Sometimes stompbox innovation is about creating new sounds. And sometimes it involves configuring old sounds in new ways.
Chase Bliss specializes in option #2. Their products offer strictly analog tones, but employ digital tech for switching, signal routing, realtime control, and patch storage, providing a wealth of options not found in traditional analog effects. It’s a fine formula—especially in this absurdly flexible dual distortion.
At first glance, Brothers may seem intimidating. It’s got six knobs, four jacks, and 22 switches! But the interface is simpler than it initially appears.
The pedal houses two distortion circuits in a standard 125B-sized enclosure. Each has a 3-way boost/overdrive/fuzz toggle. One channel uses JFETs, while the other uses TL072 op amps. (The Klon Centaur uses the same IC.) Cascaded, the two stages produce thick fuzz. The sibling circuits have separate footswitches, so you can activate either or both. Each side has a treble-cutting tone control. There’s also a master volume, plus a blend knob to set relative levels when both sides are engaged.
The core sounds are excellent. The boost sparkles. The drive tones have a classic Screamer/Klon-type timbre. Cascaded, they generate fiery fuzz. It’s truly like having two versatile distortion pedals back-to-back.
Brothers would be pretty bitchin’ if its features ended there. But we’re just getting started.
Virtual Patch Bay
Chances are you’ve tried using multiple distortion effects on the same pedalboard. You probably experimented with effect order, evaluating which sequence sounded coolest when the effects were combined. Brothers does the same thing in a single pedal: Another 3-way toggle changes the routing when both channels are engaged. At one setting the right side overdrives the left side, while another setting reverses the order. A third setting configures the channels in parallel—that way, each channel does its own thing, with signals summed at the output.
The three options can sound radically different. Factor in nine possible boost/drive/fuzz combinations, independent gain and tone controls, and the blend switch, and the total number of combinations is … well, ridiculous.
If you connect an expression pedal (not included), the options are even more overwhelming. The pedal’s top panel hosts two banks of tiny DIP switches. The first bank lets you assign the controller to almost any combination of front-panel controls, while the second bank specifies the polarity for each parameter. For example you might assign a pedal to both tone controls, but have one channel brighten as you advance the pedal while the other darkens. The mind boggles.
Finally, Brothers lets you store two sounds in memory in addition to your current setting. There’s even a MIDI-in jack for switching sounds via MIDI messages.
Brothers is extremely well built, with top-shelf knobs and switches. It runs on standard 9V power. And amazingly, Chase Bliss managed to cram in a battery compartment.
Chase Bliss’s slogan is “digital brain, analog heart,” and man, does Brothers make good on that motto. Its excellent distortion sounds may not be startling, but the sheer number of ways you can configure them certainly is. While Brothers isn’t exactly simple to understand, it’s far easier than first impressions might suggest. The $349 price may seem steep, but given the U.S.-made pedal’s great tones, vast options, fine build, and the R&D it surely required, it’s a big-time bargain.