A beastly ’70s amp favored by the stoner-metal set is reincarnated as a brutally effective stompbox.
Brutal, bottom-heavy distortion. Versatile tone controls. Quality build. Good price.
Not for lightweights.
Paradox Effects Terran
Ease of Use:
Chances are you’ve encountered those pedals that aim to mimic the sound of a specific classic amp. In some ways, it’s a rather dodgy premise. In most cases, you’re connecting the pedal to an amp that adds its own characteristic coloration. No matter how good a pedal’s Marshall plexi imitation, it won’t sound like one after you plug into your Fender tweed, or vice-versa.
But convincing mimicry isn’t always the point. Many such pedals capture the general flavor of these amps (especially their tone stacks), and they can often create cool hybrid sounds that you’d never get from your amp otherwise.
V4 and After
With so many virtual Vox and mock Marshall pedals available, builders are turning to more obscure amps for inspiration. At least that’s true for Terran, the latest creation from Tijuana’s Paradox Effects. Here the sonic inspiration is the Ampeg V4, a loud and heavy (in both senses) amp from the mid ’70s that has been rediscovered by a lot of modern doom/stoner-metal guitarists.
I confess I’ve never played a V4. In fact, almost everything I know comes from a 2016 Premier Guitararticleby Joe Golden. (The article includes audio.) According to Golden, it uses unusual tubes: 7027s in the power section and a 6K11 and a 12DW7 in the preamp, along with a pair of the usual 12AX7s.
For the demo, I plugged into a Marshall 50-watt plexi clone set to a fairly clean sound. In this scenario, I definitely heard what Golden describes in his article, particularly the overwhelming low-end mass. Single-note passages in higher registers tend to sound stiff and glassy—I doubt you could get warm, lyrical solo tone out of the beast. But at high gain settings, low-register chords and riffs are devastating. It’s a monolithic, highly compressed sound, huge on the bottom but textured with complex low-mid scoops and peaks. If words like “evil,” “harsh,” and “brutal” describe your ideal tone, you’ll probably go ape poo.
The V4’s unusual tone stack is largely responsible for those stout lows and distinctive midrange contours. The amp employed a 2-band Baxandall/James tone stack. In this architecture, the treble and bass controls are extremely interactive, yielding an assortment of midrange cuts and boosts. The amp had no midrange pot, but did have a midrange frequency selector tuned to 300Hz, 1kHz, and 3kHz. Changing the frequency changed the interaction between the treble and bass pots.
Murder in the Midrange
Terran doesn’t clone the Ampeg’s original tone controls—it updates them, and probably for the better. Here the midrange frequency options are 700Hz, 1kHz, and 1.5kHz. This way, the controls are less redundant in relation to the bass and treble pots, and you’ve got finer control of those all-important mids.
Paradox also adds an active mid cut/boost pot, plus a resonance mini-pot to set the width of the boost or cut. (If the midrange were sweepable, this would be a fully parametric EQ.) Paradox says the new midrange control can cut or boost “as much as 15dB,” and the knob’s label reads +15/-15. Given the interactivity of the controls, I suppose there could be a setting where the control has a 30dB range, but I never found it. For me the range was closer to 5dB. But that’s not necessarily a criticism—I like the focused range. It’s certainly broad enough to generate dramatic variations, from thick, thudding sludge to fizzy midrange scoops.
All Gain, All Pain
The gain and level controls are also dramatic tone shapers. Even though my amp was set clean, there was enough horsepower to drive it into heavy distortion, which dovetailed nicely with Terran’s germanium-diode clipping (future versions will feature silicon-diode clipping). Likewise, the pedal responds beautifully to upstream overdrives and boosters. As distinctive as Terran’s distortion is, it layers well with other gain stages.
Terran is nicely made. The board features an odd mix of surface-mount components and larger through-hole parts. Pots, jacks, and switches are mounted to the enclosure, not the board. The pedal runs off a 9V DC power supply (not included).
Smooth, creamy, dynamically responsive distortion with a balanced tonal spectrum and just the right amount of “air?” Not here, Skippy. Terran is a sonic sledgehammer. Yes, you have great control over the EQ, especially the midrange. But no matter how long you spin the knobs, Terran remains a blunt, heavy instrument. It’s probably not a pedal for classic rockers or understated texturalists. But if you enjoy abusing heavy machinery, you’ll appreciate a Terran in your toolbox.