindsided me in the best possible way. Seymour Duncan have delved into pedals in the past, but now they’ve seriously laid it down. The Vapor Trail is an all-analog delay in a standard-sized stompbox enclosure with a few twists. The Modulation controls (Rate & Depth) are on the surface of the pedal for easy access. The Delay knob contains an LED that blinks to give you an on-stage visual of the delay time. And there’s a TRS-jack for coloring the wet signal with any pedal you want to plug into it. Most importantly, the Vapor Trail uses high-end circuitry for a cleaner delay tone than comparable pedals while dripping with analog warmth. This is the first pedal to seriously challenge the MXR Carbon Copy as the best analog delay pedal at that $150 price point. The Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail is arguably the new king of standard enclosure, single foot-switch analog delay pedals with modulation.

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Empress Effects Vintage Modified Superdelay

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Builder: Empress Effects, Pedal: Vintage Modified Superdelay, Type: Digital Delay (multi algorithm)

What can I say about the Empress Effects Vintage Modified Superdelay? I love this pedal! Few pedals can do so much in such a small enclosure, and this pedal is among the premium boutique delay pedal elite. The Vintage Modified Superdelay makes some alterations to 2 of the 3 available Tape Delay modes for an even more vintage vibe than the original Superdelay. The extra grit and thicker modulation produce an even more authentic tape delay experience for those who really like it dirty. The other modes offer a wealth of pristine delays, and there’s just something about the tone of this pedal that gives it an especially unique character among the many delays I’ve played. Those who’ve played one know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, definitely try this pedal. Oh, and be sure to check out the Reverse Mode C (Octave Tap!) and try using Rhythm mode to create custom multi-tap delay patterns. Simply awesome!

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Red Panda Particle Granular Delay/Pitch Shifter

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Builder: Red Panda, Pedal: Particle, Type: Digital Delay (granular delay)

The Red Panda Particle is the ultimate wildcard on our list. With so many delay pedals remaining grounded in the past, this pedal blasts forward into uncharted territory. Using granular synthesis, the Particle chops your playing into tiny samples and warps your signal, often beyond recognition, in wondrously magical ways. This pedal is for those truly adventurous guitarists who want radical new ways to manipulate their sound. The Particle packs all kinds of otherworldly, ambient delay effects, wild machine-like glitch delay sounds, a great reverse mode, and plenty of sounds that cross pitch-shifting with delay for a playground of twisted delay phantasmagoria.

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EarthQuaker Devices Disaster Transport SR

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Builder: EarthQuaker Devices, Pedal: Disaster Transport SR, Type: Digital Delay (lo-fi)

The EarthQuaker Devices Disaster Transport SR is the ultimate lo-fi delay pedal. It features 2 separate delays that can be used in series, parallel, or series/parallel with optional modulation on Delay A and optional reverb on Delay B. These effects may be combined in countless ways to produce some of wildest lo-fi modulated delay you’ve ever heard. The Disaster Transport SR may look complex at first glance, but it’s surprisingly easy to come to grips with. You’ll discover that this pedal is an instrument unto itself and a haven of tone for those who appreciate beautiful and quirky lo-fi delay textures. Indy art-rockers and experimentalists will definitely appreciate this pedal. I could see it becoming the defining signature pedal for the guitarists it inspires and being the foundation for entire albums of sprawling guitar extravagance.

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Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo

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Builder: Strymon, Pedal: El Capistan, Type: Digital Delay (tape echo sim)

There are lots of delay pedals that try to emulate the sounds of a classic tape echo, many of which do a pretty solid job, but the Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo is without a doubt the final word in authentic sounding tape echo delay in a compact pedal. With 3 different tape machines, each with 3 different modes of operation, there’s a huge foundation available for building the ultimate tape echo sound. While the 5 surface knobs make it easy to dial in your tone, there are 5 more “hidden” knob functions (including reverb!) for 10 total adjustable parameters. And while it certainly sounds amazing, it’s the tap tempo that really pushes this pedal over the top for me. Once you’ve dialed in the ultimate tape echo sound, you’ll always be able to sync it right along to the music via tap tempo without fiddling with sliding heads or tape speed. The El Capistan is a marvel of modern technology and the ultimate tribute to the tape echo machines of old.

