Best Guitar Effects is back with another round-up of the best new guitar pedals at the latest NAMM show! After covering Winter NAMM 2014 and Winter NAMM 2015, we decided to make our way east to the grand ‘ole state of Nashville to see what stompbox surprises were in store. Needless to say our trip was worth the spent air-miles as several pedal companies had some pretty exciting new gear to show off.
As with our previous “Best Pedals of NAMM” articles it’s important to note that these initial impressions DO NOT constitute our final review verdicts. The musical cacophony of the NAMM Show floor isn’t the most optimal listening environment, and features, specs, and sounds may change before some of these pedals are released. These are simply the pedals we’re most excited about based on what we saw and heard at Summer NAMM 2015.
This list has a focus on exhibiting companies’ new and upcoming pedals that were first unveiled on the show floor or recently announced elsewhere but first made publicly playable at Summer NAMM 2015. However, with that being said, there are a few other surprises and interesting items worth bringing to your attention that you’ll see towards the end of the article.
With that being said let’s keep the intro short. Here are the Top 30 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Summer NAMM 2015:
Spaceman Orion Analog Spring Reverb
If you’ve never heard of Spaceman Effects, just know that they’re one of the handful of builders that truly produce art in pedal form. Sure, this could be argued about many a great builder, but the simple design aesthetic, pristine audio fidelity, and master craftsmanship of Spaceman’s pedals are in a class reserved for only a few of the elite boutique pedal builders out there. Their pedals are made with an artisan’s attention to detail in small batches (like good beer, no?), and a look inside one of their pedal’s enclosures will reveal a carefully and compulsively constructed masterpiece of transistors, resistors, and other premium components.
While other companies have attempted to create a true spring reverb in stompbox form, these pedals have typically been large unruly monsters that take up a ton of pedalboard space. The Spaceman Orion Analog Spring Reverb offers a surprisingly lush reverb in a relatively small pedal. (Think about how beastly the reverb unit in your favorite amp most likely is!) Lately, I’ve had less appreciation for real spring reverb since I’ve been spoiled by all the crazy, digitally modeled and emulated reverb algorithms from digital reverb pedals that have been flooding the market in recent years. But the Orion also offers more flexibility than your typical amp reverb with the ability to Blend in the reverb to taste, adjust the Tone, increase the length with Dwell, and compensate for lost output with Volume. Practical and intuitive. I loved what I heard from Spaceman’s Orion at Summer NAMM 2015, and I want to hear more.
Visit Spaceman Effects for more info about the Orion Analog Spring Reverb.
Boss DD-500 Digital Delay
While the Boss DD-500 clearly appears to be a direct counter to the reigning best delay pedal on the market, the Strymon TimeLine, this is one of the most formidable challengers yet to the delay pedal throne. In summary, the DD-500 Digital Delay offers a plethora of 12 delay algorithms spanning Boss’s entire history with all of the expected digital, analog, lo-fi, tape, and reverse effects with a few other surprise delays including SFX, Shimmer, Filter, Slow Attack, and even a version of the Boss Tera Echo pedal. (It’s certainly a step up from your trusty Boss DD-7 Digital Delay.) The most tempting aspect for many guitarists will be the price as the DD-500 is also selling for significantly less than most other delay pedal powerhouses out there. We’ll wait until we spend time with a unit to make our final call, but Boss brand loyalists, this one’s definitely for you!
