Carlsbad, CA, (December 10, 2015) – Demand for customized, unique sound is driving fretted products and effects sales to a seven-year high, while fueling a new wave of boutique pedal builders. Over the last decade, the retail value of the effects pedal category has increased more than 45%, with a 13.7% gain in 2014.
The emergence of hundreds of up-and-coming pedal brands can be traced to new technology and easier global distribution, of both ideas and components. Robert Keeley, founder of Keeley Electronics, Inc., has seen his Edmond, OK business double since 2012. It is now producing more than 2,000 units per month. “Our products are almost completely hand-built and we cater to a group of people who are in the market for specialty-purpose pedals,” said Keeley. Big- name players including John Mayer, Jimmy Buffet and Dream Theater’s John Petrucci are among those who have called on Keeley for customized pedals, with some of those pedals crossing over into a limited-edition commercial run.
Joel Korte, founder of Minnesota-based Chase Bliss Audio has seen sales double in the last year and adds, “Musicians like to experiment with sound using pedals because the experience is very visceral and pedals are hands-on and offer the artist control right away.”
Affordability has also emerged as a major factor in the surge as artists add distortion, phasers and vibrato to their signature sound. The cottage industry of boutique pedal makers offers ways to tweak and discover sounds for an average price of $100-$400 dollars.
Many of these emerging builders, including Akron, Ohio’s family-owned EarthQuaker Devices, have also focused on demonstrating their products for non-traditional pedal players, such as sax, synth and violin players. Julie Robbins of EarthQuaker Devices emphasizes that innovative, specialty-designed sound is a key factor in the company’s success. “We answer the call of experimental musicians who love to create sounds that inspire them to go in new directions,” said Robbins. “Some just want to recreate classic tones, while others use their pedals as a way to actually define their newest album, and we cater to both.”
Demand is also up for pedals that couple long-lasting new technology with “old school” parts to create coveted “vintage” analog sounds. Pete Celi, co-founder of growing Southern California builder Strymon, says interest in vintage pedals has skyrocketed, including tape delays, vintage amp tremolos, pedals from the 70s, but he notes these originals can be unreliable on tour and prices make those purchases beyond the reach of most musicians. “This creates an opportunity for pedals that can capture those sought-after sounds and yet be conveniently and reliably used at gigs,” said Celi.
Strymon employs a one-on-one strategy with musicians, regularly holding open-studio parties. Celi says the conversations are paying off. “We believe everybody is an artist.”
Since I only focus on pedals and have been running this site for 12.5 years, I see more than anyone else. I know what's new and what's not and I also spot new pedals at unexpected booths. At NAMM 2013 I saw 280 new pedals!
If you're going as well: let's meet!
The shirts look great! The logo was designed by WeirdBeard who also designed a lot of pedals, posters for gigs,... and this time you can choose from 8 colors including black!
You still need Christmas gifts for guitar playing friends/family/...?
You want to have a chance at winning 1 of 9 prizes?
T-Rex from Vejle, Denmark started out in the mid nineties, making MIDI switchers and then moved to making guitar effect pedals. Their first pedal line up consisted of a compressor, tremolo, overdrive and distortion and these were embraced by the pedal aficionados and praised as being top quality pedals.
They were. And T-Rex did not stop there and went on to release great sounding modulation and time based effects. Apart from a side step into the world of boutique guitar amps, T-Rex continuously specialized in designing guitar pedals and accessories and unleashed the affordable Tonebug series, the Dual function pedals, a series of tube pedals, power supplies, pedalboards and bags, even multi effect and more recently a ... wait for it ... tape delay – ay - ay – ay.
So, T-Rex has not been sitting still and kept reinventing their own line of pedals, nowadays it consists of a line-up of sleek compact pedals. One effect that T-Rex did not offer was a pitch shifter.
Until now. Read on to find out more about the T-Rex Quint Machine.
A compact size pedal, it measures 60x50x117 mm, in a distinguished purple brownish color with a darker striping pattern, in- and output and 9V DC socket on top.
