Whether you trace its origins to Link Wray, the Kinks, or Atomic Rooster, riff rock was spawned from the sound of an amplifier driven to filthy extremes. Overdrive pedals were originally designed to replicate that tortured-amp sound. Like many great effects, these pedals often missed their intended mark, but sounded great nonetheless.
ThorpyFX, however, nails the sound of an amp at the verge of exploding. In fact, if someone were to ask me what my favorite new amplifier was, I might just choose the ThorpyFX Gunshot. You could call it “AC/DC in a box,” but that would be selling its tonal flexibility short.
The Gunshot is well made nearly to the point of being overbuilt. The enclosure recalls old, slope-front pedals by Sola Sound, Vox, and Colorsound, but with improvements like a recessed control panel and a heavy, laser-etched, stainless steel enclosure. I/O jacks are on the back panel—always good for conserving pedalboard space. Handsome purple chicken head knobs match the LED. It’s a striking package.
The first three controls—gain, tone, and volume—are self-explanatory. Meanwhile, a fourth control, caliber, sets the level of a secondary overdrive stage that cascades with the first drive section.
Dirty Zep and the Devil’s Kazoo
A PAF-loaded Les Paul seemed like a must for evaluating the Thorpy, but I also used an SG with P-90s and a Standard Telecaster. The first amp on deck was a Marshall JCM 800, paired with an old Sound City 4x10 cabinet. I set the Gunshot’s gain and calibre at noon. Power chords had exactly the combination of clang and beefy lows I’d hoped for, but on this particular amp I needed to dial back the pedal’s gain quite a bit.
Magic happened when I moved over to a 6V6-powered, blackface-flavored Carr Sportsman at the verge of breakup. As much as I love the Carr’s natural distortion when dimed, the added harmonic content and drive from the Thorpy had me cackling with delight. The combination was a joy for repetitive power progressions and classic blues-rock leads. The Telecaster and the Gunshot delivered spot-on early Zeppelin tones, and the SG’s neck pickup with the tone rolled back spat out funky/fuzzy “devil’s kazoo” tones.
Like a tube amp, the Gunshot is responsive to your guitar’s controls. I’ve always been bad about using the volume knob to add and subtract distortion, but the Thorpy’s responsiveness makes the practice especially rewarding.
Perhaps the most intoxicating aspect of the Gunshot sound is its complexity. At times it sounds like two amps running at once, thanks in part to the beautiful interactivity of the gain and calibre controls as they balance dirt, dimension, and space. There’s also a pronounced midrange bump that never seems to come at the expense of the treble or bass registers.
ThorpyFX has a winner on its hands with the Gunshot. It’s a little on the expensive side, but it cuts no corners. Frankly, I have no criticisms, though I wouldn’t recommend it if fat, rocking riffs aren’t your thing—or if you hate having a great time with a guitar.