AD80 ANALOG DELAY
Many guitarists have strayed from digital delay, opting instead for the warmer repeats of analog models. The AD80 Analog Delay ($250) offers up to 300 ms of delay, and its dual outputs one for the dry signal and one for the effected signal let you run two amps for stage-enveloping textures. Delay time, Repeat, and Blend controls are provided.
The AD80's organic, fat-sounding delays are ideal for echo connoisseurs who want to wallow in rich analog slop. If you're used to the more clinical response of digital units, the AD80's tape-like textures may take some getting used to. The device doesn't do modulated echoes or wild Ping-Pong effects, but if the goal is to beef up your parts with juicy slapback repeats and Andy Summers-style delay trickles, you'll find the AD80 a most capable partner.
D&S Distortion & Sustainer
Sporting an Army-approved green finish and Output, Tone, and Distortion controls, the D&S Distortion & Sustainer ($189) is designed to deliver high-gain tones with a tube flair. The D&S' corpulent midrange imbibes solos with a pronounced singing quality, and the pedal's abundant bass supplies plenty of authoritative thump. Unfortunately, our test unit also exhibited a rather non-musical treble sizzle.
The D&S excels at high-octane blues tone, yet the box remains ultra responsive to volume dynamics turn down your guitar and the distortion cleans right up. But using the box as a volume boost is out of the question it simply doesn't have enough output. Given the D&S' saturated character, it would be nice to have a little more "oomph" for poking through a live mix.
OD808 OVERDRIVE (Editor's Pick Award winner)
With the 808 in its name (not to mention its puke-green finish), the Tube Screamer lineage of the OD808 Overdrive ($195) is no secret. Like the Screamer, the OD808 uses Overdrive, Output, and Tone controls to deliver outstanding low-to medium-gain tones.
The OD808 is one of the premium purveyors of Tube Screamer tone it even features the same JRC4558 dual op-amp chip used in the original 808. This box delivers everything you expect from a choice 70's Tube Screamer: Fat midrange, rich grind, and preservation of bottom-end punch. No matter where the gain knob is set, the sounds are coherent and focused. In addition, the magnificently voiced tone control can round off bright single-coils or pull shimmer from a neck-position humbucker it's nearly impossible to dial in a bad sound. If you're after classic blues/rock overdrive, it would be tough to pick a better pedal.
PT999 PHASE TONE (Editor's Pick award winner)
Sporting the same single-speed knob layout as the venerable MXR Phase 90, the PT999 Phase Tone ($189) absolutely nails the meaty, low-mid warble of classic 70's phase effects. Stepping on this built-like-a-tank box immediately conjures Rush, Nazareth, and early Van Halen (it's especially good at capturing the toothy bite of VH's "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" solo and the swirling intro to "Atomic Punk"). Like the other Maxons, the PT999 is also amazingly quiet. For example, a lot of phasers produce a swooshing sound through the amp when you turn down your guitar volume. Not the PT it's almost dead silent. Cool.
The PT999 is a kick to use, thrives in both clean and distorted environs, and can create everything from funky, tripped-out tones to subtle washes. It's a winner.