The 20 Effects Brands to Watch in 2017

From established big guns to basement start-ups, Gary Walker rounds up the pedal manufacturers to look out for on both sides of the Atlantic next year and finds out what new stompboxes they’re preparing to unleash…

1.Supro

After relaunching its much-missed amp brand in 2013, Supro turned its attention to pedals, announcing its literally-titled Drive, Fuzz and Boost trio at NAMM back in January. The Drive is an absolute corker that made our 2016 Gear of The Year shortlist.
supro
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“The Supro Drive. Putting an output transformer in a distortion pedal to fully realise the ‘amp in a box’ concept has resonated with customers who want authentic Supro dirt in a stompbox.

Inside this award-winning pedal, we replicated the preamp, phase inverter, power amp and magnetic saturation of the original 1960s Supro tube amps.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“The Supro Tremolo. Using the same concept of replicating the actual topology of old-school tube amps, we’ve created a modulation and gain pedal that features a recreation of the original Valco-style tube tremolo found in Supro amps, as well as the Leo Fender-style harmonic tremolo found in Fender’s coveted blonde amps of the early 1960s.”

Dave Koltai, president www.suprousa.com

2.Old Blood Noise Endeavours

Having built up a wealth of collective experience working for other US pedal brands, Brady Smith and Seth McCarroll launched Old Blood Noise Endeavors, and the pair have developed a bewitching line-up of weirdly wonderful fuzz, delay and ambient reverb effects. We’ve been particularly impressed by the Procession, which combines reverb with filter, tremolo and flanger sounds.

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dark-star
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“Probably that we’ll have jobs in 2017 – hopefully, fingers crossed, it’ll be fine… but really, it’s a success that we have another year of making pedals and everyone on the OBNE team has an essential role in making the business work. We also started putting out two-song cassette tape releases of bands we like under the OBNEAC name, which is fun.”

What new pedals do you have in store for 2017?
“That’s tough because we don’t like to divulge too much information before the product
is ready to roll. We are trying to do some weirder stuff for 2017. Weird for us and weird for the customer.”

Brady Smith, co-founder oldbloodnoise.com

3.ThorpyFX

This British boutique brand was founded in 2015 by former British Army Major Adrian Thorpe. Its Gunshot, Fallout Cloud, Peacekeeper and Warthog pedals quickly established the company as a master of hand-built gain machines of the highest quality.

peacekeeper
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“Well, 2016 saw us introduce two new pedals, the Peacekeeper and the Warthog. We launched these pedals at our first ever guitar show, in Birmingham. This was a phenomenal success for us and allowed us to meet loads of our customers and fans, something I found really rewarding and a lot of fun. We have expanded our dealer network worldwide and we are now represented on most continents and in loads of different shops, from Nashville to Bangkok and Quebec to Melbourne. We have also received loads of awards and praise for our pedals, which is just humbling beyond belief.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“2017 is looking like it’s going to be a crazy year for us. On the near horizon we have the Chain Home and the Veteran, these are part of our vintage reimagined series. Basically, these are pedals that look to the past and improve on it for the present. I’m really loving what we’ve done with these and I’m certain our customers will, too. Further out, we have some really exciting products that we have been collaborating on with the pedal designing legend that is Dan Coggins of Lovetone pedals fame. These are really tricked-out modulation pedals that should blow people away. To cap it all off, we are planning to release our first valve amp, too. I may have to postpone sleep until 2018!”

Adrian Thorpe, founder www.thorpyfx.com

4.Dwarfcraft Devices

This maker of handmade pedals based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, also produces Eurorack synths. The G&B team were wowed by its Eau Claire Thunder fuzz – the answer to all our mid-scoop averse prayers.

dwaftdraft
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“The biggest success we’ve had this year is our team at the workshop. When you’ve got good people doing good work everything goes much better! After that, our Happiness [multi-mode filter] pedal. It was a pedal I’ve been after for quite some time, so it’s really satisfying to finally have it out there, and selling pretty well to boot!”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“We’re working on a few exciting projects, including an analogue delay, a few secret digital machines and the return of our SheFuzz and Baby Thunder. 2017 is our 10-year anniversary, so we’re doing a limited run of a tricked-out Great Destroyer – the first Dwarfcraft Devices pedal. We’re also deep into modular synthesis. We’re working on a long-term project in that world that I think we’ll be showing by next summer.”

