We Review the Best Overdrive Pedals for Blues Today

There’s nothing like the joy of hearing that smooth, yet somewhat rugged, overdriven guitar tone. While many players often aim at those “scorched” tones of regular distortions, overdrives have their important role too.

They just give a different flavor, while maintaining enough thickness of the tone. Whether we’re talking about guitars with single-coils or humbuckers, overdrive always manages to give that highly desirable and distinctive creaminess.

While many consider it to be just a milder version of regular distortion, there’s actually another important distinction.

Yes, overdrive is indeed a type of distortion, but with softer clipping. Compared to fuzz and regular distortion pedals, the tone of overdrive has softer “edges” in the clipping process.

Essentially, these pedals add their own tone coloration but still manage to keep the natural tone of your guitars and amps. In a way, it replicates the tone of clean tube amps pushed over the limits.

This is why overdrive pedals are quite popular among blues, jazz, or and vintage-oriented guitar players.

Slash

In many cases, they’ll use them in pair with tube amplifiers to push them into uniquely smooth, yet distorted territories.

Even to this day, various manufacturers are still producing overdrive pedals. While these find use in many different genres, including modern metal, they’re mostly still popular among blues and blues-rock players.

This is why we decided to look more into the topic and find out – what are some of the best overdrive pedals for blues today?

After a lot of digging, testing, and experimentation, we came up with the following list. Now, whatever your musical tastes are, these pedals can come in handy for a wide variety of genres.

However, we would argue that they work best for blues and blues-rock.

Feature Picks


Boss BD-2 Blues Driver

bd-2_1

It’s not a surprise that we open up this list with a pedal featuring “blues” in its designated name. Made by Boss, the BD-2 Blues Driver has been popular among blues guitarists for quite some time now.

The pedal is pretty simple to use, and features the always present three controls – volume, tone, and drive. Just like with the classic Tube Screamer, there’s nothing more that you need.

While it mostly comes in handy with tube amps, trying one of these with a solid-state will do just fine. In fact, it will even slightly enhance the tone and add the much-needed warmth in the mix.

While it’s great for any type of guitars, we would argue that it shines when you use it with guitars equipped with single-coil pickups.

A few years ago, Boss also made the BD-2W version, featuring their Waza Craft technology.

Visit the Boss website here


Fulltone OCD V2

Fulltone OCD V2

The only thing we didn’t like about this pedal is the Comic Sans font on the front panel. Other than that, this could easily be one of the best pedals of all time.

Its rich harmonic content and the responsiveness of controls are what make it so great. Aside from the three basic controls, there’s an additional switch for highpass and lowpass filtering.

This way, any guitar player can orient their tone towards the bottom or the higher end of the spectrum.

Also, there’s an internal switch that allows you to use it in true bypass and buffered bypass mode. So that’s a pretty neat addition.

Visit the Fulltone website here


TC Electronic MojoMojo

TC Electronic MojoMojo

TC Electronic’s MojoMojo has got to be the best deal for the price. Although it’s pretty cheap, it deserves to be mentioned among the best pedals you can find today.

This true bypass pedal allows a lot of versatility with a 2-band EQ and the “Voice” switch that toggles between the vintage and modern-sounding drive.

Knowing that Paul Gilbert uses one, it’s pretty clear that MojoMojo is worth it. It’s just a simple little piece that can do wonders when pugged into clean or distorted channels of tube amps.

Trying one of these out, you won’t believe that the retail price is just around $50.

Visit the TC Electronic website here


Electro-Harmonix Soul Food

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food

What many don’t know is the fact that Electro-Harmonix made Soul Food according to the legendary, and somewhat mysterious, Klon Centaur pedal.

Knowing that Klon is no longer in production and that they reach some astronomical prices, Soul Food comes in as a viable solution. Although reasonably priced, it still does a great job of capturing some of the original pedal’s tone.

Featuring only three basic controls, Soul Food will give you some very transparent and bright overdriven sounds.

While it comes in handy for any type of pickup, we thoroughly loved how it sounded with humbuckers.

It’s also important to note that Soul Food features a true bypass.

Visit the EHX website here


Boss OD-1X

Boss OD-1X

Knowing what a great line of products they have in their arsenal, we just couldn’t help but add at least one more Boss overdrive to the list.

Here we have the old classic OD-1X Overdrive, made according to the classic old pedal released back in the 1970s.

Some controls are added, but the tones replicate the warmth of the original pedals. The best part comes with this pedal’s dynamic response.

You’ll feel as if though you’re playing through a tube amp.

Visit the Boss website here


MXR M193 GT-OD

mxr-m193-gt-od-overdrive-pedal

Anything from subtle sparkling overtones, up to harmonically rich and tasty drives – this pedal has it all with just three basic controls.

It’s interesting, though, how it manages to keep all the smoothness while also delivering that bright, transparent, and very defined edge.

What’s more, MXR’s M193 adds a decent amount of sustain to your tone without adding any unwanted noise. We’ve gotta say, it’s a real mystery to us how they managed to make it so good.

