From fuzzes to bitcrushers, choruses to delays, the boutique pedal world isn't all distortions, fuzzes and transparent overdrives. Fancy the sound of a CD skipping, or a wash of pitch-shifted delays? We've got you covered.
The effects we've chosen here are ones that are highly regarded in the guitar effects community, do something we've not heard before, or simply excite us as creative tools.
Hopefully you will find them inspiring, too.
Montreal Assembly Count To Five
This unassuming blue box is without doubt the most consistently popular niche guitar effect, and its presence on a 'board is a pretty reliable indicator that a player has spent some time poring over online forums.
At its core it's a delay pedal, but expands its sonic horizons by rethinking how to use the digital buffer - the 'copy' of your signal that is delayed - to make the effect. Examples of extra control on offer are how fast a buffer is played back, and which direction it is played.
With some additional setup, intervals can also be quantized, and it has an expression input that can be used to control pedal parameters.
If that weren't enough, there's two other modes - a looper that allows playback of a loop in slices, and a second loop mode that allows a clip to be played back with three virtual tape heads over which there are various controllable parameters.
Red Panda Particle
The Red Panda Particle granular delay is another that's frequently seen on experimental guitar players' pedal wishlists.
Inspired by granular synthesis, it packs in not only bitcrushed, granular-style chopped delay sounds but also a number of pitch and lfo delay options, as well as a forward-reverse mode where the playback direction can be controlled via expression pedal.
A particularly interesting mode is the random mode, which takes on an almost reverb-like character, like a shimmer reverb but with a bitcrusher instead of an octave effect.
Finally, for the glitch and ambient enthusiasts, there's the ability to drive the size of the grains or buffer into infinite repeat mode. This freeze mode is an amazingly expressive tool for the studio, with picking dynamics governing buffer overwrites.
BUY: Red Panda Particle currently available from:
Hexe Revolver DX
Guitarists into glitch and electronic music have long sought ways of manipulating their signal in unorthodox ways. Perhaps the most common of these is the so-called 'stutter', that is, using a short sample to repeat a snippet of guitar in an unnatural way, almost like a computerised tremolo-picking of rapid, machine-gun repeats.
The Revolver takes this concept and weds a short record buffer and a stop-start momentary switch onto eight playback modes, and combines this with expression control.
The result is a startlingly intuitive but utterly unique effect that can be used for elaborate sample manipulation, forward and reverse playback and speed manipulation. The footswitch layout and looper-like 'capture' and 'play' operation also make using it live a breeze, even while playing more technical passages.
Z.Vex Super Seekers
Having experimented with guitar sequencers before with the Super Seek Trem and associated lines, Z.Vex's Super Seekers take the concept and refine it.
A 16-step sequencer plus expression options, glissando and a smorgasbord of features and toggle switches make this an incredibly flexible way of working with guitar sequencing.
The Seek Wah functions as a stepped auto-wah, while the Seek Trem is the equivalent for tremolo, effectively a stepped volume sequencer. The Super Ringtone meanwhile is a ring modulator applied to the same basic concept.
Depending on your playing style, one of these will probably suit you more than the others.
Walrus Audio Janus
Question: what do you get when you try and control a fuzz pedal with a joystick?
Answer: The Walrus Audio Janus. It's not going to win any awards for being revolutionary in terms of its electronics, but it's definitely one of the more interesting pedals in terms of controls.
The fuzz side is based on their Jupiter fuzz, which has a Muff-like character combined with extra clipping and bass options, while the tremolo side is a full-bodied sine wave tremolo that's a huge amount of fun to change on the fly with the joystick.
WMD Geiger Counter
The Geiger counter is the gold standard when it comes to bit reduction. Billed as a distortion, it can do a regular overdrive, but there probably aren't many users using it for that.
At its core there are a two parts. The first is a high gain preamp, the second is a sample rate and bit depth reducer. These combine to crush and distort the original waveform, from gentle mangling to total obliteration.
Some people no doubt would think this sounds awful, but from industrial to chiptune, there are a multitude of applications for this eccentric effect.
EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run
EarthQuaker's Avalanche Run is a new avenue of innovation for the Akron company. Previously, they've probably been best known for their comprehensive line of boutique fuzzes.
