A Beginners’ Guide to Guitar Pedals

beginners guide to guitar pedals

The world of electric guitars opens up new horizons of expression in music. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that it’s one of the most popular instruments out there. After all, there are so many different things that you can do with an electric guitar, making it a very potent musical tool for almost all of the genres that we can think of today.

The fact that it’s an electric instrument that sends a signal to an amplifier opens up new ways for further altering and improving its tone. With the development of guitar effects, guitarists worldwide were given a new tool that would help them to more easily convey their artistic message.

So it’s not unusual to know that many guitar players have dedicated their time and effort in building elaborate pedalboards. Some of them even feature very complex loops and even external controllers to create different combinations of sounds.

huge guitar pedal board

If you’re new to guitar pedals, some things might get a bit confusing. Well, you’re definitely not alone in this, and even the most experienced guitar players have been there. After all, with so many different pedals and effects, it does get difficult to keep up with how things work.

With all this said, we figured we could help clear things up for beginners and do a detailed guide on guitar pedals. We sorted them out by categories, explaining what these effects do, and how adjusting their parameters affects your tone. At the end of this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of guitar pedals and enough knowledge to start building your pedalboard.


Tuners

Peterson Stomp Classic Strobe Tuner

Tuner pedals are not effects, but we still need to include them in this guide. Essentially, they are like regular guitar tuners, only in the form of guitar pedals that you can put in your signal chain.

What’s important to note here is that they have a display or an array of LED lights along with a display so that you can easily see when the open string hits the desired note.

They’re nothing fancy, but they serve their purpose for live settings. You just hit the footswitch, mute the tone, and tune your guitar. That’s it!

However, tuner pedals usually have buffered bypass, which can serve its purpose in the signal chain. Essentially, they can balance the signal and sort things out, but that’s a whole other discussion that we’ll touch upon some other time.

Read a review of one of our favorite tuning pedals here


Filters

DigiTech X-Series Synth Wah Envelope Filter review

Up next, we have filter pedals that serve the purpose of filtering out certain frequencies in your tone. This means they can also pronounce certain frequency ranges of the audible spectrum by filtering out everything else. One of the examples of filter pedals is the wah-wah.

Wahs can change the peak frequency, pronounce it, while everything else stays the same or gets filtered out. By moving its rocking part, wah pedal sweeps over the spectrum. We also have automatic wah pedals that change these frequencies according to the input signal, or the dynamics of your playing.

Other types of filter pedals are “static” and keep the tone according to your parameters. As a result, they can emulate some quirky synth tones. An example would be Line 6 FM4. However, these are usually more advanced “toys” that you don’t exactly need as a beginner.

Check out our review of the DigiTech Synth Wah Envelope Filter Pedal here


Equalizers

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Just like your guitar amp has a 3-band equalizer with bass, middle, and treble controls, there are standalone pedals that can further shape your tone.

The simplest form of an EQ is a tone control on your guitar, and the most complex examples would be things like 30-band EQs or parametric EQs.

EQ pedals for guitar usually have anywhere between 5 and 10 frequency ranges that you can control using sliders. By turning the pedal on, you change the tone according to the set parameters, and then go back to the original tone when it’s turned off.

This is pretty useful if you need to change the tone for a certain section of a song, like pronouncing mids for a solo. MXR’s M108S is a good example of a 10-band EQ pedal.


Boosters

Fulltone Fulldrive2 MOSFET Overdrive Boost review

We could say that these are the simplest types of pedals out there. All they do is boosting the guitar signal without creating distortion in their circuit. If you need a slight volume boost without changing your tone, they come in handy.

However, they are also very useful with tube amplifiers or other tube pedals and devices in your signal chain. Tube amps tend to “break” their tone and cause that “natural” or “organic” distortion when reaching their limits.

A simple booster can help you achieve that vintage-sounding distortion with a tube amp or another tube-driven pedal.

Check out our review of the MRX MC401 Boost Pedal here


Compressors

boss-cs-3-compression-sustainer-pedal-review

Compressors often get overlooked, which is quite a shame as they are pretty useful. The proper name for them would be dynamic range compressors as they turn up the volume of quiet parts and keep the louder parts quieter.

Of course, you’re able to set parameters and intensity of this compression. They can also boost the signal when needed, but the main purpose is to keep everything in check and prevent anything from popping up in the mix.

This is why they’re very useful for bassists and rhythm guitarists.

Read our review of the BOSS CS-3, one of our favorite compressors


Expanders, aka noise gates

Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal review

An expander is the opposite of a compressor – quiet parts get quieter, and louder parts get louder or just stay at the same volume.

This effect is perfect for dealing with high gain distortions that tend to add that hissing sound when you’re not playing. While it can’t filter out the hissing during your playing, it does keep things quiet in between the notes.

They usually have just one control that sets the threshold at which the effect is activated. They’re simple to use but still require some experience to implement properly without soaking up your tone.

Check out our review of the Boss NS-2


Pitch-altering pedals

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This is where the fun stuff begins. Pitch shifters can alter the pitch of your whole output or add one or more intervals to what you’re playing.

For instance, the famous example here is the Digitech Whammy that can alter the pitch of your tone as you rock the moving part of the pedal back and forth.

Kind of like a wah pedal, but it changes the pitch. You can hear this one in Rage Against the Machine’s famous song “Killing in the Name.”

Octaver pedals are also pretty common on pedalboards, and they usually have settings to add two additional tones to what you’re playing, one and two octaves below.

They can find uses in lead sections or anything that doesn’t involve playing more than one note at a time. Boss has some great Octaver pedals, like the OC-3.

We also have harmonizers that add the desired interval above or below notes that you’re playing. These can either work chromatically by adding a fixed interval (i.e. major third) or diatonically where they work “smart” and accommodate the intervals according to the scale that you’re playing.

To use these “smart” versions of harmonizers, you need some basic music theory knowledge. Examples of harmonizer pedals include Boss VE-2, Boss VE-8, TC Helicon Harmony, and many others.

Read our review of the Digitech Whammy 5


Distortion

Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion review

Now we get to the most important part of every pedalboard – distortion pedals. In the world of guitar, the distortion effect is divided into three categories, which are overdrive, classic distortion, and fuzz.

They create this effect by intentional boosting and clipping of the signal. Different types of clipping create different types of distortion.

There’s something for everyone’s taste these days, and the most attention is usually dedicated to finding proper distortion pedals for certain styles of music and playing.

Some of the famous examples include Ibanez Tube Screamer with all of its variants, Boss DS-1, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, MXR M75, the legendary Klon Centaur, Pro Co Rat, and many others.

Read our review of the Pro Co Turbo Rat distortion pedal


Modulation

mxr-m134-stereo-chorus-273109

Modulation effects include everything that adds the copy of your signal, alters it a little, and blends it in with the unprocessed signal.

The most famous modulation effect is the chorus that adds a very short delay and alters the pitch up and down according to the set amplitude and speed.

We also have flanging and phasing, which are in some technical ways similar, but in practice produce completely different effects.

Most of the modulation pedals have a “mix” or “blend” control that determines the ratio between unprocessed and processed signals.

There are also depth and speed controls, along with a few other things. Strymon has a great chorus pedal called Ola. MXR has the M134 stereo chorus that’s pretty great too.

