Musical equipment technology has been advancing at an astounding rate over the last several years, and the iStomp by DigiTech is no exception to this revolution of gear innovation. This single-button stompbox looks disarmingly simple, but it differs from anything else on the planet by allowing the user to load and store any single effect that’s available in DigiTech’s Stomp Shop software app for iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch (iOS 4.0 and later). And unlike other app-based effects systems designed for Apple devices, once an effect is loaded into iStomp you simply disconnect it from your iPhone and use the pedal just as you would any other stompbox. The important point here is that all of the processing power is in the iStomp— and there’s a huge amount of it too—so the effects sound and feel much more realistic than those that rely on the limited datacrunching capability of an iPhone.
There are currently 26 effects available from Stomp Shop (many more will be added in the coming months), which range in price from $.99 to $9.99. Another great feature of this system is that you can try out any effect for five minutes free of charge— and there’s no limit to the number of free trials either. Once you purchase an effect, it automatically loads into a “My Pedals” library on your iPhone. So if you decide to change from, say, a distortion pedal to a delay, the effect you swapped out is always available if you decide to reinstall it or load it on another iStomp.
Outwardly, the iStomp pedal is a straightforward looking unit that features a sturdy metal housing with dual 1/4" input and output jacks. The four knurled metal knobs have a high-quality glide when rotated, and the pedal is topped off with a roadworthy mechanical bypass switch. The ability to manually select the color of the status LED is especially handy if you’ve got more that one iStomp on your pedalboard.
Once I had all of the components unpacked, the Quick Start Guide prompted me to download the DigiTech Stomp Shop app into my iPhone, which took less than 60 seconds. At this point you’ll notice that you get two pedals for free: the Redline Overdrive and the Total Recall Delay. These are great effects to start with. The Redline has a very organic and amp-like distortion sound that works great for rock rhythm playing or for super-searing solos with the Gain all the way up. The effect is also very responsive to changes in guitar volume.
I also found the Total Recall Delay (one of the three delay choices) to be a very inspiring sounding true-stereo effect that offers up to one second of delay time, is dead quiet, and features a tap-tempo function on the bypass button.
Moving on to some of the other effects, the Amp Driver ($4.99) is well suited for hitting the front end of your amp with a hotter signal to elicit sonic breakup without altering the amp’s fundamental tone. The high output made it possible to get any note to feed back, even at low amp volumes. For a classic TS-808-style overdrive tone, the Screamer ($4.99) does a great job of delivering that tube-flavored distortion with enhanced midrange presence—the extra gain is a welcome bonus too.
The Glimmer Drive ($9.99), which is modeled on the Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive, allows you to mix in an unaffected clean signal to the overdriven sounds to create clearer and more articulate distortion tones. The pedal can be used as a clean boost as well, and the tone stays completely clean even when the Clean Mix knob is dimed.
The Fuzzy ($9.99) replicates the grittiness and even some of the dynamic qualities of a good Fuzz Face, and Spring Tank ($.99) sounds every bit as deep, wet, and spacious as a Fender Twin’s reverb in a side-by-side comparison. I also found the CE Chorus ($9.99), Opto-Tremolo ($6.99), and the Stone Phaser ($9.99) to be excellent-sounding two-knob modulation effects that offer rich tonal textures without overpowering the basic character of the amp.
All considered, iStomp is a highly useful tool for any player that needs an inexpensive way to keep a variety of quality sounding effects at their fingertips. Because it uses its own DSP to create highly realistic effects, iStomp is a unique animal in the kingdom of iOS-enabled modeling devices. So if you like the concept of having a closet full of effects in your iPhone, but still want the solid feel and sonic vibe of a pedal under your foot, iStomp is the way to go.
CONTACT DigiTech, (801) 566-8800; digitech.com
PRICE $149 street
CONNECTIVITY Two 1/4" inputs, two 1/4" outputs, iOS jack (connector cable included)
POWER 9VDC (power supply included)
KUDOS Rugged construction. Easy touch-and-go operation. Excellent- sounding effects.
CONCERNS Pedal does not indicate what effect is active, and control functions must be labeled or remembered. No battery power.