What Is It: Guitar Effect Pedals
Overview: Despite one of the most legendary names in the guitar business, Fender has been relatively quiet in the effect pedal world, so you can imagine our excitement when we heard Fender released six brand new effect pedals! Besides having some of the best names in the guitar pedal game (such as “Marine Layer Reverb), the new pedal line up looks sleek and modern in their anodized aluminum exteriors and bright shiny paint jobs. We sat down with the whole lineup and played with each of the pedals individually and together, and trust us on this one: once you start playing with them, you won’t want to stop.
Lineup: The brand new pedal lineup features six pedals: Pugilist Distortion, Level Set Buffer, The Bends Compressor, Mirror Image Delay, and Santa Ana Overdrive. All the pedals have an innovative magnetic battery door, and a switch on each pedal engages LEDs that backlight the knobs to help you see your settings on stage.
The Pugilist Distortion features two gain sections with controls for each section and a blend/stack feature that allows you to run the two in series or stack them together. We loved the versatility the distortion pedal brings to the table and the “two-in-one” gain allows you to save room on the pedalboard by eliminating the need for a high gain/low gain distortion.
Next up is the Santa Ana Overdrive, an original Fender FET circuit that responds much like a tube amp. With a 3-band EQ and Presence knob, the controls already start to reminds us of a specific British amplifier… The overdrive can go from light breakup to saturated lead tones, and the boost switch can be configured to give you volume boost or more drive. One of our favorites of the lineup, we loved the way this pedal responds to the dynamics of playing guitar, much like a tube amp.
The most underrated in the group is definitely the Level Set Buffer, which unfolds a swiss army knife of features when you take a close look. A level knob can add or reduce 12dB of gain and a Hi-Frequency control can add a subtle shimmer or reduce the shrillness of certain pickups. It has its own mute switch and a dedicated tuner out that allows you to tune all the time and removes it from the signal path. To top it off, the load switch engages a capacitive load identical to plugging your guitar into a tube amp, giving you the ideal situation for your electric guitar pickups.
The Bends Compressor is not only one of the most transparent guitar compressors we’ve heard, and has enough controls to give you a huge range of dynamics. Level and Drive control the signal at the input and output, while the blend knob allows you to control the blend of compressed and dry signal. The Bends gives you great sustain and huge dynamic control.
If you’re listening to the same records we’re listening to here at WLM, you know that delay might be the most important tool for a worship guitar player, and the Mirror Image has a ton of options for spacey, atmospheric echoes. With three modes, digital, analog, and tape, you can choose from warbly analog tones to crystal clear digital echoes. We loved the warmth of the analog and tape modes, although the “dotted eighth” switch on the digital mode can give you an instant “U2” big rhythmic delay!
Besides having our favorite pedal name, the Marine Layer might also be our favorite color out of the six pedals. With six different types of reverbs, you can go from roomy space to cavernous ambience in the same pedal. The damping control allows you to dial back high frequencies in the verb settings, making it incredibly versatile. Our favorite feature is the fact that the trails of the verb continue when you stomp the pedal on and off.
More: Great design, housing, tons of features and sound great!
Less: We’d love to see the delay and verb in stereo!