Pedal to the Metal
Regardless of what you may have heard, the guitar effect pedal boom is far from over. In fact, it has reached a point where there are more independent pedal manufacturers than ever before.
Boutique pedal companies have found a surprisingly wide audience among professional and amateur musicians alike.
Even more importantly, many of these companies don’t see themselves as being in competition with each other. Instead, they focus on the unique sounds that they have to offer and welcome opportunities for collaboration.
And since many of these companies don’t have to answer to anyone except for themselves and the actual players, there has been a significant rise in the creation of some very strange effects pedals.
In this article, we’ll take a look at just a few profoundly trippy guitar pedals and explore what makes them different and exciting.
We should note, however, that in most cases, you’re going to have to pay a premium if you want this kind of originality and inventiveness in your rig.
These effects alone could very well change your genre.
Earthquaker Devices – Interstellar Orbiter
If we’re going by the description, this pedal is a dual resonant filter. The fun really comes in the ability of those filters to modulate themselves, in opposite directions.
The sounds are swooshy, spacey, and altogether inspiring.
According to the folks at Earthquaker, the pedal was originally designed specifically for Kid Koala, to be used as an element of audience participation during his performances.
As with many other Earthquaker pedals (all of which are assembled here in the United States) the Interstellar Orbiter has tons of knobs, making it a delight for any musicians who love to tweak and fine-tune their sound.
Meris – Enzo
The Enzo pedal is one of the more recent pedals on our list. It follows along with a modern trend among effects pedals manufacturers, namely of putting a synthesizer insider the pedal so that it can interact with whatever sound you put into it.
In other words, it takes a guitar sound (or any other line-level sound) and turns it into a beefy synth sound, which you can then modify.
It includes synth filters, envelopes, ring modulation, and time-modifying effects.
But all of those options come at a price. The Enzo pedal from Meris costs $299 brand new. But if you’re a musician who loves to experiment with different sounds and plug in much more than just a guitar, then it might be worth the investment.
Hungry Robot – Wardenclyffe
For years, many different guitar effects pedals have made it their mission to make a guitar or bass sound more futuristic.
But the Wardenclyffe has a completely different objective, namely to make instruments sound more like they’ve been recorded on very old analog equipment.
It has a low pass filter, high pass filter, and a pitch modulator to make for some highly inventive sounds.
If you’re a fan of the lo-fi sound, this is the pedal for you. Best of all, you can use it with much more than just your guitar.
Plug in a keyboard or even a drum machine and see what happens.
Hologram Electronics – Infinite Jets
According to legend, the Infinite Jets was one of the most popular pedals of 2017. And that makes a lot of sense.
For one thing, it’s an incredibly unique pedal, one that didn’t really have an equivalent at the time of its release.
But what does it do? Well, it listens to the sounds you play and samples two different pieces of sound at a time, according to the parameters you set.
From there, it modulates those sounds and plays them back, even looping them if you so choose.
The pedal draws its name from two things. The first is the classic postmodern novel Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, and the second is the pedal’s own capability for infinite sustain.
If you want, these sounds can play indefinitely. You can leave the house, have a bite, and this pedal will still be cranking out surreal sounds.
In terms of style, this pedal is best suited for anyone who enjoys created ambient music. And along those lines, it basically does all of the work for you.
You can check out the full review of the Infinite Jets petal here.
Industrialectric – 4046-M
Now we’re getting to the really weird pedals.
The Industrialectric 4046-M is an absolute monster. Whatever sound you put into it, what comes out is going to sound very, very different.
This is another pedal that contains a synth, specifically a PLL circuit. It also allows for some unique patching opportunities to help you discover strange new sounds.
This is a pedal for anyone who enjoys noise, fuzz, and the sounds of metal pots and pans being slammed into each other.
We should also note that this pedal has been discontinued, and if you want to grab one for yourself, you’ll have to find it on the resale market, where it will be priced high and ready to move.
Landscape – Stereo Field
If you’re a fan of modular synthesis, then you’re already familiar with the idea of path points. They offer the opportunity to reroute specific elements of the synth in order to create unique new sounds.
The Stereo Field pedal by Landscape takes that same basic idea and runs with it.
And while you can indeed use traditional patch cables to make new sounds, you can also use the touch pads, which allow you to use your own fingers as patch cable substitutes.
In other words, the pedal quickly becomes its very own instrument, one that encourages experimentation rather than careful adherence to a user manual.
Dwarfcraft Devices – Ghost Fax!
The Ghost Fax pedal is another effect that makes use of modular synth concepts.
On a basic level, it’s a phase computer, but it’s also much more than that. It’s an opportunity to find sounds that you’ve probably never even heard before.
The Ghost Fax also offers a slew of hidden controls for the dedicated user.
Best of all, it can be used within many different genres of music, adding some unique flair to your guitar sound.
If you’d like to get a better sense for what the pedal really sounds like, we highly recommend checking out some review videos online.