• The state of the stomp

    State of the stompbox

    It’s really an awesome time to be a guitarist. Especially if you’re a stompbox addict like me. But, what’s the state of the stompbox and the industry today? Have we seen it all or are there still new and exciting things to be made?

    When I started out playing guitar back in the early 90s, all we had was a few brands. Well, here in Norway anyway, but it was pretty much the same all over. You walked into a store and they usually carried only a handful of pedals, including Boss, Ibanez, Digitech and DOD and a few racks or digital multi effects, like Zoom or Korg.

    This was pre the whole vintage and boutique thing but I soon learned that David Gilmour used a Big Muff so I tried to track one down. One day I walked into a store and they got these strange, big green boxes that looked like something left over from the cold war. That green bubble font Sovtek Big Muff Pi was my first true love.

    The story is very different today. You can walk into any guitar store and they have racks upon racks with all kinds of pedals. Some familiar brands but most stores also carry a wide range of boutique brands from all corners of the world. Here in Oslo, we have a store selling only rare, vintage guitars and high end pedals and in Copenhagen, were I’m often visiting, there is a store only selling so-called boutique pedals. Not to mention, all the online retailers and direct shopping from the makers.

    There was a time when guitarists only had their guitar and amp. Then, in the mid 60’s, the very first stompboxes started to appear, including the Maestro Fuzz-Tone, Vox Wah Wah and the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face.

    Some might say that this was the age of the pure tone. You either plugged the guitar straight into the amp, or used effects to bring out the full potential of the amp, driving the tubes for more compression and distortion. Effects, or stompboxes, was not an obsession or something that got in the way of playing guitar. 

But, these guitarists also modified their pedals. The technology was crude and the pedals had all kinds of design flaws. They even got custom units made. You could walk into London’s Sound City or Sola Sound and either get your fuzz modded, or get them to make a new pedal, based on your specific requirements, which is how Roger Mayer and other pedal royalties got into the business.

    The stores eventually started to produce their own brands. And by the mid 70s, there was a wide range of pedals to choose from. Like Hendrix before him, David Gilmour was always trying out new gear and the Pink Floyd albums of the 70s, was very much coloured by his ever evolving tone.

    Some might say that pedal makers today are only copying the old circuits, like the Fuzz Face, TS808, Big Muff and Powerbooster. But the way I see it, is that they’re continuing the work of the pioneers, by improving the old circuits, offering a more reliable operation, less noise and more modern features, like leds, proper powering and buffered bypass.

    The stompbox industry has exploded. The market seems exhausted with pedals and I sometimes wonder how they all survive. The competition is fierce. But, times has changed and much thanks to the internet. I’m old enough to remember a world without internet and that old green Sovtek that I bought, I discovered through word of mouth.

    These days, you’re only a few clicks away from finding the information you need about any guitarist and his tone and tracking down the original pedal on EBay or a brand new clone. Before you buy, you can watch a number of high quality reviews on YouTube and read user comments on several forums. We live in a different world but also in a time, where gear, and stompboxes in particular, has perhaps stolen some of our focus in favour of practice and fine tuning our playing technique.

    So, what’s the state of the stompbox today? There’s so much cool stuff that’s still coming out and I think the whole guitar community has grown to be a huge place for inspiration and sharing. I’m following YouTube channels, forums, blogs etc and it provides both valuable information and inspiration.

    The trend today seems to be a return to the classic tones. Pedal makers has been cloning Big Muffs and fuzz pedals for a long time but we’re now seeing a huge resurrection for complex analog delays and tape machines, optical tremolos and compressors, sophisticated modulation inspired by the analog synthesizers, spring reverb and much more. The technology has come a long way but there’s also demand for the more vintage tones.

    It’s also the case of pedal makers trying to find new market. You can’t go on cloning fuzz or designing digital delays forever. And as I said, the competition is fierce. Makers are getting more and more specialised, which makes them vulnerable but you can also strike gold within a certain group of players and communities.