If you like adding something in front of your tube amp to push it over the limits, while adding some coloration and clarity to your tone, you should definitely consider getting the M193.

While the looks of it might suggest that it’s just another Tube Screamer imitation, it’s actually a completely different type of overdrive.

Visit the Jim Dunlop website here


Chase Bliss Audio Brothers

Chase Bliss Audio Brothers

Audio Brothers by Chase Bliss is a fairly expensive pedal, at least compared to many of the products that we listed above. However, it’s definitely worth every penny.

First off, it’s a pedal with two separate stages. While on the top panel we have six main knobs, there are many other mindblowing and complex features.

With its numerous controls, it allows anything from simple clean boosting, over smooth overdrive, and even the buzzsaw-like fuzzes.

Audio Brothers pedal fuses analog and digital technologies, allowing you to save 33 different combinations of presets.

You can combine channel A and channel B in different ways, and even blend them together. It’s one of the most complex and intricate pedals that you can buy today.

Visit the Chase Bliss Audio website


Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer - Classic

And we finally come to the legendary Ibanez Tube Screamer. The history of Tube Screamer has been explored by many guitar pedal fanatics, but for a good reason – there are so many great versions and clones.

What started back in the late 1970s with the original TS-808 has evolved into so many different overdrives. Today’s TS-9 is a direct continuation of that pedal, with just a few minor modifications done over the years.

This version is made according to the old Tube Screamer made in the first half of the 1980s. The circuitry is completely the same and the tones are some of the best that you can get for blues.

At the same time, this pedal presents a great basis for any kind of modification.

Visit the Ibanez website here


Keeley D&M Drive

Keeley D&M Drive

You don’t often find a pedal that’s as good as Keeley’s D&M Drive. Here we have a two-stage piece that incorporates simple boost within an overdrive pedal.

Interestingly enough, you can use it as two standalone pedals. But what’s really mindblowing is that you can choose whether boost comes before or after the drive section.

This provides some great tone-shaping options. What’s more, you’re also able to choose between true and buffered bypass. So aside from quite a great tone, we have a lot of functionality features.

As a result, the types of tones you can get are pretty much endless.

Visit the Robert Keeley website


Strymon Sunset

Strymon Sunset

Strymon is a one-of-a-kind pedal company that manages to surprise us with every single piece they’ve ever made.

For this list of the best blues overdrives, we’d like to include their extremely versatile Sunset. Additionally, you can also venture into the world of distortion with this pedal.

What’s really great about the Sunset is that it manages to convincingly replicate the responsiveness of a tube amp.

To be fair, many would fail a blind test and between Sunset in a solid-state amp and an actual tube amp. It’s just that good.

Similar to the aforementioned Audio Brothers, this dual overdrive has so many features, including the expression pedal connectivity. You can also choose the order of the two gain stages, or just blend them together. Barely anything comes close.

One of the best things we liked about it is the replication of those vintage germanium diode tones.

Visit the Strymon website here


Origin Effects RevivalDrive

Origin Effects RevivalDrive

Now here’s a very intricate piece. At first glance, it’s pretty clear that Origin’s RevivalDrive hides so many different tone-shaping options with it.

Like some of the others we mentioned, it’s also a two-stage drive, with one on/off switch and another one that toggles between the channels.

One channel is inspired by tube tones, while the other one features the classic silicon transistor.

But then we come to an abundance of controls that would take days for us to fully explain. RevivalDrive brings the best of two worlds in one pedal.

Visit the Origin Effects website here


EarthQuaker Devices Westwood

eqd-westwood-rhp

Although the controls look like on any other overdrive pedal, EarthQuaker’s Westwood hides a few tricks up its sleeve. What’s special about it is that it has a so-called “active” 2-band EQ.

This means that, when shifted to left and right, the frequency band changes drastically, cutting or boosting up to 20 dB. Also, the drive control is voiced in a special way, providing much more response than standard controls on other pedals.

This compact piece comes in handy both as a booster and an overdrive. It’s a very crunchy pedal, to an extent where it might lack some smoothness to it.

It doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it’s just different and very useful for those who love these types of overdriven tones.

Visit the Earthquaker website here


Fender Santa Ana

Fender Santa Ana

While we mostly remember Fender for their guitars and great tube amps, it’s a shame that people sometimes overlook their extremely versatile and abundant arsenal of effects pedals.

Up next, we have the company’s impeccable Santa Ana overdrive. This is a classic two-stage pedal with very sensitive and responsive controls.

There are six basic controls for a 3-band EQ, presence, volume, and drive. It also comes with a voicing switch that picks between the classic American and British types of amps.

There are two switches on it, one to turn it off and the other one to add the boost. What’s interesting is that you can choose whether the boost option will add more drive or volume to the equation.

Another great feature comes with the addition of true and buffered bypass switching.

Overall, this is a fairly flexible pedal that manages to create a wide array of different overdriven tones.

Visit the Fender website here


Analogman King of Tone

analogman-king-of-tone-overdrive-guitar-effect-pedal-xl

King of Tone is a very special pedal. So special that you need to get your name on the waiting list, and wait for who knows how many months until you finally get it.

