Trends may come and go but there’s some sounds you need on your board. Cut through the haze of mediocre tone and get the best tools for the job with our guide to archetypal FX.
There’s no shortage of Best Of lists out there offering opinion on what constitutes the finest examples of pedalery (not a word) in any given category. Much of it focused on helping you make the right purchase before parting with potentially large sums of cash.
ToneBuddy is a little bit different however, because you can just sign up and try any of them for £30. So here’s our own list of exceptional pedals, all of which do things differently and deserve exploration by any guitarist unsatisfied by your standard stomp box.
COMPRESSION THAT YOU CONTROL
ORIGIN CALI76 COMPACT DELUXE
Not a simple “set and forget” compressor and all the better for it. The Cali76 lets you dial your tone in exactly the way you need it. But more than that Origin are exacting when it comes to component choice and this results in pure tone with incredibly low noise.
This studio grade design is by no means overkill for guitarists, especially when you consider how much more amplification we might apply with overdrive and valve amps. Further independent Attack/Release controls are vital to make sure your sound stands out in the mix while keeping control.
If you want to keep some of the bells and whistles but 6 knobs just seems too much. We’d recommend the latest Keeley Compressor as an alternative, some clever design keeps the knobs to a minimum while retaining the essential control you need.
FUZZ THAT FRIES YOUR BRAIN
SEYMOUR DUNCAN LA SUPER RICA
Fuzz is a pretty personal thing, just look at how many variations there are on the Big Muff if you need proof! Unless you’re dead set on sounding like Matt Bellamy/Sleep/Trent Reznor though there’s only really so many core fuzz tones that most of us need. And through the help of onomatopoeia we’d suggest they are:
Fizzy – Thin 60’s leads.
Fatty – Satisfying 90’s rhythms.
Doomy – Everything on full. Never survives the sound mans EQ unscathed.
Scronky – Volume knob wound back.
Now we’d never suggest there’s any limits to sound, we’d be out of the job after all. Each of these represents it’s own separate universe and the Super Rica is the tool to let you explore each of them. What it might not do is double up as a drive pedal or start self oscillating when you touch the enclosure but there’s a Muff for the former or synth pedals for the latter these days. Let a fuzz be a fuzz.
SYNTHS SOUNDS FOR SONG WRITING
HOLOGRAM DREAM SEQUENCE
There’s a tendency to treat digital FX as being samey or even somewhat soulless. Anyone who’s used a vintage Eventide pitch shifter or an EMT250 reverb knows that’s not the case however.
And that’s the best way of explaining the magic of the Dream Sequence. At first you thing your enjoying a perfectly good pitch shifting delay thingy. Then somewhere in the swirl of notes a germ of an idea starts to form, you twiddle some knobs and things open up even more. Before you know it it’s 3am and you’ve mapped out a whole new musical identity for yourself.
REVERB SPACES TO LOSE YOURSELF IN
MERIS MERCURY7 REVERB
Much like the Dream Sequence this is a pedal that plays you just about as much as you play it. Combining pitch shifting with any kind of spacey reverb or delay is simply a winning formula. You can of course dial it back and use the Mercury7 as a straight reverb but where’s the fun in that?
If you do want a more simple reverb with the option to go nuts when desired then the Electo Harmonix Ocean’s 7 is one of our favourites from recent times.
OVERDRIVE THAT ENDS “THE QUEST”
CHASE BLISS BROTHERS ANALOGUE GAINSTAGE
Permit us to get a little melodramatic for a moment but the quest for the perfect overdrive can feel a little like being lost in the desert. Every time you think you’ve spotted an oasis and you rush towards it full of hope and only once you get close do you realise it’s a mirage.
Well the Brothers Gainstage doesn’t necessarily solve that problem but it does save you from losing money every time you decide to sell your new pride and joy after 6 weeks. Change routing, tweak settings and completely reconfigure your pedal for endless different sounds. All Chase Bliss pedals are incredibly versatile but we still feel the Brothers is the one that’s done greatest service to tone fiends.
We’ve got to give a shout out to the JHS Bonsai which offers a similar flexibility but concentrates on the world of Tubescreamers. If you’ve ever wanted to explore different permuatations without gear flipping, JHS and Chase Bliss are leading the way.
TRY THEM YOURSELF
That’s just a taste of that we feel represent the best of the more unusual boutique pedals. ToneBuddy was setup to let curious guitarists like yourself try them all without the hassle of selling via marketplaces or forums. Build your own list of 5 or more pedals and get a brand new pedal through your door every month!