A vibey “amp in a box” inspired by vintage Gibson combos.
It’s easy to understand the appeal of “amp in a box” guitar pedals—who wouldn’t want to evoke the sound of a tweed, plexi, or top-boost for the price of a stompbox? These days the pedal landscape is littered with faux Fenders, Marshall, and Voxes. So how cool of BearFoot Guitar Effects to create the Model G—a stompbox designed to conjure the underappreciated Gibson combo amps of the 1960s.
You can emulate an amp via digital or analog means. BearFoot’s amp pedals go the latter route. Like the company’s Supro-inspired Honeybee OD and the Marshall-esque Dyna Red, the Model G replicates the circuit of the amp it models via a FET-based tone-shaping stage, plus a Screamer-like gain stage to simulate preamp distortion.
Any amp in pedal form begs an obvious question: If the pedal imposes amp-like coloration, aren’t you undercutting the effect by running it into a real amp, which imposes its own coloration? Well, yes. But in practice, players either pair pedals of this type with clean, relatively neutral-sounding amps, or use the pedals as quirky, colorful overdrives. Either way, the Model G evokes the flavor of a funky little Gibson combo, if not the exact tones. It’s a loose, vibey sort of distortion, well suited to bluesy roots-rock and scrappy indie sounds.
The Model G is strictly handmade. Inside the hand-painted “B”-sized enclosure is a tidily soldered circuit board. Only the connecting wires secure it to the enclosure, though it’s insulated with a strip of stretchy fabric. The results look home-brewed, but reliable. You can power the pedal with a 9-volt battery or a conventional barrel-type adapter.
The drive and master volume controls are straightforward. And it’s a reasonably loud circuit whose higher settings provide a virile solo boost. The core overdrive sound is a bit Screamer-like, but with a brighter, less compressed character. There are many attractive tones throughout the drive control’s range.
Mother Nature and the Deep Mysterious “C”
Most of the Model G’s character resides in the controls labeled N (for “nature”) and C. (BearFoot doesn’t say what C stands for, though we could easily call it “compression,” since that’s one of the things it controls.) The amps that inspired the Model G tend to have one-knob tone controls, but that’s not quite how things work here.
The arrangement can seem counterintuitive at first. Bass-heavy sounds produce more distortion, so the Model G tends to sound biggest with N at its minimum setting. But it’s easy to get used to the arrangement—just use N to dial in the desired amount of lows, and then fine-tune C till the highs feel complimentary.
Those highs may require a little finessing. Like many old Gibson amps, the Model G checks in on the bright side. You may encounter harsh, brittle tones, even with humbuckers, let alone single-coils. Maximum bass settings approach the fatness of a good Fuzz Face, but without the corresponding treble attenuation. Still, I finessed nice tones from the bright bridge pickup of a pre-CBS Stratocaster through a Divided by 13 CJ11 (a Fender-inspired combo, also on the bright side). Meanwhile, that extra bite did nice things to the vintage-style PAFs in an old Les Paul.
Regardless of pedal settings or pickup type, the Model G is extremely dynamic. Even at maximum gain setting it’s easy to summon crispy-clean tones by rolling back the guitar’s volume.
Players with a taste for primitive distortion will dig this vibey, amp-inspired overdrive—especially if they favor bright, articulate tones. There’s no shortage of lows, though—the Model G would shine in a rough-and-tumble guitar/drum duo. It would be especially appropriate for a guitarist using a modern, relatively neutral-sounding amp, but who sometimes craves an injection of pawnshop punkitude.