Source Audio Nemesis
We mentioned the Source Audio Nemesis Delay in our Top 42 Best Guitar Pedals of Winter NAMM 2015 article, and it’s back in black. This is yet another contender for the best delay pedal throne as the grey unit shown earlier this year immediately evoked a “TimeLine the size of an El Capistan” vibe. The new sleek black aluminum enclosure gives the Nemesis a more unique (and classier) visual appeal that immediately creates an impression of being a super premium product. And premium it is with 12 delay modes (Reverse newly added!), 6 parameter knobs, tap tempo with selectable divisions and more. I’ve found myself becoming disappointed with Strymon’s decision to neglect adding MIDI I/O to their smaller delay pedals, and the Nemesis steps in as a devil’s advocate to show that it can be done. This is big news for guitarists who use a progressional MIDI rig to select presets during live performance. While the Nemesis has 4 presets quickly accessible from the surface, MIDI control helps unlock a huge amount of delay potential from this reasonably small space on your pedalboard. The Nemesis is the dark horse delay to watch out for.
Pigtronix Echolution 2 Ultra Pro & Filter Pro
Hey, didn’t the Pigtronix Echolution 2 & E2D (Deluxe) come out not too long ago? Well, Pigtronix just couldn’t help but take their flagship delay pedals to the next level of evolution. The new Ultra Pro & Filter Pro replace the original units adding pitch-shifting (to any interval within an octave) to the twin-delay lines. Already have an E2 or E2D? Users of the original pedals can still upgrade to the new features. Essentially, you’re getting a snazzier visual package, same extra surface control on the “basic” Filter Pro, and some killer pitch-shifting effects aiming to rival and surpass what other delay pedals have done before The original Echolution 2 was pending review on the site, so it looks like we’ll keep an eye out for these instead.
Visit Pigtronix for more info about the Echolution 2 Ultra Pro & Filter Pro.
Adventure Audio Whatever Reverb
Yes, this crazy new reverb “pedal” from Adventure Audio is going to be called “Whatever”. While not actually at Summer NAMM 2015 in pedal form, the genesis of the Whatever is here on the breadboard. Three modes of reverb will be available (Reverse, Space, & Shimmer) offering a range of interesting ambience. This pedal’s defining feature is its Warp knob which mangles the reverb in very interesting ways depending on which algorithm is selected. Also, there will be some expression pedal control available, and all these components should end up in a standard sized pedal enclosure. Bonus points to any builder adventurous enough to bring a breadboard to NAMM.
Visit Adventure Pedals for more info about the Whatever Reverb.
Boss RV-6 Reverb
It’s about time! The Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb has been a long-standing staple of the Boss pedal lineup and the go-to reverb for many beginning guitar players. The Boss RV-6 Reverb (no longer named “Digital”) has finally arrived and is destined to make a big impact on pedalboards everywhere. With 8 reverb modes available in it’s legendary Boss standard pedal enclosure, the RV-6 others a wide range of reverb sounds that few reverb pedals this size can contend with. While a reverse reverb would have been nice, nearly any other type of reverb ambience you could want is here. This pedal will most likely be a Boss essential.
EarthQuaker Devices Dunes
So the EarthQuaker Devices Palisades is one of the best overdrive pedals around. It’s certainly an awesome Tube Screamer inspired pedal. The only problem is the Palisades is kind of huge when you may use want a single TS-808 style overdrive sound. The EarthQuaker Devices Dunes strips down the Palisades to the bare essentials: typical 3-knob overdrive controls, normal/bright switch, dual-position bandwidth switch (Palisades 3 & 5 settings), and 3 clipping options (silicon, none, & mosfet). The EQD Dunes is rad. Simple as that.
Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about Dunes.
Walrus Audio Messner Overdrive
The Walrus Audio Messner Overdrive is named after Reinhold Messner, the first mountaineer to ascend to the peak of Mount Everest without the aid of supplemental oxygen. The Messner is a transparent, airy overdrive that will take your guitar tone to similar peaks of greatness. On the NAMM show floor it sounded solid, but this will be one to put to the test with an extra ear of sensitivity. Walrus Audio already announced a ton of interesting looking products at Winter NAMM 2015, including the Bellwether and Phoenix Power Supply. While I’m glad to see them cranking out more promising guitar pedals, I just can’t wait to see the artwork for this one as its aesthetic design will likely complement its sound and inspired origins.
