While Fender has made its forays into the pedal world—for the short story, check out our recent Sunday Papers issue—at NAMM 2018, they launched a new assault with a full line of effect pedals built from the ground up. This week on TPS, Dan & Mick delivered a custom build pedalboard of the entire Fender effect lineup to the secret location of London’s Fender Artist Showroom.
Somehow in this magical realm, Dan & Mick did manage to focus long enough for a serious test-drive of the new pedals. In short, these are serious entries in the pedal game: innovative, player-focused, yet affordable, the new Fender pedals are serious contenders in the race for real estate on your pedal board.
Here’s a few words on each…
The new Fender pedal line includes two grit pedals. The first is the Pugilist, which is a dual drive engine with tone-stacking capabilities that run either in tandem or in either direction. Not surprisingly, this offered up endless combinations and variations of overdrive, from subtle and warm, to angry and edgy. Dan also demonstrated how tinkering with degrees of tone and mix on each side of the drive retained the definition and attack of the note. As Mick concluded, “that’s really cool [because] quite often if you get a lot of heavy overdrive sounds sometimes it can start masking the sound of the guitar.” Not so with the Pugilist: you benefit from its complex gain structure but not at the cost of your original tone.
Named after the home of Leo Fender, the Santa Ana drive is “thing 2” of the new Fender lineup. The pedal comes equipped with active EQ and a boost switch. With overdrive sounds ranging from transparent through crunch, Dan remarked, “you can dial it in to pretty much anything.” Switching the boost on either before or after the overdrive means even more tailoring to the shape and accentuation of your tone. As Mick commented after experimenting with both configurations, “the boost was pushing the overdrive part of the pedal into more overdrive when it was before the drive. When it was post-overdrive it was increasing the level and it was pushing the amp more, that is very cool!”
The Mirror Image Delay offers up three brand new renditions on the classic delay types—digital, analog, and tape—each with two variations. So, for example, the analog sounds are both bucket-brigade-esque, yet the echoes into the distance have different filters affecting the clarity of the echoes ringing into the distance. If this weren’t enough, Fender has added subdivisions. Set your preferred delay time and flip a switch to toss in a dotted-eight and you’re most of the way towards starting your U2 cover band.
I’ve recently become a reverb addict, and thanks to Fender, it looks like I’ve found my next fix. As Dan highlighted at the outset, “both the delay and the reverb [pedals] have that analog-dry-through,” so even the most ambient of sounds are mixed in on top of your guitar’s unobstructed analog signal. Also like the delay pedal, the Marine Layer comes with three types: hall, room, and special. Dan continued, “It was interesting that they didn’t include a spring [reverb] in here, but so many [Fender] amplifiers have amazing spring reverbs, so this is meant to be the extra reverb on top of what you might already have.” One of the major assets here, then, is the ability to stack two sources of reverb. This will sound great in any combo, but particularly with the “special” mode, which imbibes the lingering trails of the reverb with a graceful swell of octaves.
Right out of the gates, The Bends hit the sweet spot for Dan: “That’s the one, it’s the overdrive for your clean tone. It’s keeping everything intact.” One trend that is true across the entire range of new Fender pedals is the attention to detail and added features. In the case of The Bends, it’s a “blend” knob that lets you decide the mix of the original and compressed signal. As Mick noted, this is important as it avoids “losing the whole front end of the note but [let’s you] benefit from some sustain afterwards.”
To some, a buffer is a buffer is a buffer. However, as TPS has been educating the world on the finer points of buffers, the new gear from Fender offered another chance for a lesson. On the convenience side of things, the Level Set allowed for a simple always-on option that could mute the sound for a quick tune. On the clever yet brilliant side of things, the Level Set comes with a tone control. This means the pedal can also serve as a bit of a boost and be a way of normalizing the levels between different guitars used.
With both entirely new gear and refreshes on classic items, Fender has hit the ground running in 2018, and this new line of pedals promises to be only the beginnings of much more from Fender on the floor.
Whatever Fender pedal you’re into, head over to Riff City for a pre-order to ensure your pedalboard is first to sport one of these new innovations from California’s most classic gear designers.
TPS Rig Rundown
Guitars: Custom Shop ’63 Relic Telecaster, Sunburst; Custom Shop Limited ’55 Esquire, White Blonde; Custom Shop Postmodern Stratocaster Closet Classic, Firemist Gold; Custom Shop Dennis Galuszka ’62 Jazzmaster Relic, Charcoal Frost Metallic.
Amps: Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb with 1×10 Jensen C10R speaker; Fender Hot Rod Deluxe IV with 1 x 12 Celestion A-Type speaker.
Pedals: TC Electronic PolyTune Mini, Fender Level Set Buffer, Fender The Bends Compressor, Fender Pugilist Distortion, Fender Santa Ana Overdrive, Fender Mirror Image Delay, Fender Marine Layer Reverb.