The DigiTech Whammy is one of the most important new effects of the last few decades. It practically redefined lead guitar just over 20 years ago, playing a crucial role in songs like Steve Vai’s “Touching Tongues,” Joe Satriani’s “Cool #9,” Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of,” Pink Floyd’s “Marooned,” Coverdale-Page’s “Over Now” and dozens more. There have been various iterations of the effect, with some being more successful than others, but the original red version is considered the most desirable (although the Whammy II is pretty cool too, featuring the same chip as the original but with the ability to toggle between presets with your foot. I miss mine – never should have traded it!). The fourth edition, the Whammy IV, adds a few handy features to the mix, but the fifth, the Whammy DT, aims to be the ultimate Whammy.
The DT includes a full suite of Harmony and Whammy options. The Harmony settings involve both ‘heel’ and ‘toe’ pitches which allow you to manually play the harmony with your foot for cool counterpoint effects. Although these are parallel harmonies rather than diatonic ones, the two pitches on the pedal are sometimes necessary for playing in-tune harmonies. The modes (with heel and toe settings respectively) are: octave down/octave up, 5th down/4th down, 4th down/3rd down, 5th up/7th up, 5th up/6th up, 4th up/5th up (very Steve Vai, think “Ultra Zone”), 3rd up/4th up, flat 3rd up/3rd up, 2nd up/3rd up. Then there are the Detune modes (Shallow and Deep) which are variable via the foot pedal and which are capable of cool fixed-pitch chorus sounds.
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Then we have the actual Whammy settings. There are more here than DigiTech has ever offered before in a dedicated Whammy unit: 2 octaves up, 1 octave up, 5th up, 4th up, 2nd down, 4th down, 5th down, octave down, 2 octaves down, and a ‘Dive Bomb’ effect which mimics the sound of pressing a Floyd Rose bar all the way down to ‘string flubber’ territory.
But the Whammy DT has an even greater trick up its sleeve: Drop Tune Mode. Here you can alter the entire pitch of your guitar up or down by between one and seven semitones; an octave up or down; or an octave up or down with the original dry note included (for fake guitar/bass unison or 12-string guitar sounds, respectively). There’s also a Momentary switch which lets you toggle this effect on for as long as you’re holding down the switch, and it works in reverse too: if you’re already in Drop Tune mode, the Momentary switch will take you back to standard tuning mode. This allows you to perform virtual hammer-on effects, and undoubtedly some other cool sounds that nobody has discovered yet, much like how users of the very first Whammy found unpredictable ways to use the effect.
Another neat feature is that the Drop Tune and Whammy sections of the pedal operate completely independently of each other, so even if you’re using the Drop Tune section as a virtual capo at the 4th fret, for instance, you can still use the Whammy section to raise or lower the pitch as you see fit for solo freakouts.
By the way, like the Whammy IV, the Whammy DT offers the option of MIDI control, and you can use a 3-button DigiTech FS3X footswitch to select Whammy and Drop Tune settings.
The Whammy sounds are exactly as you would hope and expect them to be. The same velvety smooth pitch glide the Whammy has always been famous for is present and accounted for here. It tracks great when you play fast and the octave up/down Harmony mode is still one of the coolest under-utilised sounds in rock. And it’s great that there are so many new Whammy options. The Detune mode sounds cool, although it’s a real shame that the pedal does not have dry and effected outs like previous incarnations. I get a feeling that a lot of players didn’t use that feature, but I quite liked it on my old Whammy II, and it’s always nice to have the option to use it when you want to, rather than not having it offered at all.
The Drop Tune sounds are a very handy utility to have, and the quality and speed of the dropped or raised pitch is great, without any particularly noticeable latency or chipmunking. There’s a little bit of strange background noise to contend with, which is characteristic of all digital hamonizer and pitch shifter units. It’s not something you’ll notice once the rest of the band kicks in, but if you spend a lot of time playing unaccompanied you might hear it more.
The Whammy DT is certainly a lot more useful and handy than carting around half a dozen guitars for half a dozen different drop tunings on a live gig, and the octave modes sound great too. Will top players use the Drop Tune mode in the studio instead of bringing in a dedicated down-tuned guitar? Probably not. Will the same pros be happy to use the Drop Tune mode live? I’m sure they would. And I get the feeling that’s who the Whammy DT is aimed at: live players. It’s utterly killer in that context, and of course the Whammy and Harmony modes are great in any context.
[geo-in country=”Australia” note=””]This is an extended version of a review originally published in Mixdown magazine.[/geo-in]