Can a 40-buck dirt box really put plexi tones on your board?

While it’s admittedly a tall order for a box that streets for about as much as a middle-of-the-road guitar strap, Outlaw Effects’ Chinese-made Deputy Marshal promises British plexi tones via a bright/normal toggle, a gain knob, and mini pots for level and tone. The Deputy starts things off right, though, with true-bypass switching that yields a clean through-signal when the effect is disengaged.

The Deputy also boasts a pretty wide-ranging level control: Depending on how much dirt you dial in, unity gain is achieved with level anywhere from 8 to 10 o’clock. The distortion itself piles on quite fast, though, going from corpulent classic-rock tones at 8 or 9 o’clock to thick, sustaining hard-rock sounds you can easily coax into feedback at max.

But while the Deputy does have pretty healthy bass and treble response (with the toggle helping to tailor the sounds to the chosen guitar), the single tone control avails little midrange variability, making it difficult to get tones that are full, clear, and dimensional rather than either thick and dirty or trebly and shrill.

Test gear: Squier Vintage Modified Tele with Curtis Novak Tel-V and JM-V pickups, ’76 Fender Vibro Champ with Warehouse G8C speaker, Jaguar HC50 with Weber Gray Wolf speaker, Goodsell Valpreaux 21 with Weber Blue Dog and Silver Bell speakers


True-bypass switching. Lots of boost and gain on tap.

Bumps to pedal housing loudly audible through amp when effect is engaged. Tones lack midrange articulation and depth.


Outlaw Deputy Marshal


Ease of Use:



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The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

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Need an affordable distortion pedal? Look no further.

We live in the golden age of boutique pedals that are loaded with advanced features—many of which were nearly unthinkable a decade or so ago. But there’s something that will always be valuable about a rock-solid dirt box that won’t break your wallet. Here’s a collection of old classics and newly designed stomps that cost less than an average concert ticket.

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