    An interesting aspect of the whole small business boutique segment, is that these makers often have a close relationship with their customers. Social media has become a valuable source of information and one can easily recognise a demand. Brands like Skreddy Pedals, Buffalo FX and Vick Audio (and many others) are constantly reinventing themselves and their pedals, both from a business philosophy but not least because they seem to have a close relationship with their customers. It gives you an obvious advantage.

    The bigger brands, like Electro Harmonix and Boss are slowly realising that they’ve been “cheated” for a long time and that their customers now often prefer clones of their original designs.

    So much in fact that they’re are now trying to reclaim the market by offering clones of their own, like EHX’s Soul Food (Klon) and East River Drive (TS808) and by reintroducing old classics, with popular boutique mods, like Boss’ Waza Craft versions of the BD-2, DM-2 and CE-2. Nothing wrong with that but it says something about the market and the competition.

    This is also evident at the two annual NAMM shows, where it seems that the companies are constantly coming up with something new to get the much needed attention.

    Talking about clones. Companies like Mooer surprised everyone a couple of years back by introducing an exhaustive range of mini-pedals. All clones of well known classics and popular models. This is nothing new but Mooer has proven that cheap doesn’t mean crap anymore. Cheap parts and labour, with the attention to detail, has proven to be a deadly combination. Lots of other companies has followed in their footsteps and we’re now even beginning to see clones of clones…

    I would have no problem with stacking my pedal board with mainly cheap mini-pedals. If you know which to choose, it’s really hard to tell the difference between the real one and the cheap knockoff.

    An exciting trend, and one I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of from other companies as well, is TC Electronic’s Tone Print pedals. The pedals are packed with really nice sounds, but once you dig into the Tone Print editor, they take on a whole new life. It makes you wonder if you really need anything else. The attention to detail and authenticity towards both the classic tones and tweak-ability for new sounds, is simply amazing.

    One thing I’d like to see more of, is companies interacting even closer with their customers, offering custom designs based on demand. While digital multi processors has been around for a few decades, and some of them are really nice, I’d like to be able to design my own multi effect.

    I want to look at a company’s catalog and go “OK, I want that fuzz, overdrive, phaser and delay put together in one single pedal”. Perhaps throw in one or two custom features, like enabling the effects to swap places in the chain and a send/return for additional pedals. 

Some companies already do that if you ask nicely but the designs are usually expensive. I’m sure we’ll see more of that in the future and maybe even companies being based on that business idea alone. It would certainly be something new but also something in tune with the ever growing consumer segment on social media, who more and more expect companies, and not just in pedals, to listen to what they want and demand.

    As I said, we live in exciting times and pedal design and production, has come a long way. You can’t really claim that this or that pedal sounds like crap anymore. It all comes down to taste and preference and only you are to blame if you come home with something that doesn’t sound nice on your amp.

    So, that’s the state of the stomp as I see it. What do you think? Can we still expect new and exciting things or has the business reached its peak? Please share your thoughts!

    Post Tagged with , ,

48 Responsesso far.

  1. Lewis says:

    Great post. One thing that has improved immensely is digital modelling. Since I got my Line 6 Helix last year, I sold all of my boutique pedals and I haven’t missed them at all!

  2. Well, I had a couple years of discovering what I wanted (much thanks is owed to you) and buying up my “components” and finally putting them on a real pedal board with a real power supply. It has been very nice to talk to a few pedal dealers, Mike from Vick Audio has shown a personal interest in my experience with his work, and I have met various builders here in my hometown of Portland. It’s awesome that this is all happening but I have recently had to go cold turkey.

    It can seem endless, always thinking there is a better version of whatever you are using, or maybe you want to start over and change your philosophy, or have a blues board or a rock board or an ambient board to go along with a main board. It’s sort of nuts.

    The point about forgetting technique hits home, most of this year I have spent forcing myself to learn things out of my comfort zone instead of searching for and buying pedals. Recently I discovered using two different amps can be more valuable than 2 or 3 boutique pedals as well. It’s never-ending but its fun. This was a great read, Bjorn.

