The unveiling of the DigiTech Whammy pedal in 1989 provoked as many scratched heads as it did whoops of excitement— what exactly was this for? But it wasn’t long before a young Tom Morello demonstrated the musical possibilities inherent in the machine. And in the ensuing decades, guitarists from Jim Hall to Jonny Greenwood have discovered endless ways to employ this modern classic. DigiTech’s latest version—the Whammy DT ($299 street) is not an update, but a radical evolution.
The left side of the Whammy DT (which stands for drop tuning) retains all the familiar effects—harmonies, pedal pitch-shifting, dive bombing, shallow and deep chorus—but DigiTech’s new harmonization engine not only adds improved tracking and reduced artifacts, it now allows polyphonic whammy effects. The right-side addition to this model is the Drop Tune section, which has a Shift knob that polyphonically tunes the pitch down as far as seven semitones, a full octave, or an octave down plus dry. The same knob also raises the pitch up to seven semi-tones higher— a “virtual capo”—as well as octave up and octave up plus dry.
A momentary switch on the DT side lets you go instantly from a dry signal to a re-tuned up or down preset to create hammer- on and pull-off effects. The switch can be alternately programmed for a dry sound when held down and adding the effect when released, but this option deactivates another new feature of the DT— true bypass—in favor of DSP switching. Hands free operation can be had through a MIDI input or an optional 3-way switch that chooses sides and scrolls through the presets.
I tested the Whammy DT with a Fernandes T-type, a 1965 Fender Stratocaster, and a Fender Blacktop Jazzmaster through Orange Tiny Terror, Carr Sportsman, and Goodsell Dominatrix 18 amps. The standard Whammy effects revealed fewer artifacts as advertised, but the real fun began when exploring the DT’s new options. Remember the Steinberger TransTrem that let you shift chords in perfect tune? The DT’s polyphonic whammy meant I could emulate this effect with ease, gliding a full Dmaj7 chord down to a Cmaj7 or swooping up to an Emaj7.
Moving over to the DT side, I found even fewer artifacts, as the processing power necessary to deal with the treadle could now be channeled solely to pitch shifting. Virtual baritone and bass guitar detunings approached the sound of actual detuned guitars, especially when distortion was involved.
Also very cool was being able to perform Whammy tricks with the guitar dropped to D or C—yes, you can use both sides together! And drop tuning down to C and switching between fourths and fifths with the treadle evoked eerie Gregorian monk chants.
The DigiTech Whammy has gone from an oddity to an essential item in the arsenals of adventurous guitarists around the world, and one can only contemplate the amazing new sounds inventive musicians will wring from this version. With the DT, DigiTech has exponentially improved and extended the functionality of the classic Whammy pedal, and that earns it an Editors’ Pick Award.
KUDOS True bypass. Enhanced, glitch-free tracking and drop tuning.
CONTACT DigiTech, (801) 566-8800; digitech.com.