Just when you thought guitar pedals and effects couldn't get any better in 2017, gear designers stepped up their game and blew our collective lids in 2018. This year has been another incredible one for new toys to build, shape and destroy our tones with.
While it was really hard to narrow down a top five with so many great releases, I've come up with a list of my favorite pedals, synth modules, effects and beyond from the past year. Watch our video below to hear my top five in action and continue below for more expansive demos of each piece and some honorable mentions I couldn't leave out.
1. Universal Audio OX
Clearly this is not a pedal. Maybe it's an effect? However you want to categorize it, the Universal Audio OX was the most inspiring products of 2018 that I had the pleasure of demoing.
At the base level, there is the reactive load portion element of the OX. This allows you to play your amp at its sweet spot without getting the cops called on you at whisper quiet volumes. Need to level up to a bar, but have a massive rig that will blow everyone away? The OX has got you covered.
Once you have that sweet spot dialed in, the OX app digs in deeper with a digital mic locker, various speaker cab configurations and some of UA’s flagship outboard gear to turn your guitar tone into a completely finished tone. It's simply incredible.
- Premium, no-compromise analog reactive load box for tube guitar amps
- Five finely-tuned guitar amp attenuation levels from off, to whisper quiet, to full band volume
- Front-panel “Rig” control for instant, album-quality mic and speaker cabinet emulations
- Selectable 4, 8, and 16-Ohm operation
- Balanced TRS line outs, and S/PDIF digital outputs for stereo recording
2. Meris Enzo
I feel like I’ve been waiting for something like the Enzo since the Line 6 FM4, which was also designed by Angelo Mazzocco, chief engineer at Meris. Needless to say, almost no stone was left unturned with this pedal. They're all there; Poly, Mono, Arp and Pitch modes, with options for Triangle and Square waveforms, a stereo delay, ring mod, tremolo, compressor and more. That Arp mode though!!!
- Tunable Portamento Time for smooth transitions between synth notes and pitch shifts
- Sustain control for extending your volume envelope all the way to endless synth hold
- Adjustable Compressor with Threshold and Mix for your input signal (Dry mode)
- Custom 6 mode filter with frequency, bandwidth (resonance), and envelope
- Wide ranging Ring Modulation with ability to assign envelope control
- Stereo input and output
- MIDI in/out over TRS via the EXP jack
3. Chase Bliss Audio Condor
Just like Laura Palmer, the Chase Bliss Audio Condor is filled with secrets. An extremely detailed, parametric analog EQ covering multiple frequency ranges as well as a highly resonant high pass filter and a preamp with a clean and dirty gain stage.
Beneath all of this though is one of the most powerful modulation pedals on the market. Using the dip switch grid on the back of the pedal allows you to bounce and give motion to the different frequency bands rendering out choppy tremolo, bubbling filters and luscious Leslie effects.
- An analog multi-effect with controls for EQ, Overdrive, Boost, Tremolo and Filter tones. Powerful parametric mids control that ranges from 150Hz to 4kHz
- Three separate low pass filter or bass boost/cut modes
- Gain, volume knobs, and a switchable overdrive circuit
- Settings can be stored in presets, as well as ramped or controlled via expression pedal
4. Chase Bliss Dark World
Digital Brain / Digital Heart baby. That’s right, Chase Bliss has finally released a completely digital pedal, the Dark World reverb, in collaboration with Cooper FX and Robert Keeley. This dual reverb has two footswitchable sides that can be stack in either direction or ran in parallel.
The Dark side, designed by Cooper FX features their own unique takes on Shimmer, Freeze and Modulated reverb. This last reverb sounds like a ghostly reflection of your signal, ran through a broken, Betamax VHS player. The World side, designed by Robert Keeley, offers more of your traditional reverbs such as Spring, Plate and probably the best Hall reverb in a pedal I’ve played yet.
- In total, the Dark World’s channels can be routed in 33 distinct ways
- Dense digital control and full MIDI, dip-switch, and preset implementation
- The Mix, Dwell, Modify, Tone, and Pre-Delay dip switches in the left bank allow you to control parameters via Expression Pedal / CV.
5. Strymon Magneto
Strymon enters the modular world with the Magneto; a super tape delay with multiple routing options, four tape heads, a looper, spring reverb and much more. After plugging my guitar into the Magneto, I was blown away at how much ensemble and spacial accompaniment the module can create around your playing. Experimenting with the four tape heads allow for some traditional Echorec or Space Echo tapped delay effects.
- Tape-voiced delay machine with four playback heads and one record head
- Processor-intense dTape algorithm delivers meticulously nuanced recreations of vintage tape echo systems
- Three operational modes: Echo, Sound On Sound Looper, Phrase Sampler
- Varispeed algorithm with dynamic machine mechanics, 8:1 speed range
Honorable Mentions: Red Panda Tensor, Chase Bliss Thermae and Electro Harmonix Triangle Big Muff
If you'd like to learn more about Dustin's picks or any other effects or pedals, contact a Vintage King Audio Consultant via email or by phone at 866.644.0160.