  3. Nicolas says:

    Hi, Great article!!
    There is indeed a great variety of pedals. We can already seethis in the different sections of this website !!! Each choice is a dilemma, but in a good way!
    Unfortunately this is still even a bit expensive. For example, I was impressed with your demonstration of the Gurus Optivalve, but it cost € 40 !!!
    See you soon!

  4. Mauricio Júlio de Oliveira says:

    Very good text, Bjorn!

    Can I use Pete Cornish P-1 + Big Muff Pi EHX NYC? Or it is a redundance?

    Does it make sense? Sorry for my amateur question.

    • Bjorn says:

      Hi! I wouldn’t stack two high gain pedals or Muffs. It will sound very messy and you’d have a hard time controlling the amount of gain and noise. Better to either use a distortion alone or with a mild booster.

  5. djsoulmachine says:

    Have you tried the EHX mel9? For me this gem and the 2 others from the same serie are the proof the EHX is still trying to reinvent themselves!

    • Bjorn says:

      Yeah, they’ve sort of picked up from the mid 70s, when they released a wide range of non-typical guitar pedals. Very cool and I think some of the new stuff sounds really amazing.

  6. Excellent post Bjorn!!
    No doubt we can expect new and exciting things.My personal preference is vintage tones and either original pedals or pedals that replicate those vintage tones keeping in mind what one’s preferred artists used/had available when they recorded their greatest music,(like Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd for example).I don’t know that bands like The Who,Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead used many if any stompboxes in the late ’60’s-early ’70’s.

    Boutique manufacturers seem to be doing a better job of this albeit at a price.
    Figuring out what goes with what and in what order is quite challenging.Is a reissue of pedal X as authentic as the original?Not obvious!!!

    Michel Giroux,
    Toronto,Canada

    P.S.What’s the name and address of the store in Copenhagen that sells only boutique pedals?

  7. Brad Roller says:

    Great article! You’re ability to write and draw in a reader is amazing. You get better and better with each article. Loved this read! But to answer your question, no I dont think weve reached a peak. I think technology will continue and continue to change, with that said, I think we and the pedal makers too are stuck in a rut. If you think about it everything is a clone of something. It may be very new and different but its still based on something else. Cornish is the perfect example. He talks like his stuff is all his idea and his buffers are but the p-1, p-2, g-2 are based on Muff circuits. St-2? Powerboost circuit. Same goes for other companies, they will follow the trends of what guitarists want but we, the guitarists, all go through cycles, 80s was digital, 90s was back to analog, now were back to vintage sounds from the 70s. How long will it be till heavy use of chorus and reverb be popular again? Lol or how long till grunge is a thing again? trends come back then they die out again and the pedal makers have to follow that demand like you said. So another question is, how far can they take a Fuzz circuit? Or a univibe? Or a flanger? You can only do so much till it doesnt even sounds like the actual circuit anymore. I guess Im not making much sense but thats my two cents on the matter! Lol cheers!

    Brad

  8. Jeff Conrad says:

    I agree with your design your own custom multieffect idea. I’m sure something like that is in the works somewhere.

    You made me think of the mind blowing, life changing breakthroughs in stomp tech since I started gathering them in 1979. For me, even with the state of the quality and availability of really nice effects, there have only been a small few releases that “changed” me:

    A Boss DD2 in 1981 – I hadn’t really been in the game long, but this was a game changer. Getting sounds in my bedroom that sounded like they came from a professional recording studio! I will never forget getting that pedal home.

    ProCo RAT sometime in the mid 80’s – another game changer. Suddenly my little Peavey amp was a contender!

    DigiTech DL4 – Really just an indulgence at the time but would have a hard time living without it now.

    So… There are literally tons of awesome effects and overdrives of very high quality out there now. But, for me, I can’t get excited about the differences between any high quality hand built overdrive and a $39 Boss SD-1. Its not that I don’t own and play boutique overdrives, I do. But in a live mix, at stage volume, there just is not that much “wow” factor between them.

    I need to get out to some small boutique music stores and get “wowed” by something again. I’d love to find that next game changer.

    Awesome article as usual, Bjorn!