Check out our review of the MXR M134 Stereo Chorus Pedal


Atmospheric effects: delays and reverbs

electro harmonix holy grail reverb

To keep your tone more interesting, you should think of different “atmospheric” effects. After all, you can’t keep it “dry” all the time. For this purpose, we have delay and reverb pedals. Both of these add repeated copies of your tone to create an illusion of a bigger or smaller room.

Delays add simple repeats according to set parameters. You can control the time distance between these repeats, the number of repeats, and the mix between the original and repeated signal.

It’s the classic echo effect. In some cases, pedals also have separate EQ controls for shaping the tone of the repeated signal. There’s anything from the simple stuff like the MXR carbon copy, up to very complex pieces like the Empress Echosystem.

Reverbs also repeat the signal, but in a more “shimmering” manner, giving the impression of one prolonged atmospheric continued repeat. It’s as if you’re playing in a large hall or a cathedral.

They also include blend or mix controls, just like delays. Strymon’s Big Sky is a great example of a very spacious-sounding reverb.

Read our review of the TC Electronic M3000


Volume pedals

morley-volume-pedal

While they could be the most boring part of one pedalboard, volume pedals should be an essential part of every signal chain, especially if you’re playing in a bigger band or an orchestra.

They’re pretty simple – you use them to control your output volume. They have a rocking part that you use to turn the volume up or down. There’s usually the “minimum volume” switch that sets the volume when the pedal is at its minimum position.

There’s a common misconception with beginners thinking that the volume pedal can do the same thing as the booster pedal. The thing with volume pedals is that you’re reducing the volume to the desired level. You use it when you’re supposed to keep quiet in the mix.

There are high impedance and low impedance volume pedals, but we’re not going to get too much into technical details about this. Low impedance pedals are more common and they go at the very end or near the end of the signal chain. Ernie Ball has its MVP volume pedal that’s very reliable.


Expression pedals, tap pedals, and sequencers

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Some of the effects we mentioned usually support connectivity with external control sources. For this, we have expression pedals, which are just multi-purpose potentiometers in the form of a pedal.

Automatic wah-wah, certain modulation pedals, or even delays can work with an expression pedal, but only if they have a separate input jack for it.

On their own, expression pedals do nothing, although many volume pedals also have the expression pedal functionality.

Tap switches work the same way, it’s just that they have one control switch that sets the tempo of the effect. For instance, you connect it to a delay, and when your delay pedal is turned on, tap the switch pedal twice and the tempo of your repeated tones will be set according to the tempo that you tapped.

Sequencer pedals are a bit more complicated, and they’re definitely not something that a beginner would use. It’s a complex controller that has a sequence of adjustable steps.

It controls any effect with the expression pedal connectivity feature, but it does nothing on its own. An example here would be the well-known Electro-Harmonix 8-Step Program Analog Expression Sequencer.


What’s the correct order of pedals in the signal chain?

First off, there’s no such thing as the “correct” order of pedals. There are, however, some standards in arranging your pedalboard that may help you get the clearest tone without any unwanted noises or hisses.

This is the usual order, but you’re free to experiment. The whole thing is open for discussion.

From guitar to the amp, it goes like this: tuner – filter – EQ – compressor – boost – pitch altering – distortion – modulation – volume pedals – delay – reverb. Volume pedal can also come after the delay and reverb.

We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

Horns-Simpsons-Drooble

When the gods made heavy metal, as per the gospel of Manowar, one of their first and only tenets, were to play it as loud and wild as (in)humanly possible. Since those early days, cunning minds and champions heavy music have been finding new ways to make their guitar sound louder, meaner and nastier.

And let’s be honest here – very few things in life feel better than when you plug in your guitar, strike that first evil chord and feel the very foundations of earth shake and scream at the tips of your fingers, or when you start laying down a deep, wicked gallop and an evil grin starts creeping up your lips as you something raw and animalistic stirring deep in your belly, and you’re lusting to burst into a full sonic charge, no quarter to be given.

Well, distortion pedals are one of the things that make all this possible.

guitar metal face

Although we’ll be referring to the equipment in question as distortion pedals in the rest of this article, there are a few differences in ways various pedals dirty up your sound, and, technically, distortion is just one of the three effects from the unholy trinity of overdrive, distortion, and fuzz.

Feature Picks

In short, overdrive enhances your fundamental guitar signal without drastic changes, distortion clips the hell out of it, and fuzz clips it so hard that it’s barely recognizable (although when speaking specifically of metal, this one isn’t used that often as it produces a warm, wooly grumble more characteristic of stoner rock for instance).

Of course, there are overlapping areas between the three, but here we’ll focus mostly on distortion and pedals suited the most for aspiring metal ax-wielders. Without further ado, here are some of the best guitar pedals to use for heavy metal…


Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff

MetalMuff-large

The metal successor to Harmonix’ Big Muff Pi has been around for a while now and has proven to be a simple, yet effective solution for metal distortion, all wrapped up in a gorgeous design that just screams metal.

In addition to its name written in spike-y chrome script, you’ll see several knobs that might seem intimidating at first glance, but all are very straight-forwardly arranged and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way around it.

The Metal Muff sports a three-band EQ that helps you manage the gain, as well as a boost mode that really cranks up your signal.

It’s suitable both for gentler distortion as well as producing sounds that might have come from Satan’s own BDSM dungeon, and you’ll find that it works great both with passive and active pickups.

However, if you’re looking for a pedal capable of extreme amounts of distortion, look no further.


KHDK Dark Blood

khdk dark blood

Is there a more metal thing than Kirk Hammett’s signature distortion pedal?

This angry beast is perfect for both fans of Metallica as well as anyone who might be looking to hopefully stand toe to toe to Hammett when it comes to producing killer distorted tunes on your instrument.

The pedal itself looks gorgeous, with a red and black interface with a human heart painted on it. It is perfect for cutting off background noise with an onboard noise gate, but the real treat here is the Doom knob that really brings up that bottom end that Metallica’s sound is known for, letting you wield the powers of metal gods Hammett and Hetfield themselves.

There’s also a Hi/Lo switch which lets you play with two distinct modes – a gruff one for laying the foundation riffs (Lo), and a shrieking one that makes you soar through lead breaks with boosted top-end and sustain (Hi).

A surprisingly versatile treble control is the icing on the cake here. This thing comes with a fairly reasonable price too and is perfect for beginners and veterans alike.


Wampler Triple Wreck

triple wreck wampler

This one may not be a looker like the previous two, but let me tell you, it packs a brutal punch. Straight off the bat, you’re looking at ungodly amounts of gain, which is complemented by – you guessed it – even more gain.

This blasphemous thing was made possible by Wampler’s efficient three-band EQ and dedication to providing smoothly-nuanced gain curves.

Once you plug it in, you’ll realize that, although you’ll have command over more gain than you’ll ever need, the pedal is very easy to temper and lets you play with a tremendous specter of distortion. It’s all about them gainz bro.


Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal

ht-metal-front-view-large

Coming from the company with a hefty reputation of making top-notch amplifiers for headbangers around the globe, the HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is a product of extreme quality and reliability.

This pedal’s cascading tube gain stages and the tube amp response are revered by amateurs and professional musicians alike.

It will provide you with a sound as gritty as Clint Eastwood’s spit, with organic qualities of the excrement to boot – you won’t hear anybody complaining about your sound sounding “too digital“ despite buckets of gain and distortion.

