Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #29
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
Digitech has been at the forefront of pitch manipulation in guitar technology since the release of its classic Whammy pedal in the early '90s and now the US company is back with the Drop, a dedicated drop tune pedal that allows detuning of the guitar signal from one semitone all the way down to a full octave. As a modern Rock and Heavy Metal guitar specialist I am all too accustomed to the hassles of detuning, and in particular gigging with multiple guitars to accommodate a range of different tunings, so this pedal seems like a potential godsend in terms of gigging practicality!
The Drop wears its heritage on its sleeve with the distinctive red paintjob and lettering found on the classic Whammy pedal. It also features the same LED indicator set-up for moving through different tunings (essential for confirming you’ve set it right on a gig!) and the same black scroll-wheel to control it. This eye-catching aesthetic has lost none of its appeal and absolutely screams Rock and Roll! Digitech is one of the largest guitar effects manufacturers in the world and the construction is everything you would expect; solid and faultless.
In terms of functionality, the pedal takes the guitar signal fed into it and detunes it completely by however many semitones the user desires. The idea is to be able to play a guitar that’s tuned to standard tuning (or whichever tuning you wish) and then manipulate the signal so that it sounds as if the guitar is tuned to a lower pitch. The practical application of this is enormous; from tuning quickly to Eb to play along with classic Rock records and downtuning the guitar by a tone for just one song on a gig (perhaps to aid a singer) through to pitch-shifting down a full octave for bass emulation and more extreme pitch variation.
In practice I found the Drop pedal to track fantastically regardless of elements such as fast picking and heavy palm-muting, two classic foes of this style of effect. When the pedal was downtuning the signal by a few semitones I was surprised and impressed by the transparency of the effect, in fact beyond usable I would describe it as recordable in terms of accuracy. As the tuning became more extreme the tone was noticeably more digitalised, especially a full octave down, but still produced a pleasing sound that I think would be useable despite its noticeably effected tone, albeit not one to rely on for a full song or set.
One thing I was keen to experiment with was applying the detune effect to my 7-string guitar. With the current trend for extended range guitars in Heavy Metal I was curious to see if this pedal would be able to handle the super-low notes involved in pushing my low B string down to the F# of an 8-string guitar or even the ridiculously low C# of a 9-string instrument! The C# proved to be a bit of a stretch for the Drop (although in my opinion it’s proving to be a bit of a stretch for guitars in general!), but the pedal comfortably converted the B string down to an F# for realistic 8-string emulation. I think this will really appeal to 7-string players, many of whom are interested in experimenting with the lower pitches without making the full-time conversion to an 8-string guitar.
Beyond the basic function of the pedal, Digitech have thought of a few nice additions that really open up the unit to creative applications. The first of these is a Momentary On/Off switch that will change the footswitch from a latching to a momentary switch depending on how it’s set; when latching the pedal works in the traditional manner as an on/off switch but when set to momentary the pedal is only on when the pedal is pressed and held, switching off again the moment you release your foot. This is great for fast trills, stuttering effects and dropping just one or two notes, perhaps in a riff originally designed for Drop-D or similar tunings, and is something that I can really see being used in all manner of other creative ways once players start to get their hands on this unit.
Another feature of the pedal is the OCT + DRY setting which sees a blend between the dry guitar signal and the signal tuned down a full octave. This is an absolutely massive sound that I completely love, and hope to hear more bands using in Rock songs. Perfect for single note riffs and distortion, it also creates a cool funky sound through a clean channel that I think could have lots of real-world application as well. My only real gripe is that the Wet/Dry signal blend is only available for the Octave down detune setting; if you could blend the signal for any tuning it would open up the pedal so much for emulating harmony lines and would be a dream feature for all pub cover bands with a single guitarist in the line-up and a set-list including Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden covers!
Overall this is a fantastic product with lots of real world use and potential. From the practicality of retuning quickly for a singer in a live setting to the creative uses of the momentary switch and the blended setting, there’s something here for everyone. It’s difficult to imagine a guitarist that wouldn’t have a use for this pedal at some point in their gigging life, and considering they’re even including the power supply I think it’s extremely reasonably priced. Drop everything, you need one of these
The Luxe is Digitech’s first stand-alone polyphonic detune pedal, provocatively tagged the ‘Anti-Chorus’ pedal. I was a little unsure what to expect from this one, but Digitech’s own marketing blurb confidently proclaims ‘the Luxe simply just makes everything sound better’. Ignoring the pleonasm (out with the dictionaries, gentlemen! - Ed), I was curious to see exactly what Digitech has created that has led it to make such a bold statement.
The first thing that struck me when I opened the box was that this pedal is definitely not going to make your pedalboard look better; its hideous 1970’s graphic reminded me of an old set of plates handed down to me by my parents when I first moved out of home. Although cosmetics are obviously subjective, there wasn’t a single person present in the studio that day that disagreed with this point. I’ve never felt compelled to cover a pedal with a paper bag before, but it came pretty close to happening during this review! (What's the bettinghe doesn't like Paisley Teles, either? - Ed)
Moving past this aesthetic failure I plugged the pedal in to give it a proper test drive. The Luxe takes the detune effect from Digitech’s classic Whammy pedal and adds positive and negative detune capabilities to add consistent ‘thickening’ to the signal without the modulating side effects of a chorus pedal. The pedal is controlled by a simple detune knob which is neutral when set at 12 o’clock and then adds a detuned voice either increasing or decreasing in pitch to a maximum of -50/+50 cents dependent on turning it either clockwise or anti-clockwise. The only other controls are a level knob that blends the dry/wet signal and an on/off true bypass switch with LED effect indicator.
After trying the Luxe out for myself I was convinced that it does indeed produce a pleasing ‘fattening’ of the sound when the detune effect is applied moderately. For clean chords, single notes, Blues drives and high gain sounds alike this pedal will create a widening effect that really helps to boost the impact of your pre-existing tone. This effect is ideal for guitarists playing in trios or other scenarios as the only guitarist in the band where the guitar may feel a little sparse, beefing up the tone to really fill out the full frequency spectrum. It would also be useful for similar applications in the studio.
While subtle application of the Luxe is obviously its primary purpose, fans of extreme effects and messing with their signal will also get a lot from this pedal. With the Detune knob cranked to the max in either direction the signal sounds truly unhinged, ideal for creating weird Buckethead-esque horror movie lead tones. Applied to a clean amp sound, fans of Korn will be able manipulate the Detune effect to make many of the freaky overdub sounds found on their records. Both of these ideas will have limited use and appeal, but it does make a good studio tool and for players looking for these kinds of sounds the Luxe offers them in a simple, easy-to-control pedal layout.
As expected from Digitech, the construction of the pedal is bullet proof with quality components used throughout. They’ve also included a 9VDC power supply in the box, which is a big plus, and overall I feel the unit is reasonably priced.
The Digitech Luxe isn't an essential pedal for every guitar player, but it’s not a toy either. Guitarists who have a genuine use for a pedal to ‘thicken up’ their live rig will find the Luxe a fantastic tool for widening their signal, and players who enjoy weird and unusual effects will similarly find the pedal an interesting addition to their arsenal. Whilst I feel the tag line about making ‘everything sound better’ is a bit of a reach on Digitech’s part, and I would most definitely recommend a trip to the optician for whoever approved that graphic, this is a quality product worthy of further investigation.