NEXI Industries The Solution Pedalboard and NEXI Pedals
By Phil O'Keefe |
NEXI Industries The Solution Pedalboard and NEXI Pedals
A new approach to plug-and-play pedalboards
by Phil O'Keefe
Eventually, most gigging guitarists mount their pedals on a pedalboard. It makes sense because a pedalboard is a lot easier to set up at the gig than connecting a bunch of individual pedals, cables, and power supplies. But even after you've gone through the hassles of putting a pedalboard together, there's still the potential for some annoying, unwanted glitches that can mess up your performance. If you've ever had a cable go out on your board, or something became unplugged just far enough that it no longer passed signal, then you'll know what I mean.
If only there was a pedalboard that didn't require connecting all the pedals with cables, and didn't need a dedicated power supply, power daisy chain or other power cabling...well there is, so allow me to introduce you to The Solution by NEXI Industries.
What You Need To Know
NEXI Industries is a Dutch company that is new to the world of guitar effects. They've recently introduced a line of compact pedals, as well as a pedalboard designed for use with their pedals called The Solution. We'll look at some of the pedals as well as the board itself.
Designed by what NEXI calls the "Vintage Analog Protection Squad," which apparently is what they call their design staff, they set out to create a pedalboard that was splash proof, ready to play in under five minutes, and that didn't come with all the cabling and pedal mounting hassles of traditional pedalboards. After four years in development, this is The Solution they devised.
The pedals and The Solution pedalboard were designed in the Netherlands, and built in China.
Currently there are 14 different pedals available:12 "single" pedals, including the 70s Distortion DIS-01, 70's Overdrive OVD-01, Analog Chorus CHO-01, Delay DLY-01, Distortion DIS-02, Dutch Screamer DSC-01, Fuzz FZZ-01, Looper LPR-01, Metal Distortion MTD-01, Overdrive OVD-02, Phaser PSR-01 and Tremolo TRM-01 along with two "double pedals," including the NEXI Industries Expression / Volume VOL-01 and Wah WWA-01 pedals.
I received a Solution board, as well as a 70s Overdrive, Delay, Tremolo, Dutch Screamer and Volume pedal for testing.
- Constructed of heavy duty plastic for strength and weight savings, the Solution pedalboard has a total of 8 pedal positions on it. A built-in power supply on the board supplies power to each position.
- Each position is covered by a removable rubberized plate. Hidden underneath is a 9-pin jack and two pins.
You can forget about Velcro, bike chain links, glue, cable ties, or any of the other methods used for mounting pedals to boards. NEXI instead has created what it calls a "plug and play" system; the pedals have sockets that mate with the two pins on the NEXI pedalboard. The pedals click down and attach to it without the need for any tools. Their hard-rubber bottom plates seal securely into the board's insert positions.
Pedals can be just as easily lifted off the board, but it takes an intentional effort to do so. They stay in place unless you want to move them.
- Removing an easily removable (no tools required), small plate on the bottom of all the pedals reveals a 9-pin connector. This mates with the pedalboard's connector, which supplies power to the pedal and also handles all of the I/O - there's no need for any other connections between pedals.
Let's state that again - when using NEXI pedals with The Solution pedalboard, there is no need for any wiring whatsoever. No more running power to each pedal, no more wires in between them. This gives the NEXI pedal board a very clean look.
- As to getting your guitar signal into the pedalboard and then patching the board to your amp, NEXI put the jacks on the right side of the board. You'll find 1/4" input and output jacks (complete with attached rubberized plugs to keep them splash-resistant when not in use), along with an IEC power receptacle to power the board and all attached pedals.
NEXI even thoughtfully included a pair of USB jacks so you can charge your phone and tablet. Seems silly? Not if you're one of countless musicians who use these devices for displaying music and lyrics or as mixing, sound generating / virtual instruments, and/or amp sims and effects processing tools onstage.
- NEXI includes a signal path chart on the pedalboard's bottom.
