If you’re a guitar player who spends a lot of time looking at other people’s guitar rigs on Instagram – and let’s face it, if you’re reading this, you almost certainly are – then you’ll know that when it comes to building your pedalboard, space is key and getting that layout just right is equal parts art, maths and architecture.
Ultimately, no matter how much we all love pedals (and friends, we surely do all LOVE pedals) we’re all ultimately trying to do the same thing. Whether you’re squeezing as many micro-pedals onto a Pedaltrain Nano as you can or filling in every spare inch of your double-decker Schmidt Array colossus, we’re all trying to get as much tone and versatility out of the real estate we have.
And that’s where the Ernie Ball VPJR Tuner comes along, and why it might point the way to an even more efficient future for pedalboards everywhere.
The basic idea of the VPJR Tuner is a simple but hugely compelling one – why have two pedals when you can have one to do the same job? This is not a new concept, of course – multi-function stompboxes that combine a couple of different pedal types into one box have been with us for decades now, but the trick of the VPJR Tuner is in what it combines, and how it does it.
For the uninitiated, the VPJR Tuner combines the venerable and industry-standard Ernie Ball VPJR volume pedal and marries it with a digital tuner that’s displayed via an enhanced definition touchscreen display built into the top of the treadle.
With the greatest respect to the tuner and the volume pedal, they’re not exactly sexy. Essential? Absolutely. The difference between a good performance/recording and a bad one? Very likely. But nobody is posting arty shallow depth of field pictures of their new boutique tuner purchase on the guitar forums for everyone to drool over, are they?
And that’s what makes the VPJR Tuner so handy – because not only does it look cooler than your average tuner (certainly in its sleek matt black finish), but it gives you something even more priceless: real estate. By taking that tuner off your board and putting it into the volume pedal, it frees up space for even more fun stuff? Couldn’t justify a phaser AND a flanger before? You can now. Want to try that gain-stacking lark everyone’s always on about? Well, stick your spare overdrive where the tuner used to be and stack away, friend.
But the VPJR Tuner isn’t just about creating real estate – by combining these two pedals into one, the clever folks at Ernie Ball have developed a pedal that offers new functionality that will streamline your playing in a way that a separate tuner and volume pedal never have.
For starters, there’s the smart and time-saving tuner functionality. Bright and clear even in a darkened room, the tuner’s activated by putting the treadle in the heel-down position – so you mute your guitar and activate the tuner in one movement. No need to tap on another pedal, no danger of the audience hearing the delightful sound of tuning up, you’re going from playing to silent tuning in one instant sweep.
And what’s that touchscreen doing when you’re not in tuning mode? Well, it’s providing a clear display of the volume level that the pedal is currently on, so even in the darkest room and stage, you can see at a glance where the treadle is – useful huh?
That’s not all – a simple double-tap on the touchscreen will allow you to swap between the volume level display and the tuner no matter what position the treadle is in, meaning that you can check if you’re out of tune and even retune on the fly without needing to mute it.
So you can see that by combining two functional but relatively utilitarian devices, Ernie Ball has created something that not only saves you pedalboard space, but also offers better functionality than either of those devices can do on their own.
And what if more makers started thinking about these seemingly unexciting products this way? The possibilities for streamlining your pedalboard would be huge. How about a power supply that also does the job of an ABY switcher, an EQ/compressor or why not some crazy way of combining patch leads and power cables to minimise cable clutter?
Okay, some of those ideas may not be very practical, but Ernie Ball is showing that with smart engineering and intelligent design, we can free up space on our pedalboards for more fun stuff – and ultimately, that’s what we all want, isn’t it?
To get an up-close look at the Ernie Ball VPJR Tuner visit Ernie Ball’s stunning virtual reality booth at Guitar.com Live on 2-4 October. Visit guitar.com/live to register for free today!
Find out more about the VPJR Tuner here.