Throughout this year I’ve covered most of the typical pedal type categories - probably somewhere around 25-30 types overall, yet there are many more oddities that sit outside the scope of what’s regular or even marginally mainstream. Certain categories I haven’t covered yet include various utility pedals like ABY types - I may tackle those eventually, but certainly not this year. Yet I still like to spice things up every now and again with pedals that are often quite significantly out there on their own.
The following motley selection has been rearranged probably half a dozen times as I considered some of the selected pedals not quite unusual enough. There are several here that are very much an acquired taste and sit under ’experimental’, some though are still musical and usable - while others are more along the line of inspirational or momentary effects.
I have curated the following 12 for your amusement, I was considering whether to include the VFE Klein Bottle Multiband Loop Mixer - which kind of takes the KMA Tyler Frequency Splitter concept to its next stage of evolution - they are sort of different pedals in any case, and as the Klein Bottle is still a Kickstarter campaign until end of this month - albeit it has reached its target, I’ve decided to go with the significantly simpler Type Frequency Splitter for now:
I wasn't really that familiar with this pedal until I relatively recently acquired the Boss MD-500 Modulation Workstation pedal, and this is one of the algorithm options on that. As Boss describes the original - this pedal "Instantly transforms a guitar, bass, keyboard, or vocal, into a pulsating groove instrument". It essentially chops up your input signal into one of 50 preset rhythmical patterns - which give you a sort of stuttery synth effect - excellent for basslines or other rhythmatic textures. This is a great tool for studio work, whereas live you would probably just use it for the odd effect - so the larger size pedal format might prove ponderous. You can of course elect to go with the MD-500 for this, but that does not have quite the same degree of immediacy or instant tweakability which makes this original so appealing. Even on my MD-500 it is not an effect I use very often.
This is another slightly stuttery effect, but quite different to the Boss above. The Csidman ('CD-man' or rather a contortion of 'CD Walkman') is an effect that supposedly simulates the glitchy skipping nature of those old Sony CD Walkman devices. I had several in my teenage years, and when the laser tracking would occasionally glitch out you would either get a mildly annoying skip either inward or outward along the groove - meaning a skip forward or back in time - sometimes as a sort of stuttery delay, and sometimes as a glitchy skip forward to a new passage of music. You have 5 control dials to apply the effect Feed(back), Cuts, Latch, Mix and Time, So there is obviously a sort of delay sensibility here with some of the controls, and the others more pertinent to this particular type of glitch. It's obviously somewhat more randomised than the Boss above, and strictly speaking not entirely rhythmatic, but for fans of Lo-fi / Bitcrusher effects - this is a sort of cousin of those artefact type effects where you get interesting textures to your core sound to give it a certain feeling of liveliness. Unusual for sure but pretty cool too - I can see the appeal of it, but I have many more pedals to get to first before I would be in a position to even think about acquiring one such like this.
In essence - quite a simple pedal really consisting of 6 toggle-switchable oscillators. The uppermost toggle is the on/off switch, and the 3 dials not controlling the pitch of each oscillator are Volume, Tone and Power Starve - the last of which impacts the current powering the oscillators and can result in some interesting white-noise and more warbly tones. Generally though you feed the signal through a series of oscillators where you tweak the pitch control of each to give you a slightly rhythmic but essentially a sinewave-like oscillation with frequency accentuated peaks and troughs. It's pretty much a knob-tweaker's delight where constant twiddling of the knobs give you some weird and wonderful serendipitous sonic moments. You could use it as a kind of performance instrument in its own right, but I feel its main use is in the studio for specific textures.
This is actually a collaboration between boutique pedal makers Electro-Faustus and Fuzzrocious - in effect combining the former's Blackfly effect with the latter's Grey Stache Fuzz. Like the Drone Thing above it's a kind of performance piece - where you need to be tapping and strumming the springs to get the most out of this pedal - getting weird clangs and shimmers depending on your technique. Certainly an 'acquired-taste' device and off most people's radars. I quite like this pedal's idiosyncrasies, even though I can't see it fitting within my own particular tone factory.
This one took a wee while to get my head around - it is in essence a 2 channel crossover signal splitter which has a Low Pass Filter on the left 'Wood' channel and a High Pass filter on the right 'Steel' channel. So you essentially load 2 pedals / chains into it - and strip varying amounts of high frequencies out of the left channel and take another amount of low frequencies out of the right channel - and then mix the output signal from both of them. You have an additional level dial and Phase Inverter switch. A bypass / effect -on footswitch and the two HP and LP - respectively Wood and Steel channel footswitches. To get the most out of this pedal you need to have the creativity and imagination of my Danish namesake Stefan Fast - who has produced yet another amazing pedal demonstration video as above. In the right hands this is a tool of wonder - but you really need to know how to use it, and what works. It's yet another amazing studio tool which I am not sure how you would necessary use in a live environment - really cool nonetheless though.
The Hatsune Miku pedal is well-known to most - a type of formant modulation effect using spoken Japanese phrases and scat as well as the usual vowel-like sounds that are associated with formant-style effects. This is a wonderful collectable for Japan's hugely popular virtual reality pop star. It's very obviously something of a gimmick but excellently executed in every way. This pedal is largely discontinued currently - although there does seem to be some stock still in the wild, and special limited edition batches still appear every now and again for retailers like Sweetwater which has several available currently for $199.99. This pedal is pretty much strictly for play-time, I'm not sure anyone is going to produce popular recorded music from this.