These boutique overdrives made by Analogman are in such demand that people started reselling them for higher prices. In fact, there’s a limited number of these pedals an individual can order in their lifetime.

And it’s no wonder that it achieved such a legendary status since it sounds so damn great. Sure, it comes with some customizable features, but the circuitry is almost the same with every one of these.

It’s a two-stage distortion that gives anything from smooth creamy drives up to sizzling heavy distortions. If you want the ultimate blues tone, then get on the King Of Tone waiting list.

Visit the Analogman website here


Thanks for reading!  Have you purchased any of these overdrive pedals?  What did you think?

We Review The Best Compressor Pedals Today

best compressor pedals

Let’s face it – any of us would just love to spend our whole lives just jamming out and looking for those perfect guitar tones. With this said, it seems like creating the perfect rig is an impossible task.

Yeah, you’ll buy something new, whether it’s a pedal or a rack-mounted effect or a new amp, but you’ll always manage to stumble upon something new and fresh that grabs your attention.

And there’ll be all sorts of stuff that you’ll want to buy, all those flashy and exciting effects that turn your tone into a strangely pleasant mush of harmonically rich content.

However, it seems that we often tend to forget about some of those less exciting but essential pieces of gear.

At the end of the day, it’s not all about the crazy stuff, there’s supposed to be something in your signal chain that controls your tone.

Strangely enough, compressor pedals often tend to get overlooked. Yeah, they might be a bit dull, but when applied properly, they do wonders for your tone.

johnmayer3

Whether it’s the rhythm or lead parts, or whether we’re talking about distorted or clean tones, dynamic compression always serves its purpose.

By making quiet parts louder and louder parts quieter, these pedals practically “squash” your tone, bringing much-needed dynamical control and sometimes even additional thickness to it.

In most of the band settings – especially if we’re talking about larger groups of musicians – you just cannot go without a compressor pedal.

No matter if you need those tasty funky rhythm tones, chugging riffs, or excessively loud screaming leads, we decided to bring you the list of the best compressor pedals for guitar that you can find these days.

Feature Picks

Xotic Sp Compressor Guitar Effects Pedal Bundle With Blucoil Slim 9V 670Ma Power Supply Ac Adapter

Buy On Amazon


Xotic SP Compressor

xotic sp compressor effect pedal

The first one we’re going to mention is fairly simple and compact. Nonetheless, this small pedal can do wonders for your tone.

What’s more, the operation is extremely simple, which makes it a perfect choice for those who don’t feel like bothering with parameters too much.

Xotic’s SP features two knobs, one for volume and the other that blends processed and unprocessed signals. But there’s more to this simple pedal, as it features a 3-way switch for low, mid, and high compression.

More tone shaping is available through four internal dip switches for attack, release, high cut filtering, and input pad. There aren’t many options for tweaking mid-session, but simplicity is the main idea behind such a pedal.


MXR M228 Dyna Comp Deluxe

DynaCompDlx-xlarge

There’s a lot of great stuff in MXR’s arsenal, and they’re pretty well-known for their quality compact guitar pedals.

Talking of compressors, they have a fairly simple and popular M102 Dyna Comp. However, we would like to include an upgraded version, the MXR M228 Dyna Comp Deluxe, on this list.

As opposed to the M102 that has only two controls, the M228 features four knobs. There’s the output volume and “sensitivity,” which determines the strength of compression and the overall sustain.

The clean blend control does the classic mix between the processed and unprocessed signals, and there’s also a regular tone knob on it. An additional switch in between the knobs switches between faster and slower attack time modes.


TC Electronic HyperGravity

TC Electronic HyperGravity

Among a variety of their pedals, TC Electronic’s HyperGravity has earned quite a reputation among tone lovers. And it definitely lives up to its name, as the pedal adds some quite tight and “squeezed” tones for any possible occasion.

First off, the pedal offers four basic controls for volume, blend, sustain, and attack. We can also find a switch for three modes of operation – Vintage, TonePrint, and Spectra.

Vintage mode, as the name suggests, offers the old school kind of tones. Spectra brings some very bright and clear compressed tones, very useful for clean settings.

And there’s the TonePrint feature, that allows you to either download presets from the company’s website, or create your own that you can upload to TC Electronic’s library.

But that’s not all. The pedal also has an internal switch for true bypass and buffered bypass modes. This feature comes in rather handy for different signal chain preferences.


Boss CS-3

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

And it’s the good old Boss up next, with their CS-3 Compressor. This pedal is the continuation of the company’s old CS-1 and the very well-known CS-2, both of which are still highly valued among vintage pedal fans.

The CS-3 brings a bit more functionality, while it still retains that bottom-end-heavy squashed, yet really defined tone and low-noise operation.

You can sculpt your tone through four basic controls for volume, tone, attack, and sustain.

The sustain knob determines the intensity of compression, while it adds actual sustain as a “side effect” of compression. It’s not expensive, it does the job well, and fits perfectly for any musical style.