Its vacuum tube circuitry is powered by a 300V DC connection, and the pedal’s numerous features include 3-band EQ, Clean/Overdrive switch, and a tone shape knob, really letting you play with various effects as much as you want.

The Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is an all-in-one toolbox, perfect for both garage, studio and stage.


MXRM116 Fullbore Metal

FullBoreDist-large

MRX has been around for ages, and in their case, ‘age’ most certainly equals quality and reliability.

This one gives you an incredible amount of bang for your buck, and really lays down the foundation of your metal sound. In addition to pure distortion, loads of features let you tweak your sound even further.

Although it is (arguably) the least pretty of the bunch, the MXRM116 Fullbore Metal pedal simply emanates with no-bullshit-just-metal big dick energy.

True to its meat-and-potatoes pedal nature, it is fully analog, with a built-in noise gate as well as true-bypass.

Also, this pedal gets the job done with underpowered single-coil guitars as well. If you’re looking for a really heavy, industrial metal sound, this is as good as it gets.


Conclusion

Distortion pedals are essential tools for any musician intent on wreaking some heavy metal havoc. And after all, there’s no reason not to use one – they’re tremendous fun, and you’ll be able to experiment with your sound like you never could without one.

Besides, not only will having a reliable pedal be a must-have if you ever decide to take your music to the stage, but it will also encourage you to take a stroll down that path as you realize how easy and fun it is to produce sounds that the gods of metal themselves would be envious of.

Each of these five is more than a solid pick, and any musician is bound to find one that suits his taste and budget the most. I hope that you do too.

Recommended Rig Run Downs

Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone Vintage Distortion Pedal Review

maestro_fz-1-sn4628_001

If we were to, somehow, go back to the earliest days of rock ‘n’ roll, we would stumble upon numerous guitar players having a hard time achieving a distorted tone.

After years of pushing their tube amps over the limits and using faulty equipment, some even resorted to damaging their amplifiers.

This was the case with The Kinks guitarist Dave Davies who even slashed a speaker cone on his tube amp to achieve that recognizable rugged fuzzy tone in “You Really Got Me” in 1964.

Who remembers this clip?

Well, anyway, that’s too bad since the Gibson subsidiary company called Maestro already came out with an actual fuzz pedal in 1962, the first-ever commercially produced fuzz effect – the Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone pedal.

maestro_fz-1a-lincolnwood_001

Up until then, the only actual distortion devices were custom made and you would have a hard time finding an engineer who would know how to make them.

We won’t blame Dave for damaging his amp since the pedal was only widely accepted after The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards recorded “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” through it.

From then on, the guitar world was changed forever and the trend of distortion pedal was initiated.

Background

But before we get into this old piece, we’ll have to share some sort of background on the whole thing. In the old days, the distortion was looked down upon by engineers as an undesirable effect.

When distortion finally found its place in rock ‘n’ roll, Gibson, under the Maestro brand, decided to release this new device.

However, it was not originally marketed as a distortion device but more like a “multi-effects” unit for bass guitarists. It was even able to emulate horn sections and other tones with its simple controls.

After trying to break into the guitar player market, they still didn’t see any success until Keith Richards finally ended up using it. Gibson kept making them until the early 1970s with the last model being FZ-1S Super-Fuzz.

maestro_fz1s_004

These days, it’s remembered as an important part of rock music history as it opened up the doors for the creation of new distortion pedals.

Features

Looking at such a device these days, FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone was a pretty simple pedal.

There was one output jack on the top side, two knobs for volume and attack, and an integrated cable that takes the signal from the instrument.

Although “attack” would not be the best way to describe the control, it was essentially like a gain knob on you see on regular fuzz or distortion pedals these days.

The original versions of the Fuzz-Tone came with three germanium transistors in the circuit and were powered by two 1.5-volt batteries.

There were some changes to the circuit made with the later versions, but the overall features remained the same.

More significant changes came with the FZ-1S Super-Fuzz version with additional controls and the design. Overall, it was a pretty simple and straightforward piece.

Speaking of the design, you can clearly see that this is an old piece made in the 1960s. Wedge-shaped and dark, it’s not really an eye-pleaser.

However, no one really cared about its design but rather what tones it could make.

Performance

Despite the lack of more controls, FZ-1 is a surprisingly versatile pedal. It was a very unusual type of fuzz, unlike most of the stuff you find today.

When used on basses, you could achieve tones resembling horn sections. Used on the guitar, the fuzz is usually pretty thin. On some tube amps, you could get enough of a push to get that natural drive going along with the fuzz.

But if you were to put them directly into solid-state amps, you wouldn’t get much of a thick tone. Not that it’s bad or anything, but it’s unlike any modern fuzz pedals we’re used to.

In addition, germanium transistors were never really practical. Yes, their tone is great and you might even get some smoothness to it despite being a solid-state piece.

However, germanium transistors tend to heat up during longer playing sessions, which clearly makes an impact on the tone. It doesn’t sound bad, but it just makes your tone inconsistent. This is why later versions of FZ-1 were made with silicon transistors.

To put it simply ñ it is a very specific piece and it’s preferred by those who like vintage tones and tube amps. Don’t expect anything tight-sounding.

Other versions

After the initially produced pieces were all sold out in 1965, Gibson began producing the FZ-1a version. It ran on one 1.5-volt battery and it saw some circuitry changes.

A few years later, they launched the FZ-1B version which implemented two or four silicone transistors and ran on 9-volt batteries. It also came without the integrated cable but rather regular input and output jacks.

The final version was the FZ-1S Super-Fuzz which saw a complete redesign and some new features. It was basically a completely new pedal with different tones.

Gibson reissued the old FZ-1a versions for a brief period in the ’90s. Some other smaller manufacturers paid tribute to the pedal by releasing products that replicate its sound. However, the original early 1960s versions are still valued the most among collectors.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to get your hands on the original version from the 1960s, be ready to have anywhere between $200 and $500 with you. They’re pretty rare to find and have a very narrow specific use.

It’s definitely not something a modern tone lover would like. It’s far from tight. In fact, it’s really fuzzy and vintage sounding. The germanium versions might be a bit warmer, but it’s still a better idea to play them through tube amps.

Fuzz-Tone is an important piece of history and it marked the beginning of the distortion pedal era, something that lasts even to this day.

However, it’s not for everyone’s taste and you really need to know what you’re looking for if you want to get your hands on one of these.

The Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz Tone is featured in the Billy Gibbons Rig Rundown

Featured Video

Dunlop JHOC1 Octavio Pedal Review

hendrix-octavio-3

Even after all these years and countless technological achievements we saw, people still enjoy the good old vintage stuff.

Of course, we’re talking about guitar players who sometimes really love to dig deep in search of a great tone. While doing so, they sometimes end up finding the rarest of the rare, some of the most unusual vintage pedals by some long-defunct manufacturers.

Aside from the tube amp stuff, there are plenty of other fun little gadgets from the old times that are worth checking out. For instance, those fuzz octave pedals that were capable of creating some really thick tones.

Despite replicating old and broken amplifiers, they managed to captivate many of the guitar players with specific tastes over the years. But since these old original fuzz pedals might get too expensive, there’s something from Dunlop that might be worthwhile if you’re into that kind of stuff.