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TC Electronic Flashback Mini Delay

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Builder: TC Electronic, Pedal: Flashback Mini Delay, Type: Digital Delay (multi algorithm)

I was already blown away by the delay sounds offered by the Flashback X4, but the TC Electronic Flashback Mini Delay takes this awesome catalog of delay tone in the opposite direction. With a mini pedal enclosure that’ll fit on any pedalboard, the Flashback Mini is the ultimate pedal for those who want the single ultimate delay sound in a small space-saving pedal. Out of the box the pedal has a nice warm, analog-style sound with some high-end rolloff on the repeats. Want a different delay flavor? You can download custom sounds from an ever-growing library of TonePrints. Want to build your ultimate signature delay sound? Use the TonePrint Editor for PC, Mac, or iPad to create your own one-of-a-kind delay and access it anytime from tiny little box of magic. And mark my words… while this pedal was only just released a couple weeks before this writing, you’re going be seeing the Flashback Mini Delay appearing on a lot of pedalboards for years to come.

Read the TC Electronic Flashback Mini Delay review.

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Ibanez ES2 Echo Shifter

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Builder: Ibanez, Pedal: ES2, Type: Analog Delay

I have to give a nod to the Ibanez ES2 Echo Shifter, easily one of the coolest looking delays I’ve seen since the Moog MF-104M Analog Delay. The super affordable ES2 has a lot going for it besides its low price. This analog delay sports up to 1000ms of delay time, has tap tempo, modulation, and that awesome Delay Time slider that just begs to be used in real-time. Flip the Oscillation switch and you get instant runaway delays. Then go nuts with the Delay Time slider and trip out. This pedal would make a killer jam companion in the recording studio. The Echo Shifter is one idea I’d love to see Ibanez expand upon in a Made In Japan premium version with tap divisions, deeper controls, and even higher build quality for improved reliability. In the meantime the ES2 is a killer analog delay with tap tempo for guitarists on a budget, and seriously, you’ve gotta love those real wooden sides. Classy style and epic tones for the win.

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Pigtronix Echolution 2 Ultra Pro

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Builder: Pigtronix, Pedal: Echolution 2 Ultra Pro, Type: Digital Delay (multi algorithm)

The Pigtronix Echolution 2 Ultra Pro is quite unlike any other digital delay pedal on the market. It fuses analog and digital technology to create delay sounds that are entirely unique to this pedal. It has a wide array of features including staples like tap tempo and 5 different multi-tap divisions (including Phi, the golden ratio, which Pigtronix was first to implement in a delay pedal with the original Echolution). Any 2 tap divisions can be used at once for a total of 15 multi-tap patterns. A host of effects can be applied to your delays including filters, modulation, ducking, reverse, a halo “shimmer” effect, octave jump, freezing, and bit-crushing. You also get true stereo ins and outs and a ping pong mode as well.

The Pigtronix abbreviated slogan “F.A.T.” once stood for “Futuristic Analog Tone”. I’m glad they shifted perspective and changed the meaning to “Futuristic Audio Technology” to better encompass the inclusion of digital audio elements into their designs. The Echolution 2 Ultra Pro is a testament to the new motto and the greatness that can be achieved by integrating classic analog sounds with modern digital innovations. Get F.A.T.!

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Anything missing?

Should any other pedals be included? Did we miss your favorite delay pedal? Tell us what’s your favorite delay in the comments below!

That concludes our Top 20 Best Delay Pedals of 2016. Thanks for reading!

Top 25 Best Fuzz Pedals of 2016

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Welcome to the Best Guitar Effects roundup of the Top 25 Best Fuzz Pedals of 2016!

The theme of this article is to chronicle the very best fuzz distortion pedals available today. This article doesn’t cater to the brand name printed on the pedal. It’s only here if it’s good, and these are the fuzz pedals that stand out as a cut above the rest in an over-saturated market (pun not intended).

As with our delay pedal, compressor pedal, and synth pedal “Best of” articles, in this list you’ll find a few familiar pedals from bigger name companies, some underground entries from companies you may have never heard of, and some wild and obscure stompboxes that push the creative boundaries of what’s possible in a fuzz pedal.