Red status LED and soft FET bypass on/off switch, slightly off center. T-Rex badge in the middle.
The Quint Machine has 4 controls, Fifth Up, +1 and -1 Octave and Mix.
Stylish cream colored fluted knobs with black markers
The Quint Machine also takes 9V batteries, but drains these instantly, so better to user a power supply. And you need a special tool to gain access to the battery compartment, so not that practical.
I added some official pictures and more info to the page and I replaced my YouTube videos with better versions (something went wrong with most of the videos I made at Musikmesse when I rendered them the first time, so they were only online for a short time).
NAMM 2016 is still 3 months away, but I started making plans to attend again, hopefully without NAMMthrax and blisters from hell this time, but not wearing brand new shoes and not having to run to catch a plane after arriving with the wrong passport first should help! I try to go every other year but my 2nd son made me skip an extra year. Since the costs for such a trip (from Belgium...) are quite high I decided to do another T-shirt campaign to help me fund it.
With the previous batches I got a lot of requests for a black shirt, so that will definitely be one of the options. Yes, "one of", I'll probably offer quite a lot of colors (all with the same colors of print). It's possible that I'll do 2 campaigns: 1 for shirts printed in the US (as last times) and one for shirts printed in Europe (cheaper shipping) if I can make that clear on the campaign pages (at the manufacturer's site).
The shirt will show the Effects Database logo (again), but with a bigger "monster" and smaller text than the previous shirts. The logo was designed by David Medel aka Weirdbeard72, who also designed a lot of gig posters, shirts, cd covers and pedals for Catalinbread, Earthquaker Devices,...
Shirts from the previous campaigns (for NAMM 2013 and a small one for those who missed that) were bought by a lot of badass/cool/lovely/... people/friends including a lot of pedal manufacturers (including Mike Matthews from Electro-Harmonix!) and "media people" (Burgs, JustNick, Rebecca Dirks,...) and other friends/followers/readers from around the world (USA, UK, Norway, Argentina, Greece, Austrlia,...) as you can see here (Facebook album) and here (pictures of the first campaign only, but here on this site).
I'll show these shirts on social media a few more times, just to avoid getting a lot of questions for shirts after the campaign is over ;-)
This tiny sized pedal won't leave a big footprint on your pedalboard and it won't set you back much. But is it worth even the small investment? For many, a compressor is an effect that is too subtle to invest in but it can certainly help you in sounding consistent. Especially for rhythm players or acoustic aficionado's a compressor is a useful tool in the box.
This pedal has a few nice quirks like a lid to shield of the tiny knobs for the impact of your big feet. Whether it is to prevent breaking off knobs or for keeping you from altering your settings while stomping it, it sure channels you into a "set and forget" scenario.
The knobs are a bit small but they are usable enough because of their shape and color. With this small size, they allow you to have 4 controls: Volume, sensitivity, mix dry/wet and attack response time. (what should be more than enough options for such a small pedal)
You'll know when it's on; 2 obvious clear leds will tell you. That might be another reason to close the lid. When closed, the logo on the lid shines and that's a nice touch. I think the power input on the right side might be problematic for some plugs so I wonder if there went as much thinking in that as in the lid.
DigiTech has proven themselves a worthy pedal brand that already has some notorious classics on its product list. You all know the various Whammy iterations and as a sort of spin-off, they bring you The Drop. This pedal is a straightforward, drop tune pedal with a remarkable polyphonic quality.
I don't read a manual before I test a pedal. I want to experience how intuitive the pedal really is by plugging it and and start playing with it. First thing I notice is the big size knob that controls the number of intervals I can drop. Please mind that the pedal only tunes down, as the name suggests. You can drop all intervals between 1 and 7 semi-tones or go to a lower octave right away. In the case of the latter, you can add dry signal when setting it on the "OCT+DRY" setting. A little control to determine the blend of dry and octave down would have been useful here but that is no show stopper.
