Digital Vintage: Six '80s Effects Worth Considering

From a '51 Nocaster to a 1973 “Ram’s Head” Big Muff, vintage gear is sought after and frequently heralded as the best, full of “mojo,” and offering a sound unrivaled by modern counterparts. Whether or not this hype is warranted is a matter of great debate, but the hype has millions of dollars of annual sales behind it as proof of its existence. In the world of vintage effects, analog is king. It's perhaps the trait most representative of vintage authenticity. This makes sense for an obvious reason: digital technologies didn’t begin finding their way into the music world until the 1970s, and even then rarely in the realm of effects.

Despite much of the anti-digital sentiment that marks so many online forums and blog posts, some players are hunting for gems from this early digital age. The 1980s saw an influx of digital effects, in both rackmount and stompbox form. Many of these, like their analog counterparts from that decade and before, are frequently preferred over options currently on the market. Here's a look at six effects from that era that have endured the test of time.

EHX 16 Second Digital Delay (1983)

Released two years after Electro-Harmonix introduced their two second Digital Delay – one of the first digital delay pedals to market – EHX’s 16 Second Digital Delay has continued to maintain a dedicated following, including Wilco’s Nels Cline, Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch and eclectic jazz guitarist Bill Frisell. Prized for its lengthy delay times, slider-based interface and modulation capabilities (including reverse, chorus/flange and time shifting), the EHX 16 Second Digital Delay was reissued for a short while in 2004. Original '80s specimens can fetch upwards of $3,000, while reissues hover around the $350 to $400 range, depending on condition.

Boss DD-2 Digital Delay (1983 - 1986)

Released in 1983, the Boss DD-2 was the company’s first digital pedal and is generally considered to be the first stompbox digital delay. Offering clean delays via a Roland chip, the pedal brought popular rackmount tones to a smaller, foot-friendly format. With famous users including Eric Johnson, David Gilmour and Tom Morello, the DD-2 maintains a contemporary fan base who prize the pedal over other delays (including the rest of the Boss DD series) for its through-hole construction, full-frequency repeats and simplicity. Unlike the EHX offerings, the DD-2 features only 800ms delay time and no modulation capabilities. Production ceased in 1986 in favor of the cheaper DD-3. Vintage units tend to sell for $100 to $200.

Ibanez DML series (1985 - 1987)

The pedals that make up the Ibanez digital modulation delay series – the DML, DML10 and DML20 - were supposedly Ibanez’s digital response to EHX’s popular Memory Man series of analog delay pedals. Released throughout the mid-'80s, the pedals are still popular today for their unique, tunable, bordering-on-crazy modulation capabilities and repeat quality. Between the versions, the main difference is delay length – 512 ms, 900 ms, and 1024 ms, respectively. Prices range from $150 to $300 on the used market.

Boss PS-2 Pitch Shifter (1987 - 1993)

The Boss PS-2 was Boss’s first pitch shifter. Produced from 1987 to 1993, the pedal can also be used as a full-featured digital delay. Amongst its features – three delays modes, up to two full seconds, and three pitch shift modes including manual and +/- octave settings – the PS-2 is celebrated for its quirks. The pedal is notorious for its inexact tracking, tendencies to feedback and oscillate, and lo-fi digital delay tones. Because of this, reviews are incredibly polarizing. Used units command between $100 and $250, with the earlier made-in-Japan units occupying the upper end of the spectrum and the later Taiwanese units occupying the lower.

Alesis Midiverb II (1988)

The second in the rackmount Midiverb series, the Alesis Midiverb II was popularized as a guitar effect by Kevin Shields on My Bloody Valentine’s sophomore effort Loveless. While primarily a recording effect, the Midiverb II is still a popular live effect amongst guitarists today for its vast array of configurable presets (99 in total), including a variety of reverse reverb presets that instantly propel the user into shoegaze territory. Vintage units are relatively common on the used market and command anywhere between $50 to $200, depending on condition.

Boss DC-3 Digital Dimension (1988 - 1992)

Boss’s first digital chorus, the DC-3 was released in 1988 as the successor to the analog DC-2 Dimension C. In spite of this, the DC-3 is considered to be quite differently sonically. Its tunable settings – as opposed to the DC-2’s preset switches – result in a less warbly and more reverb-rich subtle chorus sound. It is this unique character that has many seeking out the pedal. In 1989 it was renamed to the Digital Space-D, with no known changes to the circuit. Vintage units tend to range in price from $120 to $250.

comments powered by Disqus

Reverb Gives

Your purchases help youth music programs get the gear they need to make music.

Carbon-Offset Shipping

Your purchases also help protect forests, including trees traditionally used to make instruments.

iOS app store button
Android play store button