Called JHOC1 Jimi Hendrix Octavio, it will definitely help you get those vintage-ish psychedelic bluesy tones.

Jimi Hendrix Octavio

Since there seems to be a great trend of the 1960s and 1970s throwback in rock and other genres, we’ve figured we could take a closer look at this pedal and see what it’s capable of. Now, let us dig in.

Features

All the fans of the vintage stuff usually like their amps and pedals and other effects straightforward. Just look at any fuzz, overdrive, and distortion pedal from the old days or most of the amps from the ’60s and the ’70s. It’s not that rare to find an amp or a pedal with just two knobs.

Well, such is the case with JHOC1 pedal. What you get is input, output, control for volume level, control for fuzz, on and off switch, and… Well, that’s it! It is intended to be as simple and as straightforward as possible.

The idea was developed by engineers from Dunlop to replicate some of the old tones Jimi Hendrix had back in the day.

This particular pedal is a complete copy of the very old legendary “Octavia” made by technician Roger Mayer for Hendrix. The one that’s inside the museum in Seattle, Washington.

The old Octavia was based on the idea that distorted tone should have a really rich harmonic content. Maybe too rich for today’s standards.

In fact, many of the guitar players today, playing modern-oriented stuff would not find use for such a pedal. Nonetheless, Dunlop developed this one as a great throwback for the ’60s and ’70s psychedelic music.

Aside from adding fuzz (a lots of it, in fact), Octavia added lower and higher octave in the mix. This unusual blend created a weirdly pleasant mushy fuzz chaos that Jimi Hendrix exploited so well. And Dunlop’s version of it is intended to do the same.

Design

We don’t really know what to think of this pedal’s design. It’s as if the original builder was told to come up with something that’s both ugly and beautiful at the same time. But all the jokes aside, just like its features, operation, and its tone, the pedal’s design was taken from the old Octavia made by Roger Mayer.

roger mayer

It’s pretty minimalistic, which is certainly something that brings back the old vibes. Unlike modern pedals we have today, with inputs and outputs on the left and right side and the pots on the front panel, the JHOC1 has input and output on the top side and the two knobs for volume and gain right above them. The front panel is completely blank, except for the “Octavio” sign written on the very top and the one switch on it.

Placing it on your pedalboard with all the other modern pedals, it will look like some sort of a time traveler from the 1960s.

Performance

As we already mentioned, it has a really rich harmonic content with one higher and one lower octave added. Of course, these octaves are blended in an unusual way. The upper octave is somewhat more pronounced, but it goes in so well. In a way, it sounds like there are added harmonics to your regular signal.

The fuzz itself is pretty solid, reflecting on those classic tones from the 1960s. What’s really interesting is that it can be paired with overdrives as well if you want to add a different flavor to it.

But in our opinion, it works the best with the clean channels of classic tube amps, especially old Fenders or anything that replicates that vintage American vibe with 6L6 tubes in the power amp. On the other hand, it might sound a bit dull plugged into solid-state amps.

Conclusion

Look, it’s a pedal that definitely gives you that little piece of Jimi Hendrix. However, it’s not for everyone. There have been some negative reviews about JHOC1 online, but we believe this is due to people buying the wrong kind of pedals for themselves.

Yes, that happens, especially with young and enthusiastic beginner players who are automatically drawn to the Jimi Hendrix’s name on it. The secret, however, lies in how you implement it and how you combine it with other pedals and amps you have.

Hating on fuzz pedals is not unheard of. It’s especially the case with ones that have such high gain operation and really rich harmonic content, in addition to the higher and lower octave.

As we already mentioned, it’s the best option if you’re into those vintage psychedelic rock tones and already have a vintage or a vintage-style tube amp. Otherwise, there’s no point in getting your hands on the JHCO1.

On the other hand, it is a bit expensive for such a simple and straightforward pedal. Not to be too negative, but it seems to us that this was Dunlop’s attempt to cash in on Hendrix’s name.

Since this particular model is not in production anymore, you can find it used for around $100 up to $130, depending on its condition. Just don’t hold your expectations too high thinking this is for tight heavy riffing and power chords.


Featured Video

What do you think of this guitar pedal?  Comment below!

Vox Satchurator Distortion Pedal Review

As most of you already know, the guitar as an instrument and guitar playing as a craft and a form of art changed drastically throughout the 1980s. 

This means that the tone changed as well, going from the pretty bluesy and hard rock oriented 70s to the shred metal drenched 80s. And we all got some great musicians and great pieces of music from this era.

For instance, a guy like Joe Satriani, who was not only a guitar teacher to a whole bunch of other great players but has made a very successful career of its own.

Aside from his teaching, amazing songwriting, and very recognizable improvising, he also became famous for his unique guitar sound.

And just like his music and technique, Joe Satriani has set some high standards with his tone. One of the pedals he often used was the famous Boss DS-1.

But just a bit over one decade ago, Satriani got together with Vox to create his own distortion pedal, which is essentially an upgraded version of the DS-1 – the almighty Satchurator.

This piece of gear is now an essential part of his rig. So let’s get into this pedal and its main properties, shall we?


Features

The Vox Saturator (also called Vox JS-DS) is very well built, featuring a strong metal casing and quality knobs, switches, and LED lights. At first glance, you can clearly see that it is a pretty straightforward pedal with some additional features. The main controls here are volume, tone, and gain.

The volume is located on the right and, of course, is pretty self-explanatory. While the pedal of this size could fit a 3-band EQ, there’s only one tone switch for any kind of equalization, located in the middle. The gain knob is located on the left side, near the output jack.

This being a distortion pedal, there is a regular on and off foot-controlled switch on the bottom left side. However, there’s another interesting feature that helps make this pedal more versatile. The “more” footswitch, which is located on the right side, gives an additional drive boost.

Another feature that’s also interesting is the pad switch. This function is intended to reduce unwanted noise if you have any kind of high gain pedals or wahs placed before the Satchurator in your signal chain. This small switch is located between the gain and tone knobs.

There are two LED light indicators, one for the on and off switch and the other one for the “more” feature.


Design

Aside from the amazing build quality, the pedal looks pretty attractive with its simple design and metallic red color.

The shape is a simple rectangular one, and the white writings on it don’t take too much space so most of the pedal is just one empty red surface.

Nonetheless, it’s still good-looking, so it most likely won’t be an issue for guitar players who care about aesthetics. Unless you really like crazy and colorful gear.

Although slightly larger than a standard pedal, you don’t have to worry about Satchurator taking up that much space on your pedalboard since it has a pretty compact and ordinary shape.

As for the LED lights, they are pretty visible and you won’t be having any issues checking the indicators in live situations.


Performance

One pretty obvious thing that you can notice even after just looking at the pedal, it’s pretty straightforward. That does not mean that it’s a bad one, quite the contrary. The simplicity is one of the things that makes it great.

But despite that, the knobs are responsive and you can actually get a decent amount of tones from this pedal. Add the “more” switch to the equation, and it all makes this pedal worthwhile.

This “more” feature is pretty practical since it adds a drive boost without bringing your volume up.

It’s most certainly good for solo situations where you need to add more drive going into a lead part or going to a specific part of your solo. Definitely adds more dynamic diversity to it, and even boosts your sustain.