It's a stereo delay and reverb engine with a swell mode that responds to your picking, a reverse delay, tap-tempo, sound-on-sound looping and delay times of up to two seconds.
As you might imagine, it's been most wholeheartedly embraced by ambient, post-rock and shoegaze players, but more subtle effects are possible, and should you need the more out-there sounds, they're at your fingertips without having to worry about techniques like pedal stacking.
Dr. Scientist BitQuest!
A multi-effect of sorts, the Dr. Scientist BitQuest! offers eight individual effects that can be stacked into a digital fuzz.
There's a high-pass/low-pass filter, bit crusher, infinite reverb, notch filter, ring modulator, pitch shifter and glitch delay on offer, as well as the aforementioned fuzz, which can be used with any effect.
There are no presets, meaning that this is possibly more of a studio-use pedal if you're planning on using more than one sound. Of course, you could tape on your settings, but that would cover up the awesome retro-themed artwork.
Z.Vex Fuzz Probe
Another Z.Vex entry, this pedal is an evolution of their hugely popular and game-changing Fuzz Factory. That pedal's infamous 'stab' knob worked by changing the bias voltage to its components, and this pedal takes advantage of that.
Using a theremin-like antenna, this parameter can be controlled and thus the wild oscillations of the original tamed or unleashed, according to the whims of the user.
BUY: Z.Vex Fuzz Probe currently available from:
Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall
The ability to control so many parameters makes this pedal a tweaker's paradise, offering something new in the well-trodden field of analogue, bucket-brigade delays.
Although the key elements will be familiar to any delay user, the Tonal Recall offers fine-grained control over every aspect of the delay your heart could desire, making it a workhorse for the gigging musician as well as the bedroom experimenter.
Hologram Dream Sequence
A sequencer, pitch-shifter, sampler and more besides, the Dream Sequence is as deep as an ocean in terms of options and definitely requires some time spent with the manual to decipher.
The usual issue with sequencers applies - that they have the most impact when used in music where the sequence has the time and space in the composition to run its course, and thus in up-tempo music or more intricate passages the effect might be somewhat lost.
There's no denying however that for textured and more ambient work it's a creative tool not to be underestimated.
For those not interested in the sheer level of control the Hexe Revolver has to offer, but are still in search of glitch heaven, the Catalinbread Csidman - pronounced 'Discman' - might be the answer.
Designed to mimic the skipping of a certain ubiquitous portable CD player, the Csidman is capable of normal digital delay sounds, but using two extra controls, 'cuts' and 'latch', a cyclical buffer of variable length can be skipped.
If that sounds complex, then don't worry, it's an intuitively designed way of adding an element of randomness and chaos to your playing.
Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl
Before the Tonal Recall appeared on the scene, the Chase Bliss buzz was all about the Warped Vinyl. Managing to be ahead of the curve on the current chorus revival, this dip-switch packed beast was designed to replicate its namesake.
Ranging from small amounts of detuning to more pronounced manipulation of the signal, it's the perfect choice for a player that wants the kind of fine control over dynamics that a delay can forfeit, while bringing extra timbral variation to the table.
Cooper FX Generation Loss
Using a pair of digital processing units, the Generation Loss attempts to recreate the sound of a worn out VHS tape, to the delight of lo-fi noiseniks everywhere.
The resulting pedal can be used for vibrato and chorus effects, but can also add in ring modulation, noise and bit reduction, and low and high-pass filters.
It's similar to the Warped Vinyl in that it's probably best thought of as a chorus or vibrato with extra options, and like a chorus pedal can be used to bring subtle colour to verse chords or arpeggiated picking.
Caroline Guitar Company Météore
Finally, the Caroline Météore deserves a look-in. Not one of the most lavish or feature-packed of the boxes here, it's positively meat-and-potatoes by comparison to some, but it does one thing and does it extremely well.
It's inspired by the reverb found in the Paris Metro line of the same name, and its unique character can be found in the way that a user's settings interact with the 'havoc' momentary footswitch.
This second footswitch triggers auto-oscillation, but careful tweaking of the pedal settings can reveal many different sounds, from more subtle infinite reverbs to expressive, howling storms of sound.