Ben Hinz, owner www.dwarfcraft.com

5.Stone Deaf FX

Since launching in 2010, this North of England manufacturer has generated a buzz with innovative effects pedal and amplifier designs, such as the PDF-1 used by Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme.pdf2
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“Going to NAMM, developing the world’s first fully digitally controlled valve amplifier… Also our line of digitally controlled tremolo and delay pedals, which will be out by the end of the year. These will give Strymon and Chase Bliss a run for their money at a lower price,
but with excellent build quality.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“I expect us to move into more digitally controlled analogue effects and amplifiers, building on a platform for that. The future of ‘analogue’ gear for people who buy boutique pedals and amps is fully midi-enabled, so you can fully utilise a GigRig, or Boss ES-8 switching capabilities. This will allow guitarists a fully integrated, connected system via MIDI, but allow them to retain an analogue world of tone. Imagine the capability of having fully MIDI-enabled digital switching of pedal order, amp channel order, pedal settings, amp settings and volume levels at the touch of one button while playing. This is the future: fusing together the digital world with analogue valve technology.”

Luke Hilton, owner stonedeaffx.com

6.Analog Man

Analog Man, aka Mike Piera, has been tinkering with pedals since the mid 70s. He specialises in vintage-style, high-end creations, such as the King Of Tone.

anologue
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“The continuing and expanding popularity of the King of Tone is keeping us strong while facing a new pedal company coming out every few days. Our Sun Bender MK-IV also got very popular and sold much faster than we could make them. Our ‘reissue’ of the coloured-graphics Sun Lion has also done well. We are also the USA order fulfilment centre for TheGigRig, and are shipping a lot of Daniel [Steinhardt]’s fantastic gear.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“We will be making more of the Sun Bender MK-IV and our Block Logo Envelope Filter, based on the old MXR. Each sold its introductory run of 100 as soon as we finished them. We also hope to have a new version of the AMAZE0 controller for our ARDX20 analogue delay. It gives the delay tap tempo, presets and modulation capabilities.”

Mike Piera, owner analogman.com

7.Walrus Audio

Founded in 2010, Oklahoma City’s Walrus Audio has expanded rapidly, with around 30 pedals now in its catalogue, many of them fuzzes and drives. G&B’s reviewer was impressed by the Jupiter and Vanguard, and we can’t wait to check out the intriguing Janus Fuzz/Tremolo with joystick control!

walrus
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“We consider success by how many of our endorsed artists use our new releases on tour and in the studio. So this year has been huge for us in that the 385 Overdrive, Julia Analog Chorus/Vibrato and Luminary Quad Octave Generator have already been on tour all over the world and used in studios that the staff here would kill to track in for a day.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“The Monument Tap-Tremolo is next in the release chamber. This thing has an all-analogue signal path with digital LFO, and can switch between standard and harmonic tremolo with the flip of a switch. We have four other products we’re wanting to push out in 2017, so make room on your boards, Walruses!”

