The amp guru for heavyweights like Steve Stevens and Jerry Cantrell debuts a low-gain dirt box.
Intuitive controls. Rich harmonics. Interactive EQ.
Metalheads need not apply.
Ease of Use:
Terms like “transparent” and “organic” carry such a stigma that even a mention of those buzzwords sends some jaded gearheads running for the hills. Friedman’s Golden Pearl is a low-gain overdrive that lives in that neighborhood, but has enough added features to hopefully break free of those tired and overused descriptors.
Dave Friedman’s reputation has been built on the sound of not only heavily modded Marshalls, but his own line of high-gain fire-breathers. The Pearl takes an entirely different route by using a variety of clipping and high-end tweakability to craft everything from barely-broken-up tones to slightly saturated lead sounds. Disclaimer: If you’re looking for some scooped metal tones, you might want to move along.
Immediately, I was impressed with the depth of range with the gain knob. Through a clean Fender amp I was able to explore shades of dirt that at times brought to mind Vox-style chime. The real magic is in the two toggle switches, which control hi-cut and clipping type (LED, none, or diode). With a clean amp, I found that the LED and diode settings seem to bring the most out of my T-style Schroeder. I was able to keep plenty of “snap” while using my picking dynamics to push and pull the level of grit. Look past the labels and check out the Golden Pearl, if you live on the modest side of the gain spectrum.
Test gear: Schroeder Chopper TL, Gibson Les Paul Custom, Fender Hot Rod Deluxe IV