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August Issue
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Stomping Grounds: 25 Pedals Reviewed


DISTORTION

Barber Electronics Dirty Bomb

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Barber’s Dirty Bomb pedal is about as subtle as a jackhammer through Kleenex. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. Sure, you could use it as a light overdrive pedal if you want to, but when you have a lot of power, you might as well use it.

The Dirty Bomb from Barber Electronics is a versatile distortion pedal with a wide range of tones. It features a two-band EQ, Gain control and a toggle switch that selects midrange character for three different modes: The Left position is neutral, Center is mid bumped and Right is a middle scooped sound. It also features an internal Bass Boost trim pot that is fully adjustable. The manual for the Dirty Bomb has some useful setting suggestions and is a good starting point for achieving a wide range of sounds, from ’70s rock to a very heavy metal sound, which is where I think this pedal really shines. The distortion is tight and defined and stays that way even when pushed to the limit. The three positions of the EQ midrange switch are all very useable and it’s nice to have a variety of distortion to choose from.

The tonal range of the Treble knob in particular is very good. It can go from a slightly bright sound to full on sizzle. However when cranked up all the way, it thins out the tone a little too much. The sweet spot of the Bass control seems to be between 8 and 10. Anything below 8 didn’t seem beefy enough. After dialing in the parameters to your liking, the Dirty Bomb performs very well. Even though it offers a wide range of distortion for many styles of music, it works best as a hard rock/heavy metal device. So crank this one up and start rockin’! – GG

Buy if...
you want to unleash the fury with high gain distortion.
Skip if...
a massive amount of distortion scares you.
Rating...
4.5

Street $99 - Barber Electronics - barberelectronics.com


Red Witch Famulus

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Red Witch understands that you can’t really reinvent the wheel when it comes to distortion. Instead, they’ve conjured up a unique way to take two different distortion tones and blend them together into one pedal. The Red Witch Famulus distortion/overdrive pedal features two distinct circuits that run parallel, and each circuit is uniquely voiced. The two gain channels can be used independently, or can be blended together for an infinite number of options and distorted tones. Gain A offers a more biting distortion while Gain B has a fat midrange punch. Although they both share the same Volume and Tone control, each gain can be controlled separately. The key to blending the tones together is using the Alchemy control. This knob enables you to choose between Gain A and B if you turn it to the extreme left or right. Turning the Alchemy knob anywhere in between allows you to seamlessly blend the two tones together.

I'd be content just with using Gain A of the Famulus pedal. It had plenty of thick, creamy distortion to rock out with. Having Gain B as a whole other distortion option was an added bonus. It was great to be able to blend both gains together. My favorite tone was having Gain A full up with Gain B in a cleaner sound, and then blending the two. I was then able to play more complex chords and have the notes defined more clearly, instead of being lost in distorted mush. It would be great to see a version of this pedal with stereo outputs to expand the concept even further. Having two types of gain to two different amps controlled by one knob would be an excellent distortion combination. But I’m happy with the Red Witch Famulus concept as it is. It uniquely blends two different kinds of distortion for endless combinations of tone. – GG
Buy if...
you don’t mind blending different types of distortion together.
Skip if...
you’d rather have a simple distortion pedal that you can set and forget.
Rating...
4.5

Street $299 - Red Witch - redwitchanalogpedals.com


MXR Fullbore Metal

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Being an owner of the famed Distortion+ and a metalhead at heart, I was pretty excited to give the Fullbore Metal pedal a try. For starters, the Fullbore comes with a lot more bells and whistles than your standard MXR pedals of this size. In all, six small knobs and two small switches adorn the front of the unfinished metal chassis. Features include Volume, Frequency, Gain, Low, Mid High, Gate and Scoop. Frequency controls the midrange frequency from 200hz to 5khz, which is then adjusted further by the Mid control. Bass controls the tight low end of this pedal, while the High knob controls the sizzling harmonic tones. The Noise Gate switch is a welcome addition to the Fullbore and is a necessity at high volume and gain settings. Other distortion pedal makers would do well to take note of this. The Noise Gate responded well, and notes were not cut off short, which allowed for plenty of sustain. The Scoop switch boosts the Lows and Highs, which should make this pedal desirable for metalcore players and fans of the Dimebag Darrell sound.

Plugging in my Gibson SG-X, I first tried the Fullbore Metal with the volume at 3, Frequency at 2, Gain at 3, Bass at 4, Mid at 2, High at 3 o’clock, with Noise Gate on and Scoop off. I was treated to the guitar tone reminiscent of Metallica’s …And Justice for All. Turning up the Bass knob made the bass much punchier without the lows falling apart and sounding broken up. The mids and highs provided clear harmonic leads, especially for pinch harmonics which became effortless. At high volumes the Fullbore did not lose its sound, which would make it great for live use. I have also seen plenty of bands in my day who would do well using a noise gate for their setup, something that is left out of many a metal guitarist’s setup ... surprisingly. – BB

Buy if...
you’re looking for a metal distortion or a good noise gate.
Skip if...
blistering metal is not your thing.
Rating...
4.5

Street $99 - Dunlop/MXR - jimdunlop.com


Pedalworx 5 O'Clock Charlie

Pedalworx’s newest distortion pedal, the 5 O’clock Charlie, takes its name from one of the most famous episodes of M*A*S*H. “5 O’clock Charlie” is actually a North Korean bomber pilot with a very punctual personality, who at precisely 5 o’clock each day tries to hit the camp’s ammunition depot with a bomb he throws by hand. (Un)fortunately, his targeting skills aren’t as sharp as his sense of time, and he misses the depot every time. Pedalworx is attempting to hit the target the first time with a finely-tuned Rat circuit that utilizes an original Motorola LM308 chip, a prized component (they offer a very amp-like response and tone) in some of the most sought-after Rat pedals.

Wielding a 2006 Gibson Flying V into a 1973 Marshall Super Bass, I was surprised to hear more Big Muff-like qualities from the 5 O’clock Charlie. The raunchy distortion was very present and powerful, but loose in the lows, which isn’t something that I’ve come across with too many Rat circuits. Even with the Bass control on the amp turned down to 9 o’clock, the Charlie had an immense amount of low-end response. Switching to a Fender Deluxe Reverb helped tame the lows, but the sheer force of the gain, even at moderate settings, was almost too much for the little combo to handle. Considering the difficulty that I had trying to get a tight distortion sound out of the 5 O’clock Charlie, I was still very impressed with it. Why? Because its one of the best sounding Muff-like fuzzes that I’ve come across in a long time. The Charlie screams stoner metal and is perfect for sludgy riffing, à la Weedeater, Boris and Eyehategod. If fat, gravy-soaked Southern Metal tones are your thing, look no further than the 5 O’clock Charlie. – J
Buy if...
you’re completely in love with bottom- heavy, powerful fuzz.
Skip if...
you need tight distortion.
Rating...
4.0

Street $199 - PedalworX - pedalworx.com