- There are a few other features included with The Solution pedalboard. An additional 1/4" output can connect to your amp or anything else requiring an A/B footswitch. This is activated by the left-most of the three built-in footswitches located at the front of the pedalboard. A letter A or B illuminates at the top of the pedalboard, depending on the switch's position.
There are two other footswitches on the pedalboard. The far-right one activates a built-in 3-step boost function you can set to your choice of three levels (+7 dB, +12 dB and +20 dB). A series of lights at the top of the pedal illuminate to let you know when the boost is engaged, and the selected boost level.
You set the boost level by activating the boost and then pressing the Select button (located in the upper-right corner) to cycle through the three available settings.
The center footswitch activates the onboard tuner. The Mode switch (located just above the Select switch) lets you pick among seven tuner modes, including Normal (440 Hz Chromatic), Open D, E, G and A, Drop D and DAGDAD. If you tune down a half step (or more) the tuner will accommodate your preferred tuning too.
The tuner auto-selects the correct note and displays the note name in the center. Three dots to either side of it indicate whether the note is sharp or flat; a note is in tune when there's one dot illuminated to either side of the note letter display.
An optional lid that totally encloses and covers the pedalboard for transport to and from your gigs is available. It's heavy duty and designed to withstand a 150 kilogram weight being placed on top of it. It also has built-in top and side handles.
Let's move on to the actual pedals. The looper and delay pedals are analog/digital hybrids; all the other pedals are fully analog.
The pedals are built into metal cases that measure 4.75" L x 3" W x 2.25" H. Each pedal's control area is angled back to help protect them from your feet.
- NEXI pedals can be used with other pedals and on other pedalboards, thanks to regular 1/4" I/O jacks mounted on the sides of the pedals. These come from the factory plugged with rubber stoppers to keep debris out of the pedals when using them with NEXI's pedalboard)
Switching on all NEXI Industries pedals is true bypass. The switches themselves have a large, knob-like surface that screws on top of a standard-style switch, which makes them very easy to activate. Like standard switches, there's a slightly audible mechanical click when activated.
The Wah and Volume pedal switches work in the traditional manner - they're located at the top of and directly underneath the treadle toe.
- Instead of a small LED to indicate when the pedal is active, the entire perimeter of the white area around the controls lights up. It's pretty dramatic and looks cool in a darkened room.
NEXI's pedals can be powered through the 9-pin multi connector on the bottom (when used with NEXI's The Solution pedalboard), via an industry-standard 2.1 mm center-negative power jack (located at the top of the pedal), or with an internal 9V battery. The battery compartment is accessed by removing four screws and taking off the pedal's bottom plate.
As with the 1/4" I/O jacks, a rubber stopper plugs the power jack when not in use. This is part of the "splash proof" protection that NEXI builds into their products. In fact, the entire board and all the pedals are designed to be splash-resistant, and all openings are either filled with rubber coverings or are completely covered by the rubberized plates or the rubberized rings around the edges of the pedals themselves.
The Dutch Screamer is an overdrive pedal that sounds like it was based on a classic green-colored overdrive pedal with a pronounced midrange emphasis. It has the same basic control configuration, with Drive, Tone and output Volume knobs that do what you'd expect. It's a solid toobscreamer-flavored pedal that works well for both clean boosting as well as mild-to-moderate overdrive.
The 70s Overdrive is a full-range overdrive pedal. The controls are Gain, Tone, and Volume, and again, they work just as you'd expect. Medium amounts of gain are available, but the 70s Overdrive never really crosses over into heavy distortion territory.
The Delay is a digital / analog hybrid, voiced to sound like an analog delay. It has three knobs - Time, Repeat, and Level. The delay time ranges from 35 mS to 598 mS. The Repeat knob sets the number of delay repeats, and the pedal will self-oscillate if maxed out. Level sets the delayed signal's volume, from quite quiet at its lowest setting to louder than the source signal at its highest.
