I always expect to be excited by the new prospects introduced at Summer NAMM, but it can be somewhat antic-climactic, particularly compared to this year’s very formidable Winter NAMM show. Several pedals that were announced there are still alas somewhat in the ether. I was expecting to see updates of the Empress Zoia and the Keeley Stereo Tape Delay pedal - but those were not forthcoming, which most probably means some production delays - I certainly can’t imagine the Zoia is going to be ready at the end of this month as originally suggested.
I was somewhat underwhelemed a touch I must say, and my selection here also takes in pedals that were announced either side of Summer NAMM, but not necessarily features of the show. In any case I found 23 pedals to feature, 5 guitars and 3 amps as per the images and below listing.
In terms of the pedals, I have acquired a couple of these already - the Magnetic Effects White Atom V2 and Old Blood Noise Endeavors Alpha Haunt. I also finally came around to liking some of the Fender pedals - particularly in this new batch. For some reason I wasn’t overly bowled over by the first batch - I really like their designs and features, but several of those pedals seemed over-large and they just didn’t gel with me. This time I really like the look of the Full Moon Distortion with 3-Band EQ and clipping options, as well as the new Pelt Fuzz.
Alexander pedals released another 2 really cool digital pedals - the Space Race Reverberation and Wavelength High Bandwidth Digital Modulation. I am particularly excited by the latter which provides the rarity of Chorus, Tremolo, Vibe, Phaser, Flanger and Envelope Filter all in the same compact format enclosure and with separate tap-tempo footswitch - just my kind of pedal really.
Dwarfcraft Devices are always up to interesting things, although not always in a form factor that I find palatable their brace introduced was a cool Reese Lightning Fuzz and another pitch-shfifting / octave type pedal which they have become known for - the Witch Shifter.
I am happy to see Way Huge continue it’s miniaturisation project - this time with a Smalls version of the Overrated Special Dumble-style drive. I’ve already noted elsewhere that I find the GFI System Jonassus Dual Drive an interesting proposition, I also enjoyed seeing the new Hungry Robot Moby Dick V2 Tape-style Delay.
I’m a keen fan of fuzz and modulation - so the new Old Blood Noise Endeavours Dweller Phaser piques my interest, as does the new SoundBrut FU Varitone Fuzz. I’ve also had my eye on The King of Gear’s Mini Glitch - so nice to know that’s properly in production now. Oh and I touch again on the smart extended Wireless system that Boss recently launched.
Apart from the ones already acquired there are no imminent acquisistion here - the likeliest to happen some day are the Alexander Wavelength, GFI Jonassus, and King of Gear Mini Glitch - but I’m in no real hurry here.
There’s nothing overly innovative here, and most of these probably fall within nice-to-have rather than essential - at least according to my own take.
Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand.
Alexander are really hitting it out of the park these days with their arcade-styled Neo Range of digital effects pedals. Their Space Race Reverberator consists 6 pretty typical modes - Modulated, Spring, LoFI, Shimmer, Analog and Plate - with Alt / Secondary functions on the four dials. As with everything Alexander, their algorithms always sound lush, I would have quite liked a tap-tempo for more Echoverb style effects. I guess Alexander will at some stage separately launch a pedal that can carry the Echorec, Echoplex and Space Echo styles of Delay + Reverb. The Space Race though is another home run for Alexander, yet for me probably still shaded just a touch my the TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 in the same sort of category.
As stated in the intro, this one has got me really excited as the now front-runner compact multi-modulation pedal. I have long decried the lack of a proper compact modulation workstation style pedal. There is the TC Electronic Dreamscape, and the Southampton Pedals Utility Knife Modulator which cover 3 and 4 key algorithms - but the Alexander Wavelength ups that to 6, with dual-controls via alt button, and dual footswitches and therefore separate tap-tempo. You get Chorus, Tremolo, Vibe, Phaser, Flanger and Envelope Filter - a really excellent proposition all-round which sounds great too.
I've touched on this before in a separate feature so no need to go into too much detail here - Boss has 3 different options for Transmitter with the same Receiver unit featured for each. The above pedal format has a voicing switch on its rear where you can apply 'Cable Tone' effect which simulates 3ft or 10ft cable impedance (high frequency roll-off) where you can select between those two or switch it off entirely. The others come with cable-tone either fully baked in or absent. This is a really neat wireless solution which I see as an improvement over my current Line 6 G10 which still works fine for me, but when it comes to replacement - will probably look towards Boss.
Dwarfcraft has a track record for doing two things really well - pitch-shifters and gnarly fuzzes - and this is of course the latter. It's kind of in similar territory to my Dr Scientist Frazz Dazzler, but with a couple of different modes - including feedback and octave.