    • Bjorn says:

      Great points! I still have the DD2 on my stage board and, I wold say that probably half the solos I’ve recorded with Airbag is done with an AnlogMan modded Boss DS1. Those classics are still my go-to pedals for lots of stuff.

    • Robert M. says:

      I’m right with you in regards to the sounds from a studio recording v. a live performance. If I had a crew of technicians working for me, they might be able to wring sufficient extra harmonics out of my analog and tube-based pedals to make a difference on stage. On stage, apart from some specialized control knobs that adjust certain parameters in ways not other pedal does, to me a phaser is a phaser, and most comparable phaser pedals will fill the role. Back home in my studio when I’m doing my solo thing my analog pedals make the difference to my ears.

      I’m looking to pick up a pair of Line 6 StageSource PA’s. Came across a video on their relatively new Helix system. That comes with a wow factor that might appeal to you. Didn’t pay much attention to the sound quality of the effects. They seemed pretty good over the internet. What the Helix has going for it are the routing, switching, and preset modes that could bring big changes to a performance. Personally I have more modest needs and the Helix would be overkill and stretch the budget too far for the returns it would offer. For others, it’s probably worth the time it takes to take a look.

  9. Lorenzo says:

    Hi Bjorn,
    I started to play guitar in the early 90s too and nothing could struck more memories of that time than your article.
    At that time my preferred tone was “Come as you are” as I was playing in a Nirvana cover band (oh yeah the good ole grunge: does anyone remember anything about it?). That riff made me understand the difference between “digital” and “analogical” chorus. I found out only years after that Kurt was playing a Small Clone of an unknown (to me) brand named Electro Harmonix. Can’t forget my ZOOM mutlieffect too. Yes indeed today we have a lot of everything and nothing remains incommunicado in the internet era. However I am not sure this brings only pros. The dark side of it could be that, if we go on this way, we will be losing our ear to judge what is good and what isn’t. Music today is accessory to life, not a real art as it was before. Just think to the music of the 70s with the whole progressive groups and Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd…what are we left with now? It seems that we have somehow sacrified our capability to focus on the music to the advantage of crap like X Factor and the like. Technology and internet made everything easier, I could build a home studio quite easily now, but which music to record?
    Cheers

  10. Hi, Bjorn.
    As a Gilmour fan, I’m an addict of your website. Not so sure about pedals, although I currently own quite a few, but definitely of your website. Congrats, it’s well done and full of common sense, which is a rare asset nowadays.
    This post dedicated to the “pedal renewal” kinda rang a bell to me. I’m from a country which laid behind the Iron Curtain til ’89, so quality pedals were, in my teens, something almost unheard of. Tracking a real Ibanez Tubescreamer or a Boss pedal was like finding the Holy Grail and even professional bands used handmade pedals: many people were quite skillful at that time and virtually every band had a member who could at least repair an amp or a pedal.
    I remember when I heard, from a pro, that some of the amazing sounds coming from David’s solos were due to a pedal called Small Stone. It was in 1984, most certainly, and decades later I discovered – thanks to your website – that MXR was David’s favorite phaser. Nevertheless, after the Communism has collapsed, in 1992, I managed to buy an old and battered EHX Small Stone. Wow: I felt like touching the skies. I couldn’t believe my ears. It was still a very expensive thing to buy, my country was very poor at that time, and I had to re-sell the pedal an year or so after.
    Now? There are countless phasers which can do pretty much the same thing and it’s only a matter of personal taste (and even prejudice) to pick one or another.
    You are also right wondering how are these guys making the ends meet, with so many small companies making incredible pedals, most of them, in the average price tag. Well: they aren’t all doing so fine. HardWire is about to disappear after being aquired by Harman, Dunlop has bought MXR and WayHuge (and prospects for the latter aren’t bright, I’m afraid). Big companies, such as Boss, are more and more often venturing into the “boutique” territory: check the Waza Craft and X ranges of pedals at Boss.
    But I must confess my picture isn’t as happy as yours. There isn’t so much innovation on the market as it looks from the distance. With. A very few exceptions (like the ridiculously priced Pete Cornish pedals, or EBS or whatever name you might add), most of the makes revolve around the same basic diagrams and concepts.
    IMHO, future belongs to the digital. Once complex calculation models are available, digital effects and amps will overcome the analog thing. Check some new additions to the list (like Yamaha’s THR 100 H & HD amps, Line 6 Helix, Kemper Profiler Power Rack etc. etc.), besides classics like Boss GT 100, and you will get what I mean.
    I own two rigs, a completely analog one and a completely digital one. I must confess that more and more often I give up the analog for the digital. And not only for comfort and costs reasons.
    I think the biggest thing today lies in the consummable: we have so much better cables, plugs, we have solderless contacts, we have switches and mixers who operate completely noiseless…
    Anyway, your topic was great, as always. Thanks
    Razvan