These fuzz pedals all have one thing in common: they meet our highest standards for sound quality, design, and playability. These fuzz pedals are, IOHO, the best of the best.

This isn’t a typical fuzz pedal shootout. The pedals aren’t listed in any particular order (although I’ve made room for some of my personal favorites towards the top). All of these pedals are great in their own unique ways. Of course, a good fuzz is a very subjective thing and taste varies greatly. What one guitarist thinks is a great fuzz pedal, someone else may think is terrible.

One thing is certain – if you’re looking for your next fuzz pedal, there is definitely something on this list that is right for you. Whether it’s traditional classic fuzz, modern variations, or something offering otherworldly fuzz insanity, you’ll find it all here in our Top 25 Best Fuzz Pedals of 2016.

Important Note: This list is an ongoing work in progress. If your favorite fuzz pedal isn’t listed here, let us know in the comments. We’re going to update this list periodically whenever we come across a fuzz pedal that deserves inclusion, so check back to see which new fuzz pedals make our definitive list.

We also thought it would be a good idea to put all the pedals on one page instead of making you refresh the page over and over. We hope this makes viewing this list more enjoyable. Just scroll away to your fuzzy little heart’s content. Thanks for supporting what we do at Best Guitar Effects.

Now without further ado, here are the top 25 best fuzz pedals of 2016.

 

ZVex Fuzz Factory 7

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Builder: ZVex, Pedal: Fuzz Factory 7, Fuzz Type: Germanium Fuzz

The original Fuzz Factory is now over 20 years old and is still going strong. It’s one of the all-time best fuzz pedals. The Fat Fuzz Factory improved on the design with a 3-way toggle switch for even more low-end heavy fuzz tones. The ZVex Fuzz Factory 7 is the pinnacle of the iconic boutique designer’s fuzz explorations. The FF7 offers even more fuzz variety thanks to its 9-position “Fat” knob that lets you take the fuzz into extreme sub oscillating territory or up into really thin and brighter textures when turned clockwise from noon. All the other controls from the Fuzz Factory are present as well. There’s also a new Tone knob with an accompanying foot-switch to let you roll off the high-end if you want to tame the brightness a bit. The window on the pedal also reveals the 2 ultra rare 1956 Amperex black glass germanium transistors responsible for this pedal’s epic fuzz tones. Once those transistors are gone so too will be the Fuzz Factory 7, so get this coveted ZVex classic while there’s still some left out there.

Read the ZVex Fuzz Factory 7 review.

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Dwarfcraft Devices Silver Rose V2

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Builder: Dwarfcraft Devices, Pedal: Silver Rose V2, Fuzz Type: Dual Fuzz

When Dwarfcraft Devices acquired the Devi Ever FX brand a few years ago, the “Silver Rose” was a pedal concept that came along with those assets. Without the schematic for the original pedal to build from, Dwarftcraft set out to design an entirely new pedal inspired by the original Silver Rose. Thus the Dwarfcraft Devices Silver Rose V2 was born, arguably the best pedal to come from that merger.

The Silver Rose V2 starts with a variation of Dwarfcraft’s Eu Clair Thunder fuzz, a Big Muff inspired fuzz of doom, destruction, and other sonic terror. Then they added a Super Fuzz inspired fuzz of chaos, mayhem, and explosive fuzzy death. These 2 fuzzes can be used separately or together. One foot-switch activates this monstrosity. Oh, and there’s an EQ section with Treble & Bass controls. The Super side also has an extreme Mids scooping switch. The EC Fuzz side lets you make the fuzz more intense with the Warp switch and cut the Tone knob out for a full-range fuzz sound. Bassists will appreciate the Clean knob for blending in your dry signal, and there’s a Clean Out for splitting the signal to 2 amps. One thing to note: due to the intensity of this pedal’s fuzz, it has a high noise floor. The Silver Rose V2 is best for situations where you want to pummel your audience with loud and extreme fuzz. You’ve been warned.

Read the Dwarfcraft Devices Silver Rose V2 review.

