Winter NAMM 2016 was packed with more pedals than ever. It was impossible to check out everything, but we were floored by all that we did see.
While it was hard to narrow down our favorites, here are 12 pedals that we think you absolutely must put on your demo list in 2016.
When you’re done here, check out our complete list of NAMM products, where you’ll find even more great gear, including guitars, amps and accessories.
BOSS WAZA CRAFT VB-2W VIBRATO
Originally produced from 1982 to 1986, the VB-2 Vibrato is a rare Boss pedal that has become highly prized on the used market through the years. Featuring true pitch modulation, VB-2 Vibrato let guitarists create rich, expressive and consistent controlled vibrato at moderate settings and warbles and special effects at extreme settings.
The Waza Craft VB-2W is a recreation of the original with added range and control. In Standard mode, it faithfully reproduces the warm, BBD-driven analog tone of the VB-2. Like the original, the user can adjust the vibrato rate and depth, and also control the “rise time” it takes for the effect to reach full intensity. A Latch setting provides normal stomp-box on/off control, while Unlatch engages the effect only when the pedal switch is held, which is perfect for naturally applying vibrato effects as needed while playing.
In Custom mode, the VB-2W produces a newly developed vibrato tone with more depth. In addition, a low-pass filter moves along with the pitch for bold low-range tones. The VB-2W also features a jack for controlling the effect depth with an optional expression pedal, or via the powerful external control capabilities of the Boss ES-8 Effects Switching System.
For more information, visit Boss.
SEYMOUR DUNCAN CATALINA CHORUS
Seymour Duncan’s Catalina Dynamic Chorus pedal has a unique Dynamic Expression mode that lets players control the depth of the effect through the intensity of their playing. A threshold control lets players dial in the sensitivity of the Dynamic Expression feature to perfectly match any playing style.
Catalina also has controls for mix, rate, depth, delay and tone, and it uses analog Bucket-Brigade Devices (BBDs) supported by modern low-noise analog electronics. The footswitch is true bypass, for the most pure signal when the pedal is not in use.
For more information, visit Seymour Duncan.
TC ELECTRONIC DITTO X4 LOOPER
The latest innovation in TC Electronic’s line of loopers, the Ditto X4 Looper features dual loop tracks, seven loop effects, loop decay and MIDI sync to allow the creation of multilayered sonic masterpieces.
Made by guitarists for guitarists, it is simple to use, involving no drum machines, deep-editing menus or other time-consuming tech.
Other features include loop decay, true bypass and analog dry-through,
stereo inputs and outputs, and the ability to import free StarJam loops. The X4 runs on an included nine-volt adapter.
For more information, visit TC Electronic.
KEELEY ELECTRONICS TONE WORKSTATION
Keeley Electronics’ Tone Workstation is based on four of Keeley’s effect pedals: the Compressor, the Katana Boost, and the 1962 and Red Dirt overdrive boxes. Together, they form a versatile three-channel effect box that delivers a wide range of core tones.
Chief engineer Robert Keeley says the Tone Workstation “combines many of our most popular tube amplifier tones. giving players a huge range of gain stages in a single box format.”
The classic Keeley Compressor lets guitarists build a thick, sustaining tone with attack and release set for either humbuckers or single coils. The blend control lets you set the perfect ratio of natural guitar tone to compressed tone to keep your sound lively and crisp.
The 1962/Katana Boost delivers British amp-style overdrive, or clean boost at the flick of a switch. The Red Dirt overdrive provides a smooth and saturated midrange boost channel featuring Keeley’s JFET front end. This circuit captures every nuance of your guitar's tone and delivers a high gain, smooth lead tone.
The Keeley Electronics Tone Workstation begins shipping February 28 with a street price of $299.
For more information, visit Keeley Electronics.
PLUS GUITARS, AMPS, AND ACCESSORIES.