There are a few downsides that we just can’t help but mention. Bringing the gain somewhere up higher compresses the tone too much and does not make it into that much of a pleasurable experience.

Also, it seems as if the pad switch doesn’t do much, at least in any of the situations that we’ve tried. And, maybe we’re being too picky, but there could have been a few more knobs placed on a pedal of this size that would help you shape the tone.


Conclusion

But not to be that negative, the pedal sounds really good and is definitely worth checking it out.

The Satchurator is, in some ways, an upgraded version of the legendary DS-1, giving it a new twist with the “more” switch and the new improved tone. It can work on a clean channel of an amp as well as a boost to the overdriven tube amp, although you have to be careful not to add too much gain.

As mentioned, there is some versatility to it. However, it has somewhat of a limitation when it comes to genres. It suits the rock, prog rock, hard rock, and classic metal stuff.

But just don’t expect it to work well in some modern metal situations, as the higher gain setting won’t give the desired results. Pushing the Satchurator’s gain to its limits sounds a bit too fuzzy for that kind of stuff.

But, of course, guitar players can be a bit picky when it comes to distortions and overdrives so it would be best if you tried it out yourself.

Now, don’t think that it will make you completely sound like Satriani as that will require years and years of practice and buying some very expensive gear, but it does add somewhat of his vibe to the tone.


Video Review

Denmark’s TRex Engineering Continues to Clamp Jaws On Boutique Guitar Pedal Market

When it comes to modern guitar effect pedals, and music gear in general, there are quite a lot of companies out making it.  Some companies are large, and some are small.  Some suck, some are great.  We all know how it goes.

To the end user, aka the music gear consumer, there are advantages to dealing with both big and small companies, as well as cons.  

On one hand, large companies are trusted and have years of experience doing what they do, and can back up any of their products (usually) with guarantees and warranties that protect the musicians buying them from lightning storms, jam hall fires, irresponsible siblings getting their slimy mitts on your pedal board, etc. 

These big, established companies that have household names make pedals that are the go-to gear of working musicians, and the cycle of rock continues.

On the other hand, you have companies that run a slightly smaller, tighter ship, but have more creative freedom, and are able to experiment. 

They also have the ability to keep a meticulous eye on everything that goes on, and their customer service has the potential to be a lot better, as they can offer things the big companies can’t, and come up with technology that is mind-blowingly inventive.

A company of this sort that is small but spunky would be T-Rex Engineering, a company out of Denmark  who manufacturers a number of guitar pedals, including distortion/overdrive, tremolo, looper, delay, reverb, octaver, wah, and more. 

They also make power supplies, boards, bags, cables, brackets, and tape cartridges.  

Basically, TRex makes a lot of what your average musician will need to get through the next show, plus a bunch of stuff that a lot of musicians wouldn’t mind getting for their birthdays if only their friends, family, and loved ones knew a thing or two about cool music gear.

Lars and Sebastian, childhood friends who both have a passion for music, and who founded the company back in 1996, always make sure the components with which they use to make their pedals and gear is of the utmost quality.  They have a small but dedicated team who work together to keep on top of things.

Being music gear nerds here at YTMS, and fans of boutique guitar pedals and crazy/cool effects, we managed to set up a little Q&A with TRex, with the hopes to get a better idea how their business works, and also so we can learn more about their pedals, which we are big fans of!

You gotta figure, if their stuff is good enough for the likes of Steve Lukather (Toto), Marc Tremonti (Alter Bridge), Martin Gore (Depeche Mode), Carl Verheyen (Supertramp), Patrick Matera (Katy Perry) and Luke Potashnik (Katie Melua), they must have their shit together.

And in the following chat, we find out exactly how TRex goes about things!  Enjoy!


Can you, in a nutshell, describe what TRex Engineering does?

We design and manufacture effects, amps, power supplies and accessories for guitar players, as well as other musicians that need useable tools for real-world applications.

What inspired you to get into the effects pedals business?

Lars (founder) is an electronics guy and for his graduation project, he made a switching system for pedals, so they could be turned on and off in presets. Sebastian (childhood friend, founder) did the digital part, since he was also graduating in electronics, although back then, you did either analog or digital.

They had both between the two of them, so it worked quite well.

A few players saw it and wanted to buy it, so the guys started a small production.

So really, it was as simple as a “good idea” that people bought into, which is still very much the philosophy around here – ask and listen to the players and see if you can come up with stuff that they feel is useful, not just impressive or “en vogue”.

How was the guitar effects pedal world different back when you guys started in 1996?

First of all, there weren’t that many competitors (or should I say colleagues?). The boutique thing was just happening and things were still pretty old school regarding the setups/rigs.

Nowadays, programmers can make the planet rotate the other way using a chip that costs 0.02USD, it seems.

In many ways, the pedal world hasn’t changed one bit since Hendrix tracked “Hey Joe”, because there seems to be an incredible interest in “classic” effects and sounds, but at the same time, we embrace new technology like there’s no tomorrow.

The requests we get are sometimes physically impossible to meet, but I get why the question is asked because from the outside world, it certainly looks like anything’s possible.

One guy wanted a pedal that could detect what key the band was playing in, so that he could pick the right harmonica for the song – I don´t want to put the guy down at all, but a book on music theory is 5 bucks and needs no power.

In short, we are all a lot closer to each other now and manufacturers must listen harder and react faster on the market demands.

What are some of your top sellers these days…and why?

The Soulmate Acoustic and our tape echos are doing pretty well right now. I guess they serve a purpose that players can relate to.

With the ASM, it sort of takes out all the guesswork of playing live with an acoustic, because everything is there – effects, signal conditioning, pre-amplification, D.I. box, etc.

The tape echo units seem to be “fun” and offer something completely different to what else is out there, good AND bad. But most customers like them for the exact same reasons.

Shoot, who doesn’t like to press a switch and watch stuff turn, roll, slide and blink? And then it also puts out sound!!

We all connect to our inner 3-year old child when we see such a thing, which I think complements the precise, predictive and controlled nature of a modern DSP-based effect.

These speak to the grown-up part of our brain and provides safety in use, but they are not as lively or random.

I think music that has some irregularities in it speaks a bit louder than something that’s maybe slightly too polished, and I guess that’s why there’s room for a tape echo on the market, also.

You’re obviously into more than just pedals.  For those who don’t know, what other stuff do you make?

We make some power bricks called FuelTanks, that share a common topology but differ in size, total power and in the various options for powering pedals.

We also make ToneTrunk pedalboards, which are also available in various sizes.

These differ from the competition by being two-tiered, so you get to turn on a pedal in the back row without hitting knobs or switches on the goodies in the front row.

I know you take pride in your components.  From where do you source the materials?

It depends. Where “standard” stuff gets the job done, we use it.

If a certain design calls for some special component, we try to track one down that might fit the purpose or simply have them made according to our specs.

So the philosophy is that the customer should only pay extra if extra is needed.

We have several custom made parts in our products – some are from Danish manufacturers, others from the US or Asia. It all depends on who can make it for us.

We source mechanical parts for the tape echo locally (because of high tolerance), we make custom knobs right at our factory in China, and our custom made transformers and coils come from our transformer supplier in Denmark.

What’s the main factor in making a more durable pedal?

Obviously, the parts have to be connected tightly and the parts that see the most stress should be up to the task.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s much more to do for mankind here – do we really need a design that can be run over by a truck and still work? I mean, who plays gigs involving running their equipment over by trucks? (I’d love to go see this band, though).

