For me this has been a pretty bumper year for new pedals. Some of the much hyped ones are only fairly recently in distribution - like the much delayed Source Audio Ventris Dual Reverb, while we’re still waiting for the Pigtronix Mothership 2 to reach these shores. There were also many surprises throughout the year - like Boss’s resurgence and the dramatic increase in dual-effect and dual-footswitch pedals. We had the dual serendipitous launches of two very functionally similar pedals - in the Dual-Drive category for Chase Bliss’s Brothers and Strymon’s Sunset, as well as in Dual-Reverb - courtesy of the Boss RV-500 and Source Audio Ventris. Yet there were some entirely unique ones too like DigiTech’s FreqOut.
I already have a number of these pedals, and all my top 25 here are on my wishlist - which should translate that likely the major part of these will hit home eventually - it will probably take a while, as there are always new and unexpected delights just over the horizon, and what you think you might want today, may be second fiddle by tomorrow. But by any objective criteria the top 25 is is a great representation of the width and scope of the current state of pedal-making, with representative from most of the key categories.
So I started this exercise with a fairly exhaustive, but still nowhere near fully comprehensive longlist of circa 300+ pedals. I reckon in real terms - that the total number of new Guitar Effects Pedals introduced each year is well in excess of 1,000 - so this is less than one third of that.
Several pedal-makers did really well this year - TC Electronic released a boatfull of new pedals, only some of which I’ve longlisted - also Alexander, EHX, JHS, Keeley, KMA. Mooer and Mr Black all had an extremely productive 2017. Although it’s rarely about the quantity of pedals rather the quality - and one extraordinary / successful pedal / line can support the whole range for a brand - like Keeley’s Compressors, and TC Electronic’s Loopers and Tuners.
Boss scores 3 placements in the top 25, as does TC Electronic, with DigiTech and Keeley each placing twice also. I’m sure not everyone will agree with all my choices, but I feel there would be signficiant overlap for a large number of these, and as I’ve said, I would be more than happy to accommodate them all within my pedal chain - there are already category slots for them all.
It wasn’t hard for me to pick my top 25 - or the top 3 for that matter - all these pretty much suggested themselves:
This is the pedal I've had the most fun with this year - 36 different algorithms that you can stack in series, parallel and stereo split - with all-analogue controls - all surface-based and instantly tweakable, and 35 LED-colour-coded presets. The pedal sounds amazing, is intuitive and is a genuine inspiration machine. The only downside is that you need constant access to the little manual - to remind you what the Thing 1 and Thing 2 dials do for each algorithm. And it really is such a joy to use - a constant delight. There is no other delay pedal anywhere near this level at the moment - that's why it takes GOLD.
This really is an award to the engineers at Pigtronix - who took the original large-enclosure Mothership and shrunk it down by 2/3rds into a standard compact enclosure - it's just a wonder of engineering. You have twin toggles and no less than 10 dials, arranged in 5 dual-concentric stacks - and it's all stereo! If you look at the comparable synth offering from EHX this year, you have to commend Pigtronix for its superior product design. I already have and love a DigiTech Dirty Robot - which is an engineering marvel also, but the Mothership 2 raises the stakes significantly over that.
So this was the year that Boss completed its assault on the Strymon 'Stryfecta' of Mobius, TimeLine and BigSky. Truth is that the DD-500 | TimeLine competitor really wasn't quite right at launch, and Boss seems to have learned very quickly from that - because its 500 series Modulation and Reverb pedals are genuinely world-beating. Also taking advantage of Source Audio's significant delays to its own Ventris Dual Reverb, Boss launched a dual sneak attack on both Source Audio and Strymon - and really caught everyone off guard. Not only does the RV-500 have some exceptional algorithms - like the Space Echo, it allows you to play back 2 Reverbs simultaneously - in series / parallel / stereo A/B split - and to apply a dedicated modulated delay also to each of those reverbs - so in fact 2 Reverbs + 2 Delays simultaneously all in the one pedal - this somewhat pulled the rug from under the Source Audio Ventris, even though that one does benefit from a significantly smaller form factor, and a significantly better Spring algorithm - if those things are important to you - the RV-500 pretty much wins the head-to-head on most everything else - do note though that with al those settings, and even with intuitive and easy-to-see-and-use menus, the RV-500 can be extremely complex in setup - particularly as regards configuring the 3rd / CTRL footswitch!
A great mix of modulation, overdrive, fuzz, distortion and utility:
300+ : alphabetical