This pedal is pretty much entirely onomatopoeic and sounds probably largely how you might expect - except it is really a whole lot more than that. Mechanically this is a sort of stuttery delay effect but with a whole load of tonal sculpting options - featuring 3 core variations of the effect - Layer | Judder | Stutter, then a Modulation On / Off toggle, Short / Long Range toggle, LFO / Envelope Filter toggle and Auto / Auto 2 oscillation mode toggle. There is a large dial for BPM / speed and 4 smaller dials for Hold, Low Pass Filter, Dry/Wet Mix and Degree of LFO / Envelope. Wade Burden - Mr BeardTone himself gives an excellent summary of the Judder's abilities above - this is a really great UK-made pedal.
I'm not sure if this pedal will ever properly see the light of day - Swedish DIY pedal innovator Simon the Magpie has made a number of one-off crazy noise-makers, and he explains how this one came about from a child's voice-altering loud-haler toy. This is a great lo-fi style warbly pedal which makes your signal sort of wobble, wow and flutter in various different directions - depending on the exact sequence and combination of toggles applied, as well as that touch-sensitive light-bulb screw-end controller. Once more I think this pedal is more for the studio than playing live - would be cool to see a few of these in production eventuality. Simon gives a run-down of the pedal in the above video.
This interesting large format noise-maker is actually a delay unit at its core - it includes an LFO oscillator, a sort of step sequencer - and a tonne of dials and switches for skewing and darkening the tone. It creates all manner of pulsating echoes with different degrees of darkness attached. I'm not sure why it's called the Cloudbuster - 'Dark Skies' would be more apt - the kind of post-apocalyptic looking ones with crashes of thunder and sparks of lightning - that's what this pedal brings to mind. It's hugeness kind of automatically discounts itself in my mind - but it really is a rather unique and wonderful noise-maker - and I doubt there is another delay anywhere close to this one in its off-kilter output.
This is in effect the tone-shaping section of a typical analogue type synth. Of course it does not feature any signal generators of its own like a regular synth would have, but it applies the various shaping parameters - LFO's, Envelope and other filters to the incoming guitar signal. If you are allergic to too many dials - then look away now! The pedal has 5 different sections to it - input / gain settings, LFO / Tremolo, Randomised Modulation Oscillator, Envelope Follower / Filter, Control Voltage modulation settings, and finally a filter section with a 3 band selector - High Pass | Band Pass | Low Pass and Resonance and Cutoff dials to adjust. So it sort of creates phasey / squelchy synth tones from your incoming guitar signal. It's an amazing pedal, but gigantic too. It's a totally different beast to something like a Dirty Robot or Mothership 2, which are really more my style of synth pedals - a lot more compact and less confusing. But they can't really to quite as much as this one accomplishes. The evolving paradigm is really to take these amazing analogue pedals, compact them and apply digital control interfaces - which allows you to save presets etc. - otherwise these pedals can be very difficult to live with.
So this pedal can be seen as a sort of digital tape delay / sampler / playback unit - where you can move the virtual playback heads around and fine-tune steps within the sequence. In essence you have 8 LEDs which indicate the maximum playback length of the virtual tape - the 'Window' dial allows you to shrink the playback window to just 2 LEDs - where the 'Seek' dial then allows you to move your focus within the 8 LED window to play back a particular portion of the sample - a 3-way toggle allows you to select the sample rate in KHz - 48 | 24 | 12 . The pedal has a 3 mode toggle - Fixed | Sweep | Random, and a further 5 large dials - some of which impact on the sampling stage and some at the playback - Glitch | Bend | Erode | Fade | Threshold. Finally there are 3 small dials - Input | Blend | Output and an on / off toggle. The obvious thing missing here is a footswitch, which will hopefully materialise in a 3rd iteration. As it is, this is a wonderful glitchy sample and playback device with actually really intuitive controls once you get into it.
Despite its slightly odd dual-joystick look, this is probably the most vanilla pedal featured on this page. This is essentially an Oscillo-Fuzz or Tremolo Fuzz pedal - with dual joysticks - one of which allows you to control the parameters of the Tremolo (left) and Fuzz (right) - the vertical axes control rate / tone, while the horizontal axes control depth / intensity. The pedal is logically split in half - with the Trem part just having a Level dial, while the Fuzz part has Level and Blend. You have 2 footswitches to activate each pedal half, and two additional toggles in the middle - 'Bass' when toggled to the left adds more low-end, while the 'Mode' toggle gives you different clipping options to change the voicing of the fuzz. This pedal is certainly fun to play around with, but I would probably just prefer a smaller enclosure with 4 dials in place of the 2 joysticks, but that would then obviously take away from what makes this pedal unique and special! This is for sure a cool pedal, yes there is a slight gimmick to it, but it does enhance its use and makes this one stand out above the various other oscillating fuzz boxes out there.
All these pedals are truly a touch specialist and not really for general mass consumption. For my own purposes, I quite like the Csidman, Tyler Frequency Splitter, Miku, Judder and Anti-Nautilus. If I'm being wholly pragmatic and rational - I would be most likely to acquire the Miku at some stage - for its novelty value, while as tonally / texturally I find the Judder and Anti-Nautilus the most interesting. I like the idea of the Tyler, but I'm not sure I would use it much, and it's quite a bit too large for my liking too. Probably the most practical pedal on here is the Walrus Janus, but there I would still probably prefer the compact alternative fuzz-oscillators from Last Gasp and Subdecay. None of these are on any of my immediate wishlists, as none are truly practical enough to be considered for long-term regular use. For more experimental players - there's probably plenty here to get your teeth into, the rest of us are possibly better of spending our cash on pedals which will find more regular use. It's great how manifold the variety of pedals is these days - if you seek hard enough there really is every sort of pedal out there...