Basically, it’s about sticking to the laws of physics. Making sure that the parts stay connected during use.

As for the components, humans don’t even know how long, say, a resistor will last, because they haven’t been around long enough for us to even know.

Some drift or fail, but as a component “species”, they work forever (so far) as long as they don’t run too hot. So staying cool is always preferred.

And then you test, to try and catch the “lemons”.

Maybe if we all stopped kicking those poor circuits they would last longer?

Pedals are about the only piece of delicate electronics that are purposely made to be stomped on all the time. Food for thought.

Is there one type of pedal you feel that you specialize in?

I don’t think we necessarily excel at a certain type of effect, but I do believe we have gotten pretty good at finding the sweet spot between “one trick pony” and “it can also make you a smashing café au lait and take your kids to school”.

Musicians can’t always manage 200 choices at a gig/rehearsal when they feel something ain’t quite right, but a few choice options are quite valuable because you wanna get the music going, not fiddle around for hours on end.

But for a certain effect TYPE, I don’t know. Delay? We’ve had good success with the Replica.

What do you think is your dirtiest pedal of all?

Easy: Michael’s Mudhoney. Or his Soulmate. Both have seen numerous stages and, being Michael’s, it shows. Not even a chisel helps. It’s like a superman mix of beer and epoxy glue.

Even Mike doesn’t know how he did it…

Seriously, I would pick the original Mudhoney. Not in terms of gain levels but in terms of “sound”.

What do you consider to be your niftiest pedal?  The one that strikes you as being most ingenious?

That would probably be the tape echos.

We sort of made them because we couldn’t help ourselves, but I think we managed to incorporate some not-seen-before features, making them not only a fresher version of some long forgotten technology but also something that peeked into the new millennium.

Then there was the Spindoctor, which had motorized pots for preset storage of settings. That was pretty “nifty”.

How has Danish music in general influenced your approach to making guitar pedals?

The Danish music scene has changed a lot, too, since T-Rex started out. I guess it’s not that much different from the rest of the western world.

We can’t ignore the power of “computer music” or the change in gear requirements – it´s been ages since I’ve seen a 4×12 stack in a club, for example.

But that fuels the creativity at the same time, because there´s a need for new gear.

And we’re not about to do another TS clone, so for us, it’s cool.

How often do you sell out of certain products? 

It’s actually a situation that one tries to avoid, because it means you can’t send out products to your distribution chain.

But it has happened many times, mostly because we misplaced our crystal ball that we used to keep track of future orders.

It’s like buying beer kegs for your backyard party – if you don’t know who’ll show up and how much beer they can drink, how will you know how many kegs you need? And again, you definitely don’t wanna run out before midnight.

What do you think are the advantages of being a relatively smaller company in this day and age of mass production?

It’s easier to change a few little things here and there, design-wise or work-wise in the process and the very same developers that created the products are also somewhat involved in the sales/marketing side of things, which creates the glue that holds it all together.

Also, people would be surprised how many hats we all wear here.

We have to, being this small. It makes coming to work a lot more fun, because you can be an R&D guy one day, and a warehouse guy the next.

And this creates a mutual understanding of the whole organization, which I believe is a positive thing.

What do you think keeps certain artists like Martin Gore, Steve Lukather, and Carl Verheyen coming back to T-Rex Effects?

The coffee. It’s shit, but we have loads of it!

No, first of all I think the artist relationships we have ARE based on relationship rather than actual gear.

It’s not like those guys have their cases stuffed with T-Rex gear front to back, but they (and their techs) are always up for checking out our stuff and hear what we’ve got cooking.

And then we show up at shows and give them some support through our channels.

I have to give serious credit to my colleague Michael who is our A&R guy, because I think he manages to keep things on a “friend” level, and I think that is the main reason why guys like those you mention stick around. It’s all very down to earth.

Sure, they play bigger stages than the average guy, but the common interest in the biz, gear or life in general prevails.

And they are just so nice, friendly and helpful on all levels, and that´s the kind of people you want close by, right?

I hope that´s not too far from the truth.

Thanks for the chat!

Visit: http://www.t-rex-effects.com/

Electro-Harmonix Little Big Muff Review

Electro-Harmonix Little Big Muff Distortion Pedal review
 

 

Electro-Harmonix’ Big Muff series are anything but new. These pedals were at the forefront of overdrive and distortion for a long time. What makes Little Big Muff so impressive is the fact that it offers a vintage experience molded into something that is fairly modern. This is essentially the same legendary Big Muff that is smaller, easier to handle and more inline with current pedalboard standards. If you are looking for something that is versatile, vintage and generally powerful, Little Big Muff Pi might just be the right solution for you.

Feature Pick

Electro-Harmonix Little Big Muff Distortion Pedal

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Design

The whole vintage vibe of Little Big Muff isn’t only limited to its tone. For those who have followed Electro-Harmonix over the years, it comes as no surprise that they have used the exact same type of design for Little Big Muff. Essentially, we are looking at a cast metal chassis with very limited finish and not much else going on. It is that same rugged look that we have grown to love so much.

The main difference between the original Big Muff Pi is the size of the chassis. The original was massive, but that didn’t really matter much at the time it came out. Today, things are very different. Since a good majority of guitar players rely on their effects pedals, Electro-Harmonix had to redesign the legendary Big Muff Pi in a way that makes it compatible with current pedalboard formats. That is exactly what Little Big Muff does.

ehx big muff vs little big muff

Build Quality

This is one aspect of older Electro-Harmonix designs which you definitely don’t need to worry about. Little Big Muff is virtually indestructible. With a thick die cast chassis, it is more than capable of taking whatever punishment and abuse you can dish out on a daily basis. Its finish, the very limited amount there is anyway, is extremely easy to bang up, but the internals won’t suffer at all. Some would even say that putting a few scratches on the outside gives the pedal a more personal character. That however, is up to the user to decide upon.

electro harmonix little big muff

Features

One glance at the control panel of Little Big Muff is enough for anyone to realize that it is a no-nonsense pedal. There are no dozens of knobs, no additional buttons, just the bare minimum that works as it always has. Under the hood, the circuitry is pretty much the same as original. Everything is analog, just smaller. Electro-Harmonix has built in a true bypass switch, which is something we would have expected anyway.

In terms of power supply, you can either run the pedal on a battery or on a power adapter. When it comes to which of these methods is better, we’d have to go with a 9V battery unless you have a really good power supply. Features pretty much end with this. There’s nothing abnormal or unique to be listed, just the good old Big Muff package.

Performance

Performance wise, this pedal is a true time machine. When Electro-Harmonix first released the Little Big Muff, there was some justified skepticism among their user base. People were wondering if by making things smaller, Electro-Harmonix might change the way the pedal sounded. Fortunately for us and everyone else, those fears were misplaced. Little Big Muff brings on a ton of heat and that legendary creamy tone. Some like to describe it as a fuzz pedal, while others, including us like to think of it more as a distortion pedal with a unique tone.

What makes it really special, aside from its unique flavor, is the fact that Electro-Harmonix managed to squeeze in a proper sustainer in there. Unlike it is the case with so many other pedals, the sustain knob on Little Big Muff actually makes an impact.

