DigiTech Jimi Hendrix Experience
Packaged in lots of psychedelic purple and yellow, the Jimi Hendrix Experience pedal continues the basic theme of its predecessor, the digitally modelled ‘seven ages of Clapton’ in DigiTech’s Crossroads pedal.
Who cares about all those generic effects and ambiguously titled patches when you just want your guitar to sound like your hero?
Where the Crossroads pedal was a fairly simple, compact stompbox, the Experience unit is, fittingly, a little more complex. It’s nice to see that DigiTech hasn’t just churned out a whole range of pedals with the same basic design; they’ve clearly thought about the design implications of summing up the ‘Hendrix sound’ and ‘Clapton sound’. Eric Clapton’s sounds have changed frequently over his long career, but at each point in that career there’ve been just one or two instantly recognisable tones. With Hendrix, though, you’ll often hear more tones than that in the course of a single song.
As with the Clapton pedal, there are seven models, each based on a particular song (and designed with the help of producer Eddie Kramer) and selected via one of the four knobs on the control panel. The other three knobs are all dual concentric controls, and mostly self-explanatory: gain/level, low/high EQ and reverb/control. The function of the control knob depends on the model selected, although it’s usually for mid-range.
That’s all simple enough, but there’s more. For each model, there are at least two sounds, one selected by the switch at the toe end of the expression pedal (indicated by a green LED), and the other selected by the switch at the heel end (red LED). For two of the models, hitting the heel switch again selects yet another sound, which is indicated by a yellow LED. Furthermore, the expression pedal is used for four of the seven models, its exact function dictated by the sound (heel or toe) selected.
For basic operation, you would just need to connect the pedal in mono between your guitar and amp, powering it via the supplied nine-volt AC adaptor. One of the models features an acoustic guitar sound, which works better through a DI connection (to either a mixer or recorder) so there’s a separate output for this.
By means of the pedal’s ‘Flexible Output Modes’ feature, though, you can also set it up for stereo output into either a mixer or two guitar amps. A second input jack enables you to connect the FS3X footswitch (not supplied); this gives a more ergonomic way of switching between the ‘heel’ and ‘toe’ modes, as well as the option of changing the model without bending down and twisting the knob.
Like the similar BOSS PW10, the expression pedal is solidly constructed and feels tight enough for accuracy without being awkward to use. A large rubber pad prevents your foot from slipping off, and the pedal’s behaviour can be easily calibrated to taste. And if all this wasn’t enough, the Experience pedal comes with a luxury purple velvet drawstring gigbag. The beads and flowers, however, are strictly your responsibility.
Grabbing a Fender Strat (obviously), plugging it into the Experience pedal and then into our faithful Cornford Harlequin (set to a clean, neutral tone), we were instantly impressed by the fine quality of the sounds. Working through the models in order, the first three are simplest, featuring just two settings. For Purple Haze, you get the intro sound, a good fat overdrive, and the solo sound, which incorporates the cutting edge Jimi obtained with Roger Mayer’s Octavio (later Octavia) pedal. Many of Jimi’s tones were notable for being richer and fatter than those used by many Strat players, so it’s good to hear that DigiTech has managed to reflect this in the intro sound here.
Moving right along, model two presents the clean rhythm sound and slightly overdriven solo sound from The Wind Cries Mary. Select the neck pickup and gently stroke those Curtis Mayfield-influenced chiming chords. Model three is rather less subtle, featuring the intro and solo sounds from Foxy Lady. Like the previous model, this one is also based on the sound of a 100-watt Marshall Super Lead head, but with more gain and the addition of the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face. DigiTech has done a good job of modelling the angry, belching fuzz tone of that classic pedal. Foxy indeedy.
The next four models give a fuller idea of what the Experience pedal can do. For Little Wing, there are still two basic sounds (the clean-ish chords and the warm, overdriven solo) but each comes with a different effect, a digitally modelled rotary speaker for the chords and tape flanging for the solo. In both cases, you can use the expression pedal to vary the amount of effect. For All Along The Watchtower, there are three basic sounds: the acoustic guitar from the introduction (for which the mixer output is more appropriate) and the two solos. The expression pedal adjusts the additional effect for the two solo tones; delay level for the first and wah for the second.
If you’re looking for iconic rock guitar sounds, they don’t get much better than the wah intro to Voodoo Chile (Slight Return). Hitting the toe switch for model six gives you this intro sound, modelled on a Fender Bassman amp and Vox wah pedal. The heel switch cycles through the two solo tones, both adding the Fuzz Face to the basic amp sound, with the second also reintroducing the wah. Finally, the unmistakeable wobble of the Univibe is used on the final model. There are two settings here; the cleaner of the two is based on one of Jimi’s sounds from Machine Gun, while the other adds the Fuzz Face for full-on Star Spangled Banner mayhem.
With these artist-specific pedals now available from DigiTech there will, no doubt, be critics who fear for the future of originality. That’s a valid concern, and it’s important that players do have the facilities to discover their own sound, but if you’re going to have products emulating the sounds of famous players (as just about every multi-effects unit already does), then it might not be a bad idea to collect those sounds into highly specialised units. And when the results sound this good, why not go for it?
There are only a few minor weaknesses with this unit. The toe/heel switching takes some getting used to, especially as the switches are at either end of the expression pedal sweep. Buying the FS3X is an option, of course, but makes the whole package quite pricey. The other main problem is of a purely personal and subjective nature – we regret that there is nothing from the very late (First Rays Of The New Rising Sun) recordings, which would have been nice.
We’re splitting hairs, though, in a desperate attempt to find something bad to say for the sake of balance. It’s a fantastic pedal, and whether you’re a Hendrix fan or not, it is well worth taking it for a spin. If this is an avenue that DigiTech is planning to explore further, bring it on! Who’s next?
A massive range of very versatile sounds.
Slightly fiddly switching.
A fantastic pedal that manages to faithfully reproduce Hendrix's fat, rich tunes.
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1 x Footswitch Jack Guitar Input
7 Position Model Selector High Level Low
Songs modelled: Purple Haze/Wind Cries Mary/Foxy Lady/Little Wing/All Along The Watchtower/Voodoo Child (Slight Return)/Star Spangled Banner (Live)/Machine Gun.
Country of Origin
Production modelling technology accurately models seven sounds that changed the guitar world forever. Created using the original master tapes recorded by Eddie Kramer at Electric Lady studios / the Jimi Hendrix Experience pedal models seven instantly-recognisable songs including Purple Haze / Little Wing / Voodoo Child / Wind Cries Mary & Star Spangled Banner.
Unit Power Source