Behringer CS400

Behringer CS400

Okay, some might give us weird looks for deciding to include an actual Behringer pedal on this list. But there’s a good reason for it – the CS400 actually works rather well and is extremely cheap.

It’s usually somewhere below $30, which is ridiculous for a guitar pedal. The only downside is the plastic casing, and possibly the overall design and choice of LED color. Other than that, the pedal works like many other compressors out there.

As for the controls and the tone, the CS400 is pretty similar to Boss’ CS-3 we discussed above. There are Level, Attack, Tone, and Sustain knobs on it.


Foxgear Squeeze

Foxgear Squeeze

Appropriately named Squeeze by Foxgear will thoroughly squeeze your tone. And this one is as simple as it gets. There’s the input, the output, and two knobs for output volume and ratio.

While it’s not very versatile, the pedal does bring some amazing compressed tones. The thing is, this is an optical compressor pedal, meaning that the input signal is converted into light and processed as such.

As a result, you get a very peculiar tone that no other conventional compression pedal can replicate. The response and the whole feel are a bit different.

Also, the signal is pretty clear and you can add strong compression with a vintage vibe without any interference or noises whatsoever. Plus, it looks very cool.


Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone

Pigtronix Philosopher's Tone

There’s a lot of unusual yet very useful stuff made by Pigtronix over the years. But aside from those wacky synth pedals, they also have a fairly simple and compact compressor called Philosopher’s Tone.

And its main philosophy is to bring regular compressor pedal functionality within a smaller sized unit that fits today’s trendy standard of crowded pedalboards.

So aside from the output volume, blend, and sustain/intensity knob, there’s also a treble control. In some way, it operates like the tone knob, with just a little accent on the high-ends.

The tones can get bright, especially because this is a true bypass pedal. We’d argue that it does a great job for those funky single-coil rhythm tones that you can get from Strats and Teles.


Origin Effects Cali76

Origin Effects Cali76

Now, Cali76 by Origin Effects is a high-end piece, something that gets pretty obvious with the first glance at this pedal. The interesting thing that makes stand out from most of the pedals out there is that it’s only powered by an adapter.

The main idea behind this approach is that the higher current always provides a clearer tone. But at the same time, you can run it either on 9 volts or 18 volts, which brings a significant difference in tone and overall output.

We have six control knobs on it. Interestingly enough, there are separate controls for input and output signal, while you can also adjust the ratio, attack, and release.

All this provides some very detailed tone shaping, and you can achieve some great compressed tones for literally any type of music and combination of pedals. Yeah, it’s a bit more expensive, but it’s quite worth it.


JHS Pulp ‘N’ Peel V4

PulpNPeelV4-large

You know how you can use compressor pedals as boosters and push vintage tube amps over their limits, while also shaping their tone? Well, JHS has a great pedal for this occasion, called Pulp ‘N’ Peel Version 4.

There are those basic four controls that we can find on most of the compressors, like blend, compression intensity, volume, and tone that’s labeled as “EQ.”

But there are a couple of additional goodies here that make it stand out. With just one switch, labeled as “dirt,” you can tighten up the tone further and add some bottom-end to it.

The second feature is the XLR output that lets you plug it directly into a mixer. This comes in handy when you want to make a practical gig setup without amps. What’s more, there’s an internal switch for true bypass and buffered mode.


Keeley Compressor Pro

Keeley Compressor Pro

Here’s another high-end compressor pedal that comes in handy for all those who want to make fully professional signal chains and guitar rigs.

Robert Keeley is a famous pedal builder who created and modded effects units for many famous guitar heroes.

Since the early 2000s, he’s been making some of the best boutique-tier pedals on the market under the Keeley Electronics brand. For this list, we’re including the company’s Compressor Pro.

At the first glance, we can see that the controls are very detailed, offering precise attack and release times, threshold settings, gain, as well as ratios that go well into the maximum limiter territory.

Then comes even more exciting part with the hard and soft knee switch that switches between the harder and softer attack modes. The soft mode offers more control over tone and can be useful for solos and other lead sections.

There’s also the Auto mode switch that dynamically changes attack and release times according to your playing. Now, that’s an advanced feature.


Walrus Audio Deep Six V3

DeepSixV3-large

Continuing the streak of high-end compressors, we have Walrus Audio with the third version of their Deep Six compressor.

The interesting part about its circuit is that it internally doubles the voltage, bringing more headroom to the tone. The effect is adjusted through the 5 basic controls for volume, intensity, tone, blend, and attack.

We could say that the pedal’s build lives up to its tone and name, as it is one of the most robust pieces out there. Obviously, this makes it a valuable addition to live pedalboards.


Carl Martin Andy Timmons Signature Compressor/Limiter

carl-martin-andy-timmons-compressor-main-3694487c.jpg.991a468ae9ae10a139c4c7c428d4b1e9

Andy Timmons is one of the unrightfully underrated maestros of the guitar world. Carl Martin has designed and built Andy his very own signature compressor pedal.

It’s not a complicated piece at all, but it has some interesting additions to it and makes some pretty unique compressed tones.

