DigiTech has a long history of coming up with nifty treats for guitar players, and its HardWire pedals—which are now marketed under their own name—continue the tradition. These stompboxes are designed for guitarists who want quality, heavy-duty construction and guitar-centric features. Each of these pedals is built like a Cylon Centurion and features precision-machined, high-grade components and true-bypass circuitry to keep your tones intact.

The CM-2 Tube Overdrive, DL-8 Delay/Looper, and SC-2 Valve Distortion are built for sturdiness and have gig-friendly features and add-ons, including Velcro bottom pads, glow-in-the-dark labels (for night vision!), and a trademarked StompLock cap, that prevents you from accidentally changing settings with your foot. In addition, the footswitch cover on top of each unit can easily be opened for quick access to the battery—no screwdriver needed. Another cool feature is constant-voltage operation: each pedal has circuitry that boosts the voltage supplied by its 9-volt battery to a higher operating voltage (15 volts). This adds more volume, gives you mucho headroom, prevents unwanted distortion, and results in tones that sound cleaner in your effects loop. Constant high voltage keeps your sound from degrading when your battery runs dry and avoids that boxy sound you sometimes hear in other pedals. All the pedals are set up for use with an AC optional adapter as well.

For this test, I got down to business with my trusty Performance Custom Strat, a Yamaha ’78 SG2000, a ’65 Fender Deluxe Reverb, a Blackheart Little Giant half stack, and a Peavey JSX 2x12 combo.

CM-2 Tube Overdrive

Download Example 1
Classic mode, Gain at 12:00
Download Example 2
Modified Mode, Gain at max

The CM-2 Tube Overdrive is designed to give you that much-sought-after natural breakup you hear in overdriven amps. It’s perfect for blues, blues rock, classic rock, or guys who just want to add a little girth to their tone. It has four intuitive knobs: Level, Low, High, and Gain. The knobs are metal and very solid, and they stay put without wiggling around. You also get two voicing modes to choose from. Classic gives you a smooth-but-dirty overdrive sound, and Modified adds more gain and beef. The Modified mode was my favorite, and with the help of the EQ I was able to dial in some hefty blues-rock tonal extrapolations somewhere between Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robin Trower.

What’s cool is that I didn’t hear a lot of compression in the Classic mode. It reminded me of a cranked Bassman about to explode, but without the volume. It’s very organic yet lacks the midrange bump you sometimes hear in other overdrives. I ran the EQs at around 12 o’clock most of the time, and it sounded very rich and robust. Single notes sounded twice as thick, and chords got exponentially chunkier. It also cleaned up very well when I rolled back the guitar’s volume. The Modified mode takes you to heavy blues-rock soloing land. I couldn’t help but play Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” (Not Slight Return). That added smidgen of compression, gain, and low end really makes this pedal an enabler for long-term pentatonic wanking. It’s smooth, articulate, very thick—and best of all, quiet. I like this pedal a lot. When you back off your guitar’s volume, you can get your sound to return to the Classic mode without bending down to flick the switch. Nice.
Buy if...
you like warm, versatile overdrive pedals.
Skip if...
you like lots of midrange.

Street $99 - HardWire - hardwirepedals.com