Colt Westbrook, president walrusaudio.com

8.Catalinbread

Catalinbread combines modern DSP technology with analogue ideals. That’s an approach the company absolutely nailed with the Topanga spring reverb and Belle Epoch tape echo – among G&B’s favourite reverb and delay pedals respectively.
topanga
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“Well, our biggest success is that we are still here. As many of your readers may know, we unexpectedly lost our friend, founder and president Nicholas Harris in March. We’ve been slowly but surely recovering from that tragic loss. The silver lining in that black cloud is that we’ve learned that we at Catalinbread are truly a family, and together we can weather major adversity and come out the other side of the storm even stronger than before. Despite the devastation of that loss, we managed to release five new pedals this year. We had a ton of support from peers in the industry, retail partners and, of course, our loyal tribe of Catalinbread believers, to whom we are forever grateful.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“We’ve always been a company that follows the muse. The inspiration for a design has to be irresistibly compelling to us as players before we embark on the laborious process of morphing inspiration into an actual circuit. Of primary importance is dialing in the playing feel and dynamic response of the circuit – it has to feel good at the pick or fingers, and it has to be responsive to the player’s input. We will be bringing new designs to Winter NAMM that are next-level for us. New formats with expanded possibilities. While 2016 was as difficult as we could possibly imagine, we feel like we’re embarking on a new journey, and we’re excited to see where this new road leads us!”

Mike Erickson, customer support catalinbread.com

9.Chase Bliss Audio

Joel Korte founded Chase Bliss in 2013, named in honour of his brother, killed by a drink driver in 2007. “Follow Your Bliss” had been his sibling’s mantra for life. Joel’s pedals give digital control to analogue designs and have been fast gaining a reputation. Look out for the superb Tonal Recall analogue delay.
tonal-recall
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“The big thing for us this year was definitely the release of Tonal Recall, our analogue delay. Ever since Chase Bliss Audio launched in 2013, customers have been asking for a delay. I had been reluctant to design an analogue delay in the past because my favourite bucket-brigade delay chip, the MN3005, had long been discontinued. It got reissued in 2015, so I was completely motivated to make something. I felt an incredible amount of stress and pressure in designing it, but I couldn’t be happier with the reception the pedal has got. I think that the release has really gotten the company on the map.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“It’s possible we could have up to four new releases next year, but I think two is more realistic. While I can’t speak to specifics, I think that the first product will be something that will satisfy a number of customers who have been asking for this genre of pedal for a long time. I have some other more ‘out there’ products in the works that I’m particularly excited about as well. I haven’t felt this much passion and motivation for new product development since launching the company. If all goes well, we should have some exciting announcements at NAMM 2017.”

Joel Korte, founder chaseblissaudio.com

10.Dr Scientist

Canadian husband and wife duo Ryan and Tanya Clarke are responsible for a small yet diverse range of pedals that should be on the radar of any intrepid sonic explorer, among them the Frazz Dazzler fuzz, the bizarre BitQuest and the Reverberator reverb.
drscientist2
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“The BitQuest has been a big hit, we’ve made over twice as many this year versus last year. It’s a simple but powerful multi-effect that can make a lot of weird noises, including ring mod, pitchshifting, infinite reverb and glitch delay. More importantly, I think Mike and Neil are the main success stories in 2016. They’re my Partners-In-PCB, a couple of great guys that help me do the circuit boards for the pedals. They made 2016 an awesome year.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“I’m working on three new products. First will be a new version of the Frazz Dazzler. It’s getting some new features, like bass and midrange controls, a voltage starve, and a second stomp switch for low/high-gain modes. Next is a new version of the Tremolessence, my optical tremolo. It’s getting a big digital overhaul and will feature MIDI control and tap tempo. The biggest project for next year will be a Eurorack version of the BitQuest with a ton of new features.”