Per the above demo there is a lot you can get out of this pedal. I wonder whether the format / enclosure size meets my criteria, but you can't deny that this is yet another really cool fuzz pedal. Highly appealing as a bigger box fuzz, while my next likely fuzz purchase may just be the Beetronics Royal Jelly - we'll have to see how all that turns out.
This is a greatest hits compilation of what Dwarfcraft have become best known for - modulated pitch shifting with a plethora of options including the DinDin footswitch for all manner of weird glitch pitchy craziness. You get 5 dials, 3 toggles and 2 footswitches to wreak all manner of crazy pitch havoc, obviously something of an acquired taste, but will be loved by the 'Knobs' crowd. I'm still waiting for it to be compacted one stage further, but Dwarfcraft are really killing it at the moment with these mid-sized enclosure pedals - the Witch Shifter and Reese Lighting line up along the equally spectacular Ghost Fax Phase Computer, Grazer Micro-Sampler, Happiness Filter and Necromancer Fuzz - all great pedals worthy of consideration!
As stated in the intro, despite the obvious innovations, cool aluminium chassis, illuminated dials, colour-matched LED and smart battery compartment, I was still not wholly overwhelmed by the initial batch of Fender pedals - this latest batch is much more to my liking - including this excellent 3-Band EQ Boost. It's not quite up there with my absolute favourite boosts - the Jackson Audio Prism, ThorpyFX Team Medic and Chase Bliss Audio Condor, but it is a fraction of the price of those. Definitely worthy of consideration.
This is my perfect sort of high gain distortion pedal - and here the slightly larger enclosure is justified by all the features onboard. We have of course separate boost footswitch and level control, to go with 3-Band EQ + Presence / Hi-Treble - and a couple of voicing toggles - Texture and Bite. This is definitely a contender and worthy of consideration - I really like it.
Video demo as per Engager Boost above
The new Fender Fuzz has nothing to do with their classic Fender Blender of yore, but is a brand new Silicon transistor based circuit with Mid Boost and Thickness Boost toggles, as well as the rarer Bloom / Bias type dial which takes you from splatty through to more open and soaring fuzz. Of the three new Fenders, and considering that this is my year of Fuzz - I may just go for this one at some stage - nice colour purple too - I think Fender have really got everything nailed down with the design of their new range of effects pedals.
Video demo as per Engager Boost above
A cool but oddly named dual drive that I've touched on before - featuring lower and higher gain channels - each of which you can apply three different Symmetric and Asymmetric clipping too per the 'Clipping Button'. A switch on the back allows you to select both Channels to be the Low or High Gain type and you can voice differently via different Clipping applied. The only weakness here really is the single Tone dial shared across both Channels - it would probably have been nice to have dedicated Tone dials for each Channel, but that's a minor grumble seeing everything that's on offer here. This is definitely a cool pedal, I'm still 50/50 on whether it's something for me though.
Hungry Robot have followed my theme of the year and miniaturised their Moby Dick Tape-style Delay pedal into a more compact enclosure for V2. You still have the separate tap-tempo footswitch and the five dials - Mix, LoFi, Repeats, Modulation and Time. This is a really cool tape-style delay pedal - not much else really that competes at this form factor.
A cool sort of swirly filter modulation effect that can sound beautifully syrupy and wonderfully ambient. It's a relatively pricey pedal for a single sort of effect - albeit with lots of options on waveform and intensity. I really rather like this, but find it hard to justify the real-estate for it as a one-off. It truly sounds lush though per the above demo.
The V1 was on my wishlist for the longest time, I always intended to get this, but something else somehow got in the way or got precedence. I am glad I held out, as I now have the above enhanced V2 version which benefits from separate Bass and Treble dials in place of the former single Tone one. This has long been Nick Jaffe's favourite Fuzz pedal as he uses it both as an harmonic overdrive as well as a more regular fuzz. You can see his demo above.
This is one more of those floor-pedal-based amps in a box which simulate a full-on tube amp tone profile - with a sort of large Variac style dial in the middle / % Output, and then 4 smaller dials to sculpt the tone - Gain, Boost, Tone and Volume. The pedal has twin footswitches including separate Dirty / Boost switches. See product site for more details .
No video demo available yet
I've always liked Rick Matthews pedals, but have only acquired his Whaler Fuzz to-date, I'm partly not convinced by the asymmetrical placement of his dual footswitches - they have always seemed slightly awkward for me - and I much prefer the Chase Bliss Audio style of arrangement. Nonetheless these pedals are beautifully conceived and built. This one reminds me of the very similar Foxpedal Magnifica Deluxe, but has one over on that by way of 3 different spacey reverb voicings - Canis Major (Echoverb), Orion (Shimmer) and Ursa Major (Glow / Swell).