However, the pedal offers a 2-in-1 deal with two separate compressors in it. That’s a pretty useful option for those who don’t feel like tweaking a lot of knobs and switches but need two modes of compression during the same gig or a session.

While there are separate controls for compression intensity and output volume, threshold and response are shared and operated only through two simple switches.


Wampler Ego

Wampler-Ego-Full-PI

We can talk for days about different compressor and limiter pedals that the market has to offer these days, but a lot of people are singling out Wampler’s Ego as the best possible choice.

This pedal, that’s become so popular among guitar players of all genres, adds significant versatility to the effect. It’s especially popular among the fans of true bypass.

The controls are fairly simple and are the standard ones that you can find on most of the higher-end compressor pedals – sustain/intensity, tone, attack, blend, and output volume.

However, the tone-shaping is different and allows more flexibility compared to average compressors out there.

If you want a universal and fairly flexible piece without any complicated features, you should definitely check out Wampler’s Ego.

Looking through their list of products and seeing how great their pedals are, it’s safe to say you won’t be disappointed with the Ego.


And that about wraps it up for now!  Have you used any of these?  What are your thoughts?  Comment below!

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

eq700

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

digitech-whammy-pedal-re-issue-with-midi-control

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

8StepProg-large

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

Lovepedal Amp 50 Overdrive Review

lovepedal_amp50_002

Luckily for us, there are plenty of distortion, overdrive, boost, and fuzz pedals to choose from these days. In fact, there are so many that it can become challenging to go out there and choose the best one for your own needs.

Entering a guitar store can sometimes give you weird feelings – there are so many effects and pedals in existence, with so many different features, that it becomes impossible for you to try them all out.

Just imagine: there are pedals that you won’t be able to try in your lifetime!

However, despite all this, a considerable portion of the guitar-playing population still loves to keep it simple. Whatever are the amps, pedals, or other gear – some of them just like to use equipment with simplified and straightforward controls and features.

Now, this doesn’t mean that these products are not good enough. It means they have a very narrow use. In this article, we will be exploring one of these simple pedals, which you can find in the rigs of guys like Mike McCready and ex-Guns N’ Roses’ DJ Ashba.

Made by a small company called Love Pedal, it’s called AMP 50 Overdrive.

lovepedal-amp-50-overdrive-1644033

About the company

Before we get into it, we’d like to share a thing or two about Love Pedal as they’re not exactly one of the famous mainstream pedal producers.

Started by a guy named Sean Michael, they’re focused on making quality boutique pedals. The main twist here is simplicity, led by the idea that “less is more.” Pretty much all of the products are straightforward.

But Sean took it to a whole new level in 2009 when the company introduced their “Mini Line” featuring some minimalistic and really compact pedals.

One of those is the Amp 50 Overdrive, but the series also includes Pickle Vibe Vibrato, Echo Baby Delay, as well as the Baby Face Trem.

The AMP 50 is currently not produced by the company, but they still have some other great products at the moment.

Features

And like we said ñ Love Pedal AMP 50 Overdrive is straightforward. It’s a compact little dirt box with just an input jack, output jack, one control knob, a footswitch, and a LED light indicator. That’s it! Straight to the point without any flashy additions.

The pedal is essentially based on Church of Tone 50 model, just gives a smaller and simplified version of it. And what’s more, the control is unlabeled. But it’s referred to as “bias/gain” by the builders.

The idea behind it is to be more than a boost and a little less than a distortion. Well, technically, it is a distortion effect since it adds some saturation and clipping to the tone. But it’s so nuanced that at lower settings it brings just a regular boost without almost any distortion. But we’ll get to that later.

What also needs to be mentioned is that the pedal features true bypass. Now, there have been countless discussions over the years, debating whether true bypass or buffered are the way to go. In case you’re up for buffered stuff, you need only one buffered pedal in your signal chain to get this sorted out.

Just like most of the pedals out there, it’s powered either by a standard 9-volt AC adapter or a regular 9-volt battery.

Design

Like we already mentioned, the whole idea behind this pedal is to be as simple as possible. This is also the case with its overall design.

So let us start with its size. We could compare it to those mini pedals by TC Electronic or by any other manufacturer with similar small-sized and compact units.

This comes as a great advantage if you’re having troubles fitting a new pedal in your signal chain, but you really need an additional overdrive in there. Or in case you need just one pedal in front of a tube amp and just want to keep it as simple as possible.

The color of the pedal is white, the knob is the classic one you’d find on vintage-type pedals, and the only thing breaking the monotony is the name of the pedal written on the front panel. That and the blue LED light (which could be better if it was red but let us not be so picky).

Its aluminum casing is pretty sturdy and the overall build quality is impressive. There won’t be any worries with taking this little bad boy on tour with you.

Performance

Talking about the tone and the performance, the main intention behind such a pedal is to have something to just a little bit of boost and coloration to clean or overdriven channels of your tube amps.

Although we would argue that it works best in pair with those vintage or vintage-inspired clean tube amps. It adds just enough of overdrive to have solid and dynamically responsive performance.