Ryan Clarke, co-owner & designer drscientist.ca

11.Hudson Electronics

Yorkshire’s Hudson Electronics makes bespoke pedals using hand-selected components and new old stock germanium and silicon transistors on vintage-style strip boards. G&B was so impressed by the Broadcast germanium preamp that it earned the rare honour of a 10/10 review.
braodcast1
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“I was very excited and pleased to receive so much positive feedback about the Broadcast. The pedal spent quite a long time in development, as I wanted to ensure it had a wide range of drive sounds whilst still being very reactive to each player’s touch and retaining its own sound. Being able to speak with different musicians using the Broadcast and hearing how they put the pedal to use – from boost through to fuzz, on guitar, bass, keyboard and even in the studio as an insert effect – has been really insightful. The support from retailers has enabled me to develop a few limited-edition runs of the Broadcast, offering something a little different. I’ve also had some fun with custom colours and a 24-volt version.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“I’m very excited about a new compressor pedal I’ve been working on, which should be available in the spring. The design is sonically influenced by my favourite transistor-based studio compressors of the late 60s and early 70s. Like the Broadcast, it will interact really well with guitar and amplifier, and be capable of both subtle and over-the-top compression. I’ve been working on a control that allows the user to saturate the germanium-based gain make-up amplifier of the circuit so they can dial in how coloured the signal is – from subtle harmonic sheen to a characterful distortion. I’ll be producing a few more limited editions of the Broadcast, including a dual-channel version, which can change gain modes with a footswitch and has separate level controls for each channel.”

Michael Hudson, owner & designer hudsonelectronicsuk.com

12.Empress Effects

Empress was born when founder Steve Bragg graduated from Queens University with a degree in electrical engineering and used his education to build a tremolo pedal for a friend – the rest is history…

What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“Without a doubt, our new Reverb pedal. It was three years in development and marks a huge step forward. We’ve upped our game on pretty much every aspect of the pedal, from sound quality to usability and integration. It has quickly become our best seller, and has been receiving awesome feedback from our users. And with upgradable firmware, the future is bright for this little box.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“We’ve got a few things coming up. Our 10th anniversary is upon us, and we’re doing something special for that! We’re also working on a new Superdelay 2 pedal, which will incorporate all the new features we developed for our Reverb pedal and more! On the more experimental side of things, we have a (not so) top-secret project called the Zoia. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen out there, and will offer musicians a unique level of control over their effects. That’s all I can say for now!”

Dan Junkins, vice president empresseffects.com

13.EarthQuaker Devices

Few effects brands caught the eye more in 2016 than these guys from Akron, Ohio with their way-cool soundscaping effects and gnarly fuzzes…
earthequaker
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“Our most exciting story of 2016 has definitely been the launch of the Transmisser. The process of shooting the teaser videos with the wizard characters and the resulting buzz and positive feedback surrounding the pedal was incredible. We’re really proud of the Transmisser and look forward to hearing all the creative ways musicians will use it! Other highlights from this year include our upcoming Knobs profile video, our annual company trip to Cedar Point, and of course the EarthQuaker Devices Halloween Spooktacular party.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“I can’t release any specific details, but we’re bringing an exciting time-based modulation effect to NAMM. Later in the year, you can expect some new pedals using the brand-new proprietary DSP platform we introduced with the Avalanche Run. We’re way into using advanced DSP to create unique sounds and provide expanded expressive capabilities.”

Aaron Rogers, circuit builder earthquakerdevices.com

14.T-Rex engineering

One of several renowned Danish pedal manufacturers, T-Rex has been spoiling us with its range of creative stompboxes, such as the Replica, Mudhoney and multi-effect Soul Mate, since 1996. The company also makes the excellent Fuel Tank power supply series and a range of pedalboards.
t-rex-replicator-tape-echo-2
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“2016 has been a turning point for T-Rex as we launched the Replicator, the first of a new series of custom shop products hand-built in Denmark. We have started up production at T-Rex headquarters, which gives us great technological advantages, as we have easy access to the great sound engineering expertise we have here in Denmark. The Replicator is our take on the ultimate tape echo unit, complete with an intelligent motor that determines the rotation per minute, magnetic heads and a tape cartridge – and we’ve also put in tap tempo, two playback heads for three output modes and a chorus mode that modulates the pitch of the echoes. We’ve had a lot of fun making the Replicator and we cannot wait to unveil the future hand-built projects.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“First of all, the Soulmate Acoustic, which combines five effects (full-band compressor, high-quality reverb algorithms, classic warm chorus, delay with tap tempo control, boost), a chromatic tuner and stereo looper in one. The Soulmate Acoustic also has stereo line and DI outs and expression/volume pedal input. Second, we will see more custom shop products. There is a great demand for high-end quality boutique pedals and we will do our best to fulfil this demand and focus on making Danish hand-built pedals. We might even make custom versions of some of the classic T-Rex pedals.”