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Death By Audio Apocalypse

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Builder: Death By Audio, Pedal: Apocalypse, Fuzz Type: Multi Fuzz

While we’re on the subject of extreme fuzz pedals with an insanely wide range of available tones, I must mention the Death By Audio Apocalypse. This pedal offers everything from mild overdrives to absolutely crushing fuzz tones with some octave fuzz thrown in to boot. The 5-way position switch and Sweepable Frequency Equalizer let you dial in a fuzz sound for nearly any occasion. Try using it in conjunction with another distortion or fuzz pedal for some twisted EQ sculpting possibilities and stacked fuzz overload. As long as Death By Audio keeps this pedal in production, it’ll most likely always be one of the best fuzz pedals around.

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SolidGoldFX Formula 76

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Builder: SolidGoldFX, Pedal: Formula 76, Fuzz Type: Super Fuzz

And here’s another long time favorite that I seem to like even more over time. The SolidGold FX Formula 76 draws inspiration from classic 70’s fuzz pedals including the Univox Super Fuzz and Ibanez Standard Fuzz, adding additional tone-shaping flexibility for the ultimate vintage/modern octave-up fuzz pedal. Controls for Compression and Tone let you tweak the ultimate “Super Fuzz” style sounds while the Tone foot-switch offers a radical top and bottom focused EQ shift for massive fuzz mayhem. This pedal is a nasty, hot-rodded “Super Fuzz” for modern guitarists who want to unleash a savage onslaught of fuzz.

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Old Blood Noise Endeavors Haunt

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Builder: Old Blood Noise, Pedal: Haunt, Fuzz Type: Silicon/Gated

This pedal blew my mind when I first tried it. I just happened to get my hands on the Old Blood Noise Endeavors Haunt at just the right time to fall in love with it. Within 5 minutes of playing I decided to record a demo video of just exploring the pedal. That’s never happened before, and it’s a testament to how instantly inspiring this pedal can be. The Haunt is a silicon transistor based fuzz. It offers 2 clipping variations for changing the response and feel of the pedal. It also has a Gate control to get those sputtery chopped tones. This is a damn cool fuzz pedal, and more guitarists need to try it. Seriously, buy one, or go play a friend’s. The whole vibe of this brand is another reminder of why we’re in the golden age of guitar pedals right now. The OBNE Haunt fuzz rocks.

Read the Old Blood Noise Haunt Fuzz review.

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Rainger FX Dr. Freakenstein’s Dwarf Bitch

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Builder: Rainger FX, Pedal: Dr. Freakenstein’s Dwarf Bitch, Fuzz Type: Gated

You want a crazy fuzz pedal? You’ve got it! We originally featured the awesome Rainger FX Dr Freakenstein Fuzz DrFF-3 (and Igor) on our best fuzz pedals list a couple years ago. Since then the London based builder shrunk down the lurching fuzz pedal into a couple minuscule variations: the Dr. Freakenstein’s Dwarf & Dr. Freakenstein’s Dwarf Bitch. The Bitch is the one of get if you can spare the extra quid as it does everything the regular Dwarf does, but it also has a little trimmer on the bottom that lets you make “bleepy & bloopy” synth/trem sounds. The included Igor pressure sensitive foot-pad lets you control the frequency oscillation in realtime. The Igor input jack even works with CV control. (I tried it. It’s nuts.) It’s also neat that Rainger FX made a custom mini enclosure with top-mounted backs, so there’s no excuse not to squeeze a little extra Bitchin’ fuzz on your pedalboard.

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EarthQuaker Devices Spires

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Builder: EarthQuaker Devices, Pedal: Spires, Fuzz Type: Nu Fuzz/Silicon

The EarthQuaker Devices Spires is one of the many rad new pedals that the Ohio based builder unveiled at Winter NAMM 2016. It’s a 2-in-1 fuzz pedal that reproduces the sounds of a rare pedal called the Rosac Nu Fuzz. It also incorporates a silicon version of EQD’s discontinued Dream Crusher fuzz pedal. The Red fuzz (Dream Crusher) is a bit smoother and more refined and has a Fuzz knob to adjust overall distortion level. The Green fuzz (Rosac Nu Fuzz) is aggressive, slightly splattery, and surprisingly focused in its delivery. The 2 fuzzes pair very well, making this an incredibly versatile pedal and one of the best fuzz pedals in the EarthQuaker Devices lineup.