  11. Zac says:

    Bjorn, you’re the man, and I never would have been able to play the way I do without your invaluable work on this website. Thank you!

  12. Steve says:

    Thanks again Bjorn for another great article. I couldn’t agree more about how great a time it is to be a guitar player and pedal enthusiast. I recently had the good fortune to visit a small boutique pedal maker and to get a tour of their shop really fascinating (Throbak ) in Grand Rapids MI on top of making top notch pedals they also wind their own pickups with an amazing piece of equipment. http://www.throbak.com/pickup-winder-history.html It’s great to see a small shop like that and to see the pride and care they put into everything they make. I am sure others have seen similar shops if not and there is one local to you I would highly recommend you call them and set up a time to tour their facility.

  13. Joaquín Velázquez says:

    Hi Bjorn, i’m sorry i’m asking this again but i didn’t get a reply.
    I’ve been looking for a nice fuzz since i’ve never had one, but i’m on a budget.
    I’ve been most interested in the Mooer Blue Faze and the Dunlop mini silicon one (the blue one, not the hendrix). Which one would you recommend??
    I haven’t thought of any other boutique fuzzes as they’re hard to get here in Argentina.
    Hope you can read this and answer me.
    Cheers!

  14. Thomas Williams says:

    Hey, very good article but politically speaking I feel disappointed in praise toward cheap goods. I suppose it is nice to be able to afford more pedals or that Laney amp made in China but consider the bigger picture of exploited labor and careless pollution standards to bring you a thrill. It seems against the spirit of rock and roll which in the end is all there is. Spirit! Our president is about the sign the TPP so it is all over anyway. What would Roger Waters say? (And I care) Forgive my digression and get back to your toys.

    • Bjorn says:

      Hm… how to respond…? Well, you raise a good point but I think that’s way beside the point here. This is a site about David Gilmour and I write articles and features related to him and guitar gear in general. This is not a political site and I will not allow it to be that either. Your president and Waters has nothing to do with this site.

      A far more interesting point, and releated to this site and topic, is whether you should just buy cheap goods or, support your local boutique brand. A lot of people critisice these smaller companies for selling way too expensive pedals, but in doing so, fail to see the costs involved. A small shop have far more costs per item than the larger multi million selling companies. And, I hope everyone knows enough about these things to know that a pedal isn’t just about the parts, but also rent, electricity, tax, shipping, employees etc etc. At the end of the day, what you’re paying for and supporting, is their ability to keep they’re head above water and keep making the pedals we all want. I buy both boutique and cheap myself, but I know that companies like Mooer and similar are not making it any easier by copying schematics and selling them for a fraction of the price.

      Since you’re here, I assume you’re playing guitar. What sort of gear do you have? Not anything that can be confused with toys, I presume…

      • Robert M. says:

        Great response, Bjorn. Your site provides a valuable resource for many, many people. Apart from being a distraction, discussions revolving around current politically correct issues and stances would take up too much time and space. Those issues certainly do need to be discussed and there are plenty of other places where those discussions belong. For me, the past four decades have been filled with a career spent managing small local businesses, struggling to pay the bills, employees, and keeping the doors open. Nights were usually spent practicing, playing, writing and arranging music, AND tinkering with music and recording equipment (toys.) Sandwiched between all that were 15 years of research tracking the historical developments that have led our world and all its woes to where it is today. I come here to this site because I’m still learning about music, and the articles and comments made here by nearly everyone expand my musical universe. Your generosity in sharing the information you publish and providing this forum for the rest of us certainly needs no justification apart from the fact that they exist. Thanks for all that you do.

