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Tech 21 SansAmp Character Series Oxford, U.S. Steel, and Leeds Pedal Reviews

Download Example 1
Clip recorded with Schecter Jeff Loomis 7-string, Creation Audio Labs MW1 Studio Tool into Pro Tools HD3, no EQ, dry. 
U.S. Steel

The U.S. Steel clearly borrows its inspiration from a Mesa/Boogie Dual or Triple Rectifier. Much like the Recto series, the U.S. Steel’s real strength lies in heavier music. The tone controls are voiced as follows: Mid at 450 Hz, Low at 125 Hz, and High at around 3.2 kHz. You can boost or cut these frequencies by 12 dB. The Character knob adds thickness to the Drive control settings, but also brightens up the sound—an effect that gets more pronounced as you turn the knob clockwise. Once again, the Speaker Simulation button mimics a Celestion-loaded speaker cabinet, and my ears tell me they were going for either Vintage 30s or 75s. You can’t be too literal about this, as it’s an emulation circuit, but it does a fine job of getting your tone in that ballpark when you’re going direct into a mixer or computer interface.

For me, Mesa/Boogie’s Rectifier amps have always worked really well for metal, and they particularly excel in the rhythm department. No doubt, there are legions of fans of this tone, which is why we’ve heard it on so many records. The U.S. Steel doesn’t disappoint in this respect—in fact, it covers it in spades.

Inspired by the look of the U.S. Steel sitting next to my Schecter Jeff Loomis 7-string, I plugged directly into Pro Tools through a Creation Audio Labs MW1 Studio Tool and threw up the devil’s horns. I was immediately hit with that ultra-subsonic low you can only achieve from this type of amp. Chugging, detuned riffs flowed easily from my hands and felt very natural and inspired.

However, I was surprised that, when I played a Schecter Hellraiser with EMGs through the U.S. Steel, it sounded very similar to my Les Paul with Sheptone PAFs. There was a slight difference in the gain, which was easy to compensate for, but the overall sound was clearly that of the pedal, not the individual guitars. So, while the Character knob brings in more thickness and heaviness as you crank it, the basic sound of the pedal is always very present.

The Final Mojo
If you’re after a mammoth, Recto-inspired sound but have to record direct, you could easily track with the U.S. Steel and few listeners would be the wiser. The pedal delivers an effective plug-and-play tone that effortlessly channels the spirit of the American metal amp.
Buy if...
you want hulking, Recto-like muscle in a pipsqueak-sized box.
Skip if...
you prefer a high-gain option that lets your guitar’s voice shine through.

Street $169 - Tech 21 -
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