Premier Guitar

Rivera Amplification Blues Shaman and Double Shaman Pedal Reviews

May 17, 2011
Paul Rivera’s amplifiers and effects are impressive by any standard. His work reflects a remarkable breadth of knowledge and intuition about the real musical applications for amplifiers and effects. The proof is in Rivera’s client list—which includes artists spanning country, metal, roots rock, and pop—and in the longevity of a career that now spans more than three decades.

That ability to work across stylistic barriers is typified in Rivera’s new Shaman pedals— the Blues Shaman, Double Shaman, and Metal Shaman. The Blues Shaman evokes an overdriven tweed Fender, while the Double Shaman combines two voices optimized for hot blues-rock or more aggressive ’80s flavors. The Metal Shaman, meanwhile, conjures high-gain destruction. Here we take a look at the Blues Shaman and Double Shaman, but be sure to also read our review of the Metal Shaman at premierguitar.com/may2011.

Built for the Stage
Both the Blues Shaman and Double Shaman are constructed from 16-gauge stainless steel and adorned with colorful graphics printed on polycarbonate panels. Shared features include a single 1/4" input and output, a 9-volt adapter input, and a battery compartment that’s accessed through the back panel’s four Phillips-head screws. High-quality parts are used throughout: WIMA wound caps, low-noise FET and bipolar transistors, and Analog Devices chips are mounted on double-sided PCBs, while metal-barreled jacks ensure road-worthiness and long life, and the knobs and stainless-steel housing suggest Paul Rivera isn’t the slightest bit interested in skimping. These pedals were built to last and were obviously designed with love and care.



Blues Shaman
Download Example 1
Gritty Strat in Combo Mode
Download Example 2
Gritty Strat in Stack Mode
Download Example 3
Hamer Korina Special (P-90s), heavy distortion
Clips recorded through a Blackheart Little Giant 5 and 65 Amps London Pro 1x12 cab (Celestion G12H-30). Mic'd with a Shure SM57, dry into a Chandler LTD-1 mic pre with no EQ into an Apogee Symphony I/O to Pro Tools. No added reverb or FX.
The Blues Shaman was designed to reproduce the dynamic range and soft-clipping overdrive typical of a ’50s tweed Fender with 6V6s and an alnico Jensen speaker—for example, a Deluxe or Tremolux. Controls are simple and to the point: Level, Tone, and Gain knobs, a Stack/Combo mini toggle, and two stomp switches labeled Ascension (boost) and On/ True Bypass.

I set up a Fender American Standard Strat, a Blackheart Little Giant 5 head, and a 65Amps London Pro cab with a Celestion G12H-30 speaker to evaluate the Blues Shaman. With the Blackheart set clean and flat, the pedal delivered a classic, slightly fizzy, thick-bottomed blues mood. The pedal translated picking dynamics superbly, and the whole rig felt lively and very touch sensitive. The Blues Shaman has a knack for conveying the nuances of the interaction between fingers, wood, and wire. It’s very organic sounding.

Digging in with the Gain at 1 o’clock imparted the beautiful sound of a small combo nudging up against the breaking point. In the Combo setting, you can hear the Blues Shaman take on many of the qualities of an open-back cab with its airy, and less bass-heavy sound. The Tone knob is effective and has a very wide range. Rather than just add treble, it shapes the voice in a more dimensional way— moving from darker to brighter and fizzier without sacrificing bass clout. At first, I was leery of having only one control for tonal voicing, but in this case it was more than enough to dial in tones ranging from James Gang-style grit to Leslie West’s Mountain-sized hugeness.

Switching to my humbucker-equipped Hamer Korina Special, I cranked up the gain and toggled to Stack mode, which thickened and tightened up the bottom end while emphasizing low mids. With my eyes closed and the amp volume high, the bristling, compressed tones made me feel like I was onstage at a late-’60s outdoor festival. Small as the test rig was, it sounded as badass as a Sunn Coliseum head—only at a much more practical volume. The Ascension switch propelled that sound even further into the stratosphere—adding a killer boost and livelier harmonics.

There is no doubt Rivera knows his amps. And the Blues Shaman feels like a pedal built by someone who understands an amplifier as a living, breathing beast. The Blues Shaman nails that tweed sound and so much more. I can envision situations where I’d happily take the setup I used for this review over a ’50s tweed Deluxe simply for the versatility the Blues Shaman adds.
Buy if...
you need a wide range of tweed-style tones in a single pedal.
Skip if...
your overdrive tastes tend toward modern flavors.
Rating...


