A lively and explosive drive looks to Clapton's Blues Breakers tone for inspiration.

White-hot but sonorous drive tones. Sweetly dynamic.

Can get sizzly at wide-open gain settings.

$145

Spun Loud Effects The Litigator
spunloud.com

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Though I get arguments from all quarters about the matter (not least from my Disraeli Gears-loving alter ego), I like Eric Clapton's tone from the 1966 John Mayall LP Blues Breakers best. And any device that gives me a trace of that slightly filthy, ringing and stinging sound tends to get me pretty twitchy.


The Spun Loud Litigator doesn't replicate the topology of Clapton's Marshall Model 1962 combo, nor is it a replica of the Dallas Rangemaster that Clapton allegedly used for some Blues Breakers tracks. But it does capture the Bassman-meets-Brit-sparkle sound of those early Marshalls with aplomb. It's meaty, clear-voiced, and sizzling depending on how much gain and tone you add to the mix. And it has a way of making an otherwise dull and lifeless combo sound like a keg of dynamite.

Fender Telecaster via Spun Loud Litagator into black panel Fender Tremolux. Recorded via Universal Audio OX and Universal Audio Apollo Twin to UA LUNA.

Lady Justice Sings the Blues

The Litigator is an exceedingly elegant pedal. The compact and simple through-hole circuit board is beautifully mapped and flawlessly soldered. There are fewer than 30 components on the whole board, including the two silicon transistors that drive the works. The footswitch, jacks, and the volume, tone, and gain control are mounted to the enclosure. Servicing this pedal should be a breeze. Not that I would expect it to fail—the fastidious wiring, the silky smooth action in the pots, and the soft, satisfying click of the Gorva footswitch make the designer's intention to make this thing last very clear. If any skimping went on in the execution of this build, I can't find it anywhere.

Cracklin’ Hot, Singingly Smooth

In general terms, the Litigator sounds and feels hot and toppy. Individual notes seem to pop like firecrackers and there's an unmistakable sense of immediacy and fast response. The Litigator may not be derived from a Rangemaster, but in many audible and tactile respects they are kissing cousins.

The pedal feels most at home with the gain and tone in the 1-to-3 o'clock range and the output up high. At these settings a single note with a little fast-twitch finger vibrato can make you feel more than a little like a young Slowhand. (Or was he still God in 1966?) But simple first-position chords at these same settings sound brilliantly alive, resplendent with detail, and crackling with raw energy.

If any skimping went on in the execution of this build, I can't find it anywhere.

The Litigator is also fantastically dynamic in these zones, and if things start to sound or feel a little too hot to handle, a bit of guitar volume or tone attenuation tidies things up fast. There's a lot of tone nuance to be found in these small adjustments, too. The Litigator can feel a little less dynamic and roller-coaster thrilling at lower-gain settings, but it still has the capacity to enliven and lend presence and mass to jangly arpeggios and clean rhythm chording when you back off the heat.

The Litigator's trebly appeal does have its limits. It can sound a little crispy at the very highest gain and tone levels, rendering chords a little less cohesive sounding and adding a hint of fizz to lead lines. But as toppy and reactive as the Litigator can be, you're certainly not painted into that corner. With dark amps, or bright ones with super-low treble settings, the Litigator's mid-gain drive sounds throaty, substantial, and articulate in the lows and low-midrange.

The Verdict

The Spun Loud Litigator is an overdrive in name, but it has a way of feeling very much like a more integral, organic part of your signal chain. It's natural, open, airy, and flat-out bristling with sass and attitude at many mid-to high-gain settings. It's awesome for brightening up humbuckers and dark amplifiers. But you should not feel shy about running it wide open with a Telecaster bridge pickup and a Fender amp with the treble up high. It's an ecstatic experience, to say the least. Players looking for more compressed, saggy overdrive tones will probably want to look elsewhere. But if your priority is awakening a rig with the blahs, the Litigator is a beautiful blast of mainline adrenaline.

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