Digitech Bass Whammy Review
Why should guitar players have all the fun? The next-generation Bass Whammy offers pitch-shifting, harmonising and more. Review by Gareth Morgan
Description: Dedicated bass guitar pitch-shifter pedal. Made in China
Contact: Sound Technology – 01462 480 000 – www.soundtech.co.uk
If you had to divide effects into vague categories, you’d most likely label one of them ‘colouring’ (such as chorus, octave) and another ‘shaping’ (wah, envelope filter), with fuzz/distortion in another. You’ll probably want to ‘colour’ more often than you ‘shape’, so we already have something of a hierarchy developing.
DigiTech’s swanky new Bass Whammy pedal is from the radical arm of the colouring party, being a stompbox that deals in the dark arts of shape-shifting and transmogrification… sorry, we mean pitch-shifting and harmonisation.
The BW comes as a blue-liveried metal box, weighing 1.73kg/3.02lbs and standing 170mm wide (including protruding sockets), 195mm long and 61mm high (taking into account the rubber feet and control knob), so it’s bigger than a normal stompbox. A chunky expression pedal with surfer-dude logo and thick rubber foot grip is the main feature, with other controls and indicators to the right.
Aside from chrome stomp switch with red ‘on’ LED (and more beach-bum graphics), there’s a black plastic rotary for selecting pitch shift options, marked by a labelled line of red LED’s in the column headed Whammy, from octave below to two above, or a choice of harmonisations, in the Harmony column, from a combined one- and two-octaves up to more sophisticated 5th & 6th up.
If you’re unsure about intervals, a 4th above C is F, a 5th is G and a 3rd is E, etc;. You get two detune effects, Shallow and Deep, offering the suggested levels of de-tuning. With all of these, the expression pedal toggles between actual pitch slowly or rapidly. A two-way chrome toggle switch puts you in Classic (single note) or Chord (two or more together) mode. Connectivity includes In and Out jack sockets, one for the power supply provided, and a MIDI input for remote selecting of both effect and expression pedal position. We’re already imagining whiling away the hours just dive-bombing.
The Bass Whammy is one of those FX that you don’t need a PhD to use. Take a cursory glance at the manual, plug in and harmonise… or pitch shift. While the higher pitch shifts make you sound like one of the Martians from the old Smash advert (instant mash potato; why?), the detuning settings aren’t too synthetic-sounding and, provided you don’t need to hear too much detail, offer the possibility of accessing notes below E, or indeed below low B as it tracks remarkably well, for delivering a sub-bass part. The heavy metal-inclined will love this. Pedal ‘up’ is bypass, ‘down’ is shift, or depress in stages for changing notes or dive-bombing.
Harmonised sounds are more natural-sounding, although less practical; you’d have to pick your moments, especially as there no minor versions of the 10th and 6th harmony options, and it doesn’t track a key (and note that pedal-up selects the harmony indicated by the up arrow, and vice versa).
In Chord mode, with two or more notes, pitch-shifting doesn’t track below the D string, but the harmoniser offers some lush, pastoral Bill Frisell-like soundscapes. The Detune option is like stereo chorus, super-laden with harmonics and great for bass intros, and various tremolo-like effects can be created by waggling the treadle… but watch out for ankle tendonitis.
DigiTech’s Bass Whammy is not the pedal you will use most on a gig, but it might be the one you play with the most at home and the one that ignites the creative fires. There are plenty of impractical sounds here but also lots of good stuff, especially when down-shifting, and the Detune option adds a three-dimensional feel.
Try the BW through distortion and auto-wah and you’ll find an excellent guitar simulation and open up host of new possibilities in the process. Sure, £170 is a fair hit for non-essential kit in hard times, but this is as close to a ‘must treat yourself’ as you’re ever going to get. Great fun… and isn’t that important, too?
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