  15. Alex says:

    Hi Bjorn-

    Thank you very much for documenting all the information you have organized and assembled for us die hard guitarists! Quite a lot of work. My question is pretty basic. I have been toying around with a Vick’s Overdriver and a BK Butler Tube Driver and my muff pi, various Boss distortion type pedals and velvet fuzz, etc.

    IS it SAFE to place the overdrives BEFORE the Tube Driver, and crank the drive up high or should the Tube Driver be after/post the distortion effect/fill in the blank. I get good tones either way, but I do not want to damage the circuits, transistors, caps or op amps in the distortion/fuzz pedal(s) by overdriving their components while getting said good tone.

    Any other advice in this same vein would be appreciated!!

    Cheers!

    Alex

    • Bjorn says:

      Hi Alex! You won’t harm the pedal. It’s basically a preamp, much like your regular tube amp, so it can handle anything you throw at it. Having a tube and being a preamp, it will react differently as to where you place the pedals you combine with it and much more so than a transistor pedal. Experiment and hear how different combinations affects the tone of the Tube Driver.

  16. Alex says:

    Bjorn-

    I was mainly referring to the INPUT circuits of a muff pi, or wampler velvet fuzz.. pushing a tube driver or vick’s overdriver on full blast INTO a MUFF pi could really cook the muff pi or velvet fuzz input circuits, could it/they not?

  17. Alex says:

    Great! That’s what I need. Muff Pi, TD, here I come.

    Thanks, Bjorn! I wish I had discovered your site five 0r 6 years ago, but I’m here now. Thanks for all you do in exploring TONE! And Gilmour guitar discoveries!

    Alex

  18. Jay says:

    Hi Bjorn. Interesting post. I started building pedals back in the 80s and 90s and came up with my own combo of muffs and boosters that work together that sounds very simular to a P1 and P2 Cornish petal and still enjoy making them and as you said its all a matter of taste. For me Im old school still in love with analog pedals. 😁

  19. steve says:

    A little of topic but would really be interested in an article on recording. I would like some thoughts on portable multi track recorders. Thanks again for all your fantastic articles and all the time and effort you put in them. I have read them all you are my go to guy for all things Gilmour, Guitar and Tone. You are so much appreciated.

    PS too old to go with pc recording just want to keep it simple. Been looking at zoom r16 and r24 and some Tascams any help would be great.

    Steve

    • Bjorn says:

      Hi Steve! Thanks for your kind words! Glad you appreciate the site :) Recording is definitely something I’ll try to talk more about. Stay tuned :)

    • Alex G says:

      Steve-

      If you are interested in a good portable recording device, I’ve had a good experiences with Tascam’s DP24/32 platform. It is not expensive, it handles a ton of tracks, it has good editing capabilities, they have excellent pre and post effects; it is pretty intuitive, BUT there is a 30$ educational DVD/ training video by David Wills, that gives you concise training on the DP24, the 24 track version. The DP32 is almost the same device with just the difference of 12 extra tracks.. Almost everything you learn on the DP24 is transferable to the 32. They used to output to CD-R burners, but those turned out to have occasional troubles with the CD burners, so now they output to ultra dependable, inexpensive, SDHC 8/16 gb memory cards. Al

    • Robert M. says:

      Last year I began resurrecting my home studio that I’d dismantled years ago. I bought a little Tascam DP-03SD to just get started. It’s one of their Porta Studio series and very compact. The spec’s were good on it and it worked pretty well. Intuitive operation. Has a pair of built-in mic’s and two input jacks to record to any of the 8 available tracks. The first input channel can accept a signal straight from a guitar pickup with no DI box needed; that same channel also accepts line or mic level signals. For me, the biggest asset was the familiar recording console layout (looks like the r-16 is also similar in that respect.) Keep in mind if you want to do any serious recording these small units are unlikely to cut it for you. They’re convenient and good for capturing the sound at an event. But as soon as you start trying to mix something they become more cumbersome in their operation.

