Winner: DigiTech FreqOut
NAMM 2017: This year, perhaps more than any other, was all about pedals. Companies big and small had a wealth of new offerings on show, with innovation and nods to classic designs in equal measure.
Delay pedals in particular were assigned top billing for 2017, and we saw a number of efforts to downsize amps, with pedal preamps and cab modellers also a common theme.
Ahead, you’ll find our rundown of the stompboxes most likely to cause a buzz in 2017, and the ones we’d be most keen to find room on our pedalboards for. We’ll begin with our best in show winner: DigiTech’s FreqOut.
When we first caught wind of the FreqOut Natural Feedback Creator, we weren't expecting much: previous ‘feedback’ pedals have amounted to little more than infinite sustain. Yet the FreqOut manages to redefine what a feedback pedal - and feedback itself - can be.
The FreqOut is another riff on DigiTech's Whammy pitch-shifting but also employs a cunning inversion of dbx’s feedback-suppression technology, and more than delivers on its claims of "sweet, natural feedback at any volume".
While the effect itself has been around since the dawn of the electric guitar, the FreqOut changes guitarists’ approach to playing and fosters an appreciation for feedback as a device within songwriting and performing - for anyone missing the fiery response of real live amps while recording with plugins, it could prove to be essential.
More info: NAMM 2017 hands-on review: DigiTech FreqOut
Mooer Devin Townsend Ocean Machine
After many months of refinement, Mooer and Devin Townsend’s all-encompassing delay, reverb and looper is finally here, and marks a big step up from the increasingly innovative Chinese company.
Boasting two independent delays with 19 types, and nine reverb sounds, the Ocean Machine serves up a huge breadth of tones, with enough in-depth functionality to make this an affordable alternative to units from Strymon, Boss and co.
Claiming to be “the first real sustain pedal for electric instruments”, the PLUS Pedal adopts a proper piano-style sustain format and delivers remarkably similar sounds.
It’s more natural than similar concepts, such as the Electro-Harmonix Freeze, while the ability to alter the rise, sustain and tail of the sound allows players to tune the sound just the way they want it.
Expanding on the Canadian co’s best-selling Superdelay, the EchoSystem features two stereo delay engines, which can be used separately, in parallel or series for more creative approaches to the effect.
25 types are onboard (including, yes, a Whisky mode), which can be updated via an SD card, all of which are capable of getting seriously weird. We can’t wait for this one to land later on this year.
Source Audio Ventris
It was only in beta form at the show, but the Ventris marks the latest addition to Source Audio’s range of processors, with 24 reverb types and dual DSP hardware, so there’s no dropout when switching sounds.
With tones ranging from spring, plate and room to shimmer, swell, modulation and pitch-shifted types, the Ventris looks set to do for reverb what the Nemesis did for delay: master it.
This was kept locked away at the show, but its touchscreen interface continued to impress behind closed doors.
As you’d expect, there’s a gargantuan range of sounds on offer, with presets accessed via 12 footswitches, which each feature their own OLED display for easy tone-surfing.
As well as the FreqOut, DigiTech was showcasing the Rubberneck, an analogue delay packing quadruple BBDs for over a second of warm, musical delay time.
The real fun lies in the double footswitches, however, which offer momentary control of oscillation and pitch-bending via the pedal’s unique ‘Rubbernecking’ feature. You have to hear it.
More info: DOD drops Rubberneck analog delay
Promising to "dynamically shape your tone" in the same way a speaker cabinet would, the Iconoclast delivers a direct output for consistent amp tone at any volume and in nearly any setting.
A studio-quality noise gate and built-in headphone amp could make this an indispensable recording tool.
T-Rex Binson Echorec
Following the success of the ingenious Replicator tape delay last year, T-Rex has put together an exact replica of the original Binson Echorec but with an extra record head for longer delay times.
We couldn’t hear it at the show, but we’re assured it’s faithful to the original concept, function and features. Colour us excited.
Orange Acoustic Pre
The Brit amp co’s first ever acoustic product, the Acoustic Pre is a stereo valve preamp and active DI, designed for the stage and studio alike.
The two channels can be used independently or blended together, and have already won the attention of Stevie Wonder and Martin Taylor.
This is a premium piece of kit, however, and we’ve been told the price will be around £750 when it launches later this year.
Keeley D&M Drive
With the dream team of FX legend Robert Keeley and That Pedal Show’s Mick Taylor and Dan Steinhardt, you’d expect a collaborative effort to deliver the goods, and this one’s already causing quite a stir.
A dual overdrive with a full-range drive on one side (Dan) and a more mid-pushed sound on the other (Mick), the D&M can be stacked in either order, and from what we’ve heard, is destined to fulfil just about any overdrive need.
A second entry for Mooer is its line of 10 preamps, which have been closely modelled on real amps, from Marshall and EVH to Vox and Two-Rock - they were described to us as being like single amp profiles in a mini pedal format.
Running through a prototype valve power amp, each pedal certainly captures the sonic character of its inspiration, with dual channel switching and touch responsiveness. At just $99 each, these could cause a revolution on pedalboards worldwide - Mooer already has the next 10 lined up apparently…
More info: Mooer teases 10 guitar preamp mini pedals
EarthQuaker Devices Space Spiral
There were more new delay pedals at NAMM this year than ever before, but as always, EarthQuaker managed to stand out from the crowd with this tripped-out take on tape delay.
An onboard modulation engine goes from a subtle wash to full-on seasick with a twist of the shape control. And yes, it oscillates. Boy, does it oscillate.
Chase Bliss Audio Brothers
Trust Chase Bliss Audio to take a fresh look at overdrive. A collaboration with Resonant Electronic, Brothers features six unique boost, drive and fuzz circuits that can be routed in 33 ways.
Like the rest of CBA’s output, sounds from Brothers can be saved and recalled digitally, either on the pedal or via MIDI, but the actual drive sounds are pure analogue. Trust us, this is one to watch.
Seymour Duncan Andromeda
The pickup mogul’s most advanced pedal yet, the Andromeda is a fully programmable digital delay with dynamic control, which allows guitarists to adjust how it reacts in real time using pick attack.
Most settings - such as mix, modulation and saturation - can be adjusted, while a choice of eight delay types, with tone and modulation knob adjustment, offer versatility, too.
Its range of types may not compete with Empress, Mooer and co, but the Andromeda has its own thing going on, and the delay voicing is spot-on.