Let’s touch upon the range of this pedal. We have already mentioned that controls are nothing special in terms of what you get to mess with. However, the stuff you do have access to is incredibly sensitive. Little Big Muff has such a broad range that even the smallest adjustments to the controls can have dramatic effect on your tone. This is both a good and a bad thing. On one hand, you get plenty of bang for your buck, which is something we can agree is awesome. On the other hand, trying to make adjustments mid performance might prove to be extremely hard. To put it simply, Little Big Muff takes some getting used to.

Check out this video demo by Youtuber schnobel, who gives us a real taste of what this pedal has to offer.

Conclusion

With everything said, it isn’t hard to see why certain guitar greats, such as Dimebag Darrell, chose Little Big Muff as one of his main distortions. This little pedal was simple, extremely rugged and capable of delivering a massive tone. With his adamant attitude towards gear, all that extra range Little Big Muff offers seems to have been a perfect fit.

There is another benefit to this as well. Those who are not only interested in face melting metal can dial in a completely different sound. This pedal is perfect capable of being subtle if you want it to. All it takes is a bit of time to find the right setting, and a bit of skill to get there. In essence, Little Big Muff is one of those tools that every guitar player should have.

young coconut musician

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Review

 

When it comes to distortions, you either take the tamed route, or you go all in. The former categorizes heavier distortions which are balanced. There is enough gain in there, but the signal that comes out the other end is still civilized, defined and contained. The other kind of distortion pedal just lets it all with zero limitations. Boss MT-2 Metal Zone fits this description perfectly.

Feature Pick

Boss Mt-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal

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When they designed it, ‘enough’ wasn’t really a word they were worried about too much. However, unlike many similar pedals out there, Boss MT-2 Metal Zone actually offers decent enough controls which allow you to use that seemingly endless supply of gain in a practical way.

Let’s go over this pedal and show you what it can do for your tone.

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Review

Where Boss really made a difference is their understanding of what a heavy distortion should be like. For most, it comes down to drowning the signal with gain and giving you little to no assets you can use to shape that tone. Boss took a different approach, one that makes much more sense. In all honesty, this pedal is the direct competitor to DigiTech’s Metal Master.

The beauty of this competition is that both of these pedals offer something that is very unique to them and them alone. On a similar note, people are usually polarized between the two when it comes to finding a good, affordable distortions. If you are after a pedal that packs the heat but is also very versatile, this might be just the one you were looking for. Here’s why.

boss-mt-2-metal-zone-206137

Features

There’s a lot of things to be said about Boss and their pedal design. No matter if you are a fan or someone who personally dislikes the classic stompbox, we can all agree that Boss pedal enclosure simply work. The entire thing is made of that standard heavy gauge metal. In this particular case, the color they have gone with is full black with very limited orange details. These being reduced to labels and control designations.

Speaking of controls, the pedal features six overall. The first and most obvious one is the level control. There is no particular explanation necessary for this knob, as every Dist pedal has it. However, for those who might still be struggling, this is your gain knob. What follows next is a set of two EQ knobs, each featuring a dual purpose design. Left EQ pair deals with highs and lows while the right one takes care of two different spans of mids. Lastly, we have the distortion knob.

As you have probably figured out by now, this pedal has a pretty unusual set of controls. Not only are they immensely practical, but they bring what Boss calls double-stage distortion circuitry. It is by far one of their more popular advancements and one that has proven to be extremely practical. In terms of other features you should be aware of, we have the standard Boss setup. In other words, you will need either a battery to run this thing, or one of their power adapters.

Performance

When it comes to performance, we start seeing just how capable Boss MT-2 Metal Zone actually is. The range of tones you can dial in can span anywhere from super brutal to unbelievably transparent. This is thanks to the generous controls that we have mentioned earlier, but also the fact that Boss intended this to be a one stop shop for all your distortion needs. In other words, this pedal was supposed to substitute the most gain-heavy setups as well as those toned down sound configurations.

Most guitar players think of the Metal Zone as being a sledgehammer. While it is partially true. you can dial in a clinically precise tone that cuts through any kind of mix like its nothing. It all comes down to the way you harness the tone and learn the controls. Once you have everything figured out, the pure efficiency and practicality of the Metal Zone becomes very apparent. When used in combination with other pedals in its class, Boss MT-2 definitely plays well. Depending on where you put it in the signal chain, it can either boost your signal or drown it out due to its very saturated distortions. This is basically what happens to most of the younger MT-2 users who like to ‘scoop mids’ right away and just blast that gain knob until it can’t go any more. Even in that scenario, this pedal is just a blast to use.

Here’s a quick video demo of the MT-2 Metal Zone pedal in action straight from Boss’s Youtube channel.

Conclusion

The Boss MT-2 Metal Zone is something that many use, many are afraid to use, and some pros see as the quintessential modern distortion pedal. Whether you agree with these statements or not, the fact remains that MT-2 brings the most refined distortions for the money. Even though it is considered to be affordable by many standards, you will see pros such as Munky from Korn basing a good portion of their tone on this very distortion pedal. That being the case, Boss MT-2 surely has something to offer.

There are many distortion pedals out there on the market. Each of them being tailored for a specific group of guitar players. Is Boss MT-2 Metal Zone best of them all? Probably not, but it definitely brings on a lot of thunder for not a lot of money. That is something not many pedals can say for themselves. Everyone knows that Boss very rarely fails with their pedals. Metal Zone’s performance was expected to a certain point. However, it has exceeded those expectations numerous times. No matter what kind of hard hitting genre of music you are after, this Dist box gets the job done like none other.

Line 6 DM4 Distortion Modeler Review

 

Within these last several years, Line 6 has become a de facto patron saint of budget guitar players around the world. With modeling amps becoming more and more affordable, Line 6 saw an angle which has ultimately brought them a lot of success. These days, if you need to move some air on a pretty tight budget, this is the brand you turn to. With that said, their lineup is not limited strictly to cheap amps. On the contrary, they offer a very extensive line of guitar effects tools. Some of them are mediocre, falling in line with Line 6’s policy which is somewhat based on affordable products.

Feature Pick

Line 6 Dm4 Distortion Modeler

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However, there is another, very different side of Line 6 which many guitar players are not familiar with, especially the younger ones. This brand offers a very elite line of distortion modelers. One of those is going to be our subject today. The name of this particular model is Line 6 DM4 Distortion Modeler, and we are about to find out why it’s among the favorite tools of legends such as James Hetfield.

Line 6 DM4 Distortion Modeler Review

Modeling technology is sort of becoming the new norm in effects pedals. We’ve already had a stint with guitar effects processors, and we all know how that ended. Aside from a handful of models, most of them were simply not worth the effort. Line 6 has found a decent middle ground with their DM4 Distortion Modeler. Instead of trying to deliver a complete package of effects, they’ve decided to focus on distortions alone.

One thing about distortion pedals is that you have those who prefer this type of format, and those who would much rather use standalone, dedicated stompboxes. Preferably with a good heritage. Which side is going to prevail is something only time will tell. At the moment, neither camp can disprove the practical value models like the DM4 offer.

Features

For the most part, Line 6 DM4 Distortion Modeler features their standard design which looks a lot like something you’d see built in the late ’80s, early ’90s. Some like this aesthetic, others down. The whole unit comes painted in a flat gold color, which makes the pedal stand out, especially in low light environments. Once you pull it out of the box, the whole thing feels very solid. Materials used for this build are pretty decent and will take a whole lot of abuse before anything gives way.

