REVIEW: DigiTech HardWire pedals

Digitech’s HardWire series incorporates rugged, stage-ready features so simple yet obvious that it’s kinda surprising that they’re not standard issue on every pedal everywhere. The main marketing point of these pedals is that they are true bypass, meaning the signal is completely diverted away from the effect circuit when the unit is in bypass mode, unlike a lot of pedals. The benefit of this is that if you switch the pedal off, it’s like it was never there, which is especially desirable if you use short cords and want to maintain the integrity of the signal.

But there’s much more to this series than a hardwire bypass. Each pedal in includes a stick-on hook and loop base pad, a glow in the dark sticker, and, with the exception of the tuner, each comes with a cover which slips down over the controls, preventing them from getting moved and messing up your settings. Battery access is underneath the stomp switch – press one of the two side pins in with the tip of a guitar cord and the pedal pops right off the base.

The pedals all also incorporate circuitry to increase the operating voltage headroom above that of typical pedals for clipping-free performance while also keeping a constant voltage through the life of the battery.

I got my hands on a batch of HardWire pedals to review for Mixdown Magazine, and here are my thoughts. Click on any of the titles to buy the pedal from Music123.

DigiTech HardWire Series HT-2 Chromatic Tuner Standard

Extremely visible on stage and very sturdy, the HT-2 has two outputs: Thru and Mute. If you use Thru, the signal passes to the amp while you’re tuning – especially handy for discovering new tunings or doing guitar setup work. The Mute output cuts off the signal to the amp for silent tuning, which is ideal for the stage. The tuner operates in Normal and Strobe modes.

DigiTech HardWire Series CM-2 Tube Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal Standard

The CM-2 seems to take inspiration from a certain popular green overdrive pedal. One of my favourite stompers is the Digitech Bad Monkey, which is also inspired by the little green wonder. The CM-2 takes the general sound of the Bad Monkey and beefs it up, then adds a mode switch for Classic or Modified operation. Classic mode is great for vintage textures or as a solo boost into an already overdriven amp. Modified mode excels at edgier, more hi-fi tones and works especially well through an amp’s clean channel as the main distortion tone. I would have no hesitation in adding this to my pedalboard if my Bad Monkey ever choked on a banana.

DigiTech HardWire Series TL-2 Metal Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal Standard

A very extreme pedal, whether you want chunky death metal rhythm tones or a lively shred lead voice. This one works best on a clean amp setting. Tone controls include high, low, plus a concentric midrange control with sweepable frequency for scooping out the mids, Dimebag style, or cranking them up for some Slayer grind. You can also dial in a great ‘notched wah wah’ sound which instantly invites controllable feedback. The mode switch toggles between Tight and Loose modes, which govern how much sag you’ll hear in the bass range.

DigiTech HardWire DL-8 Delay/Looper Guitar Effects Pedal Standard

A huge range of very usable delay and loop settings, plus true stereo operation with discreet inputs and outputs. Modes are Reverse, Modulated, Analog, Slapback, Lo Fi, Tape, and Loop, and there’s a whopping 8 seconds of delay time. I compared the Analog mode to my favourite true analog delay, and it stood up very favourably, although the quickest delay time is 180 milliseconds, which may be too slow for country players in need of a good slapback delay. The DL-8 can sound as hi fi or as garage as you need it to, and thrives on being placed in a valve amp’s effect loop.

DigiTech HardWire Series RV-7 Reverb Guitar Effects Pedal Standard

Another true stereo time-based pedal, and a great companion to the DL-8, this one uses Lexicon reverbs including Room, Plate, Reverse, Modulated, Gated, Hall, and Spring, and there are controls for Level, Decay and Livliness. The Modulated mode sounds great but the real star is the Reverse selection. It’s worth buying the pedal for this setting alone – don’t worry, you can write a song around it later. You can also choose to have the reverbs tail off naturally when you switch the effect into bypass mode – the switch for this mode is accessible within the battery compartment.

8 Replies to “REVIEW: DigiTech HardWire pedals”

  1. Hey Peter,

    I have a question about the CM-2 Tube Overdrive pedal. I’ve seen a lot of good things said about this pedal. But I thought I’d ask you because I respect your opinion.

    I play through a Roland JC-120 a lot live. I have a tube Vox pedal which does my Page and Metal tones but I want a pedal that I can get a bit more like a an SRV tone when using my neck and mid single coils. Do you think this pedal can do this? Do you thik it’ll do a good job in front of the Roland or is it too much for tube amps?

    I’m on a very small budget for gear and I can’t afford super amps or anything. Also, I can get a bad monkey for real cheap too so is that a better or good option?

  2. I think the CM-2 is a good option but I can definitely vouch for the Bad Monkey for SRV overdrive tones. I’ve used my Bad Monkey through Crate and Marshall heads, a solid state Behringer combo and direct into mixing desks (it has a speaker-emulated mixer output as well) and it’s never let me down.

  3. For my needs it’s great. I don’t use it for my main sound anymore since getting the MXR/CAE Boost/Overdrive, but I still use it somewhat regularly, especially for recording.

  4. Well, I ordered one. It was only $50, which is really cheap for a new pedal in Japan. I also saw how highly many other reviews rate it.

    If I don’t like it, I’ll send it to my Pop and let him try it out.

    Thanks Peter for your help.

    By the way, I stopped my blog because of my schedule. I don’t have enough time right now to do it, but maybe soon I’ll start it up again.

  5. You skipped the SC-2 Distortion pedal, a fantastic old-to-new school hard rock pedal that absolutely competes with pedals costing 3-4 times as much. PLUS, you ALSO skipped the Hardwire chorus pedal, without a doubt the best multi-mode chorus pedal for under $400 on the planet. Shame on you!

  6. Andrew, I didn't skip them exactly – at the time I originally wrote this review (for Mixdown magazine, before the pedals were even in stores) the other models weren't available.

  7. I own now 3 of the Hardwire series and I just dig these pedals. For only like $100 the quality is hard to imagine for the price. They kill just about anything even close to the price and some pedals costing a lot more. The RV-7 Reverb is probably the finest most musical Lexicon quality verb I have ever used. Just delivers every time I hit it. The PH-7 Phaser exceeded my expectations as a versatile phaser. Does a really good mimic of the MXR 2 and 4 stage phaser and much more. Really a killer buy and bang for the buck. I just got the ML-2 Metal Dist to add to my rather large OD/Dist section on my board. Seriously has got to be the best uber high gain fun pedal ever. Kills a Boss Zone and is 15 v internal and true bypass. The Hardwire series are just superior quality and they hold up to what is claimed of them. I highly recommend them for any level of player. Dude above, Monkey is a good pedal but that OD is really, really nice sounding. I am a Wampler pedal fan myself but I just had to get the ML-2 as for $100 it does serious articulate low end gain.

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