Setting the knob lower will give more of a boost with just a dash of that sparkling crunch. As you move it up, you’ll get more saturation in there, and at highest settings, you might get into some solid mid-range soft clipping natural overdrives. Tones are a bit brighter than compared to a Tube Screamer.

But plugging it in front of a solid-state amp, you won’t get much of a tone there. Not that it’s terrible, but it’s surprisingly disappointing compared to tube amplifiers. The sound won’t be as thick, and there won’t be so much dynamic response in there.

Conclusion

A pedal like the Love Pedal AMP 50 Overdrive generally has a narrow scope of use. It’s a very specific unit aimed at those who prefer old bluesy tones and just some boosts and colorations to their tube amps.

Obviously, it’s not that versatile, but it can act bost as a boost and as an overdrive. Additional volume control would have been great, but we generally get the idea why there was just one gain knob on it.

If you’re looking for anything for these purposes, AMP 50 is definitely a great choice to consider. In case you manage to find one of these somewhere.


Recommended Viewing

TC Electronic TC1210 Spatial Expander & Stereo Chorus + Flanger Review

TC 1210 spatial expander

Whatever is the instrument that you play, it’s always a good idea to have some additional effects to enhance your tone. Not too much, but just something that will help you in not sounding so dry all the time.

Of course, there are plenty of pedals out there that will help you get all the tones that you need. But what if you want to take it to a whole new level and get yourself a rack-mounted multi-effects unit? After all, this is something professional musicians have been doing for their entire lives, so it must be a good thing, right?

With this in mind, we decided to look more into one of the discontinued pieces by the legendary TC Electronic.

Generally speaking, it’s a unit that’s often used by instrumentalists, even for live shows. We’ve seen some of the biggest names in the world of the guitar using it, including Eric Clapton, Larry Carlton, Steve Vai, Alex Lifeson, and even Dream Theater’s John Petrucci.

TC 1210

This unit is featured on our John Petrucci Rig Rundown here

Without further ado, here’s some exciting info about TC 1210 Spatial Expander & Stereo Chorus + Flanger.

Features

First off, the TC 1210 is a rack-mounted product featuring a few onboard different effects. It is based on the company’s famous SCF Stereo Chorus/Flanger pedal but with a bit more features.

The whole idea behind the TC 1210 was to have a suitable effect for creating a solid spatial stereo image of one’s tone. In addition, there are some other effects that we will discuss here.

It is an entirely analog unit relying on the old bucket brigade device technology that people are still crazy about these days. There are seven different presets and effects to choose from: spatial expander, two choruses, two flangers, a doubler, and a stereo delay.

The 1210’s greatest superpower comes with its stereo features. Each of the effects can be used either in stereo or mono modes. In addition to this, you’re able to use two separate inputs as two independent channels and process them individually.

There are plenty of controls on there for separating these channels, using the same or different effects on them, and even using each of the dedicated outputs individually or as one whole audio image. All of the features and controls just wouldn’t fit into one brief review.

Inputs and outputs are located on the rear panel. There are two inputs and outputs for regular 1/4-inch jacks and additional XLR inputs and outputs.

Aside from that, there’s an input for bypass footswitch control and the “speed” footswitch jack that lets you choose from five different effect speed modes. There is also a “direct mute” switch that completely mutes the signal coming out of the unit.

Overall, 1210 provides a surprising amount of controls for such an old piece. The combinations are almost endless, and they’re all designed to provide you with some really spacious choruses, flangers, delays, doublers, and expanders.

Design

Although not many will go to the lengths of looking into your rig, we could say that the TC 1210 seems pretty neat. Nothing too fancy, but it clearly shows somewhat of a vintage-ish ’80s and ’90s feel.

The writing on it is a bit too small, but when you get used to setting it up, you won’t have any trouble knowing where each control is. At the end of the day, not many will care about the looks of your rack pieces so there’s nothing to worry about here, really.

Performance

Just like its name would suggest, there is a lot of “spaciousness” feel to all the effects on it. But the TC 1210 is best known for its 3D stereo chorus.

Most of the guitar players who have used it over the years were able to create some really spacious feeling stereo tones through it. At some points, it could feel as if there are actually two instruments playing.

But whatever is the effect that you want to use on it, it provides a very 3D feel to it. In some cases, even when the sound coming from the left speaker is louder, you’ll get the impression that the tone is coming from the right speaker.

The illusion is created by delaying the signal to the left output. It is just one of the examples of how complex and detailed this piece actually is.

The analog feel is definitely noticeable with TC 1210 and it won’t sound like any of the standard sterile digital products you can find today. However, the whole operation is a bit outdated.

These days, you can get some pretty convincing (at least in our opinion) digital replicas of analog effects that would be a lot more easier to set up.

1210 will also provide stable operation for any kind of setup, whether you want to use it in front of an amp, FX loop, or in the standard rack configuration.

You can also send the signal to two amps or to separate it and go into an amp and a mixer. The options are endless, but it would take some time getting used to TC 1210.

Conclusion

One thing you need to know is that these are not exactly easy to find. TC 1210 has been really popular throughout the 1990s and these days you can find a used one for well over $1,000.