Visit Walrus Audio for more info about the Messner Overdrive.
Electro Harmonix The Silencer
The Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor has long reigned as my favorite noise gate pedal. But Mike Matthews & EHX may have just changed that with the Electro Harmonix The Silencer Noise Gate/Effects Loop. Three knobs set the response of the gate, and a dedicated effects loop lets you use your direct input signal to trigger the gate. This setup is very useful for reigning in those high-gain distortion and fuzz pedals that tend to be loud, hissy, noisy, and generally unruly. The Silencer looks like an essential noise gate utility pedal from Electro Harmonix.
Visit Electro Harmonix for more info about The Silencer.
Caroline Météore Lo-Fi Reverb
In the vein of their Kilobyte Lo-Fi Delay, Caroline Guitar Company have now unleashed the Météore Lo-Fi Reverb. It delivers a range of lo-fi reverb ambience from a warmer, clean-ish reverb to a gritty and distorted, yet beautiful mess. Similar to the Kilobyte, pressing and holding the adjacent foot-switch adds some chaos to the twisted reverb carnage. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Don’t know what all those knob symbols mean? Get one, plug in, and listen for yourself. It’s rad.
Visit Caroline Guitar Company for more info about the Météore Lo-Fi Reverb.
EarthQuaker Devices Interstellar Orbiter
The EarthQuaker Devices Interstellar Orbiter mysteriously appeared on the Interwebz recently, and I was quick to imagine that its filtering could possibly be low-pass/high-pass related. Instead the Interstellar Orbiter turned out to be a crazy LFO modulated, dual-resonant filter pedal. It can do those vowel-like, vocal formant filtering effects, pseudo-leslie sounds, wah-ish emulation, and more. The Interstellar Orbiter offers dual expression control for LFO Rate and master Frequency, so there’s plenty of possibilities for tweaking.
Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Interstellar Orbiter.
Electro Harmonix 22500 Dual Stereo Looper
The Electro Harmonix 45000 is one of the most advanced looping devices ever created. It’s therefore big news that EHX have created a pedal-based version of the iconic looper with the 22500 Dual Stereo Looper. You can record 2 independent loops and play them back in series or parallel overdubbing to the loops at will. Reverse and Octave effects add additional flexibility. An included 8gb SD card allows 12 hours of recording time. While MIDI operation would have made it ideal for my personal use as I would love to have sequenced the pedal with Ableton Live, most general users will find this to be perhaps the essential realtime performance compact looper pedal.
Visit Electro Harmonix for more info about the 22500 Dual Stereo Looper.
Alexander Pedals F.13 Flanger
The Alexander Pedals F.13 Flanger combines out-of-this-world alien flanger effects with an Area 51 inspired visual aesthetic to produce some interesting flanging not found in any other pedal. While it can get wild and extreme, the most exciting feature of this pedal is its Dynamic flanging mode which lets your picking dynamics control how much of the effect is heard. Playing lightly cuts the effect back while digging in or strumming hard brings in the effect to send your guitar sound into space.
Old Blood Noise Endeavors Reflector
So Old Blood Noise Endeavors had this thing out in Nashville lurking on a board somewhere. It’s called the Reflector. It’s a chorus, flanger, pitch-shifter pedal. It’s sounds weird. And good. It’s kind of lo-fi-ish. And it’s trippy. It looks cool, too. Don’t turn the knobs up too high. It’ll scramble your brain. You’ll start speaking in short sentences. Wow, that was kind of fun. I want to try it again. Yeah, this one’s cool. Love OBNE. Very unique vibe going on. Check out the Reflector. Old Blood Noise Endeavors. Awesome.
Visit Old Blood Noise Endeavors for more info about the Reflector.
