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Guitar World Staff Picks: Paul Riario’s Top Five Effect Pedals of 2012

Effects are like jellybeans. You can’t have just one — and is there really a flavor you don’t like?

They’re all good. But since I must, I have to give you a list of the best flavors of effects this year. Keep in mind, if I could, I’d give you a top 20 list of my favorite stomp boxes of 2012, but I’ll limit it to five because I need to hold your attention and honestly, I’d be splitting hairs with some because there were so many good ones to pick from.

I’ve chosen five different types of effects, in essence, the type of stomp boxes every guitarist uses and ones that typically claim real estate on your pedal board. So with that, I have my favorite delay, wah, gain, modulation and … well, just see for yourself.

05. DigiTech iStomp

The DigiTech iStomp ($229.95) is a revolutionary pedal. If you own an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, you can turn this black “blank canvas” stomp box into any type of singular guitar effect at any time, simply by downloading the desired effect from DigiTech’s Stomp Shop at the iTunes store and quickly upload it into the iStomp.

The iStomp includes 10 free ePedals, power supply and a SmartCable to download the effect from your iOS device. Once you connect to the Stomp Shop, you can try out any pedal without purchasing it, and if allotted five minutes time isn’t enough for you to make a decision on whether or not you like it, you can download it all over again.

The pedals range in price from 99 cents to $19.99, and there are more than 40 different guitar effects of every flavor available for you to store on your iOS device to upload into the iStomp when the gig calls for it.


04. Wampler Pedals Brent Mason V2 Hot Wired

Last year I picked Wampler Pedals' Brent Mason Hot Wired as one of my favorite pedals, and just when I thought this two-in-one overdrive/distortion pedal is about as good as it gets, they release the V2.

The V2 Hot Wired ($259.97) adds more flexibility with a blend control to mix in your clean signal with the overdrive and a slightly more organic, warmer overdrive on its overdrive channel. The pedal can be used as an overdrive or a distortion pedal with its two separate foot switches, or both channels can be cascaded together to get both gain stages “stacked” for more gain.


03. Dunlop Joe Bonamassa CryBaby Wah

Every guitarist I know has a wah on his/her pedal board, and you can’t have a top effects list without including this essential effect in it.

The Joe Bonamassa CryBaby Wah ($298.68) is the latest signature wah pedal from Dunlop — which happens to make 10 signature wahs — and this new wah has such a wide and lively sweep that it sounds almost vintage in character.

The Bonamassa wah looks elegant with its shiny copper top (Is it just me to think that all wahs should have this look?) and glossy black body. The wah has a Halo inductor (a “haloed” component that adds the vocal-like quality found in the very desirable vintage VOX Clyde McCoy wahs) and a switch for true-bypass or non-true-bypass operation (Joe likes to set it for non-true bypass to smooth the top end).

The Bonamassa wah is an articulate wah that captures many of the desirable “White Room” and “Tales Of Brave Ulysses” tones most guitar players love from Eric Clapton’s Cream era.


02. Z.Vex Effects Sonar

Z.Vex has always been one of my favorite effects manufacturers because they always seem to have an innovative spin on every new stomp box they introduce.

The Sonar ($329, hand-painted; $219, Vexter Series, not hand-painted) is not just an ordinary tremolo pedal but one that slices and dices and chops up your signal in a multitude of ways.

It can be made to sound somewhat traditional but who wants just that? The Sonar can get very machine-like and quirky in its tremolo sounds — kind of like if Kraftwerk decided to cover Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Born On The Bayou.”

All the knobs and mini toggles play with the idea of when and where you wish to hit peak volume of the tremolo and when it ramps up or down to the end of the signal. It excels when using a high-gain amplifier to create helicopter sounds or very quick stutters. Get the hand-painted version because each Z.Vex pedal is a work of art. Trust me.


01. TC Electronic Flashback X4 Delay

Not too long ago, TC Electronic introduced their compact pedal series with their pioneering TonePrint technology in some of them, which enables you to beam (from your iPhone) custom settings created by famous guitarists directly into your TonePrint-enabled stompbox.

The new X4 Flashback ($369) has the same TonePrint technology found in their compact pedals but it’s clearly the tractor trailer of their series hauling in 16 delay types, three presets to store your favorite settings, tap tempo switch and a 40-second looper.

One of the best settings happens to be the 2290 Dynamic Digital Delay, which was the preeminent rack delay made by TC before it was discontinued. I find the X4 to be the new workingman’s delay pedal because of its crystal clear sounds and intuitive operation that makes dialing in and storing your favorite delays a breeze, not to mention, the ability to store an additional four TonePrint delay settings.


I try very hard to remain under the radar despite being on camera as gear editor, but in this age of social media it was only a matter of time before it had to come to this. So with that, I will make my blog painless and a quick and easy read so you can get on to more important things like practicing guitar and sweep picking, or if you’re like me, obsessing how to race the Tour De France and trying to be Kristen Stewart’s next mistake. I will use this blog to inform you of things I find cool; like new gear I’m playing through and what I’m watching, reading or listening to at any given moment. So feel free to ask me anything that’s gear related — or if you have a problem with your girlfriend, you know, life lesson stuff, I’m pretty good at that too — and I’ll do my best to answer or address it here.

Paul Riario

Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.