Musicians, picture this: You’re playing guitar onstage, and an audience member requests a song that requires a particularly bluesy distortion effect … and you don’t have it handy in any of your pedals or effects devices.
What if you could just call it up from your iPhone?
That’s the basic premise behind Digitech’s recently released iStomp pedal, a stompbox that enables you to access a variety of effects through the company’s Stomp Shop App with an ease and speed comparable to how you’d download a song off iTunes.
Quick and easy is the order of the day with this product, and that goes for its setup and connection. Just hook up one cord for power, another to connect to your iPhone, a guitar cable from instrument to unit, another from unit to amp (there are actually two outputs provided for true stereo audio), and you’re good to go.
The unit itself is simple—four control knobs, one stomp button. The four controls enable you to adjust the following characteristics of your sounds:
• Gain—amount of distortion/punch
• Low—bass-end frequencies
• High—high frequencies/treble
• Level—output volume
Once you’ve hooked up the iStomp to your phone, the app is relatively easy to access and put into action. Through it, you can navigate the app’s menu—a virtual guitar effects store—and choose from the following categories:
• Overdrive/Distortion—arguably the most popular guitar effects, these sounds give you the crunch and dirty power to really rock. There are currently six different overdrive/distortion effects to choose from, including the self-explanatory Screamer and Tube Overdrive.
• Compressor/Pitch Filter—currently includes such choices as “Octaver”, which adds two octave signals (think of Prince’s guitar sound on “When Doves Cry”)
• Delay/Reverb—this category includes the sounds that give your guitar more echo, repeats, and the depth that comes through properly configured reverb. Effects here include 240 Plate and Continuum Reverb.
• Chorus/Modulation—Giving your guitar sound body and fullness, effects available here include Jet Flanger and iPhaser Beam.
Effects are easy to purchase through the app via your iTunes account. As with a game or paid app, buy it once and it’s yours to use. Before you buy an app, you can listen to audio samples of each effect to make sure it’s the sound you want.
While the current selection of effects isn’t huge, it’s clear that Digitech will continue to offer additional choices over time as the pedal gains popularity and adds users.
Third-party developers and name pedal manufacturers are starting to offer their sounds to iStomp users through the app. For example, DOD has rolled out an iStomp version of its popular FX13 Gonkulator Modulator pedal—for only 99 cents!
To get you started, you can access two effects free through the app: Total Recall delay and REDLINE Overdrive. Through Total Recall, I was able to adjust the repeats of my guitar sound from 10 miliseconds to one second (a long, slow repeat to be sure, but you never when you’ll need that). REDLINE is a classic distortion, emulating the sound of a tube amp—lots of crunchy goodness, perfect when you want to channel your inner ZZ Top.
I had a good time with the iStomp. Hookup was easy, as was accessing sounds through the app, and the sounds are excellent, as good to these ears as anything you’d get from a good designated pedal or multi-effects unit, with true stereo operation (nice) and CD-quality fidelity.
My big question was, will guitarists embrace it? Is this the kind of thing pro musicians will use onstage to generate sounds? A few years back I would have given an emphatic no. But in an age when singers regularly use iPads onstage to act as virtual teleprompters and call up lyrics on the fly, I could see today’s iPhone-savvy guitar players having a good ol’ time with the iStomp, punching in new sounds in a heartbeat and rocking out. Listing for $230 and selling for around $150, it’s a steal for technology at this level. It’s like having a store’s guitar effects department at your fingertips, and that’s something that many guitarists will find irresistible.
For more info on iStomp, go to digitech.com/en/products/istompBuy the DigiTech iStomp on Amazon