Wampler dB+ Boost/Independent Buffer
The Wampler dB+ Boost/Independent Buffer is the company’s first pedal in a mini enclosure format. It’s simple, functional, and doesn’t take up much space on your guitar pedalboard. There’s a Buffer button on the side, so you can use it as a straight boost perhaps towards the front of your signal chain or as a buffer at the end if you need to drive long cables and compensate for volume loss. Very cool. I can imagine some guitarists picking up multiple units to use at various points in their setup. The dB+ is also a significant release as it’s the first mini pedal from Wampler. It’ll be interesting to see if they create any other miniature pedals since the micro pedal trend still going strong.
Visit Wampler Pedals for more info about the dB+ Boost/Independent Buffer.
DOD Meatbox Subsynth & Gonkulator Ringmod
The iconic DOD brand has been making a comeback under Digitech lately (we mentioned the Boneshaker in our Winter NAMM 2015 roundup), and they’ve just re-released a couple of their classic pedals: the DOD Meatbox Subsynth & Gonkulator Ringmod. For the record, the Meatbox is aimed at bassists with some users of the original pedal reporting that it was too intense for guitar. Perhaps extended range guitar players can have a second look. But for other guitarists seeking interesting effect sounds, the Gonkulator delivers ring modulation effects that get gnarly, dissonant, and nasty. Definitely a couple oldies but goodies. Glad to see the DOD resurgence happening.
Meatbox Subsynth: See the lowest price on Amazon.
Gonkulator Ringmod: See the lowest price on Amazon.
EarthQuaker Devices Tentacle
The EarthQuaker Devices Tentacle takes the same great octave up effect found in the EQD Hoof Reaper Octave Fuzz and makes it available in a standalone pedal. It has no knobs, just a single foot-switch that allows you to wrap the tentacle around your guitar tone. Sure, you can use it alone to mangle your sound, but stack it with an overdrive like the Palisades or a fuzz pedal such as the Fuzz Master General, and octave up magic will ensue. Also, expect this to be available at a very enticing price point.
Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Tentacle.
Mojo Hand FX El Guapo, Rounder, & BMP-2
Mojo Hand FX had a trio of new fuzz pedals in Nashville this year. The El Guapo is a versatile fuzz pedal that can go from classic fuzz sounds to gate, gnarly octave fuzz. If you’re familiar with the old Burns Buzzaround fuzz, the Rounder is a Mojo Hand FX interpretation of that style of stompbox. And the BMP-2 is their latest take on the archetypal Russian Big Muff Pi. The BMP-2 comes in a smaller enclosure than the BMP-1 and features high-gain transistors for more muffy mayhem. Mojo Hand FX puts out some solid fuzz pedals, so these are worth looking into.
Visit Mojo Hand FX for more info about the El Guapo, Rounder, & BMP-2.
El Guapo: See the lowest price on eBay.
Rounder: See the lowest price on eBay.
BMP-2: See the lowest price on eBay.
McCaffrey Audio Run Rabbit Run
The McCaffrey Audio Run Rabbit Run is an inspired vision of a Uni-Vibe style vibrato/chorus pedal. Depth and Rate knobs are here with the Rate being of the large, grippy type for easier foot control. A Thump switch makes up for any lost low-end. There are also additional foot-switches for switching between chorus and vibrato modes on the fly activating the extreme Rate “Crazy” mode for ring-mod style effects. I hope to see that center foot-switch raised in the production run to compensate for the closeness of the 3 foot-switches. Looks neat, sounds solid. Keep an eye out for this one.
Visit McCaffrey Audio for more info about the Run Rabbit Run.
Daredevil Pedals Northern Creeper
The Daredevil Northern Creeper is a simple 2-knob fuzz in the vein of a classic 70’s Super Fuzz. It has an aggressive, squashed fuzz tone and sounds like a potential standout fuzz in Daredevil’s growing lineup of guitar pedals. This photo is actually of the standard production version of the Northern Creeper, but the initial run will come in a cool looking hand-folded aluminum metal enclosure. If simple-to- use Super Fuzz style grind is your thing, you might want to look into this one when the first batch is available for preorder. Old-school Chicago-made fuzz distortion for the win.
