Pedals & Processors Guide – Preamps, Modelling & Compression

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Pedals & Processors Guide – Preamps, Modelling & Compression

Words by Sam McNiece, Mixdown Staff

Our effects picks for preamps, modelling, and compression

Whether you’re a fervent pedal-head on the hunt for some niche op-amp overdrive to add to your copious inventory or you’re a first-time buyer on the lookout for that special stompbox to get you started on your effects endeavours, Mixdown’s Pedals and Processors guide for 2022 is our picks for the best units to keep an eye out for this year.

Now bringing you preamps, modelling, and compression!

Tech 21 SansAmp PSA 2.0

Distributor: National Music

Features: Made for those who want the sound of a tube amplifier and cabinet without the hassle of lugging around a tube amplifier and cabinet. Originally a rack mounted unit, this new and improved model is a compact pedal that can fit in your pocket and create beastly tones that you’d be certain were generated from the real deal. Featuring controls for level, high and low EQ, drive, crunch, punch, buzz, trim, and gain you’ll be hard pressed to find a tone you can’t craft with this unit.

Use it as a preamp to your speaker cabinet or direct to the FOH mix for a thick and consistent tone. You can save over 100 presets and the unit comes with almost 50 presets that emulate classic amplifier sounds which can be changed by the press of a footswitch. In addition to dense control over the tube amp simulation, there’s a speaker simulation built into the pedal which emulates a physical cabinet without the nuance of finding the sweet spot with your microphone.

The Bottom Line: A fantastic programmable analog tube amplifier and cabinet simulator that sounds the real deal in a small and portable enclosure.

Find out more.

LR Baggs Voiceprint DI

Distributor: National Music

Features: Utilising the processing power of your phone through their AcousticLive iPhone app, this new impulse response pedal corrects the raw pickup sound from your acoustic guitar jack output to match the body of sound your acoustic actually makes. Creating a voiceprint for your acoustic takes about a minute and is saved in the pedal which can be blended with the raw signal for further sculpting. There’s an anti-feedback control on board to help tame those pesky frequencies when playing live for when there might not be a sound engineer handy. In addition to the unique Voiceprint control, there’s a five-band parametric EQ to tweak your acoustic guitar’s sound with presets on board for quick tone changes. With the ability to store 99 unique Voiceprints, you’ll be able to bring your whole collection of acoustic guitars to the gig and know you’ll sound exactly like you would without amplification. The unit features ¼” in and outs with a separate FX send/return loop and an XLR out which really makes this an all-in-one solution for creating a smooth acoustic sound.

The Bottom Line: A must for translating studio-sounding acoustic guitar to the stage without the need for on-stage miking or feedback worries.

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Effectrode Blackbird Preamp

Distributor: Gsus4

Features: Utilising design imprints of famous amplifiers, the Blackbird preamp pedal is a gorgeous-sounding vacuum tube unit with multiple channels available for instant tone changes. The clean channel is based on a Blackface style amp while the overdrive channel uses Dumble-style hot-rodded tube circuitry to maximum effect. Both channels feature a three-band EQ and volume knobs with the overdrive channel featuring a gain control for that extra crunch and punch.

By using three 12AX7 vacuum tube amplifiers which are fitted on the unit for all to see, you can play harder/softer and hear the dynamic change work in a musical way with your playing. On the back of the unit there’s a toggle for switching between the aptly named creamy and classic modes which unlocks another level of depth to tone control. There’s an internal trim-pot for adjusting preamp drive bias to change the way this neat pedal sounds. If you were worried about accidentally breaking this thing, it’s created from military grade materials and the all-aluminium housing will be enough to protect those precious and delicious-sounding analog tubes.

The Bottom Line: An all-tube preamp in a pedal format that creates fantastic sounding tones in a small form unit.

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The Pill Pedal Stereo Ducking Pedal

Distributor: The Pill Pedal

Features: A truly visionary pedal with endless room for experimentation, The Pill represents a new era for the stompbox, one that has no qualms blurring the lines between stage and studio, in this case bringing the heady world of analogue stereo ducking to the modern pedalboard.

With three adjustable and highly interactive parameters and mono and stereo routing, The Pill is an extremely adaptable and intuitive pedal, comfortably sitting at the intersection between dynamic processor, volume pedal and rhythmic effect.

Whether used subtly, as a means to lightly ‘glue’ together organic kick and bass sounds or more aggressively as a way to ‘part the seas’ on a lush synth pad, the three aforementioned parameters (coupled with The Pill’s impressive input flexibility) result in a pedal that encourages boundless experimentation and out-of-the-box thinking.

In all honesty, The Pill’s appropriateness is only bound by the limitations of ones own imagination, with The Pill being open to a seemingly endless combination of sound sources and parameter settings.

The Bottom Line: Handmade using the highest quality components (and with some of the strictest QC protocol of any manufacturer out there), The Pill simply oozes quality across the board- from it’s concept to its construction and sonic output. It’s a classy bit of kit.

Find out more.

Read our full guide in Mixdown Mag #321.