Guitarists around the world have never had more choice when it comes to effects pedals. The sheer magnitude of talented makers out there is staggering, and if you think you have a pretty solid grasp on who is making great stuff right now, you only need to pick a country and Google it alongside “boutique pedals” to see just how wrong you are.
New Zealand is no exception. Like all great cultural capitals of the world, you don’t have to look far to find pedal wizards making all kinds of strange and wonderful devices – some you have probably heard of, others that you definitely need to be paying attention to.
What’s distinctive about these makers? Innovation. They seem to truly be doing something different down there. And in a landscape where far too many builders are following the same path, it’s hugely refreshing. Here are 5 boutique pedal makers from New Zealand that are doing awesome things right now.
Flux Effects was started by Michael Weavers in Christchurch back in 2003, although they didn’t actually produce their first pedal, the Liquid Tremolo, until the end of 2012. Combining a passion for music, electronics and product design, Flux is an innovative little company. Their pedals (there’s just two of them) appear simple, yet they are anything but. Weavers has voiced concerns that market saturation is a big challenge for the company, but also one that drives him to make products that are truly unique.
The Liquid Ambience is a perfect example. It’s a reverb pedal that takes the ‘shimmer’ sound that has become a mainstay on many verbs on the market into stratospheric territory. Combining a lush hall reverb with a fully-functional polyphonic octave generator, the pedal provides unprecedented control over the shimmer sound (something similar reverbs lack). However, the real magic lies in the ‘bend’ control, which makes the reverb glide up or down to a preset octave (a fifth or sub fifth), giving you crazy soaring detuned effects. Truly beautiful stuff.
Check it out below and read more about Flux Effects here.
We first came across Lightning Wave when we interviewed Ben Shaw from Brisbane’s Pedal Empire a little while back. He praised the brand as being one of the most progressive thinkers in the boutique pedal scene, and we have to agree.
Lightning Wave effects provide an entirely new of controlling modulation. Their unique interfaces allow users to define a certain waveform by “drawing” the LFO shape with a fader. Each pedal also has a TRS I/O jack that can be configured for single or simultaneous functions involving trigger sync and control voltage input or output. This means you can plug in say a synth, sequencer or drum machine to control certain parameters of the device.
There are currently two pedals in their lineup, Ghost, which is a tremolo, and Astro, which is a phaser. A third pedal, Doom (a sort of signal crossfader) is on its way. All the effects are handmade in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Check out the Ghost tremolo in action below and read more about Lightning Wave here.
McPherson Stompboxes is a small, family-run company pumping out great pedals from Papamoa Beach on the north coast of New Zealand’s North Island. What immediately stands out about the stompboxes is their stunning wood veneer enclosures. Featuring hand-drilled circuit boards, faultless point to point hand soldering, and hand cut, sanded and finished wooded detailing, their pedals are the product of true artisans.
Their range contains all the essentials: boosts, overdrives, a fuzz, a compressor and a wah – each one meticulously crafted to offer pure tone.
Check out their Antique Overdrive (a creamy, dynamic drive pedal) below and read more about McPherson Stompboxes here.
Of all the pedal makers on this list, you are most likely to be familiar with Red Witch. Their pedals are lauded around the world, found on the boards of everyone from Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore, to Andy Summers from The Police to Miles Kane from the Last Shadow Puppets.
Their product line is diverse, boasting a range of dirt pedals (for both bass and guitar), modulators and synth effects. A couple of years back they launched the Seven Sisters line – a collection of mini-pedals, which you can pick up second hand for well under $100.
Red Witch was inspired by a lifelong affair with analog guitar equipment, hence the all-analog ethos of the company. Founder Ben Fulton was very much inspired by classic units used in the ’60s and ’70s but also strove to include innovative features in his pedals that would give players greater control.
Check out the Red Witch Fuzz God II in action below and read more about Red Witch here.
Dogmatek is another company that focuses on creating all-analog effects that push the boundaries and explore new tonal territories.
They currently have just one effect in their catalogue, the Arctic World Twin Modulator, but it’s a pretty special piece of gear. The pedal is a stereo phaser with an all-analog signal path and digital functionality (meaning tap tempo, presets and a much wider sweep range than would be possible with purely analog effect – I’m talking 30 seconds). The pedal is capable of creating a huge raange of swirling, wobbly, pulsing effects from classic phasing to ring modulation, tremolo, and Leslie effects.
Dogmatek have two more pedals in the works, including an envelope generator that sounds super interesting. Check out the Arctic Wolf below and read more about Dogmatek here.