Visit Daredevil Pedals for more info about the Northern Creeper.
Source Audio Lunar Phaser, Kingmaker Fuzz, Mercury Flanger, L.A. Lady Overdrive, Gemini Chorus, & Vertigo Tremolo
Aside from the stellar-looking Nemesis Delay, the fleet of new standard sized pedals from Source Audio offers several enticing reasons to consider adding them to your pedalboard. Each pedal features high quality renditions of a range of classic effects. 4 knobs provide surface tweakability with 3-position flip-switches allowing easy selection between their different modes of operation. The extra surprises for the tone seeking, tech savvy guitarist are what differentiate Source Audio’s new offerings from other pedals. A dedicated mobile/desktop app lets you dive into the pedals to completely customize your sounds and a separate box, the Neuro Hub V1, can allow any of these pedals to be controlled in realtime via MIDI. The Vertigo Tremolo should be hitting stores now with the rest due this Summer.
A few other surprises were at Summer NAMM 2015 that we’ll cover for the sake of completion and for the surprises being interesting and/or awesome. You decide.
Two Notes Le Clean (prototype)
Two Notes previously gained some recognition for their Torpedo C.A.B. Speaker Simulation pedal. This new product prototype, dubbed Le Clean, is their take on an all-analog, tube preamp pedal, a smart companion to their speaker cabinet emulation products. What’s most curious is that Le Clean offers MIDI functionality for full integration into a MIDI based guitar rig. I’d like to see this turn out well as this type of product is on my personal most-wished for gear list. If Two Notes manages to create a tube based preamp pedal that delivers the goods, they could have a hit on their hands.
Visit Two Notes for more info about Le Clean.
ScreaminFX Banshee Boost, Betrayer, & 1954 Fuzz
Okay, these ScreaminFX pedals aren’t exactly new. What is new is their new visual look. ScreaminFX came up with a cool idea, filed a patent, and revealed a revamped line of visually unique pedals that feature shielded, transparent case windows with components mounted to the window and to the PCB. Knob functions are etched on the windows and printed on the PCB, and colorful LEDs illuminate the circuits within. It’s a novel idea that may appeal to guitarists who like pedals that look a little different. It grabbed my attention as did the tones I heard, most notably from the ScreaminFX 1954 Fuzz as it offered some killer classic guitar fuzz.
Visit ScreaminFX for more info about the Banshee Boost, Betrayer, & 1954 Fuzz.
Boss SY-300 Guitar Synthesizer
I’ve been waiting patiently for years for Roland/Boss to solve the riddle of polyphonic guitar synthesis from a standard guitar cable/pickup combination. After other successful guitar synth pedals showed that it could be done with great results, Roland decided to throw down the gauntlet with the SY-300 Guitar Synthesizer under their Boss brand. The Boss SY-300 is a departure from Roland’s line of GR guitar synthesizers, negating the need for a special hexaphonic pickup and offering an analog-inspired digital synth playground of tones. Essentially, now you can build your sounds from the ground up with multiple oscillator-filled synth sections instead of just selecting from a more sample-based collection of real-world sounds and pre-created synth tones. You can also create tones from your desktop computer (Mac/PC) with the “Boss Tone Studio for SY-300”. It’ll be interesting to see how guitarists respond to this as the guitar synthesizer in general has always had niche appeal. Guitarists who love classic synths and creating unique tones and textures might find themselves in synth heaven with the Boss SY-300 Guitar Synthesizer.
