Its hard to believe Digitech originally released the groundbreaking Whammy pedal in 1989. Since then, the pedal has definitely earned its place in pedal board history and it is guaranteed to be emulated in any modern generation multi-fx unit. I think back to some of my all time favorite songs and albums and its shocking how often the Whammy makes an appearance...Edge's intro to Even Better Than the Real Thing, freaking out over Tom Morello's extensive Whammy use on Rage Against the Machine's self titled debut, Radiohead's My Iron Lung, grooving to Satriani's Cool #9, John Scofield's adventurous usage on 2002's Uberjam...and those are just things which come immediately to mind. To say the list of artists which have used the Whammy over the years is impressive is an understatement of the largest degree. The effect has become so popular that every serious multi-effects unit on the market offers an emulation. Digitech is hoping to recapture the imagination of pitch bending players with the new 5th Generation Whammy (Whammy V).
The new Whammy V shares all the red shelled, octave bending sweetness which made the original a legend including features added in subsequent generation Whammy pedals such as MIDI control, drop tune (down a second), and dive bomb effects. Though for the 5th generation Whammy Digitech has added several very nice upgrades such as a switch for two operating modes (Classic and the new polyphonic Chords mode), true bypass, and, for the first time Whammy history, 9V DC power. Sweet!
For those seeking the chaotic glee of glitched octaves and the beautifully imperfect warble of the Whammy of old...rejoice! In Classic mode, the Whammy V sounds very much like the older Whammy units. But more interesting in my opinion is the new Chords mode which offers polyphonic pitch shifting. In this mode, pitch shift tracking and note stability is near flawless with only very subtle artifacts even when fed complex chords. I found the second down setting allowing drop D emulation as well as forth and fifth down settings for emulating a baritone guitar very useful and will undoubtedly make it into a composition in the enar future. For an otherworldly experience, setting the pedal for one or two octaves up and kicking in a delay while picking through chords; a truly trippy experience serving up the classic Whammy tonal sheen without the glitches. When playing single note lines, its amazing how easy it is to get "unguitaristic" sounds when pitch shifting larger intervals, and I mean that as a huge complement. Paired with a fuzz and flange and you can get some incredibly convincing synth tones. However, the most unique tones might be the harmony settings. For example, setting the unit to harmonize up a fifth and then playing an E power chord results in a Eadd9 chord, but voiced in a way which is impossible to play in real life. And for those who've never owned a Whammy before, be sure to check out the Detune settings which in my humble opinion is a very under appreciated feature of the Whammy offering a chorus type tone which is better than what many dedicated pedals offer.
Suffice to say, Digitech's fifth generation Whammy lives up to its family heritage. Quite a few companies have built competing units, but none really seem to live up to the original. Whether your a guitarist shooting for sonic freak outs ala Nils Cline or simply looking to add some polyphonic shifting to your arsenal, the Whammy V delivers with authority.
Price: ~$199 USD
Pros: Classic Whammy tones plus a new polyphonic Chord mode