Line 6 used a set of quality components to put the DM4 Distortion Modeler together. With that said, switches and knobs could have probably been done a bit better. Speaking of controls, there are five knobs and four switches available. Starting from left to right, the first knob we see is the mode select knob. This is where you will find a bank of 32 different distortions, overdrives and fuzzes. Line 6 included mostly the highly popular pedals on this list, however there are some which can be considered obscure.

Next is a Drive knob which serves the same purpose as a Drive knob on any other distortion pedal. As you turn it clockwise, you will introduce more gain into the signal. Next three knobs represent a three band EQ. While it doesn’t offer the best range out there, this formidable EQ section is capable of a lot. Lastly, there is the Volume knob which is self-explanatory.

Four switches you see bellow the knobs control four different channel. You can use each of these to store one preset, that is easily recalled from the library by pressing the correct foot switch. This pedal comes with true bypass, so you don’t have to worry about signal pollution when you’re not using it. One of the less impressive solutions on DM4 is its power adapter. Unlike most pedals out there, DM4 Distortion Modeler uses a proprietary adapter. On the other hand, that is a small price to pay considering the type of performance you get.

line 6 dm4 distortion modeler

Performance

Here’s where things get interesting. Most conservative guitar players will tell you that you will hardly ever squeeze out a good tone from these ‘Jack of all trades’ devices. And while there is a good amount of truth in that claim, the gap is becoming smaller and smaller. For example, you would never expect a legendary guitar player such as Hetfield to use something like this Line 6, yet he does. Is it all about the practicality of its design, or does the quality of its distortions play a role here? It’s both, to an extent. Line 6 definitely hit the nail on the head with few of the distortions they offer in this model.

They don’t sound artificial, as modeling distortions usually do. There is still some level of that organic vibe in there somewhere. DM4 Distortion Modeler is suitable for any genre of music spanning from light blues to full on death metal. Having four different channels readily available is pretty useful on its own, let alone if you’re able to save four different, custom made distortions in there. In the end, it all comes down to what you need and what type of rig you already have. If you rarely ever use a distortion pedal and your pedalboard is already full, you might want to look into some standalone Dist pedals. Otherwise, this Line 6 is a perfectly good solution.

Final Thoughts

One of the main reason why DM4 Distortion Modeler isn’t as popular among the general public is the fact that Line 6 has had some turbulent periods with their amps. Let’s just say that some have lost their trust in this brand. If that is the type of attitude you share as well, you might want to try and separate their amps from their pedals. When it comes to stompboxes, Line 6 is a name you can definitely trust.

ZVex Custom Shop Woolly Mammoth Review

zvex-custom-shop-woolly-mammoth
 

Those familiar with the work of Jack White – the lead singer and guitarist of The White Stripes – probably know just what kind of talent this guy has. When I say talent, it’s not only about his technical skill on a guitar.

It’s more about making the tone of the guitar act as a perfect medium to deliver the message of a specific song. Take any album they have, listen to it top to bottom and you will see that each song is custom catered.

Feature Pick

Zvex Custom Shop Woolly Mammoth – One Of

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Even though this sounds rather normal, you’d be surprised how rare this approach to music actually is. All you have to do is pay attention to the tone color of your favorite band next time you pop a CD into your system.

Jack is a master tone artist, but he wouldn’t be able to get much done without proper tools. One that really stands out is ZVex Custom Shop Woolly Mammoth. Today we’re going to discuss this fuzz box, and show you what makes it so impressive.

ZVex Custom Shop Woolly Mammoth Review

When it comes to guitar effects pedals, you can divide the entire market into three roughly defined categories. You have our older brands which attract their customers with reliable, no-thrills, low price units.

Then you have brand new manufacturers who are trying to get into the business. Finally, there are those who are focused purely on pushing the limits of what can be done, or most importantly, should be done.

ZVex falls into this category. Their effects pedals were always special in more ways than one.

Aside from their unique design, triple wide body and high-quality components, ZVex is known for pretty outlandish performance as well.

Woolly Mammoth we’re looking at today is definitely on the edge of vulgar, but that is exactly what makes it so awesome.

Let’s get over some of its most impressive features.

zvex mammoth review

Features

One of the less important details that many ZVex fans like is the fact that their pedals are every bit as beautiful as they are functional. Woolly Mammoth features a compact, yet wide housing that comes with a pretty old school graphic.

The material used for the enclosure makes this thing as solid as a tank. ZVex knows what it means to use a pedal on stage in an environment where accidents happen.

All of their pedals are built to withstand just about any kind of abuse you are capable of unleashing, and so is this one. If you’re wondering how come, the sole fact that each of these pedals is hand made and hand wired, should tell you enough.

The entire layout of the controls and I/O ports comes down to four knobs, one input, and one output. While pretty simple, these four controls are all you could ever need to dial in one of the furriest fuzz tones available at the moment.

Going from left to right, we find the first knob that is labeled Output. As you can probably guess, this is your main level control. Next one is EQ, which acts just like a single point EQ.

As you go from middle counterclockwise, the tone will start leaning towards heavier low-end response. Moving the knob clockwise takes you to more defined, treble rich territory.

Next knob is labeled Pinch. This one is where most of the action happens. Using Pinch, you can define the wave shape of the signal, thus directly impacting the color of the fuzz you’re after.

Combined with the Wool knob which controls the intensity of the chosen fuzz, there is really not much you can’t do.

Last but not least, it’s worth mentioning that ZVex Custom Shop Woolly Mammoth can be powered using the standard battery solution, or plugging it into a power adapter/supply.

Performance

Although relatively popular, many have questioned just how different Woolly Mammoth is, and what makes it so special in the first place.

The simple answer is that the world of fuzz effects has been pretty much defined by now and this particular model brings something slightly different.

After so many years of use, it’s pretty hard to create a fuzz that has never been seen before. It all comes down to subtle differences.

What most guitar players like about this ZVex edition, is just how raw it can sound.

You can dial in a tone that is barely a clean boost with some indications of signal distortion. On the other hand, the other extreme comes in form of what can only be described as organized chaos.

If you like your tone fat and greasy right from the start, ZVex Custom Shop Woolly Mammoth delivers like only a handful pedals in this range can.

It’s a perfect tool for those playing rock, blues or even metal. Applications are pretty much dependent on how far you are willing to go. The pedal itself keeps its pretty aggressive fuzz well under control.

Even when you turn everything to the max, your notes will come out clear and defined. At the end of the day, that matters a lot.

If you are a performing artist who is looking to put together a quality rig and you’re after a good fuzz, this pedal is something you should definitely add to your shortlist.

Final Thoughts

The world of boutique pedals is slowly but surely merging with what most consider to be the commercial sector. Even so, brands like ZVex remain focused on their policy.

As long as thins don’t change, we can count on seeing a lot more awesome models such as the Woolly Mammoth. All the proof of quality you need are people like Jack White, who base a good portion of their very delicate tone on ZVex pedals.

Out of all the stompboxes out there, him going with this particular one definitely happened for a reason. The only real downside of ZVex models is their steep price tag.

However, these pedals are bought once in a lifetime, making them a pretty sound investment.