That Satchurator's hip metallic red finish and cream colored chicken-head knobs give the pedal a striking appearance, and Satriani has designed this pedal to get right to the point. You get a Gain knob that controls the level of distortion, a Tone knob that lets you manipulate the EQ and a Volume knob that controls the output level. The Pad switch maximizes dynamics in concert with high gain pedals, wahs or bright guitars. Also included are Inputs, Outputs, an AC Adapter jack, a battery compartment underneath the pedal and a More switch that literally gives you more: it’s a gain and midrange boost.
The first thing I thought when I plugged it in was, “It does the AC/DC thing.” It’s grittier than one might expect from a Joe Satriani pedal. With the gain and tone at twelve o’clock, I did not immediately fall in love, but I could see that this pedal had more going on than meets the ear. I got some interesting grindy tones, but it wasn’t until I found the sweet spot with the tone control that I found what I sought. That sweet spot was right around nine or ten o’clock, and anything below that was muddy. Everything above that got more and more grind. I have a preference for smooth, high-gain lead tones; I could imagine other players digging the scratchy, dirty rock rhythm vibe with the tone closer to twelve o’clock. It showed a lot of versatility in that ballpark.
Maxing out the gain is where the fun was for me. It had the kind of big rock lead tones I was expecting, but earthier. When I added the More switch to the maxed out lead tone, it only gave me a slight boost and a tad more midrange. It wasn’t that big of a difference—it basically had nowhere to go—but it was noticeable. The money setting is putting the gain at twelve o’clock and the tone around nine o’clock, giving you a warm-but-dirty blues-rock lead and rhythm tone. When you engage the More switch, you get the over-the-top singing lead voice as if you had the gain maxed out. Now you have somewhere to go. In this setting it’s like having two pedals in one, and I found it more versatile and enjoyable for application during an actual gig. The Pad switch was too subtle for me to get what the big deal was, but I get the idea based on the info in the instruction manual.
Strangely enough, the pedal sounded richer and more articulate using single coil pickups. It’s not true-bypass, but it cleaned up nicely—backing off with the guitar’s volume and achieving great harmonic overtones with the guitar’s volume full on. At times I was getting what I call the “Santana on Steroids” tone. The pedal is a great match for playing through a Peavey JSX on the clean channel, more so than a few of the dirtier amps I tried. The JSX has an awesomely transparent clean channel regardless of volume and the lack of dirt allows the pedal to really shine. The Satchurator is tougher and more blusey sounding than the gain channels on the JSX, so it’s not redundant—it’s a whole different sound. The JSX and Saturator definitely compliment each other, which comes as no surprise.
Running in front of a JSX, the Satchurator is pretty awesome with bulbous chordal articulation for days. Chords rang out forever and wouldn’t shut up. The lead tones were very organic, a tad hairy and never processed sounding. There was very little noise even with the More switch engaged. For someone playing through different amps, be aware that your tones will vary. Be prepared for some quasi Big Muff-style assaults. Playing through a cranked Marshall brought out the more gnarly aspects of the pedal because of the amp’s breakup. You can dial out some of that, but you’ll still be left with some rugged gristle. The exception to this is when I plugged the pedal into my cranked Fender Deluxe Reverb along with my Fender Richie Kotzen signature model Telecaster. It was the best sounding combination all night. It sounded smooth, luxurious and absolutely gorgeous.
The Final Mojo
The gain channels on a Peavey JSX sound more like Satriani than this pedal, but that’s ok. This pedal does other things. You can get morbidly obese lead tones with just enough compression to keep it together, or fuzzier sounds with more bite that might be the perfect thing to cut through a loud band mix. You don’t have to play ten-minute guitar instrumentals with it either. I dialed in some nice early Rolling Stones rhythm sounds with no trouble. The Tone knob reacts differently with different amps. While smaller amps got more upper grind with the tone knob past ten o’clock, it sounded incredible at twelve o’clock through a fully cranked JSX on the clean channel in a large room. Regardless of what amp you run it through, you’ll have no trouble finding the sweet spot with this pedal.
you dig Satch's sound and then some.
you want more tonal variety of the upper end of the EQ spectrum.