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Dr. Scientist BitQuest

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Builder: Dr. Scientist, Pedal: BitQuest, Type: Fuzz+Effects

Okay, the Dr. Scientist BitQuest is way more than a fuzz pedal. It’s a multi-effects pedal with Clean & Fuzz modes. I imagine most guitarists will get this people for the Clean mode as this lets you stack the digital effects with any distortion or fuzz pedal you want, and the Gain knob becomes an extra parameter control for each effect in Clean mode. But let’s talk about the BitQuest’s Fuzz mode as it’s quite special.

Fuzz mode turns the BitQuest into a fuzz pedal with Gain, Tone, Vol, & Mix controls. At lower Fuzz settings, you get lighter overdrive & distortion tones. Crank the Fuzz, and it becomes a raging fuzz monster. A digital gate keeps it from get too unruly. The dial on the top left lets you choose from 8 different digital effects to process the fuzz. My favorites are the Filter (with High & Low Pass controls), Notch Filter, Bit Crusher, Ring Mod, and Flange. The Flange will let you freeze the LFO in its sweep for cool comb filtering effects. There are also Pitch Shifter, Delay, & Reverb modes to play with. Basically, the BitQuest gives you a wide range of interesting fuzz textures unlike any pedal you’ve ever heard. I never expected this pedal to make the list, but the Fuzz mode has a massive amount of cool sounds to be explored by those willing to take on this quest.

Read the Dr. Scientist BitQuest review.

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Keeley Electronics Psi Fuzz

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Builder: Keeley Electronics, Pedal: Psi Fuzz, Fuzz Type: Big Muff

The EHX Big Muff is one of the most copied and cloned pedals out there and has inspired countless variations and interpretations. Of all the Muff-inspired pedals I’ve played the Keeley Electronics Psi Fuzz is my personal favorite 3-knob Muff inspired pedal. It’s an op-amp style Muff, but don’t mistake it for just another late 70’s Muff clone. Robert & Co. went in and messed around with just about every aspect of the classic circuit. This thing has a low noise IC, a germanium diode, and 2 LEDs in the 3rd gain stage (with one LED popping through the surface of the pedal that illuminates while you play). The Psi Fuzz has a tight, full, and focused sound, and Voice (Tone) knob lets you contour the texture to your liking. It’s great for rhythm and leads, about as close to a best-of-all-worlds Muff as you could possibly get in a single 3-knob design. Sometimes having a bunch of knobs and features is fun. Sometimes you just want a fuzz pedal that nails that exact sound you’re looking for.

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Dwarfcraft Devices Necromancer

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Builder: Dwarfcraft Devices, Pedal: Necromancer, Fuzz Type: Super Fuzz

I’ve already told you how awesome the Silver Rose V2 is. The Dwarfcraft Devices Necromancer takes the Super side of the SRV2 and expands it in its own pedal. You get the same Volume, Bias, & Gain knobs along with the Mids switch. The Necromancer even brings along the Silver Rose V2’s switchable EQ section while adding an extra Mids band that is voiced right at the point where the Mids switch scoop takes place. This lets you apply a more subtle or extreme scoop depending on what you’re going for. You can even boost the mid-range, too. This pedal is a beast. Also, it has a lower noise level than the Silver Rose V2 since you’re not dealing with 2 fuzz circuits in tandem. That makes the Necromancer especially appealing if you’re looking for some Super Fuzz flavor to add to your pedalboard.

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Red Witch Zeus Bass Fuzz Suboctave

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Builder: Red Witch, Pedal: Zeus, Fuzz Type: Silicon/Octave

Some bass fuzz pedals work exceptionally well with guitar. Here’s a good one. The Red Witch Zeus Bass Fuzz Suboctave takes the silicon based Fuzz God II to new lower extremes. The Zeus can invoke classic overdriven fuzz tones with a sound that’s thick and growly. Boost the gain with the Lightening Bolt toggle to rain down on your audience with storms of fuzz fury and smite those who would dare question your omnipotence. Flip the Ear toggle to brighten the sound more like a guitar fuzz and make the unworthy tremble in fear. The extra foot-switch activates an analog monophonic suboctave which gives the Zeus more pedalboard utility and earthshaking low-end rumble. Rule from Mount Olympus with the aid of the Zeus and issue forth fuzz mayhem upon your holy kingdom.