Ditte Vissing Petersen, sales and marketing co-ordinator www.t-rex-effects.com

15.Reuss Musical Instruments

Anders Reuss is a Danish journalist, musician, scientist and one-man effects company who caught G&B’s attention with his awesome Repeater Fuzz. He also makes the Muzzbomb Warren Ellis signature for the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds guitarist.
ruess1
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“The transisition to 100 per cent European manufacturing. Early on, I got circuitboards and enclosures made in China, now I work with a European electronics partner and get the enclosures drilled, painted and silk screen printed by small businesses in Copenhagen. This has meant a much improved flexibility, liberating me from the pressure of large minimum orders. Product-wise, the most significant succes stories were the releases of the Warren Ellis Muzzbomb and finally releasing the Silver Balloon Wah, which is the only DeArmond Thunderbolt clone available anywhere. It took two years to get that one done.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“There’ll be a completely revised edition of my best-selling Repeater Fuzz, featuring more vintage new old stock parts and more options, still in a compact footprint. I am also working on some secret projects in the lab, which cannot be revealed yet.”

Anders Marcuslund-Reuss, owner www.reusseffects.com

16.Keeley Electronics

Robert Keeley has worked in electronics since 1989 and launched Keeley Electronics in 2001, with the excellent Keeley Compressor. His new Loomer and Dark Side pedals have got the G&B team rather excited indeed.
loomer
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“It has been the year of the Workstation. Starting with the Tone Workstation, we have released seven different Workstations, which feature delay, modulation and artist-inspired effects. These pedals are boutique-made multi-effects units that incorporate both modern DSP and vintage transistor designs. They feature a wide range of effects and tones in a small footprint, perfect for modern fly gigs. The Monterey was our first artist Workstation, featuring Jimi-inspired tones. This pedal opened the door for the Dark Side and Loomer. This year also featured our usual array of limited-edition and speciality fuzzes. The Wolff Fuzz and the Electric Mudd are both articulate remakes of some early complex fuzz tones. The year also included the Bubble Tron, a Zappa-inspired pedal that has dynamic phase and flange, and the Hooke Reverb which offers six spring reverb effects.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“For 2017, Keeley Electronics plans on stepping up its game with an even more powerful DSP engine, and continuing work in both artist-inspired Workstations and neo-vintage guitar effects. The new year will also feature effects that are true stereo, and include user-defined presets and USB support. The engineering staff at Keeley has more than doubled in two years, and we will continue to innovate and surprise guitar players with both new and old guitar effects. Neo-vintage tones designed to inspire…”

Robert Keeley, owner robertkeeley.com

17.Neunaber Audio Effects

Brian Neunaber founded this Californian company in 2009, putting his Masters in electrical engineering to good use. Its range of reverb pedals, such as the Immerse and Wet, combine the best of boutique and mass-produced approaches.
Pedal
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“Our main success has been the Immerse Reverberator. We launched this product at NAMM in response to customers who wanted all of our best reverbs in a single pedal with straightforward functionality. The Immerse has quickly become our best-selling pedal and a favourite among customers and artists alike.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“We’ll be launching a new product at NAMM 2017, about which we’re very excited.At first glance, it may seem like a departure from our line-up of delay-based pedals, but it has always been our plan to venture into other areas, and this is the next step in that progression. After all this build-up, I’m sure you’re wondering: “what could it be?” Well, you’ll have to wait for the announcement in January!”