Looks like MXR is trying to go more head to head with Keeley and the more typical 4-pot crowd - with a 4-knob deluxe version of its Dyna Comp compressor - plus an attack button which changes the speed of the onset of the effect - fast/slow. There is so much competition in the Compressor market at the moment - both at the mass-market end and the more boutique end of the sector. There's a tonne of compressors I really like - so it's really difficult to make a choice - you can take you pick from Bondi Effects, Foxpedal, Greer Amps, J Rockett, Keeley, Mad Professor, MXR, ThorpyFX, Wampler, all those mini ones that I like, and of course the professional's current favourite - Origin Effects. Hard to know what to recommend really...
MXR are still trying to capture more of that Eddie Van Halen magic, here with a new Chorus voiced just like how Eddie likes it best. It has a couple of smart Input and Output level Decibel option switches, but for a 3-pot pedal I find it's larger form factor enclosure is not really justified here? With MXR's sister brand Way Huge making such great strides at miniaturising their range, I find it strange that MXR have chosen to go for the larger enclosure size here?
I have this one already, and it's a really great versatile fuzz with most of the bells and whistles attached - I feel that with the larger real-estate they could have thrown in a few more toggles - say and octave mode and oscillation. But of the Gated / Velcro style of Fuzz it takes everything that made the original Haunt so great and expands on its versatility. The one thing I would say is that I don't particularly like the quality of the knobs they've selected - they very slightly cheapen the impact of what is otherwise pretty tremendous. Also parts of the assembly seem slightly loose - some of the potentiometers or dial stems, and the sliders. Would have preferred those elements to be slightly more robust, but I guess it helps to a degree that you can tweak them really fast...
OBNE always go their own way with signature effects, and following on from their cool take on flanging via their Flat Light Flange Shifter, it's now the turn of the phaser to get the OBNE treatment. This is surely another favourite for the 'Knobs' crowd - producing as it does all manner of weird and wonderful phasey textures - in a not dissimilar way to the recent Dwarfcraft Phase Computer, but in a compact enclosure with 5 dials and Voicing and Shape toggles. I don't think this one is likely to bump my much-loved Chase Bliss Wombtone, but it would certainly make an interesting addition to the mix.
A full-range Silicon fuzz with SoundBrut's own proprietary 6-way Varitone switch to take you through the different tone voicings. A pretty simple fuzz in most ways, but also a great sounding one per the above demo video.
I was a big fan of the Mini Riot launched at the Winter NAMM show, and Suhr follow that up with the equally impressive Mini Shiba Drive Reloaded - again carrying across pretty much all of the harmonic richness of its larger sibling. I really like how quality brands have taken to the mini pedals, and are producing fully professional sounding ones at a fraction of the size.
This was announced back at Winter NAMM, but is only reaching full production now - an unusual pedal for sure, but I really like its quirkiness - per the above demo. So far only produced in very small batches, but nearing more reasonable volumes soon. First batch of 30, and second batch of 50 very quickly sold out - in a sort of Montreal Assembly Count-to-Five way!
I'm so happy that Way Huge are continuing their miniaturisation process and bringing their slightly over-sized pedals down to compact or 'Smalls' level enclosures as they call them. Their 4th Smalls release is the Dumble-esque Joe Bonamassa signature Overrated Special - per above demo.
As I mentioned when I discussed the new Dyna Comp Deluxe above - there is no shortage of high quality Compressor pedals out their, and the new Yara V2 give you an optical 5-pot version with pristine signal-to-noise ratio and 5-dial control - Volume, Compression, Blend, Tone and Release. You're really spoilt for choice these days, my favourites are still probably the Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe for Standard Enclosure Size and the Wampler Mini Ego for mini pedal enclosure - put you can really take your pick from several now and the Yara is worthy of yous consideration too.
I wasn't particularly looking for new guitars this time around, but nevertheless came across a few that I really like the look of. The Balaguer brand was new to me, and I really enjoyed playing around with their guitar specifier - Kiesel probably need one of those too, but perhaps they have too many special options to make it viable - in any case it's a really cool way to specify your own guitar - right down to your style of headstock shape.
It was another big show for EVH being an anniversary year for their first breakout album and the guitar that accompanied the earliest live shows. It'a cool piece of history to own if you're and EVH fan - but pricey anyway which way around. We also have a regular scale length Variax Shuriken (25.5") versus the 27" of the original more baritone version,
Next, PRS release a unique satin colourway for their Holcomb SE model - they're calling it Whale Blue Quilt, but it looks more like a Denim Quilt to me. And finally Yamaha release beautiful figured-maple top limited editions for their Pacifica range, and of which I particularly like the Indigo Blue Version pictured. To be fair though I'm really not looking to add any more guitars right at the moment, but these all caught my eye.
