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Mama’s Little Baby Loves Catalinbread

January 30, 2008
After sourcing some small Hammond cases at the local Fry’s, Catalinbread’s own Nicholas Harris decided to see how much tone he could finagle out of the diminutive boxen, and in the process, freed up some precious pedalboard real estate for pedal toting minions. Nicholas was generous enough to send over the results for our perusal: the HyperPak Dirty Channel, the Serrano Picoso, the Ottava Magus Octave Ring Multiplier and the V8 Fuzz Tone Generator.

V8 Fuzz Tone Generator

This V8 pedal is more fun than my first “real” girlfriend. Its unique CMOS inverter chip design allows for smooth, nearly respectable fuzz when the Fuzz control is below noon, but once it goes past its invisible Maginot Line, all kinds of cool, random noises are produced – with or without any input signal. Before this point is reached, the V8 behaves much like a nice old Colorsound Supa Tonebender. Nicholas told us this about his sonic objective for the V8: “You know that Commodores song, ‘Easy’ right? That solo tone is just so cool – I wanted to get that.”

For me, the most fun was right on the edge, keeping the Fuzz knob at noon or a touch past, rewarding the picker with some rasp and sputter on the low notes while retaining the smooth, legato fuzz tones on the mids and highs. But the difference between this and toy-robot sounds is about a half-millimeter tweak of the Fuzz knob. This pedal could easily go from a convincing cover of “Beck’s Bolero” to a Nels Cline-inspired noise fest with little more than a deft big toe. It also has the ability to clean up like it was going to a parole hearing with a simple twist of your guitar’s volume knob. Good times.
Buy if...
you always end up falling for the crazy ones.
Skip if...
you play rhythm guitar exclusively in a Carpenters cover band.
Rating...
4.0 

MSRP $129 - Catalinbread - catalinbread.com



Serrano Picoso

Catalinbread’s original Super Chili Picoso, based on Jack Orman’s Mosfet boost design, has already attained legendary status among clean boost aficionados, and the Serrano Picoso is well on its way to garnering the same accolades. Featuring the same single-knob layout as its bigger sibling, the Serrano Picoso gives up the Fat/Clean switch as a concession to size and features 5dB less boost than the Super Chili. But with 30dB of boost remaining, it should still handily take care of most boosting needs.

I haven’t played through a Super Chili Picoso, so I’m unable to compare the two, but it’s a safe bet they are similar, since the Serrano is based on the same circuit as the Super Chili. I have used other other boutique boosts, and really like the way this thing sounds. Where others sound like a Class A mic pre – very slightly coloring the signal in a beautiful, warm, pleasing way while adding a hint of top-end sparkle – the Serrano Picoso sounds like the mythical “More” pedal guitarists have been clamoring for, adding enough boost to be noticed, all while staying off of your rig’s inherent tonal fingerprint. The lesser Picoso would excel as a line amp for larger pedalboards, a proper boost pedal or as a willing participant in a stackable gain affair. The Serrano is aptly named, working perfectly as an extra spice in a recipe you already love.
Buy if...
you like your tone, but crave more.
Skip if...
you go straight from your guitar to the amp.
Rating...
4.5 

MSRP $119 - Catalinbread - catalinbread.com



HyperPak Dirty Channel


No, the name isn’t reference to Cinemax’s after hours programming – the HyperPak was envisioned as the perfect pedal in front of your favorite single channel amplifier after repeated dinner-time viewings of the Who’s Live at Leeds DVD. I didn’t have a mid to late ‘60s SG Special kicking around, so I busted out my trusty Hamer Korina Special and played the G to G/F riff from “My Generation.” I have to say, “Mission accomplished!”, and hope this proclamation isn’t as far off base as the last time it was uttered.

Another design objective was good clean up via the guitar’s volume knob; it works well, although it boosts the high-end and low-end in this capacity, sounding a tad thinner than simply bypassing the pedal.

The HyperPak Dirty Channel is nice, but I like the crazy girls, and despite her name, she isn’t one. I have rarely found myself needing a well-behaved distortion pedal, but if you are in need of a distortion pedal for a single channel amp and overdrives aren’t cutting it, by all means, give this one a go.
Buy if...
you need some dirt for a resolutely clean amp, like a Twin.
Skip if...
you like a few surprises with your dirt.
Rating...
3.0 

MSRP $129 - Catalinbread - catalinbread.com



Ottava Magus Octave Ring Multiplier

Ottava is Latin for Octave, Magus is Italian for Magic, and Magic Octave is a brilliantly descriptive name for this little guy. Featuring Intensity and Volume knobs on its psychedelically silkscreened face, the Ottava Magus is the cosmic make up gift for everyone who bought a Boss OC-2 mistakenly thinking they were going to rock the solo to “Purple Haze” and instead had to be content playing “Fool in the Rain.”

The Ottava has all of the same caveats as the one-up octave pedals that preceded it, working best on the neck pickup, with the tone rolled back and staying around the twelfth fret E minor pentatonic position; but even with these limitations, the Ottava is more fun than joyriding in a ’64 GTO. Venturing down low on the neck offers up a really cool sputter fuzz with just a hint of octave, with the octave becoming more and more pronounced as you move closer to the magical twelfth fret position, where it eventually replaces the fundamental note. When in the sweet spot, the ring modulation also becomes more pronounced.

Honestly, this pedal is almost impossible to describe, so just check one out ASAP, and maybe the following can tell you more about the Ottava than more description: I would use something like this maybe once or twice a night, tops, and that’s after making a special spot in a song or solo for it. Regardless, from the first couple of notes, I was earmarking both the funds and the space on my pedalboard for an Ottava Magus of my very own.
Buy if...
you dig retro-future, destructo-tones
Skip if...
your set list includes "Girl from Ipanema" and the audience gets pissed when you skip it.
Rating...
4.5 

MSRP $129 - Catalinbread - catalinbread.com