Hands-On Review:DigiTech Jimi Hendrix Experience pedal

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DigiTech Jimi Hendrix Experience pedal

By Chris Gill

As one of the first guitarists to use effect pedals in combinations, Jimi Hendrix significantly expanded the guitar's tonal palette. His studio experiments with reverb, flanging and backward recording produced some of the most distinctive electric guitar tones ever committed to tape.


TOP JIMI: DigiTech Jimi Hendrix Experience pedal Onstage, Hendrix crafted his signature sounds from 100-watt Marshall Super Lead amps, late-Sixties Strats and pedals like the Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face, Vox wah and Univox Uni-Vibe, as well as custom-made Roger Mayer Octavia pedals. Reissues and knock-offs of these items have emerged over the years, but you still need to fork over a few thousand dollars if you want to duplicate Jimi's rig.


With the ever-expanding advances in amp and effect modeling, it was only a matter of time before someone recreated Hendrix's venerable tones in a pedal or software package. Part of DigiTech's new Artist Pedal series, the Jimi Hendrix Experience pedal duplicates his coveted tones using production modeling technology and delivers them in a single, affordable package. How well? Let's just say Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer helped out.


Roughly the size of a wah, the JHE has a rocker pedal, plus a set of four knobs along its top edge. Three of the knobs are dual-concentric controls for adjusting gain/level, high/low EQ and reverb plus a model-dependent parameter. The fourth knob is a seven-position rotary control for selecting modeled sounds that emulate the tones heard on his recordings of "Purple Haze," "The Wind Cries Mary," "Foxey Lady," "Little Wing," "All Along the Watchtower," "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" and "Star Spangled Banner"/"Machine Gun."


At first glance, the JHE may seem much more limited than having an assortment of stomp boxes at your feet, but it's important to note that the pedal emulates entire Hendrix signal chains, not just individual effects. For example, "Purple Haze" models the sound of a Fuzz Face plugged into a 100-watt Marshall processed with an EMT plate reverb. A toe switch engages the intro tone, while a heel switch adds an Octavia to the signal chain to emulate the solo tone. The combination of expression pedal and toe and heel switches lets you quickly access and control a wide variety of sounds without the tap-dance routine you'd need to perform using separate stomp boxes. Furthermore, some models let you toggle between two tones with the heel switch alone.


An input for an optional footswitch is located next to the pedal's guitar input. By connecting a DigiTech FS3X footswitch to this jack, you can select model settings and cycle through the various toe and heel switch modes. The pedal has a standard amp output and a mixer output for connecting directly to a sound system or recorder.


Connected between a Strat and an amp dialed to a flat, clean tone, the JHE pedal delivered tones so close to Jimi's that I thought for a moment I was wearing velvet pants and a fringed shirt. The Octavia on the "Purple Haze" model worked just like the real thing, providing its most pronounced octave-up effects when I used the neck pickup and backed off the guitar's volume control. The "Little Wing" model's tape flange emulation had an impressively deep, hollow "whoosh" identical to real tape flanging effects. Best of all was the wah on the "Watchtower" and "Voodoo Child" models: it had the elusive vocal quality of an original Sixties Vox wah and is worth the price of the entire pedal.


The Bottom Line
The DigiTech Jimi Hendrix Experience pedal is best "Jimi-in-a-box" ever produced. For the cost of an average boutique stomp box, you get the sounds of Jimi's coveted plexi Marshall, custom Mayer Octavia, Vox wah, Univox Uni-Vibe, germanium-transistor Fuzz Face, studio Fender Bassman amp, several unique effects that Jimi and Eddie Kramer concocted in the studio and more. This versatile pedal will inspire you to create your own (Spanish castle) magic.


LIST PRICE: $299.95

MANUFACTURER: DigiTech; digitech.com.