Before I say anything about these pedals, I think it's a good idea to first broach the subject of their similarities to the Biyang pedals, otherwise I'm going to get chastised by the guitar community.
There are very obvious similarities between the two, in fact it would appear that they are almost identical in terms of circuity, chips, and appearance. Biyang, to the best of my knowledge, only ever distributed pedals onto the Asian market, so Akai are bringing these pedals into US and European markets (and other markets). They are more expensive, but when you exclude the shipping and import costs of the Biyangs into the UK, then you are talking very small differences.
So lets leave all that behind, and focus on how these pedals sound, and how they work. If you want to moan about the Biyang connection, then go and do it on a forum somewhere, if you are aware of the connection then you probably already know how the pedals sound and you don't need to read or watch a review.
In terms of the sonic footprint of the pedals, they are a good addition to a pedalboard if you are running a predominately digital rig. What the pedals lack in versatility they more than make up for in their natural tone. The compressor and the delay are the main culprits; both have the warmth and character that you would expect a bit of analog circuitry to bring to the table.
The Compressor is very basic, with just threshold and mix parameters to play with. That isn't a problem though, because the pedal sounds great and it serves two main functions very well – to level out the peaks and troughs in your playing, and to add sustain to your solos. I used it in conjunction with a fuzz pedal on a bass guitar at a recent gig, and it sounded really rather delicious.
Anyone who has ever used a compressor will know what the threshold and mix parameters do, so to say that they do exactly what they say on the tin should be enough of an explanation for these folk. For those who are perhaps less familiar, the threshold affects how loud the signal from your guitar has to be before the compressor will reduce the peaks. On this pedal, the higher you have your threshold, the more dynamic your playing will sound, if you want to compress your sound so that it stays at an even volume consistently, you knock the threshold down, this will also increase sustain.
The Analog Delay, much like the compressor, does exactly what you would expect it to. Analog delay can sometimes be a bit hit and miss, but this particular delay pedal has a very natural sound. The fade on the tail of the feedback is actually quite charming, and is great if you want to create the post-rock soundscapes that many modern guitarists use delay for. It might be less versatile than digital delays, but it sounds a bit cooler (not I did not say 'better')!
I have to be honest with you dear Sonic State readers, I'm not blown away by the other pedals. But for the price, I don't expect to be. They serve their purpose, that is really the bottom line. The Phase Shifter is great for funk, so I would recommend it to funk guitarists who are looking for a good phaser. I think it works better than most auto-wahs on funk, it's certainly much less comedic.
The Chorus and the Flanger are very similar to other chorus and flanger pedals in the same price bracket, I have to say that I could never recommend either over the Marshall Regenerator pedal. I use the Regenerator so often, and it matches the analog personality of the Akai pedals, but throws in a good bit of versatility in a much smaller package. I do wonder if the Akai pedals could be made any smaller, I usually fit 10 pedals into my pedalboard, but I can only fit five or six Akai pedals on there. That might not be a problem for a lot of people, but for me it is.
So who should buy these pedals, and who shouldn't? If you are looking for a pedal to do a very specific job, then I would definitely recommend the Akai pedals. I say this simply because they are affordable, and they offer good value for money. The compressor is great for adding sustain to solos, and the delay is great for all manner of things. They are also a very good introduction into the world of effects for people who might not have many pedals in their arsenal. Each pedal has a quintessential analog tone, and they are certainly not going to be overwhelming for beginners.
I guess what I'm saying is that it's pretty hard to get a crap sound out of them!
I wouldn't recommend the pedals for anybody who is looking for a good all-rounder in any category. None of these pedals do more than one or two basic functions, which isn't a bad thing, because they do those functions well, but you can certainly find pedals with more versatility and an equally attractive tone in the same sort of price range. If the Eventide pedals are at the extreme end of versatility, then the Akai pedals are at the other end.
Akai Custom Analog Pedals:
Compressor, Delay, Flanger , Phaser , Chorus all priced at £59/$99
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