Digitech iStomp – review
Apple’s iOS devices have brought a whole new platform for musicians. From recording apps, to tuners, learning tools, tablature creators, and amplifier and effects modeling, musicians can do so much for so little cost. For the most part this has all been a strictly in phone/tablet affair, but a few companies have started starting using the iOS platform as a way of working with physical musical equipment. Digitech were one of the first to utilise an iOS device with an actual musical product. The iPB10 Programmable Pedalboard used an iPad to control and edit patches on a physical effects and amp modelling pedal board. Their next foray into integrating iOS devices with physical musical hardware is the iStomp.
Things are a little bit different with the iStomp though. Rather than hook up an iOS device and control the iStomp from your iPhone/iPad, etc, you use your iOS device to store your collection of ‘e-pedals’. Digitech has a constantly growing range of e-pedals available in the Digitech Stomp Shop, a free app that gives you the ability to purchase e-pedals at a range of prices that will suit everyone. The Stomp Shop gives you the ability to test out all e-pedals on the iStomp for free for five minutes at a time. This is great as you can really get a feel for each pedal without having to lay out any money up front. Connecting to the Stomp Shop is done by a cable provided with the iStomp.
The Digitech iStomp itself is an interesting pedal. With its unassuming dark grey enclosure and unlabelled controls, the iStomp really looks like a blank canvas. It’s very lightweight, but the enclosure, switch, jacks and potentiometers all feel tough enough to be up to the task of being stomped on again and again. The iStomp comes in an equally unassuming white box, looking very much like the current range of Apple product packages. Both the pedal, and the packaging it comes in really hide the power that the iStomp packs.
Digital effects have traditionally been a bit of a poor version of the real analogue equivalent. The last few years have seen a marked improvement, and we are now at a point where many digital effects products can be very hard to distinguish from it’s analog counterpart. In saying this not all products have been completely successful, but more and more are stepping up. Digitech have done an excellent job with the e-pedals that I tested through the iStomp. All effects sounded and ‘felt’ very analogue, and all controls on the pedal acted like you would expect from a quality analogue effect. Each effect responded well to picking dynamics, volume changes and the like.
For this review I tested the two supplied effects (Redline Overdrive and Total Recall Delay), and two purchased effects (Half-Pipe Overdrive and Jet Flanger).
The Redline Overdrive is a nice natural sounding overdrive and low to medium gain distortion pedal. It comes with gain, bass and treble, and level controls. With the bass and treble at noon the Redline Overdrive keeps everything transparent, with no shift in tone, just increase in drive and volume. The bass and treble controls are very interactive, removing or adding to the original tone. The Redline Overdrive is fantastic for overdriving a clean amplifier tone to a nice crunch, or pushing a dirty amplifier over the edge.
Total Recall Delay
The Total Recall Delay is a great sounding digital delay with interactive controls. It comes with a time, repeats, ducker threshold (adjusts the threshold when the delay level attenuation begins), and output level controls. The delay time can be adjusted from 10ms to 1 second. You can do all the tricks that are available with a conventional delay pedal when twiddling the controls, and a Tap Tempo mode is available too.
The Half-Pipe Overdrive is a authentic sounding overdrive/distortion pedal that really captures the tones of so-cal style punk rock from the 80’s onwards. It comes with Grind (gain), Fat and Vert (bass and treble), and Jam (output level) controls. Being a big fan of bands like Pennywise, NOFX, Strung Out, Bad Religion, etc, I really loved the Half-Pipe Overdrive. I found that it sounded great with the Grind control max-ed out on a clean sounding amp for many moderately dirty punk tones, and using it as an overdrive on a dirty sounding amp took it to another level for those higher gain tones.
The Jet Flanger is a flexible flanger that can go from subtle chorus tones to crazy Paul Gilbert-esque flanger madness! It comes with speed, depth, regen controls, as well as a level control. Level controls aren’t often found in many flanger pedals, and this gives you the option to control the amount of flanger effect in the mix. The Jet Flanger is a lot of fun to play with if you are looking for crazy flanger sounds, as well as the more standard chorus-y and flanger tones that are more likely to be used in the context of most music.
Another cool feature of the iStomp is the ability to customize the colour of the indicator light. Setting different colours for each of your e-pedals helps identify clearly what pedal you are using.
Digitech have provided a selection of e-pedal specific and generic adhesive labels, so you can easily label the iStomp to remind you of what each control does for the specific e-pedal.It’s great the Digitech added in the blank generic labels since pedals are going to be added on a regular basis.
The iStomp comes with stereo in and out jacks to utilise those e-pedals that work in stereo. I haven’t got a stereo setup, so I haven’t been able to test it out. I’m sure it works very nicely though.
Now the iStomp looks like a very cool pedal, but I don’t feel that it is perfect. Considering that you can purchase a wide-range of e-pedals, it would have been nice to be able to load up several pedals to the iStomp, and have a switch (not necessarily a stomp switch) to move between the loaded pedals. This would be perfect for using effects that you might not use a lot. The iStomp could replace a bunch of pedals that may only get used for one or two songs, giving you extra real estate on your pedal board. I’m sure some of this could be done with future versions of the iStomp.
Some people may be miffed at the fact that the iStomp doesn’t give you the option of using a nine volt battery. It is entirely understandable though. With all the electronic power in the iStomp it chews up power fast, as I discovered when using it with my Sanyo Pedal Juice. It’s not too much of a big deal since the iStomp comes with a power supply anyway.
Overall the Digitech iStomp is a very cool pedal, and an interesting new idea. I don’t consider it the perfect version of what the iStomp could be, but it is a very cool tool for use at home and in the studio. With the constantly growing range of e-pedals the iStomp could find a home very easily with most people.
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