AMPTWEAKER TIGHTMETAL ST
Amptweaker’s TightMetal pedal has become a mainstay for metal players since its introduction in 2011. The TightMetal ST adds several popular features found on its siblings—FatMetal, TightRock and FatRock—including a high-gain switch to select vintage or modern high-gain distortion.
Amptweaker’s proprietary SideTrak loop is on only when the TightMetal ST is off, allowing players to alternate clean effects, or another distortion pedal, with a single stomp. This eliminates the typical stomp-box tap-dance. The unit’s rear effect loop works only when the pedal is on, so you can patch a delay or chorus, or even an extra EQ or boost for further tweaking. It can be set pre or post distortion, making this pedal a simple but powerful centerpiece for your pedalboard.
Other features include a built-in noise gate to stop notes hard and fast, a thrash EQ switch for a deeper mid-scoop, and a tight control to dial in the attack of the notes from thick and heavy to aggressive and chunky.
For more information, visit Amptweaker.
HUNGRY ROBOT PEDALS, THE WASH
Hungry Robot’s Wash pedal creates an organic, below-the-mix wash of ambience that would typically require that you stack three to four reverb and delay pedals at the end of your chain. Its unique Wash circuit creates the perfect wash with only one pedal.
At its most basic utility, The Wash is an outstanding analog-voiced, tap-tempo delay with just over 1000ms of delay time. The Wash can be used independently as a standalone delay or with in conjunction with the Wash circuit, which is engaged with the right-side footswitch.
Engaging the Wash circuit adds reverb to the signal and sends it through a complicated network of internal feedback loops, subtle multi-head Binson effect. This creates a “ripple effect,” controllable with the Ripple knob, in which each successive delay trail slowly scatters and transforms into reverb. It adds a hauntingly beautiful wash to your signal in ways that can't be accomplished by stacking reverbs and delays in series. It does all of this while keeping the clarity and presence of your original signal without getting lost in the soup of decay.
Other features include a resonance knob is to fine-tune the resonance and decay of the wash, and a knob to control the mix/level of the wash.
The Wash retails for $250.
For more information, visit Hungry Robot Pedals.
NEUNABER AUDIO EFFECTS IMMERSE REVERBERATOR
The Neunaber Immerse houses eight stellar stereo reverbs: wet, hall, plate, spring, shimmer (x2), wet+echo, and wet+detune. Simply select the effect using the center knob, and the outer four knobs can be used to adjust its parameters to your preference.
The Immerse has controls for effect select, effect level, reverb depth, tone and effect adjust. Its I/Os can be used in mono or stereo, and it features a high-quality buffered bypass. A Kill Dry switch is provided for parallel effect loops, and there’s a switch to allow normal bypass or allow trailing ends to decay naturally. The pedal is powered by a standard nine-volt power supply (70 mA minimum), not included, and is designed and manufactured in California.
The Immerse will retail for $225 and be available for preorder beginning February 1, with the pedal available March 1.
For more information, visit Neunaber Audio Effects.
EARTHQUAKER DEVICES BOWS GERMANIUM PREAMP
EarthQuaker Devices released eight great new pedals at NAMM 2016. While that initially made choosing just one pedal difficult, we decided on the Bows, a single-knob Germanium preamp that offers tremendous tones and versatility.
The Bows is a Germanium preamp designed around a rare NOS OC139 black glass transistor. For being a little one-knobber the Bows wears many hats. Right out of the box it's got several tone shaping abilities spread between two modes: Full and Treble.
Full mode is warm with a lot of body and low end. Treble mode is a resonant, treble booster with a “cocked wah” tone that can drive any tube amp into harmonic rich distortion territory. Each mode has a little bit of grit to start with, but as you get passed 12 o'clock on either setting their subtleties are accented. The vowel-like sound out of the Treble side will be more prevalent as you bring the Level up. Doing the same on Full mode will get you a nice, full bodied crunch tone that retains clarity.
Place any drive pedal before the Bows and it's another story. Full mode turns a dirt signal into a crumbling wall of sonic chaos, while Treble mode becomes an ultimate lead tone.