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Keeley Electronics Monterey Rotary Fuzz Vibe

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Builder: Keeley Electronics, Pedal: Monterey, Fuzz Type: Fuzz+Effects

The Keeley Electronics Monterey Rotary Fuzz Vibe offers a whole collection of effects that’ll take you from Hendrix to new sonic frontiers. It starts with a classic fuzz based around vintage Fairchild Semiconductor transistors which are less prone to the temperature related problems associated with germanium transistors. The Mod section lets you add rotary, vibe, or wah effects to your fuzz sound. (The Mod effects can also be used independently.) The Wah setting is of particular interest in that it can do parked/cocked wah sounds, auto-wah, a unique tremolo wah effect, and traditional wah style sounds when you plug in an expression pedal. When the Mod section is engaged you can also turn the Octave knob to the left or right of noon to bring in a digital -1 or +1 octave tone. This pedal is a seriously fun playground of tone for Hendrix fans or any fuzz lover seeking some extra sounds to go along with their fuzz.

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EWS Little Fuzzy Drive

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Builder: EWS, Pedal: Little Fuzzy Drive, Fuzz Type: Op Amp

The EWS Little Fuzzy Drive is a fuzz from the Japan-based sister company of acclaimed guitar pedal builder Xotic Effects. This is another vintage sounding fuzz pedal that has modern advancements for guitarists of today. A Tone knob adjusts the treble frequencies and overall sound. A toggle switch selects between Fuzzy Drive & Fat Fuzzy modes. The former is a tighter sound fuzz sound with the latter being looser and a bit higher in gain. The pedal is sensitive to dynamics, so it cleans up with lighter picking or when reducing the guitar’s volume knob. It’s a great compact fuzz pedal when some old school retro fuzz is called for.

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Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Supreme

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Builder: Black Arts Toneworks, Pedal: Pharaoh Supreme, Fuzz Type: Muff of Doom!

It was the original Pharaoh Fuzz pedal that inspired me to create a best fuzz pedal list, and the Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Supreme is the heir to the Pharaoh’s throne. The original Pharaoh Fuzz is still a beastly fuzz pedal, well-known for it’s 3 selectable clipping variations (Asymmetrical Germanium, Silicon, & no clipping) and thick, mid-heavy tones. The Pharaoh Supreme takes the Pharaoh concept to the next level with 3 additional clipping modes (Symmetrical Germanium, JFET, & LED), and a variable Pre control for attenuating your tone at the input stage. Of the 6 available clipping modes, the new JFET & LED options happen to be my personal favorites, making the Pharaoh Supreme my indispensable fuzz overlord. While you can use the Pharaoh Supreme on its own for some massive fuzz sounds, it stacks well in front of a dirty amp or your favorite overdrive/distortion pedal. It’s a great doomy fuzz for sludging out heavily saturated guitar riffage.

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ZVex Fat Fuzz Factory

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Builder: ZVex, Pedal: Fat Fuzz Factory, Fuzz Type: Germanium Fuzz

The original Fuzz Factory was released 2 decades ago, and its reputation and popularity have been growing ever since. Matt Bellamy from Muse even had one built into his guitar! And while the original Fuzz Factory has remained in production and become a modern classic, Zachary Vex decided to outdo himself and release the ZVex Fat Fuzz Factory. The Fat Fuzz Factory offers all of the original functionality and tones of the original Fuzz Factory with the addition of the 3-way toggle switch that lets you choose between 2 sub-oscillation modes for even “fatter” fuzz sounds. It’s awesome. Really awesome. If you already have an original Fuzz Factory, an upgrade is well-worth considering as this pedal has even more massive fuzz potential. Once you hear the difference, you’ll be sold.