      • Alex Gentle says:

        Robert I have a DP 32 and it is far from cumbersome to operate. There is a MindMedia TASCAM Tutorial DVD that shows how simple it is to layer tracks on top of each other. It the David Wills DP-24 DVD Tutorial. It says DP-24, but the operation of the DP32 is almost identical to the DP-24. Please get one of these DVD instruction videos and I am sure you will agree the DP24/32 recorders are pretty basic, and not hard to operate.

        • Robert M. says:

          Alex,

          My comment was specific to the portable DP-03SD model mentioned. I have no experience with the larger current models by Tascam. As I mentioned, the DP-03SD had a fairly intuitive interface. The biggest shortcoming of that unit for me was the lack of input channels. I was able to record multiple live sources by creating a stereo mix using my vintage Mackie analog mixer, but that defeats the purpose of multi-track recording. The other major shortcoming was the cumbersome requirement to use Tascam’s proprietary file transfer system to get the recording into a computer.

          I did consider upgrading to either the DP-24 or DP-32 models. I don’t remember the details now, but from looking over the specs and promotional info from Tascam, those larger models seemed to more functional. It’s possible to take them out to a gig but they are larger and heavier than I’d want to use for such a purpose. A big advantage of all 3 DP-series mixers is the SD card recording; no computer needed.

          The upgrade I chose was an Allen & Heath Zed R-16. It’s larger and heavier than either of the three Tascam units mentioned, but I have it set up in my studio with no plans to move it elsewhere. This is a completely analog 16-channel mixer with high operational specs, a great 4-band EQ section on each of the input channels, and plenty of in’s and out’s and aux sends that can handle any situation I will most likely ever encounter. It also incorporates a 16-channel firewire AD/DA computer interface and some midi control options that can work with the controls in a DAW setup.

          Apart from not needing to buy a separate recording interface, the deciding factor for me was the way A&H integrated the recording interface into this analog mixer. All the other affordable mixer/interface combo’s I’ve seen allow mix down from the DAW as a 2-channel stereo mix only. I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but supposedly I can record 8 or 12 tracks in my DAW, play those back as a mix through monitors, add 4 additional tracks, and re-record all 16 tracks simultaneously in my DAW as a new multi-track recording. That sounds to me like it will put an end to any latency problems that might crop up.

          The quality of recordings the A&H mixer produces has impressed me to the point where I may finally replace my 20-year old Mackie with one of the smaller Zed mixers just to save a few pounds when gigging.

      • Alex Gentle says:

        The tutorial DVD is 29 or 39$.. easily affordable. American Musical, Sweetwater Sound, Guitar Center, most music sales companies either have or can order this DVD.

  20. Great article Bjorn. I was watching Rory Gallagher live at Cork the other day while wiring up my pedal for the millionth time. As I watched Rory’s playing in awe I started thinking about how much time I spend swapping pedals and rearranging things instead of just practicing. Always thinking about the next great pedal can really waste a lot of time better spent on something else. So I decided to zip tie all my cables in place and lock the board down for a while and try and discourage myself from making any changes. It’s not easy changing habits but so far I’ve been learning to use what I have on there even more to its full potential.

    I am really excited for the possibility of Effectrode’s Echorec though.

  21. Jay says:

    Well this is something that should be out there if you really want to know more about digital vs analog rigs. http://screaminfx.com/tech/analog-verse-digital-guitar-pedals.htm

  22. Robert M. says:

    Great read, Bjorn.

    4 decades ago I scraped together enough cash to purchase my first ever stomp box, which happened to be the rather large Maestro Stage Phaser with the 3-position “pre-set” pot centered on top of the pedal. When I plugged into that pedal and sat there tweaking the controls I said to myself, “This is fun.” Things got better when MXR introduced their original AC powered Stereo Chorus pedal. Chained together and hooked up to a pair of amps the 2 pedals seemed like the gates of heaven to me. 40 years and a ton of rack mounted gear later I’m back to where I started.

