10 Boutique Pedal Builders Share Their Favorite Weird Effects

We recently asked ten of our favorite pedal builders one simple question:
What’s your favorite weird pedal and why?
Here's what they had to say...
Boss SL-20 Slicer Audio Pattern Processor

The Slicer takes whatever note you’re putting into it and chops it up into a pattern of your choosing. There are 50 presets to choose from and the option to create your own pattern. Twenty of the presets have patterned harmonic jumps and dives, so it creates a lot of movement with the rhythm. I use it to break out of rhythmic slumps. By choosing a random preset and experimenting with different tempos, it gets me out of my normal box of writing.

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Earthquaker Devices Rainbow Machine

I'm going to have to go with Rainbow Machine from the pedal heartthrobs at EQD. It does pitch-shifting, exponential audio processing (I made this up), and dark arts. I really don’t want to know what makes it so weird though—I prefer mystery. I use it when I need some spice at the end of a line and the drummer isn’t doing a fill.

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Akai Deep Impact SB1

My decades-long love affair with the Akai Deep Impact SB1 started in the late 1990s, when I picked up one on blowout for $99. Compared to your typical fuzz+filter+octave “synth” units, the Deep Impact is in a different league. It tracks your instrument’s pitch digitally using a very sophisticated algorithm and then creates waveforms using internal digital oscillators to make fat and juicy synth bass tones.

The interface lacks deep editing potential, but you really don’t need it—everything that comes out of the DI sounds like a robot eating a peanut butter sandwich. And yes, thanks to Chris Wolstenholme of Muse, prices on Deep Impacts have spiked in recent years, but the original designer now makes a suitable replacement—the Panda Audio Future Impact I. Both pedals have made quite an impact on me.

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ZVex Lo-Fi Loop Junky

The LFLJ is one of my favorite pedals of all time. When I worked at ZVex, I was given the task to try and recreate the effect this pedal made in real-time, and so was born the Instant Lo-Fi Junky. Regardless of the utility that is created by having that effect in real-time, I think there is magic in the original looper version that simply can't be emulated. It just makes everything sound old and cool, pretty much no matter what. There is a brick-wall type of filter effect in there, as well as massive compression—and it stores the audio in a way that is similar to the way that analog delay pedals pass audio. Zack found that varying the voltage level to these devices changed the playback speed (similar to how dying toys lower pitch) and to this day, it still makes the coolest vibrato sound I've ever heard.

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Cooper FX Generation Loss

The Generation Loss is a pedal that recreates the degradation that occurred in old tape-based playback devices and gives you control over all of those signal-destroying parameters. You can reduce the sample rate of your signal to make it sound lo-fi, add in pitch warble, and set the intensity and rate to give it the weird, out-of-tune moments that old VCR tapes are famous for. You can also cut the bass and treble a ton to really thin and/or darken the tone, and you can mix all that with your clean signal. But my favourite thing about the Generation Loss: It has a Noise knob! All of that signal destruction, plus you can add in pure white noise. I've been collecting pedals for a couple decades and it's the only pedal I have with a noise knob—I love it. Hiss is a great sound, the sound of something real.

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Montreal Assembly Count to Five Delay

The CT5 is a granular delay that does all kinds of crazy and inspiring things, from delay to looping to pitch shifting. It is a rare pedal in that it is hugely capable and techy, but also incredibly personal and musical. It is more of a collaborator than an effect, especially when used with an expression pedal. I am a longtime delay/looping player and I have never come across anything else like it. I love that, due to the random nature of granular delay, it is always at least partially unpredictable—but you can focus that randomness into beautiful arpeggios and cascades of sound. I use it for guitar drones, loops, synth, and for main guitar parts—but mostly I just sit there and zone out with it for long periods of time.

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Yamaha UD Stomp

I bought a UD Stomp for a friend overseas in the early 2000s, when U.S. retailers were blowing them out. I was curious about it and my friend let me borrow it for a few days before shipping it off to Germany. It left an impression on me, because it really made you understand how many of our effects work. It’s basically eight separate delay effects running at the same time in a single pedal, each paired with its own EQs, LFOs, feedback options, etc.

Not everyone would find a pedal like this particularly useful, but I think most of us could spend several hours turning knobs and making crazy sounds. Multivoice chorus ensemble, flanger, runaway feedback oscillations. It had a modulated reverb patch before anyone ever really wanted one. It was a whole lot of fun, even if I’d waste six hours playing through it and get absolutely nothing done.

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Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar

The Ravish Sitar allows a guitar to create all of these strange, exotic, and mystical sitar sounds related to classical Indian music. We use it to demonstrate the Hot Hand expression controller. It makes Hot Hand come alive in ways that are unique and exciting. Doing weird pedals at all takes lots of nerve. Doing a product that is weird and also complicated takes an insane amount of nerve!

Effect pedals that involve pitch detection, pitch shifting, and sound synthesis are very complicated to develop, and the list of companies who can do it at all is very short. I give EHX enormous credit for not only taking big risk on a complicated technical project, but also for their research on the nature of the sitar instrument and ultimately creating a pedal that sounds authentic, unique, and beautiful all at the same time.

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Lovetone Flange With No Name

First of all, it is a huge purple metal enclosure from the "pre-internet pedal market days" that flips open like a swinging door and has seven jacks mounted to the top/face of the pedal—that’s a solid first impression! The effect is a flanger/modulator, but it has the ability to go into another world of drone/ring-mod/percussive/synth/chaos in a way that I have never heard anything else do. For me it is the ultimate "get out of the box" box. I can plug into this thing and instantly find myself challenged, inspired, and adventurous.

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Tone In Progress Third Hand

This is a pedal that truly takes a whole new approach to manipulating sound. It's a mechanical device that looks like a wah-wah, in that it has a rocker treadle, but inside is just a pulley and drive belt. A stiff but bendy cable sticks out the top, and this clamps onto any control pot of the pedal next door (which you've removed the knob from).

It's an expression pedal really, but has no input or output sockets—in fact no electronics whatsoever! I use it for two reasons really: to simply but very effectively control any parameter in any pedal, but also to impress people with its otherworldly-ness, a strange antenna-like cable curving up and over to its neighbor. I laughed at it at first, but it's simple—and it works!

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