Catalinbread’s handbuilt stompboxes have garnered the Portland-based company a lot of enthusiastic attention in recent years, and their stompbox catalog now includes a range of fuzz, octave, overdrive, and modulation pedals, as well as those that defy a one-word description. With the release of the CB30, Catalinbread attempts to stuff the legendary class-A tone of the Vox AC30 into a small, dark green stompbox.
Beauty Outside and In
The unit projects an immediate sense of quality. Its premium metal knobs—Treble, Bass, Volume, and Gain—operate with utmost smoothness, and the powder-coat finish and silk-screen graphics and lettering are attractive. The components are sturdy and appear to be assembled with care.
Catalinbread effects units are true-bypass and are powered by a 9V battery. The CB30 can also operate via a center-negative power supply rated from 9VDC to 18VDC. Increasing the amount of voltage to the pedal will increase its sonic headroom.
I started testing the CB30 by putting it between my Gibson SG and my late-’60s Fender Bassman. With all controls at unity, I was quickly welcomed with a full, throaty overdrive, similar to the native growl of my silverface amp. The mixture of humbuckers, an amp that was originally intended for bass, and the generally bottom-heavy tone of the CB30 sent me on a voyage to tame the low end and dial in that coveted class-A bite.
Rolling back the Bass and turning up the Gain produced a much more immediate, edgy response from the CB30. Backing off the Bass also produced a significant drop in the unit’s overall volume. Tweaking the CB30’s other controls produced a similarly drastic change in output. In my opinion, this ability to craft drastic tonal tweaks makes the CB30 an excellent overdrive box, aside from its delicious tone.
Not only do the individual controls allow significant change in output, they also interact with each other to modify the overall tonal color. For example, if the Gain is low (there’s lots of headroom available), then a tweak of the Treble knob will produce drastic fluctuations in high-end response. However, if the pedal’s Gain and Volume controls are high, and the pedal is near its maximum output, then the Treble control will have a subtle, less biting effect on the overall output. To put it simply, the CB30’s controls do a great job mimicking the complex interactions of controls on a tube amp. Catalinbread also put a significant amount of boost in the CB30, yet the unit cleans up well when you roll back your instrument’s volume or lighten your pick attack.
Next up was my Fender Strat. Using single-coils made it much easier to elicit the immediate high-end pick attack and singing midrange that the AC30 is famous for. A slight increase in the Bass produced a bit more scooped sound that gave the notes a shimmering Liverpool punch. I really enjoyed the way the CB30’s dark coloration complimented the bright spank of my Strat’s single-coils. If you fire up one of these pedals, you’re going to play Beatles tunes—it’s unavoidable.
Overall, the CB30 delivers an excellent emulation of the Vox AC30. Also, because of its strong low end, the CB30 could effectively beef up an otherwise thin-sounding amp. If you love the signature class-A bite and dynamics of an AC30, but don’t have several grand lying around for the real thing, I would definitely check out Catalinbread’s excellent CB30 pedal.
you’re looking for a stompbox that closely emulates the AC30’s legendary tone.
overdrive is not enough or class A is not your flavor.