One of the functions that points out that the people at DigiTech really had a good think about this product, is the latch/momentary function. This is something I would like to see on almost all the pedals I currently own.
If momentary is off, the on/off switch of the effect works in a classic fashion: stomp it to turn it on, stomp it again to turn it off. With the momentary mode on, you to hold your foot down to turn it on and as soon as you lift your foot again, the effect turns off. I use a similar switch on a booster, which is useful if you play guitar and sing in a band an you need to focus on playing, singing and pedal switching at the same time. By tapping the switch, you can experiment with stutter effects to add detuned accents to your solo's.
A fun quirk I only found out while reading the manual afterwards, is that you can decide whether the momentary function makes the switch an "on" or "off" function. If the effect switch is off (led=dark) while you turn on the momentary mode, the pedal will operate as described above; press down to turn on the effect and release to turn it off. If the effect is on (led=red) when you switch on momentary mode, the operation is reversed and pressing down the switch acts as a "kill switch".
JHS Pedals is Josh Scott’s company. They offer handmade effects that stand out, visually as well as design-wise. They are based in Kansas City, Missouri and have been around since 2007. Besides making pedals, they also do several mods to existing pedals. Recently, they did a collaboration with Robert Keeley on the Steak & Eggs pedal - a Keeley compressor and JHS overdrive in one pedal. The JHS Muffuletta is their latest offering, it has no less than six different Big Muff sounds from a single pedal with all-analog sound path.
Big Muff legacy
The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff has been around for for over 40 years and is one of the most influential guitar effects ever produced. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr, Carlos Santana, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys are all very different players who have used this fuzz with great results. There have been many versions of this pedal over the years. Check out Kit Rae’s excellent bigmuffpage.com for an in-depth guide. JHS claim to offer five classic versions in this Muffuletta: Civil War, Sovtek, Pi, Triangle, Ram’s Head plus their own take on the circuit simply labeled JHS.
I tested the Muffuletta using my Vox Humana CarbonTech Special Tele with Kinman Broadcaster pickups and my Vox Humana modded Tele Thinline with Seymour Duncan P-Rails pickups. I used my Vox AC15C1 with a Celestion Greenback speaker.
Wampler Pedals are based in Martinsville, Indiana in the United States. They offer beautifully handcrafted pedals that are used by artists such as Brad Paisley, Brent Mason and many more… and not just country pickers! The cataPulp is aimed at the player who’s looking for saturated British distortion but who could also use milder overdrive tones.
Wampler offer several pedals that are designed to be amp-in-a-box effects, meant to “give your amp an identity crisis” You can use them to change the tonal character of your basic amp sound into something completely different. Examples are the Black ’65, the Tweed ’57 and – my favourite – the Plexi Drive. The cataPulp is also part of that series and it is designed to sound like the Orange Rockerverb, an amp that has a very distinct British distortion tone.
Will there ever come an end to the seemingly endlessly expanding Joyo Ironman series mini pedals range? There are currently 27 pedals available, from a tuner to overdrives, distortion pedals, boosters, to modulation and delay pedals. Joyo has every angle covered.
The majority of pedals are overdrives and distortions. Just like the next pedal I’ll be reviewing: the Old School distortion. The name says it all… This distortion pedal was designed to replicate old school classic rock tones.
Like all the other pedals in the Iron Man series the Old School comes in a small black box which next to the pedal also includes a patch of velcro and a rubber strip that have been cut out to the size of the pedal. Once attached, the rubber strip will prevent the pedal from sliding all over the place when placed on the floor. The patch of velcro can be used if you want to put the pedal on your pedal board. The pedal itself has a black plastic cover to protect your settings while playing or moving the pedal. The logo will light up through the cover when the pedal is engage. And of course, this pedal is true bypass, just like the other pedals in the Ironman range. Since the pedal is quite small there is no room for a battery and a power supply is required. On the other hand, as it is so compact in size, it leaves space for more pedals on your board.