Brian Neunaber, founder neunaber.net

18.Greer Amps

Founded in 1998, Greer Amps specialises in dirt pedals – lots of them. Nick Greer’s high-quality creations include the awesome Stinger octave fuzz, built with NOS BC-107B transistors.

What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“In 2016, we at Greer Amps have had many success stories, from the launch of our Super Hornet, which features the Stinger momentary octave switch, to the continued success of the Lightspeed, and the pedals that we have developed based on the Lightspeed platform. The momentary octave switch was something that I had personally dreamed of for years. The ability to ‘stutter’ the octave in, or hold it for a lead, then be right back in standard fuzz mode has really been a fun feature for me. We have also seen very positive reactions from the relaunch of our line of amplifiers, specifically with the Thunderbolt 30 and Apache models.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“We have got quite a few ideas that are already in development for 2017. There will be some new amp models released and, of course, new pedals as well. We are working on some new designs that are outside of the gain world – in the modulation realm. We are trying to do some things slightly different from other companies, because there are some awesome things that can be done with effects. We are continuing our analogue development and exploring options for the use of digital controller systems, while keeping the signal path all-analogue. I’m not sure if we’ll go full-on into the digital aspect, but we are at least evaluating the systems that exist. I’m excited about a couple of new items in development that can give the REAL feel of an amplifier that’s pushed to the edge, in a stompbox format. Things are going to get interesting!”

Nick Greer, founder greeramps.com

19.Emma Electronic

Yet another pedal brand that suggests there’s something good in the water in Denmark! Emma’s ReezaFRATzitz drive is a big G&B favourite, while Adrian Belew is a confirmed fan of the DiscomBOBulator auto-wha.

What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“2016 has been a year of developing a lot of new things at Emma Electronic. One of the highlights, though, was showing the prototype of the upcoming OKTO-NØJS pedal at NAMM 2016. It’s actually the first new Emma pedal in seven years, and it really caught some fantastic positive attention. An analogue, true and fast-tracking bass octave pedal, plus a totally new synth kind of fuzz, all never heard before. The combination is really cool and inspires you to be creative and inventive as a bass player.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“Not only will we release the OKTO-NØJS and some new updates to the classic line, but we will have a new baby line of pedals at NAMM, starting with two very different kinds of chorus and a reverb in the smallest Emma micro design ever, but with absolutely no compromise in sound. We are very proud of these Emma babies, and a whole line of new pedals on top of the NAMM launches are being baked for release in the spring or summer. This new line of mini pedals will be related to the existing pedals, but in a smaller housing. We don’t want to give too much away just yet, but these will include having the OKTO pedal in a twisted version and a separate, cool NØJS pedal as well. Around summer and the fall, a new family of modulation and distortion pedals are planned, and the first listening exercises are very promising.”

Jan T Behncke, founder emmaelectronic.com

20.Seymour Duncan

Seymour Duncan has been making pickups for 40 years, but its somewhat smaller stable of pedals has earned the American firm plenty of fans, too. Among its impressive roster are the Palladium gain stage, used by Joe Bonamassa, the Pickup Booster and the Shapeshifter tremolo.
Pedal
What have been your main success stories of 2016?
“The Palladium gain stage and Catalina dynamic chorus stand out as the big hits of 2016. The Palladium is the first pedal that truly captures the authentic tone, feel and responsiveness of a high-gain tube amp. The Catalina changes the world of chorus pedals with our innovative dynamic expression feature, which enables you to regulate the effect level in real time, according to how hard or soft you play.”

What do you have in store for 2017?
“While we obviously can’t spoil any surprises, we do have a lot in store for next year. We aren’t seeking to put out any ‘me too’ products – for us, it’s all about solving problems for players in innovative ways. We are a group of musicians that are committed to making the best products, and you can expect that we’ll have some amazing-sounding pedals featuring new ways to inspire guitar players in 2017!”

Max Gutnik, SVP of products and CRO seymourduncan.com

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