Street $249 - Rivera Amplification - rivera.com



Double Shaman
Download Example 1
LA Mode, Super Lead Tone, Godin Icon Type 2
Download Example 2
Austin Mode, Stack, Epiphone Sheraton
Download Example 3
Austin Mode, Combo - Texas Rhythm Tone, Gibson Les Paul
Clips recorded through a Blackheart Little Giant 5 and 65 Amps London Pro 1x12 cab (Celestion G12H-30). Mic'd with a Shure SM57, dry into a Chandler LTD-1 mic pre with no EQ into an Apogee Symphony I/O to Pro Tools. No added reverb or FX.
The Double Shaman is two very different pedals in one. Its two channels—L.A. and Austin—range from the ’80s hair-metal feel of a modified Marshall on one to hot, Gibbons-/SRV-style Texas tube tone on the other. Both channels have simple layouts, with Level, Tone, and Drive knobs, and a Stack/Combo toggle. There are also two stomp switches for Destination (channel selection) and On/True-Bypass.

Given that I came up during the hairband era and actually owned several modded Marshalls back in the day, it was a fun trip down memory lane to jump into the L.A. channel. Plugged into the same Blackheart/65Amps half-stack I used with the Blues Shaman, I fired up a Godin Redline HB and cranked up the Drive control. Lo and behold—hair metal on demand!

Much like the amps we modded back in the Reagan years, the L.A. channel has a ridiculous amount of gain on tap, and the mids sounded focused for maximum cut and wailing tone. In Stack mode, there was plenty of attack and clarity, though it comes with the same trade-offs you experience in a modded amp: With the ridiculous amount of sustain you get from so much gain, you also lose some of the dimensionality that comes with less-extreme voicings with lower gain settings. It’s not a super-versatile tone, but if you’re nostalgic for Warren DiMartini’s solo tone on “Round and Round” or you want to lay into some Dokken-era Lynch sounds, this pedal was made for you.

The Tone control was quite flexible and handy when changing from guitar to guitar and matching just the right amount of attack and presence. It even made my low-gain Strat kick like it was loaded with humbuckers. In Combo mode, the L.A. section’s tone became brighter and a little looser on the bottom. But my preference—especially in the L.A. channel—was to stay in Stack mode: It achieved maximum punch and bottom-end tightness.

On the Austin channel, the same three controls and Stack/Combo toggle seemed to offer up a wider range of tones. With a Les Paul R8, it was easy to dial in a killer Billy Gibbons Texas tone. Individual notes rang rich with harmonics, and with the Gain set fairly high (around 3 o’clock) there was a raunchy vibe that just stank of coolness. I really enjoyed the compressed, spongy feel of the attack, as well as the flexibility of the Tone control.

With the Les Paul in hand, I assumed I’d prefer Stack mode, but it was Combo mode that availed my favorite Texas-boogie tones. And with a Strat and a roll-off of the Gain, it was easy to conjure round, muscular SRV sweetness. Switching into Stack mode with this combination made the sound even bolder and more powerful, and the pedal really responded to digging in harder.

At times, I wished there was a third stomp switch that added a boost capability for each channel. Absent this feature, you can still easily set up one channel to be hotter as a boost for your solos, but because their tonal differences are so substantial this approach will be ineffective in certain musical contexts.

The Double Shaman accomplishes a lot for a single pedal—it can transport you from the Sunset Strip circa ’87 to the South with the click of a switch. Both channels are highly specialized and offer up very different sounds for those who work across a wider tone field. In my experience, I’ve never come across a pedal that moved between two extremes and made them work so well together.
Buy if...
your playing incorporates ’80s hair-metal sounds and ’70s Texas grit.
Skip if...
you don’t need such radical variance in your lead tones.
Rating...


Street $299 - Rivera Amplification - rivera.com

The Verdict
Paul Rivera’s decades of experience show in the Blues Shaman and Double Shaman. Both pedals are dynamic, sensitive, and responsive to different guitar voices and playing approaches—just like a great tube amplifier. And if you’re looking to expand the range of your own amp without sacrificing its essential tube character, the Blues Shaman and Double Shaman have the goods.