Altering the tension of tuned strings through the influence of the tremolo or whammy bar on an electric guitar is an important part of any modern guitarist's trick bag. Early mechanical vibrato systems were notorious for throwing the instrument out of tune, and although huge improvements have been made over the years, intense or brutal use of some modern systems can still lead to problems. In 1989, DigiTech launched a pedal-based solution called the WH-1 Whammy, that offered players the same pitch altering capabilities of hardware systems, as well as additional harmony and detune effects, without any of the associated tuning hassles. Over 20 years later, and looking very much like the iconic original, the fifth version of the Whammy is currently being readied for release and brings something new to the party – the unique Chordal Pitch-Shifting.
Like the original, which is still very much in demand despite its production run ending in 1993, the Whammy V features nine Harmony 2-note interval settings for some Wishbone Ash-like twin guitar goodness without needing to hire a second guitarist, and two Detune modes. The onboard vibrato or whammy effects have now been increased to ten, however, and are now offered in two distinct flavors.
The heart of the beast is the classic single-note Whammy sound used to great effect by such guitar luminaries as David Gilmour, Joe Satriani, Jimmy Page, Steve Vai, Tom Morello, and John Frusciante over the last 20 years or so. Guitar and bass players can virtually raise tuned strings by up to two octaves and down by up to three, and use the expression pedal to produce anything from sweet and subtle to wild and extreme pitch shifts. Pushing the toe end down increases the pitch bend and toe up decreases the amount.
DigiTech has also included new pitch-shifting technologies and algorithms that enable a player to bend entire chords up or down while keeping all the notes within the chord in tune. Users can choose between classic and chordal modes via a toggle button on the front and individual settings are selected with a control knob, with an LED indicating which settings are active.
True bypass circuitry also features, and means that the unit doesn't muddy or color the tone when not in use. Its 24-bit/96kHz analog-to-digital and digital-to analog converters are said to result in a clean, smooth pitch-bending sound, the unit's frequency response runs from 20Hz to 20kHz, and the total harmonic distortion (at 1kHz) is reported as 0.004 percent.
The 6.5 x 7.75 x 2.5-inch (165.1 x 196.8 x 63.5 mm), 3.6-pound (1.6-kg) Whammy V can also be controlled from an external MIDI device via the included 5-pin MIDI input, has an all-metal chassis that's built to withstand life on the road and is powered via a 9-volt DC input.
The Whammy V is set for availability this month for a suggested retail price of US$299.95, although the street price is likely to be somewhat lower.