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Electro Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff Pi

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Builder: Electro Harmonix, Pedal: Deluxe Big Muff PiFuzz Type: Big Muff

The Big Muff Pi has been a classic fuzz/distortion pedal for over 40 years. It’s been made in countless variations over the years and has produced many spin-off pedals bearing the “Muff” name and hordes of imitators and clones. The Electro Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff Pi is one of the best out there. It features the awesome sounds of the original NYC Big Muff Pi but with several unique features. It has a Gate function for killing the background noise. An Attack knob lets you sharpen the initial pick attack, making up for the dulled pick sound Muff style fuzzes are often plagued by. A Bass Boost switch beefs up the low-end. The coolest feature is the foot-switchable Mids section with gives you a dedicated Mids Level knob, Freq control, and High/Low Q switch. You can even plug in an expression pedal or use CV control to control the mids like a crazy frequency sweeping wah effect. Lots of fun. The only thing missing is the Tone bypass switch from the Big Muff Pi with Tone Wicker, but this is still my personal favorite EHX Big Muff fuzz pedal. It might become yours, too.

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EarthQuaker Devices Fuzz Master General

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Builder: EarthQuaker Devices, Pedal: Fuzz Master General, Fuzz Type: FM-2

The EarthQuaker Devices Fuzz Master General is a reinterpretation of the old Ace Tone Fuzz Master FM-2, an octave fuzz that’s similar to a Super Fuzz. The FMG has a wide range of fuzz tones from cleanish and mild to full-blown fuzzy chaos. The Voice switch selects between silicon, germanium, and no clipping. The Tone knob darkens and scoops the sound when turned clockwise, while brightening and opening up the sound when turned counter-clockwise. This pedal has killer octave up tones and can do cool ring mod like effects when hitting 2 notes together in upper registers on the neck. A very rad fuzz pedal that offers more proof as to why EarthQuaker Devices has become one of the biggest names in fuzz in recent years.

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ScreaminFX 1954 Fuzz

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Builder: ScreaminFX, Pedal: 1954 Fuzz, Fuzz Type: Silicon Fuzz

The ScreaminFX 1954 Fuzz is a vintage flavored silicon fuzz. It evokes the sound of late 60’s fuzzes but has a sound and feel unique to this pedal. It sounds surprisingly stable and smooth and rewards more articulate and expressive playing. It has excellent cleanup when you cut your guitar’s volume knob; with the Fuzz knob maxed it’ll back off into a great overdriven fuzz sound. The Tone knob lets you tame any treble bite you might hear with brighter pickups. It also has a wah friendly buffer switch that helps it play well with other pedals in your signal chain. And you gotta dig the clear plate (that’s also RF grounded) which lets you see all the internally LED lit components on the cleanly arranged PCB inside.

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El Rey Effects Mystic Ouija Fuzz

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Builder: El Rey Effects, Pedal: Mystic Ouija Fuzz, Fuzz Type: Fuzz/Distortion

The El Rey Effects Mystic Ouija Fuzz is an affordably priced fuzz pedal that covers a wide range of overdrive, distortion, and fuzz tones. At higher gain levels this pedal produces great hybrid fuzz/distortion sounds that give the Mystic Ouija Fuzz its own unique voice. A 3-way clipping adjustment switch gives you choices of asymmetrical diode clipping, symmetrical diode clipping, and asymmetrical LED clipping. Furthermore, the wide-sweeping tone control offers a simple and effective way to tweak the voicing of the pedal to your liking. Feeling superstitious? Consult the oracle of fuzzy overdrive with the Mystic Ouija Fuzz by El Rey Effects.

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SolidGoldFX If 6 Was 9 BC183CC

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Builder: SolidGoldFX, Pedal: If 6 Was 9 BC183CCFuzz Type: Silicon

The SolidGold FX If 6 Was 9 BC183CC is a fine example of vintage fuzz tone meets modern design pulled off exceptionally well. With its Hendrix-inspired name, you should already have an idea of what you’re getting with this pedal. New old stock BC183 Silicon transistors and vintage spec carbon comp resistors set the foundation while an external Bias control and Tone switch let you sculpt the tone and response of this pedal to your liking. The If 6 Was 9 covers the full range of vintage Silicon fuzz sounds and even cleans up when you roll back your guitar’s volume knob, making it a remarkably versatile and dynamic fuzz pedal. SolidGoldFX will only have the If 6 Was 9 around for a limited time as those NOS BC183 transistors are quite scarce, so get it while you can.

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Walrus Audio Janus

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Builder: Walrus Audio, Pedal: Janus, Fuzz Type: Fuzz+Tremolo

I absolutely love the Walrus Audio Janus. It’s a marvel of concept, creativity, and successful execution of a radical design concept. It offers exceptionally good fuzz tones with an equally great tremolo thrown in for good measure while using 2 joysticks to control parameters of each effect. While fuzz and tremolo may seem like an unlikely pairing in a single pedal, they work surprisingly well in the Janus. This pedal is great for studio work or real-time, live sound mangling as you can control the joysticks with your foot while standing. Don’t worry, if you want to use the effects in a more traditional context, you can set the joysticks and leave them in position if you’d like. However you use it, you must admit that the Walrus Audio Janus is one hell of a creatively engineered fuzz pedal. It’s this kind of forward-thinking instrument design that inspires the most adventurous musicians to break new ground themselves.

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EarthQuaker Devices Hoof Reaper Octave Fuzz

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Builder: EarthQuaker Devices, Pedal: Hoof Reaper, Fuzz Type: Silicon/Octave

The EarthQuaker Devices Hoof Reaper Octave Fuzz takes two of their best fuzz pedals, the Hoof and Tone Reaper, respectively, and combines them into one pedal with a great Octave Up function thrown in. It’s basically like a green Russian Muff meets a Tone Bender with Octavia thrown in. Crazy stuff. This is one of the most widely varied tone-sculpting fuzzes out there and is a staple on this list. Both the Tone Reaper and Hoof are exceptional fuzz pedals in their own right, and to have them both in one pedal produces an unbelievable amount of textural variety. This really is a fuzz pedal that does it all. EarthQuaker Devices have garnered a reputation in recent years for making some of the most cutting-edge and great sounding pedals around, and they’re one of the modern master builders of fuzz pedals. Once you play the Hoof Reaper, you’ll understand why.

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Dr. Scientist Frazz Dazzler

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Builder: Dr. Scientist, Pedal: Frazz Dazzler, Fuzz Type: Silicon/Gated

The Dr. Scientist Frazz Dazzler is a high-end boutique fuzz pedal that is hand-made using components of uncompromising quality. Its quirky design includes some features that make this pedal another unique entry on the list, the most notable being its Mix function that may also be controlled via external expression pedal. Guitarists and bassists alike will appreciate how this allows the Frazz Dazzler to add some extra definition to your fuzz tones. The Sizzle knob and internal Bass trim pot will let you further define your sound, and a Gain switch will kick the fuzz up a notch with some splatty flair. This fuzzy little robot is the kind of guitar pedal (works with bass, too!) that could only come from Dr. Scientist and will wreck havoc on those you unleash it upon.

Read the Dr. Scientist Frazz Dazzler review.

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Malekko Diabolik JMJ

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Builder: Malekko, Pedal: Diabolik, Fuzz Type: Modded B:Assmaster

The Malekko Diabolik JMJ is the signature bass fuzz pedal of Justin Meldel-Johnsen. Malekko and Justin worked together, starting with Malekko’s B:Assmaster bass fuzz and tweaking it until the Diabolik JMJ was born. The simple control layout lets you achieve all-out, chord-decimating fuzz carnage as well as great “clean/dirty” fuzz tones thanks to the ability to blend your dry and wet signals. It sounds huge but isn’t overly bass heavy. Despite being a bass fuzz pedal, it works very well with guitar and also stacks well with other distortion/overdrive pedals for unique hybrid fuzz tones.

Read the Malekko Diabolik JMJ review.

See the lowest price on Amazon.

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ZVex Fuzzolo

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Brand: Zvex, Pedal: Fuzzolo, Fuzz Type: Square Wave

The ZVex Fuzzolo is a miniaturized fuzz pedal in the vein of  ZVex’s own Mastotron and Wooly Mammoth pedals, only stripped down to the simplest control scheme possible. There’s a Volume knob and a unique Pulse Wave control that takes this pedal from smooth fuzz distortion to biting gated fuzz and anywhere in between. It’s surprisingly versatile and even has an internal jumper which can be switched for use with active or passive pickups. If you want an aggressive fuzz that does smooth and/or gated fuzz without taking up much space, try the Fuzzolo.

Read the ZVex Fuzzolo review.

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That concludes our Top 25 Best Fuzz Pedals of 2016. Thanks for reading.

 

If there’s a great fuzz pedal you think deserves mention, let us know in the comments!