It’s an entirely professional vintage analog device that will provide some really “spacious” tones.

The TC 1210 is succeeded by some of the modern pieces, all of which are based on this old rack unit. For instance, there’s the TC 1210-DT Desktop Controller, which has a similar spatial expander effect on it.

But to conclude this review, this multi-effects piece is something those vintage seekers are crazy about these days. Aside from the guitar, it can be used for processing vocals or any miked-up acoustic instruments.

But if you’re a beginner and an average enthusiast, you’ll probably want to skip this one and go with something a little more simple and practical.


Featured Video

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!

Orange Bax Bangeetar Pre-EQ Review

BaxBangeetarB-large

There are so many different ways for you to get quality distortion these days. Some love their tube amps and the “organic” smooth overdriven tone that they get when they push the volume way up high on the clean channel.

Some others may prefer those scorched distortion tones of classic pedals like Boss DS-1, and some might be into digital modeling amps and all the replications of both classic and modern tones.

Be that as it may, the technology of guitar pedals has advanced and we have some of the most colorful and harmonically rich distortions at our disposal.

The one that we would like to take a closer look at is made by the legendary Orange Amplification, who are known for their amps with very specific dark and “fuzzy” tones.

The pedal in question is called Bax Bangeetar Guitar Pre-EQ and is one pretty interesting and exciting piece.

Bax Bangeetar

It’s actually more than just a regular distortion pedal. But not to spoil anything in these first paragraphs, here is the review below.

Features

What’s easily noticeable at a first look is that Bax Bangeetar pedal is pretty well-built. Whatever your ambitions are, it seems like this one can be taken on a tour without any fears of it getting smashed easily.

But going over to the standard properties of a guitar pedal, the Bangeetar has a lot of exciting features. The first one we would like to point out is the speaker cabinet simulated output.

The pedal has its own cab simulator circuit ñ appropriately named “CabSim” ñ that allows you to plug it directly into a mixer. This way, it turns it into somewhat of a preamp pedal.

According to the company, the cabinet they replicated here is their 40th Anniversary PPC412, the one that is loaded with four 12-inch Celestion G12H 30-watt speakers.

Aside from the standard on and off footswitch, the Bax Bangeetar has an additional switch that adds more boost when the distortion is engaged. This is not a classic “more gain” boost but just adds 6 more dB to it.

Kind of like those classic clean boosters, only it’s integrated into the pedal. This can come in handy for some tube amps if you want to use more of their natural tube drive.

Going over to controls, Bangeetar has an interesting feature in this regard as well. Aside from the obvious volume and gain controls, there is a 3-band EQ with sweepable mids.

In fact, there are three separate knobs just for mids. One regulates the level, one is for frequency tweaking, and the third one adjusts the frequency range. This way, you can select a specific section of the mid spectrum and either boost it or cut it.

As for the power, it runs on standard 9-volt batteries or classic AC adapters.

Design

It doesn’t take more than one glance to realize that this pedal is made by Orange Amplification. All of the knobs are labeled with classic symbols you see on Orange amps.

These might be a bit confusing, maybe even annoying, to those who don’t know much about them. But still, you’ll also find regular labels for each parameter.

The metal handle below the controls is kind of unusual but it looks nice and doesn’t interfere with its operation. The whole thing is rounded up with black finish and pots with a recognizable shade of orange.

Of course, there are some other versions, featuring white finish, white knobs, and black labels.

The colors of the LED indicators could have been different though, as blue and green might not be the best option for darker venues. But not to be nitpicky, it’s overall a great looking pedal.

Performance

To put it simply ñ this pedal is all Orange. Just like classic Orange amps, it’s heavy on the mid to high-end spectrum of the tone. It also brings the very well-known “fuzziness” into the tone, while still managing to keep it tight in the low end.

We would say that this pedal’s greatest strength lies in its equalizer. All the guitar players who use distortion all the time know that mid-range control is of essential importance for a great tone.

And this pedal allows very detailed control over this part of the tonal spectrum. Whatever you want to do with mids, cut them or boost them, the Bax Bangeetar will give you control over that.

The pedal’s unique tone is achieved without back-to-back diode clipping which you usually find in standard distortion devices. This way, the tone resembles those classic Orange amps.

Now, there would be some discussions about whether true bypass or buffered bypass is better.

Whatever your thoughts are, Orange Amplification argues that buffered is the way to go, and such is the case with Bangeetar. This way, they keep all the clarity and the high ends in the tone.

Not to bore you with all the technical details, but Orange has done some magic with this pedal and the internal voltage is doubled. So you have 18-volts with a 9-volt power source.

This way, as they claim, you get a better dynamic response. And we could say that this is true. Despite not being a tube-driven pedal, it brings some solid dynamic response to it.

The cab simulator works pretty well too. We’re not sure if it fully replicates the exact cab that they said, but it does give that natural cabinet feel if you plug it into a mixer or an audio interface.

Along with its dynamic response, it’s pretty useful for studio recordings in case you don’t want to bother with miking up your amp.

At the end of the day, it’s one very versatile little pedal. It delivers anything from the smooth bluesy crunch, up to some pretty heavy djent stuff.

