Guitar effects pedals used as professional studio tools? Yes, of course! While it is nothing new, the urge for music creators and instrumentalists to put their personal sonic stamp on their projects has driven the boutique pedal market to new highs. According to the Lippin Group, over the last decade the retail value of the effects pedal category has increased more than 45 percent, with a 13.7-percent gain in 2014 alone. For engineers, using guitar pedals is an affordable way to bring new flavors into tracking, overdub and mix applications. Pedal manufacturers have helped to make this more feasible by expanding lines to include some of the same features, algorithms, transistors, tubes, transformers, and pro I/O found in more expensive rack gear.
For example, Chandler Limited’s Germanium Drive Distortion ($335) and Little Devil Colored Boost ($335) pedals offer some of the same technology as the company’s 500 Series Little Devil Preamp ($899) and Germanium Preamp ($955). Radial Engineering’s Plexitube pedal is a 2-channel tube distortion unit that uses a 12AX7 tube along with a multi-stage solid-state drive circuit. Origin Effects’ pedals include high-end features such as balanced line/DI outputs, 1176 compressor modeling, and the option of adding Lundahl transformers. Other innovative features that take the common stomp box above and beyond includes Neunaber’s Pedal Customizer software that allows you to morph your Neunaber Stereo Pedal into any available effect in their line, making the jump between effects very affordable.
To make the jump from a balanced +4dB signal to an unbalanced instrument-level stomp pedal and back again you’ll need an interface. Porting options include Radial Engineering’s EXTC or EXTC-SA with Send and Receive level control plus single- or dual-channel loop options, respectively. Pigtronix’s Keymaster offers two pedal loops with a crossfader, while the Meris 440 500 Series preamp adds an unbalanced, ¼-inch effects loop. Another interface option is LittleLabs PCP, which is a 1-in, 3-out guitar splitter.
So who uses pedals in their workflow? Engineer Ross Hogarth (Van Halen, Keb’ Mo’) for one. “I am and will always be a big fan of stomp boxes,” says Hogarth. “As a guitar player I have been using them all my life and find that the use of a stomp box can be way more intuitive than a plug-in.” Hogarth likes the unique flavor that pedals bring to a production. “Some guitar pedals are unique, they will never be made into plug-ins,” he adds. “When you use them as an effect, you are using something that is not a widely used and known plug-in effect with a named preset.” Hogarth uses the LittleLabs PCP mentioned above, which let’s him re-amp, or connect up to three pedals at a time when he’s mixing in Pro Tools.
Our pedal roundup includes more than 25 manufacturers with our picks for two of their top pedals. Pedal effects include Drive, Distortion, Fuzz, Delay, Reverb, Pitch Shift, Chorus, Vibrato, Tremolo and more. You can easily shop by using the handy table, which includes our picks, prices and if you’re viewing Mix in digital form, a hyperlink to the company’s Website.