- The Volume pedal, like the Wah, requires two slots on the board - one above the other. Being a true pedal lover who never seems to have enough room on my board, I was hoping that the Volume pedal functioned passively so you could save some space on the board itself for other things while setting it alongside - and in fact you can do this, but you'll need to put a battery into it since the circuit is active - it won't run without some sort of power. The pedal uses a traditional treadle and rack and pinion gearing mechanism to control the position of a built-in volume pot.
- The Tremolo has three controls: Speed (sets the rate of amplitude fluctuations), Chop, and Volume (sets the output level). Chop is a waveform selector, with a sine waveform shape at its counterclockwise position whose shape becomes increasingly more choppy and square as you turn up the knob.
Stereo operation is not supported, None of the pedals has a stereo output, and there is only a single output on the pedalboard.
The pedals look very similar to one another, and while the pedal names are in different colors the labels are small enough to be difficult to see on stage. With only eight spaces on the board you'll probably remember what's what fairly quickly, but it would be helpful to differentiate them more easily by sight.
- The maximum Tremolo speed could be a bit faster.
Neither the Delay nor Tremolo offer tap tempo.
- Currently only NEXI pedals work with The Solution, but there are plans for an adapter that will allow using other companies' pedals. Unfortunately I don't have any specs or other information on the adapter at this time.
- You're not limited to using only NEXI pedals with The Solution pedalboard if you're willing to use them outboard, placed before or after the NEXI board in your signal chain. With this in mind, it would be convenient if there was a 2.1mm center-negative 9V DC output jack on the side of the board to power additional, outboard pedals you might want to run alongside NEXI's The Solution pedalboard.
NEXI has come up with an interesting product in their Solution pedalboard, and it has a lot of clever engineering that will make it attractive to many players. The sound quality of the pedals themselves is comparable with products from other high-quality manufacturers; you won't be making significant compromises in terms of sound, although some may be a bit feature-light (e.g., no delay or tremolo tap tempo) compared to some competitors.
The pedalboard's splash resistance is a very cool feature. Unlike other pedalboards, an accidental beer spill at a gig would probably not be a disaster. If you can live without stereo, and are willing to commit to using NEXI's pedals for everything you want to mount on the board, The Solution Pedalboard has a lot to offer. While eight pedal slots may seem a bit low, you won't need to use one for a tuner or a boost pedal since those functions are built into the board itself. You also may not need to use your amp's AB footswitch, although this will depend on the specific amp you use and its switching requirements. Of course, you can use two of the boards if you really need a lot of pedals for your purposes, and you can easily patch third-party pedals into your setup before or after the NEXI rig, although they'll require a separate power supply.
I wish there was stereo capability, but I'm probably in the minority - most guitarists don't bother going stereo, especially for live gigs. Another useful feature I'd like to see added would be a 9V DC 2.1 mm center negative power outlet with enough power for outboard pedals, and maybe an assignable effects loop that could insert between any of the eight onboard pedals to help facilitate using external pedals. But those omissions aside, it's obvious that NEXI has put a lot of thought into their products. The pedals connect to The Solution very easily, yet stay firmly seated until you want to remove them. The mounting method is pretty brilliant, and so is the hassle factor - it's super-easy to change your pedal layout and order, and not having to worry about power supply and patch cables takes all the headaches out of assembling a board. If you want a hassle-free board, take the time to research NEXI's Solution. It could be exactly what you want. -HC-
NEXI pedals and The Solution pedalboard are available directly from NEXI Industries (at current exchange rates, the dollar is worth about 5% less than the Euro).
A Starter Pack with The Solution and the NEXI Overdrive is €199.95
Individual pedals are €99.95, including shipping.
Pre-configured pedalboards designed for a variety of musical genres (rock, blues, country, alternative, etc.) are available for €699.00. These include The Solution board, four single-sized pedals (the selection depends on the genre) as well as the Volume and Wah pedals.
Optional Lid for The Solution pedalboard ( €69.95 )
Have questions or comments about this review? Then be sure to check out this thread in the Effects Forum right here on Harmony Central!
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.