Conclusion

Released in 2015, Bax Bangeetar comes as the company’s first pedal since the 1960s. We can say that it’s definitely a great comeback. The only downside here would be the price.

But although a bit overpriced, it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad pedal. In fact, it’s one of the best distortion pedals that you can get these days.


Video Demo

Peterson Stomp Classic Strobe Tuner Review

Peterson Stomp Classic Strobe Tuner review

This goes for guitarists and instrumentalists of all the genres – you NEED to stay in tune. 

Look at what happened to poor Slash here!  Playing “School’s Out” on a out of tune electric guitar.  Fire that tech!

Even if you’re playing obscure microtonal music, there are still rules to follow, and failing to keep your tuning and intonation in order will have disastrous results.

And we really take the technology for granted today. We have some pretty cheap tuners in various different forms, either as pedals, clip-ons, and classic pocket tuners.

But back in the old days, not many guitarists had access to precise tuners. In case they didn’t have a decent piano at their disposal, they had to find creative ways to what to tune their instruments up to.

During the 1960s, so-called strobe tuners became popular among professional rock musicians. The same concept is also being used to this day, mostly because it provides the most precise tuning.

However, there are some digital tuners that use the same principle, only applied to digital technology and LCD displays. One of those is the Stomp Classic by a company called Peterson Strobe Tuners.

Peterson Stomp Classic Strobe Tuner

It’s a very interesting professional-grade device that offers really precise tunings. One of these can also be found in the signal chain of the legend himself, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.

Well, if he thinks it’s good, then it must be good. Right? Let’s find out more about it.


Strobe tubers

To those who are not familiar, strobe tuners have a black and white disk spinning over a strobe light. The flickering of the strobe light corresponds to the frequency of the note being played.

These black and white discs have a very specific color pattern: Each one is divided into rings with black and white blocks.

Going from the center, each ring has double the blocks than the previous one, and all the blocks are half of the width from the previous ring.

These discs rotate at a different speed, depending on what note you want to tune up to. The strobe light that we mentioned essentially takes a “snapshot” of the disc in the given position.

When the frequency of the open string matches the desired one, you get this optical illusion as if the disc has stopped. It’s a very old method, developed way back in the 1930s, but it’s proven to be the most precise one.


Features

While Peterson’s Stomp Classic is a digital tuner with an LCD display, it relies on this particular method. Instead of the physical disc, it does the same thing on its high-definition display.

First off, it’s enclosed in a vintage-styled and very robust casing that fits on any pedalboard. It basically operates like most of the pedal-based tuners – you just step on it, it mutes the signal, and it shows the name of the note that you’re playing on a separate display, while the main screen shows the “spinning disc.”

Next up, it’s a true bypass pedal, which is somewhat of a surprise for a tuner. In addition, there is a switch that lets you control the signal level in case you have a higher output instrument. There is also a ground lift toggle that can help you deal with unwanted hums.

But aside from being a tuner, Stomp Classic can act as a classic DI box. There is a mode switch with three settings – monitor, true bypass, and the DI. This surely opens up a lot of possibilities both for studio work and live performances.


Performance

The main display has a very smooth operation and high-definition quality. It’s kind of like looking at 60fps videos. The display is designed to be visible both in dark and in direct sunlight. This is also thanks to its fairly high contrast.

About the pedal’s construction, it’s pretty safe to say that Stomp Classic is one of the most durable pedals out there. The casing is made from a very thick metal, plastic is of top quality, and all the internal mechanical switching components are pretty sturdy as well.

Overall, when you get a hang of it, it’s a pretty simple unit to use. It also ensures some insanely precise tunings, with the full precision of +/-0.1 cents, which is basically like 1000th of a fret.

The additional features are more than just fluff as this one can also be used for controlling your signal with different modes. The DI box mode is a very useful thing here.

A bit of a downside would be that the small display showing notes is not always useful to some. It’s fairly difficult to see whether the display is showing a flat or a sharp tone.

The contrast and visibility are all great, but the symbols a really small. With all these great features, sturdy vintage-like design, and clear operation, it is definitely a letdown.


Conclusion

Sure, it may not be like the old strobe tuners, but Stomp Classic is way more precise than any other “conventional” digital tuner these days.

You may think of an average tuner as a fairly simple little device, but this one takes it to a whole new level. Testing it out against a few other standard tuner pedals will show you exactly why Stomp Classic is superior to anything else.

However, you should always remember that this is a fairly expensive (about $200) professional-grade piece of equipment.

To be fully honest, you don’t really need it unless you’re a touring pro musician who often performs at broad daylight, has an extremely busy schedule, and doesn’t really have time or patience to deal with unreliable tuners with some minor annoying issues.

Well, it has one issue that we mentioned, the surprisingly small display for sharp and flat symbols. But still, it’s something you can get used to and have a fully functioning piece that can also work as a DI box.

Now, what you want to make of it is up to you. Some may argue that it’s crazy to give $200 for a simple tuner. Others, however, can’t stand even the slightest error in the pitch.


Video Review