The never-ending quest for killer effects pedals is an expensive and time-consuming passion that most electric guitar players will have to endure for much of their playing careers (unless you're lucky enough to hit on the perfect setup early on, of course). Effects veteran DigiTech has developed a stompbox that could well put that quest to bed. The iStomp effects pedal effectively starts life as a blank canvas onto which the user paints a wall of sound in the shape of a downloadable effect. Just like any other stompbox, the new pedal allows for fine adjustment of tone with parameter knobs, but if you fancy a brand new flavor of distortion or a completely different reverb to the one which is resident on the pedal, you can just buy the effect from DigiTech's online store and download it onto the iStomp via your iOS device.
Once you've learned the basics of playing the electric guitar, you'll likely next start to experiment with tone. If you don't head down the multi-effects path (with traditional models like the GR-55 from Roland or modern developments like DigiTech's iPB-10) then you're probably going to amass a large quantity of single-effect stompboxes. Until fairly recently, sound designers and engineers from the pedal makers determined much of what was made available to the user in terms of tone.
TC Electronic took a bold step around this time last year and invited famed guitarists to get under the hood of its TonePrint line of effects pedals and recreate the kind of signature sounds that have helped to shape their music. There's an open slot on each pedal that can be used to load in a TonePrint downloaded from the company's expanding library of custom tweaks, but a reverb pedal is still hard-wired as a reverb pedal. Users can't transform it into a distortion pedal or octaver.
With the launch of its new iStomp effects pedal, Harman's DigiTech has taken the user-customizable pedal a step further. The onboard AudioDNA2 digital signal processor allows users to load in any sound effect using an app on a connected iOS device. The new pedal has four parameter adjustment knobs on the top for fine tuning, that change function depending on which effect is loaded. These are joined by a stomp footswitch and an LED, the color of which can be changed through the app. Removable labels can be placed on the upper face to identify the loaded effect. Stereo 6.3mm in and out jacks sit on either side.
To get an effect onto the pedal, a user would download the chosen stompbox effect from the company's StompShop into the iStomp app of an iPod touch, iPhone or iPad. The iOS device is then connected to the pedal via the supplied DigiTech Smart Cable and the effect loaded courtesy of the app - overwriting whatever was there before. The app saves all purchases, but the StompShop also keeps a record of purchases for easy reload. Et voila ... the pedal now runs the effect that the user has chosen.
Players can also try before they buy, so to speak. The sound of each effect can be played through the iOS device or is available as a free five-to-ten minute demo to download onto the pedal and try with your own amp/guitar setup. Once you find what you're looking for, you can then choose to buy - effects start at US$4.99 each. The iStomp comes with two effects - Total Recall Delay and the Redline Overdrive - which need to be downloaded from the StompShop when first connected to an iOS device.
At launch, around 24 effects are available with more being added as time goes by, including exclusive DigiTech sonic designs, licensed sounds from other pedal manufacturers and legacy DigiTech and DOD classics. Multiple pedals can be linked to one iTunes account, allowing users to load any bought effect into any of their pedals, at any time.
Perhaps I'm being a bit of a greedy guitar geek, but I would have loved to see the ability to load in effects wirelessly and the system opened up to non-iOS users, be it Android, via laptop or whatever. I think that such a system would also benefit from a small color LCD panel on the front that automatically updates to the new effect's logo when loaded in, instead of having to swap a paper label to identify the effect on the pedal.
However, I'll definitely be badgering my local music emporium to get the iStomp stocked as soon as possible so I can have a go, and I'll be keeping an keen eye on future developments.
The new iStomp pedal is available this month for a suggested retail of US$229.95.
Have a look at the following promotional video to see exactly what's on offer: