5 Must-Have Multi-Effects

Having long been the whipping boy for the boutique “cork-sniffing” gear scene, I believe multi-effects units have received a bum rap. The inherent snobbery in regards to the units can be off-putting to newer players, but I’d like to set the record straight: multi-effects can be awesome. Perhaps in a few years, today’s crop will be looked at in this same light. Enter: Five awesome multi-effects.

1. DOD TEC 4x

DOD TEC 4x

One of the first true budget multi-effects units, the DOD TEC 4x was released during the time in DOD’s lifespan when they and Digitech were one in the same. It’s small, it’s plastic, and it’s extremely versatile, offering 27 effects in three programmable configurations. The programs within the TEC 4x are an interesting amalgamation of popular effects from both DOD and Digitech circa 1998. The pedal offers a standard array of delay, reverb, distortion and others; predictably, the distortion patches are pretty dismal, though one of the patches is the DOD FX70C Corrosion distortion, which isn’t bad. However—and especially in retrospect—the real value of the unit comes within three of the patches: Pixellator, Ring Modulator and Detune. The Pixellator is a program straight out of the venerable XP300 Space Station, a unit out of the price range of most users. The Ring Modulator patch is straight out of a similarly expensive pedal—the DOD FX13 Gonkulator. Detune, while not based on an actual unit (except maybe the Whammy, though the Whammy’s Detune mode is not adjustable in this way) just sounds good. Most of the other offerings range from so-so to forgettable, but for these three effects, one can do much worse than the $30 these usually trade hands for.

2. Roland SIP-300 and SIP-301

Roland SIP-300

These units were released in 1980, and were touted as “preamp” units even though they contain other effects. The SIP-300 is the guitar version, and features a footswitchable overdrive circuit, while the SIP-301 is the bass version, featuring one of the juiciest compressors ever released. These SIP units barely count as multi-effects since they only include two effects, but they provide enough versatility in their EQ sections to make the cut. The equalizers are a three-band type, with arrays of cut and boost switches, as well as a mids switch that sets the specific frequency of the midrange: the SIP-300 offers 1kHz or 500Hz switching, whereas the 301 offers 250 or 500Hz. The overdrive circuit on the 300 is interesting; it features two cascading gain stages with only a volume knob for both. When stacked in front of a hungry power amp, this can be devastating. Both units feature a choice of unbalanced or balanced outputs, as well as an effects loop. Both are fairly rare—the 301 being more so—but are certainly worth seeking out.

3. Ibanez UE 300

As time has progressed, so has hype about vintage Tube Screamers. The circuit debuted in 1979 to great fanfare, but unbeknownst to many in today’s scene, the UE 300 was released in 1982 with a real TS-9 Tube Screamer inside, in addition to the CP-9 Compressor and CS-9 Stereo Chorus. Yes, these are all full-featured, individually switched, honest-to-goodness versions of these three classic effects. The effects are thoughtfully laid out—you won’t find chorus placed first here. And it’s somewhat expandable—the unit features an effects loop on the rear panel to patch effects in between the Tube Screamer and the Stereo Chorus, so a host of other modulation pedals or other overdrives can be inserted. This thoughtful inclusion makes the UE 300 actually usable in a modern effects setup.

4. Korg PME 40x

Korg PME 40x

The year was 1983, and video game culture was in full swing. Global profits from video games were in excess of three billion dollars. Corner arcades were draining the national quarter supply, novelizations about video games were being published, and companies like Coca-Cola and Purina were releasing video games. Over the following two years, video games saw their collective annual revenue shrink to just 100 million dollars. How unfortunate is it, then, that Korg released its PME 40x, a cartridge-based effects system in that fateful year of decline. The launch of the unit was rather ambitious; Korg supplemented the base unit, the “console,” with 13 effects, the number perhaps prophesizing the lineup and accelerating the doomsday clock. Some of the units are really cool, such as the Octave V, an all-analog circuit with options for 1-, 1.5- and 2-octaves down, as well an octave up, an integrated distortion and a noise gate. There was an Analog Delay cartridge, and a “Dist Wah” cartridge that does just what it sounds like. Sadly, by 1983, people were tired of plugging cartridges into things and the PME 40x exited as quickly as it arrived.

5. Roger Linn Designs AdrenaLinn

Roger Linn Designs AdrenaLinn III

Grammy winner Roger Linn, maker of the LinnDrum machine in the ‘80s and collaborator on the DSI Tempest, makes pedals. In fact, he makes some of the most full-featured, innovative effects around, and they largely fall by the wayside. Some pedals out there—such as the Ibanez TS10 Tube Screamer Classic—automatically shoot up in price when it’s discovered that a famous guitar player uses them. The musician in question is John Mayer, and he used both units. The price of the TS10 jumped immediately, while the AdrenaLinn has been widely relegated to the peripheral. Although the units are rather complicated, that just means they’re capable of creating some really otherworldly sounds that would make Eventide blush. Users are able to dial in filtered tremolos, resonant sample-and-hold filters and everything in between. John Mayer used the AdrenaLinn III on songs like “Bigger than My Body,” “I Don’t Trust Myself” and “Heartbreak Warfare” to great effect. Brad Paisley has used it for a couple things also, most notably the robotic intro from “You Need a Man Around Here.” Remember the opening riff on Audioslave’s “Like a Stone?” That was the AdrenaLinn. Needless to say, the unit is capable of not only versatility in sound but also artist base.

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