As mentioned in the above Guitars intro, this is the first time I've properly come across the Balaguer brand, and I really like their user-friendly model for specifying your custom guitar on their site. The Espada Offset shape is new for this year, and I specified one such in transparent blue gloss finish - with a 3+3 headstock like the type I'm usually most comfortable with. Although engineering wise they could do with a slightly narrower profile on that headstock for the strings to be perfectly perpendicular for the nut slots. I could also have done with some options for branded pickups and machine heads - everything on the site is very much Balaguer imprint - so I'm not sure where those components are being sourced from - I feel Kiesel probably handle that aspect better, but it's an interesting concept and the Balaguer shapes are pretty well worked-out.
A genuine piece of rock 'n' roll history here - replicas of the original single humbucker 'Frankenstrat' guitar made with different degrees of fidelity with the entry-level replicas at near enougt $8K, the relic'd versions at $12,5K and the Super fully faithful replicas - all 8 at a mouthwatering $25K - for very wealthy collectors, museums and fiscally poorly run branches of Hard Rock Cafe! Significantly more than I would want to part with myself - but no doubt these '78 models will find a home somewhere.
I have in mind at some stage to get myself a Line 6 Helix Floor with accompanying Variax Guitar - to be able to do all the special tunings and different guitar voicings etc. - as an alternative to my more traditional pedal-chain setup. The original Variax Shuriken guitar was a 27" sort of baritone style scale length, so the newer SR250 bring the scale length down to the standard 25.5". I am not looking to make this move any time soon, but have followed what the Frog Leap band - Leo Moracchioli and Rabea Massaad did with their setup and I really believe this would work well for me too at some stage.
I already have a Marc Holcomb SE in its original Holcomb burst - so not really looking to replace that, but had this been available at the time I would probably have gone with this more limited blue satin quilt colourway - which is much more of Denim tone than Whale blue - strange naming? These are great metal guitars though with phenomenal crispy crunchy tight and punchy signature Alpha & Omega pickups.
A really nice looking HSS S-style guitar at a really reasonable price. Yamaha often get overlooked for their guitars, but they do still produce gems like this one. It's unlikely to be something I get for myself - but this comes highly recommended for someone's first guitar.
Unusually for my taste - there were actually 3 Head-style amps that caught my attention, and even though I am unlikely to acquire any of these, they each have something really special about them:
Dylana Nova's secret weapon Boutique Amp Brand 3rd Power Amps is much loved by professional touring musicians - her now current range consists of 3 exceptionallly full-range 'clone' style amps - Woolly Coats Spanky (6V6 Black Face Fender-style), Woolly Coats Chimey (EL84 Vox-AC-style) Woolly Coats Crunchy (6V6 Marshall-Super-Lead-style). All three of those amps core tones are then combined in the aptly named flagship kitchen sink amp - which gives you the best of all the classic amp style tones. Hopefully there will be a Combo version of this at some stage - just listen to the above demo for how exceptional this amp sounds! I don't usually go for Amp heads, but had to make an exception.
On a side note - the Origin Effects RevivalDrive is strangely enough sort of this amp in pedal-format!
You've got to love Supro's product-design - slightly retro, but super modern at the same time - like some sort of premium luxury furniture piece. This is sort of Lenny Kravitz's signature amp of sorts and sounds every bit as good as it looks. While I'm more of combo player, I can't help but admire this fantastic sounding amp with unusual 6973 power tubes onboard.
I love the sound of this mini-stack as demo'd by Peter Honore and Lee Anderton - super cute product design and smaller than the picture indicates above. Note that this uses the Korg NuTube technology, but manages to still retain that essential chimey Vox quality of tone - sounds really decent in fact. It's not something I'm looking to add, but for the size, form factor and overall appeal - it's surely a steal at £349 and very tempting. Come Christmas, I think lots of players will be treating themselves and others with this mini gem.
Turns out there was some cool gear at this show after all, just not quite as exciting or innovative as its forebear. I've already mentioned that most of this is nice-to-have rather than essential for me - bar the White Atom and Alpha Haunt which I've acquired already. Of those others here the most likely next in line would be the cool Alexander Pedals Wavelength, Korora Audio Spira and probably King of Gear's Mini Glitch. I will also definitely have some sort of Line 6 Variax guitar at some stage - with accompanying Line 6 Helix Floor. I also considered the really cool Boss Strandberg collaboration - but that's just a little too expensive currently - hopefully that will come down in price and offer a little more competition - so Boss GT-1000 + Boss V-BDN VG-Strandberg.
I feel also that my next guitar may be one sans headstock - there are lots of really cool headless versions around at the moment, which unfortunately I don't think I will me able to use with a lot of my cool tuner tech - but you get the advantage of lightness and playability - the frontrunners for me at the moment are one of the headless Kiesels, the Marconi Lab Ego, or one of the Strandbergs.
That would be at least next year though, as I'm still continuing with my Year of Fuzz ToneQuest this year - and that takes priority.