    Once manufacturers got the kinks ironed out, we started seeing multi-effects units at an affordable price that improved upon the small pedals. The downside came with the tedium involved in creating computerized algorithm presets in the menus on those tiny LCD screens. After swapping my multi-effects for a handful or two of mostly “boutique-ish.” pedals last year, I’m back to shaping my basic tone by plugging a phaser into a stereo chorus pedal and couldn’t be happier. Took some time and effort to sort things out and wade through the options that are available today. My analog Moog pedals rest at the heart of my studio board. They’re supported by a cast of other modulation, delay, and reverb pedals that play their own roles when the situation arises, but at mild/subtle settings the phaser/chorus combo creates an ambience that satisfies all by itself.

    Early this year I finally tracked down an original (used) Maestro Stage Phaser that was for sale – with way too big a price tag attached. A few days later it arrived in the mail. I eagerly opened the package and plugged the pedal into my rig. Yes, it sounded the same as my first one had, and yes, I was sadly disappointed. The tone produced by the Maestro fell too far short of what comes out of my Moog M-103 phaser to satisfy. Even worse, the Maestro didn’t behave well when connected to my other pedals; I had to unplug the rest of my pedal chains to use the antique phaser. Sadly, I shipped the Maestro back to the Seller for a refund. The experience brings to mind the adage that says the good old days were rarely as good as we remember them to be.

    Yes, when it comes to effected tone this is surely a golden age for guitar players and other musicians. While we may have reached “A” pinnacle there’s certainly another pinnacle waiting for us somewhere down the road. But there is a limit to how much and in what dimensions an electrical impulse can be manipulated. Our current pinnacle is measured by the refinements contemporary manufacturers have made to the innovations of the past; innovations that created flanging and delay circuits; hence the “variations on a theme” we see today.

    The next round of improvements is underway, as you pointed out. Manufacturers are empowering Users to reach beyond knobs and dip switches to fine-tune their devices and tailor the response curves to their individual needs. For those who enjoy sitting around complaining that manufacturers are not coming up with “new” designs, I’d say those complainers would be better served by attending to their own playing and innovative skills to make the most out of what they have. The music comes from within each of us, not from the strings and boxes we make noise with. As for me, I’ve begun assembling a set of digital pedals to create a small portable gigging board. No complaints here.

  23. Greg Larson says:

    I’m curious as to how you view the AxeFX, Positive Grid, Amplitude, etc. relative to stomp boxes and amps. I personally take both approaches and equipment in both channels. My philosophy is you cannot begin to understand vintage analog tone without hearing real vintage analog tone and dealing with the frustration and elation of finding nirvana. That being said, armed with the knowledge and experienced of vintage analog tone, the process and ease of use with digital sources becomes less time spent fumbling and more time spent creating and exploring. I am curious what you or others might think. Thank you for all the sharing you do Bjorn. Also, thank you for your creative work with Airbag and solo. You inspire me to make music.

    • Bjorn says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Greg! You know, I’ve always been hesitant about the digital stuff and software. Not because I don’t think they sound any good but because I’m too lazy to figure them out and I’m more comfortable with using pedals and amps :) I have been using Line 6 stuff for years and even record with my old POD X3. I’ve been using AmpliTube 3 for some time and often use the stompboxes there on already recorded guitars and keys. Other than that, I don’t have much experience with these things…

  24. Simon CRAIGE says:

    Hej Bjorn,

    Have just ordered a CE-2W, was wondering if you have got to try one yet, and what your opinion is … ?

    and your reviews cost me a small fortune … keep up the good work ;-)

    (love ‘Disconnected’ by the way, has been on my playlist all week, what wah pedal are you using … ?)

    • Bjorn says:

      Thank you Simon! I’m using a Cry Baby CGB95 :) Haven’t had the chance to try the CE-2W yet so I can’t really tell. Based on the reviews I’ve seen and heard, they’ve done a great job at replicating both the CE1 and CE2, with authentic tones.

Hey! How about a comment on this post?