BY MATT BLACKETT
Although many acoustic guitarists are perfectly content to plug into a DI or acoustic amp, there’s no denying the coolness and added tonal flexibility that comes from having some stompboxes on the floor in front of you. A potential turnoff, however, is the burden of multiple patch cables, 9-volt batteries, or an octopus of power adapters. Well, what if you could get all the goodness with none of the hassle factor?
Please make the acquaintance of the Nexi Acoustic ($299 retail, including a reverb pedal), an inspired and happening take on the time-honored pedalboard concept from Nexi Industries. Conceived by “a bunch of frustrated guitarists and boutique analog stompbox fanatics from Amsterdam,” the Nexi Acoustic is a click-and-play device with a built-in tuner and boost that is also “splash proof.” Wow. Allow me to explain.
The unit is a sleek, wood-grain-toned floorboard with four pedal-sized slots and two switches on it, plus a big display readout up top. You power it up with a beefy (and easy to find on a gig) IEC cable. That’s when you realize that the huge display is for the onboard tuner. When you remove the rubber covers on the slots, you’ll see a little 9-pin computer-style port connector and two small plugs. If you take the Nexi Acoustic Reverb pedal that is included with the purchase and remove the plastic plug on the bottom, you will see that it snaps directly into the slot on the board, with a reassuring click and a snug fit, thanks to the rubber grommet running around the pedal (there’s that splash-proof thing again). The 9-pin port powers the pedal and the audio. Plug your guitar cable in on the right side, take a 1/4″ or XLR out on the left, and you’re up and running. (The review board didn’t come with a reverb pedal, but Nexi sent a compressor, a looper, and a chorus pedal.)
I snapped the compressor pedal into place, and the first thing I noticed is that it sounds really good—big and warm with low noise and very transparent. I would absolutely use this pedal. That’s important, because one of the first things I asked myself upon seeing the pedalboard was, “Do I have to use their pedals?” The answer is no (more on that in a minute), but the more nuanced answer is, “You’ll probably want to check out their pedals, because in addition to working seamlessly with the pedalboard, they’re all true-bypass, feature analog circuitry, and they sound great.” I mounted the Acoustic Chorus and, like the compressor, it sprang instantly to life, powering up and passing signal. It has what they call the Ultra Classic mode, which you can switch on and off with the middle knob. Both settings sound expansive, with Off being more subtle and Ultra Classic delivering deeper, more pronounced chorusing. It can get into warbly, seasick territory, but only if you crank it, and even then it’s a usable sound. I’m picky about chorus, and this is a good one.
If you want to use your own pedals, you totally can; you just need the ConNEXI, which retails for a very reasonable $28. This is essentially a rubber pad with a power adapter and two patch cables on it. It can accommodate 9-volt, tip-negative pedals; the power unit inside the four-slot board is 3000Mah, plenty enough even for power-slurping stompboxes. You can affix your pedals with Velcro or double-stick tape, but the power adapter and patch cables are actually pretty effective at tethering your box to the board (admittedly not a long-term solution, but one that got me through this review without any problems). I plugged in an Emma Electronic Navigator delay, snapped it in, and it worked right away, exactly as promised. What a concept!
The gig-friendly features of this pedalboard are definitely cool. I didn’t test the splash-proof claim, but it does appear that a spilled beer would not ruin your life on a club date. The tuner seems very accurate and you would be able to read this display from anywhere on stage. There is also an onboard boost, which is a great idea. With the Mode button you can preset a 7, 12, or 20dB boost, and it’s absolutely handy to have it underfoot, without hogging one of your pedal slots. There’s also a Speaker Simulator, which leaves the sound of your guitar completely intact.
This is a very well-thought-out tool. It has the clean look and solid feel of the custom pedalboards that we used to only see on the stages of the pros. Although it has only four slots, the built-in tuner and boost make it more like six, and the up to 12-volt DC jack on the side allows you to add pedals if you need to. Nice job, Nexi!
CONNECTIONS Four pedal slots, 1/4″ input, 1/4″ output XLR DI output (with ground lift), 1/4″ line out, 12v DC output
SWITCHES Power, Tuner, Boost, Mode, Select
PRICE $299 (retail); $28 for ConNEXI adapter
MADE IN China