Monday, March 12, 2012


  So Digitech (my favorite guitar rack-unit company) has made a blank guitar pedal called "iStomp".  It has four knobs and with an iPhone or iPad you download a pedal's inner works into it (take about 30 seconds) then the iStomp becomes that pedal.  Graphically on the iPhone, the knobs correspond to the knobs on the box.  If the pedal graphic as 3 knobs, knobs 1-3 are functional, the last one is not.

  Digitech offers some of their classic pedals, such as the FX line, as well as some suspicious clones of the Ibanez Tube Screamer TS9 called the "Screamer Tube Overdrive".  The graphic on the iPhone looks suspiciously like the same.  There's several pedals like this, including a few Boss pedals (my favorite pedal chain pedals btw) such as the venerous Boss Octaver OC-2.  So Digitech sort of cheaply copies these in the same way movies have "mockbusters" such as Almighty Thor trying to cash-in on the arguably better summer-hit Thor.  Digitech's playing the Coming to America, "See, they got the Big Mac..  I got the Big MICK!!!"  Uh huh.
  What's sort of neet about it is that you can switch-out your pedals on the fly.  It comes with 10 or so cloned pedals, and then you can download others for $9.  What it comes down to is that you can spend $150 for this iStomp and have several pedals which normally cost $100 to $200 a piece.
  It has its shortcomings.  Like all Apple products, audio quality is lacking.  Now, the software is downloaded from the iPhone, the audio is actually then played from the guitar, to the iStomp, and then into an amplifier.  The problem is that all the pedal downloads sound cold and digital.  Digitech doesn't give info on the audio sample rate on their website or the THD or any goodies like that.  I suspect it's 16-bit as that's a cheap option.  It does seem to offer stereo out, which is good, and into a Marshall stack it might be okay.
  Another problem is you can only have one pedal at a time  This is like only have one item on your burger.  You can have cheese, but no pickle, ketchup, bun, salt, pepper, or onion.  You can have salt, but no.. well, you get the picture.  So.. you have to buy more iStomps for more effects, which becomes cost-prohibative and you'd be better off just buying the original pedals anyway.  I don't know too many people that use only one effect at a time for recording.  Some bands might sound like they do, but unless they're a punk band, playing fully raw, engineers usually secretly add reverb and a few other things at the end of the mix.  I suppose you could also do that, but who wants chorus all by itself on a clean-sounding guitar?  Or just a swirler like a cloned MXR Phase 90?  Odd, and rare.  Usually you'll have some classic distortion and maybe a little reverb and chorus.  I like to add a drop of delay, perhaps a spacial enhancer and run it through a series of 12AX7 tubes.  Often I'll add a bit of flanger to the mix during the crazy solos.
  This ends up being a single pedal for $150, albeit versatile.  Sonically, it sounds cold.  It's all  digitally devised, and the onboard processor is fairly weak.
  I'd say this item would be good in a pinch if you lost a pedal in concert and needed a rare replacement pronto, it'd make a good backup all-in-one pedal that could fill the place on-the-fly until you got a bona-fide 1984 Boss CH-2 MIJ for instance.  It'd also be good for kids who want a pedal, or want to try-out different pedals but have no clue as to what they might sound like, it'd be a good start.  This would also be good for the audiophile-retarded who think mp3 files sound "pretty good".  They don't.

  Here's Jack Black (aka gearmandude) on YouTube giving a decent review of it (as he always does) and leaves it open-minded and open-ended with an ambivalent response.

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