Digital music pedals are nothing new - there have been a number of attempts at making something as good or better than the analog pedals musicians have been using for most of the last century. The Chaos Audio Stratus is trying to pick up the rock baton, as it were, with its all-digital effects pedal that can add five different effects to your guitar, including echoes and a howling overdrive.
These pedals are tools that change the way a guitar sounds. Most of them use analog, solid-state parts to change the signal coming out of the guitar. These stompboxes, as they’re called, are totems of power for most musicians and they have special sounds and styles they like to use and reuse.
A box like this one is more fluid, allowing you to change the sounds on the fly.
The company is Kickstarting its project and aims to ship it next July. The product consists of a pedal with a single control knob and button. The app connects to the pedal via Bluetooth and controls the sound coming out of the audio jack. You can chain multiple sound effects together including a wah-wah pedal, a flanger, and reverb. It will also include a metronome, looper, and tuner.
The tuner and looper work without the app which means you can noodle using repeated sounds by just tapping the footswitch. The app works on iOS and Android. It’s probably not for pros, per se, but it’s more of a noodling and practice tool for folks playing in bedrooms or home studios.
To be clear, a lot of companies have tried to make programmable pedals. Line 6 has the Helix, a bit of overkill with a full desktop modeling studio for effects and cabinet styles, and there are instruments like the Jamstik with phone apps that model different sounds on the fly. The $300 Stratus is far simpler, clearly, with only a basic app and one button, which could make it a nice entry-level unit for music fans.
The team is pretty far along. They demoed a prototype to me on video - it slaps - and they’re currently working on mass-producing the aluminum cases and circuit boards. As you can see above, the product already has a number of working presets and effects that can change a regular guitar into something completely different. Further, the whole system is wireless and the pedal includes a rechargeable battery so you don’t have to lug around the 9-volt batteries most of these pedals require to run.
This thing is a cool idea and if they can pull off the delicate balance of usability and tone they’ll have something good on their hands. Those of you who are about to rock (and back them), we salute you.
As always, this is a crowdfunded project. What I saw was impressive but a prototype. Stratus hopes to start shipping in July 2021 if you order the $200 Early Bird edition, and the standard version is expected to retail for $300 and start shipping in September 2021. That’s nearly a year away and as with any crowdfunded project, a leap of faith and a lot of patience are required.