Digitech Whammy II

The Digtech Whammy range really has reached legendary status in the guitarist community having been adopted by so many great players. Steve Vai and Joe Satriani are both prominent users as is Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine. The Whammy II has been adopted by artists such as Herman Li of Dragonforce and – one of my favourites – Buckethead. This article may contain some useful information if you find yourself in possession of a Whammy II but not its manual.

At the time of writing the Whammy pedal is now in its 4th generation, a pedal that bears strong resemblance to the original but adds extra features such as MIDI control. Mine is a Whammy II which differs in both appearance and functionality from the other models.

I have to say that you read a lot about people swearing by the original Whammy and that the later incarnations either don’t sound the same or as good. Frankly, I think that’s piffle. For one, I don’t want to sound exactly like Tom Morello, I want to sound like me. My experience of the Whammy II is that it is a fantastically useful pedal with a great sound. Of course I use it predominantly for the octave bends but the other effects are also very usable.

Digitech described the pedal as allowing the performer to:

  • Perform smooth pitch bending. Five Whammy settings let you smoothly bend notes one tone down, one octave up or down, or two octaves up or down.
  • Create two part harmonies from a single note. Six settings provide single-note chromatic harmony along with the input note.
  • Apply thick detuning sounds. Detuning ranges from 0 to +18 cents and is controlled by the pedal position.

If you are wondering, the above example is a snippet of the track Moondog from the album Red Shift by The Hollowkind.

A word of warning – noise

The Whammy II is not a quiet pedal when active and it does alter your tone to a degree. I would strongly advise you take it out of your signal chain whenever possible – especially when recording. The bypass isn’t bad but if the pedal is active it really dulls your tone and there will be an audible hiss, especially when using high gain amp settings.

Reliability

I have had my Whammy II since the early 1990s. I can’t be sure when but it can’t have been long after the pedal was released. The only problem I have had with it is a power supply failure. A note of caution here – if your power supply has failed don’t bother trying to hook the pedal up to your standard 9v DC adapter that’s used to power your compact effect pedals. The Whammy II requires 9v AC with quite a high current. The recommended replacement is the Digitech PS913 that kicks out the required 9v Ac at 1300mA.

Calibration

One aspect of the Whammy II that you may not be aware of is that it requires calibration every time you power up the unit. It is necessary to move the pedal through its full range once in order to achieve this.

Controls

Select Switch

The select switch allows the performer to cycle through the presets. Note that this is sequential when in Performance mode – if you use preset one and then change to two you will have to cycle through all the remaining presets to get back to one. There is a way out though – Toggle mode (see below).

Bypass Switch

The name says it all really. This switch is also used to switch the unit between Performance and Toggle modes.

Input Level Controls

Digitech Whammy II rear panel

The input level control is a little rotary control on the back of the unit and is very important. You may be able to make it out to the left of the jacks in the image above. Failing to set the input level to suit your instrument and playing style can result in unwanted distortion and inaccuracy in the pitch shifting effect. To help you set the level correctly there are 2 LEDs on the top of the unit. While playing adjust the input control until the green input level LED lights for normal playing and the red peak LED indicator flashes only on the loudest peaks. Swap guitars? Recalibrate the input level.

Inputs and Outputs

The Whammy II has 3 ¼” mono jack sockets on the rear panel: an input jack to connect your instrument, a wet output for the processed sound and a dry output. There is also a power jack for the 9v AC power supply.

When connecting your guitar to the Whammy Digitech recommend that the Whammy II be placed before any distortion effects in the signal chain. This ensures that the cleanest possible signal is available to the pedal increasing the accuracy of the pitch detection. However this is not a hard and fast rule – harmony effects may actually sound better with the Whammy placed after your distortion effect.

Modes of Operation

Performance Mode

This is the default mode of operation which is available when the Whammy II is first powered up. Tapping the Select switch advances you through the 12 presets sequentially.

Toggle Mode

Toggle mode was a new feature on the Whammy II allowing you to choose two settings and to toggle between them during performance. The unit will remember the two selected presets when the unit is turned off.

Toggle mode is activated as follows:

  1. Press and hold the Select switch for 2 seconds; the TOGGLE ON LED will begin to flash, indicating that you are ready to select your 2 presets.
  2. Use the Select switch to choose the first of your 2 presets.
  3. Press and hold the Select button until the preset indicator LED begins flashing. This “locks in” your first selection.
  4. Use the select button to advance to your second preset. Press and hold the Select button until the TOGGLE ON LED stops flashing and remains lit. Both selections are now locked in, and with the LED lit, the Whammy II is in Toggle mode.

A quick press and release of the Select button will toggle between the 2 selected presets. To leave Toggle mode press and hold the Bypass button for 2 seconds. To return to Toggle mode press and hold the Bypass button again.