Eventide H9 Harmonizer (Crushstation & “Pre/Post” Update)
Crushstation: At Winter NAMM 2015 I got to hear a glimpse of a secret algorithm Eventide was working on. Essentially it was to be Eventide’s foray into the missing link from the H9’s core of sounds: gritty overdrive distortion. The sounds I heard then were more than solid. Basically, we’re talking ripping overdrive tones that didn’t suck. Also, interesting was the algorithm’s ability to induce feedback for super sustaining tones. Well, at Summer NAMM 2015 Eventide finally offered a deeper glimpse of what’s to come. It’s called Crushstation, and it’s shaping up to add even more versatility to do-it-all H9 Harmonizer. The tones I heard this time were thick and heavy. There is an option octaver effect for beefy octave fuzz. A Sag control brings in killer gated, dying battery sounds. It can do open and more compressed styles of grit, drive, and grind. All in all, Eventide are delivering a heavy hitter in the one area where the H9 was lacking. But there’s one more thing…
Pre/Post Routing: Buying the H9 Harmonizer opens up a lot of creative possibilities, but there’s been one issue for many guitarists: where to put it in your signal chain to make the most of the particular types of effects you want to use most. Some guitarists have solved this dilemma by buying 2 or more H9 pedals to use throughout there signal chain, but know mono guitarists have an additional option. You’ll soon be able to split the stereo I/O for 2 mono signal chains to patch your chosen algorithm Pre or Post. This means you could use some effects at the front of your chain (compression, harmonizer, overdrive/distortion) and use others at the end or in your amp’s effects loop (modulation, reverb, delay). This is mainly of benefit for a mono guitar rig which, let’s face it, is what most guitarists use anyway. This helps you get more utility out of one H9 pedal, or if you’ve already picked up 2, you could now switch from something like H909/H910 + Crushstation in the Pre section to Ultra Tap + Black Hole in the Post section. The Eventide H9 Harmonizer has remained my favorite pedal released in recent years thanks to the fact that it’s continuously evolving and adding more essential utility to its arsenal of abilities.
One more thing will be of interest to guitar pedal fans. EarthQuaker Devices had a big surprise to show off.
EarthQuaker Devices Sound Projector 25
Yes, this is real. This is happening. EarthQuaker Devices is adding guitar amplifiers to their lineup of earthquaking devices. The completely minimalist Sound Projector line of amps looks to have a focus on creating the ultimate foundation for using with pedals. EQD fans will swarm over these as will any guitarist who needs a solid platform for projecting the sounds from their pedals. The approach of nearly every other amp manufacturer is on the the amp first and formost, but pedal using guitarists often use the amp simply as a canvas with their myriad collection of pedals used to color the sounds. The white board look of the Sound Projector 25 states this intention better than any amplifier I’ve seen. Leave it to what we can now call a former a pedal company to get this. I’ve long loved the Rivera Venus 5 specifically for its clean foundation stacking with pedals. Now there’s an amp with mainstream appeal set to be marketed with this specific intention.
At The NAMM Show in Nashville EarthQuaker Devices had a 25-watt version of the Sound Projector on hand, pumping out the jams through 3 2×12 cabinets loaded with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers. Expect these made-to-order monsters to reach at least 200 watts. I can already see the wave of indy rockers filling their back lines with EQD branded guitar (and bass!) amps. Can you imagine running a Bit Commander, Hoof Reaper, Palisades, and other pedals into this thing?
It comes with 12AX7 preamp tubes and KT66 power tubes as standard. External bias test points and trim pots allow even novices to switch to other popular octal power tubes such as 6L6, EL34, and 6V6 varieties. It has custom wound power and output transformers, a solid state rectifier, foot-switchable gain boost, and jacks for 4, 8, & 16 ohm cabinets.
Speaker cabinets are handmade with ultra rugged box joint construction out of high quality birch. While cabs come stock with 2 12″ Celestion Vintage 30’s and a closed back design, they’re highly customizable to suit anyone’s tonal wishes.
Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Sound Projector 25.
That concludes our Top 30 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Summer NAMM 2015 (and bonus coverage). Until next time… here’s the biggest working pedal ever made courtesy of Cusack Music. Does any company dare to top this at a future show? We’ll find out at The NAMM Show 2016 and beyond!