Street Price: $145
For more information, visit EarthQuaker Devices.
PLUS GUITARS, AMPS AND ACCESSORIES.
ELECTRO-HARMONIX SOUL POG
Electro-Harmonix has combined the Soul Food Transparent Overdrive and Nano POG Polyphonic Octave Generator in one powerful multi-effect.
The Soul Food’s clean boost, enhanced touch response and added headroom make it a pedal many players never turn off. With its drive and volume controls turned up, the Soul Food will readily drive a tube amp into saturation while still retaining clarity and definition.
The Nano POG builds on the legacy of EHX’s POG series of effects pedals to provide a polyphonic sub-octave and octave up with fault-free tracking and sound.
Together in the Soul POG, the Soul Food and Nano POG retain all the controls each possesses as a standalone pedal and can be used independently or linked together with either appearing first in the chain. A built-in effect loop has been added to let the user insert other pedals between the two.
In addition, a Mode switch in the Nano POG lets the player select the algorithm used for the octave-up sound. In one position, it’s optimized for fast, single-note playing, while in the other the harmonic content of chords is enhanced.
The Soul POG comes equipped with a standard EHX9.6DC 200mA power supply. It has a list price of $381.40 and is available now.
For more information, visit Electro-Harmonix.
ASPEN PITTMAN DUO TONIC
Aspen Pittman Designs Duo Tonic Overdrive is an innovative tube-based preamp/overdrive/boost pedal that delvers true cranked-tube sound at any volume.
The Duo Tonic feeds its solid-state overdrive side into the tube section to emulate the sound of a tube amp being pushed hard. The solid-state side can be used to nudge a tube amp toward saturation, or you can use the tube section like a new channel on your amplifier, all the while having a separate JRC4558 based overdrive to push any of your tones into crunchier territory. Better yet, use both sides together and let the distortion run wild.
Inside, a genuine pair of military-spec 6205 pentode tubes drives the tube section. The overdrive/boost side delivers classic mid-hump drive tones thanks to a JRC4558 chip. Together, they offer touch sensitivity and authentic drive just like you’ll get on a tube amp.
The Duo Tonic has a price of $349.
For more information, visit Aspen Pittman Designs.
CAST ENGINEERING CASPER DELAY
The Casper brings classic analog delay tones in a compact, digital pedal. Although it’s simple and to the point, it’s also very dynamic and versatile.
The analog signal path flows through a custom-tuned echo processor that offers a wide variety of sounds, from quirky trash can type tones to classic slap back to dreamy soundscapes. Unique “Ghost Lit” control knobs allow you to set repeats, delay time and level.
The Casper delay has up to 700ms of delay time, and in internal trim pot adjusts the amount of feedback, from the edge of self oscillation to the classic analog space noises we all love. The pedal runs on nine-volt battery or standard nine-volt negative-tip power supply. It’s designed and hand-built in Atlanta, Georgia, and comes with a lifetime warranty.
The Casper delay lists for $199.99
For more information, visit CAST Engineering.
ALEXANDER PEDALS LA CALAVERA PHASER
La Calavera’s three modes offer a wide range of phasing possibilities. Suave mode contains a 10-stage studio-style phase shifter for lush swirl with adjustable depth and feedback. Dinámica mode features a four-stage stomp-box phaser design, where the phase speed is controllable by the player’s touch. The Loco mode combines a six-stage phase shifter with an adjustable ring modulator for otherworldly effects.
Each phaser mode has a full wet/dry mix control for dialing in any amount of phase or vibrato, and a wide-ranging rate control offers speeds from glacial to ray-gun. The intensity controls the phaser sweep range, while the tweak knob controls a different set of parameters in each mode. La Calavera runs on nine-volt battery or standard DC input.
La Calavera is shipping now and carries a suggested retail price of $189.99. Alexander Pedals donates a portion of all profits towards the goal ending childhood cancer.
For more information, visit Alexander Pedals.