With Christmas behind and New Year’s ahead, radio stations are slowly swapping out carols and holiday tunes for countdown tracks of the year’s best songs. Fortunately, 2018 was an unbelievable year for guitar gear. Unfortunately, this makes a top pedal picks countdown next to impossible!
So for this New Year’s Edition of the Riff City Sunday Papers we’re winding back the clock to decades past to source out top pedal picks from ages ago. As we blast into gear history in ten year intervals, our list collects gear that deserves honorable mention not only for the sounds they created but the splashes they made in their times.
2008: The Year of the MXR Carbon Copy
It’s hard to believe that a little over a decade ago, the pedal world was coming off its high from all-in digital multi-effects and inching into the terrain of boutique builds. In that world, however, MXR continued to do what it does best: build timely yet timeless stompboxes. And nothing says time like a delay pedal. The MXR Carbon Copy was born in 2008 and has since become a golden standard of true analog, bucket-brigade echo. Not only is this New Year’s pick still in active production, it’s spawned a few offspring such as the Carbon Copy Bright and Carbon Copy Deluxe.
1998: The Year of the Boss TU-2
If 2008 made its mark on keeping time, 1998 should be remembered for keeping in tune. Sure, a tuner is a utility pedal, it might not be a glamourous pick. But the Boss TU-2 Tuner was an epic hit in its day for one reason: it innovated the tuner in compact pedal form for easy integration into any rig. Eventually, this original design was one-upped by the Boss TU-3. At the end of the day, you’d be hard pressed to find a guitar pedal that is this popular yet doesn’t make a sound at all!
1988: The Year of the ProCo Rat 2
The genealogy of the ProCo Rat pedals can be tricky to sort out. For more on that story, check out our take on the origins of ProCo Pedals. By 1988, however, ProCo had become a force to be reckoned with in the emerging effect pedal market and the weapon of choice for distortion die-hards of the decade. The ProCo Rat 2 achieved that brilliant balance between versatility and simplicity. With a staple design of three nobs for distortion, filter, and volume, the pedal was at home on hair metal rigs, the growing grunge scene, and blues clubs.
1978: The Year of the Boss DS-1 Distortion
The further we wind back the clock, the fewer competitors but the greater concentration of foundational pedals. With Boss leading the charge in compact pedal development in the mid-1970s, by 1978 they hit gold—well, technically, orange—with the Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal. Not only is this pedal iconic in the world of overdrive boxes, it remains the best-selling Boss pedal ever. Not bad. Forty years on, the Boss DS-1 remains in production and is as perfect of a top pick then as it is now.
1968: The Year of the Electro-Harmonix LPB-1
For gear heads and historians, the 1960s was the decade that developed fuzz. But it would be easy to overlook other gain innovations of this era that set the direction for other fizzy-fuzzy sounds that followed. For this reason, the Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 deserves honorable mention. Granted, this is not a pedal per se. The effect box plugged directly into your guitar’s output and offered a switch and a nob to dial in an instant boost to nudge your clean amp into crunchy clipping. While the design didn’t catch on, it provided a glimpse into the mind of Mike Matthews, whose designs at Electro-Harmonix broke every mould imaginable. The ripple effects of this design would spark new ideas on distortion-based amplifier technology in the years to come. With the New Year around the corner and NAMM 2019 just weeks away, here’s to the year of great gear ahead! From all of us at Riff City, have a happy New Year!