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Rivera Amplification Blues Shaman and Double Shaman Pedal Reviews

Paul Rivera’s amplifiers and effects are impressive by any standard. His work reflects a remarkable breadth of knowledge and intuition about the real musical applications for amplifiers and effects. The

Paul Rivera’s amplifiers and effects are impressive by any standard. His work reflects a remarkable breadth of knowledge and intuition about the real musical applications for amplifiers and effects. The proof is in Rivera’s client list—which includes artists spanning country, metal, roots rock, and pop—and in the longevity of a career that now spans more than three decades.

That ability to work across stylistic barriers is typified in Rivera’s new Shaman pedals— the Blues Shaman, Double Shaman, and Metal Shaman. The Blues Shaman evokes an overdriven tweed Fender, while the Double Shaman combines two voices optimized for hot blues-rock or more aggressive ’80s flavors. The Metal Shaman, meanwhile, conjures high-gain destruction. Here we take a look at the Blues Shaman and Double Shaman.

Built for the Stage
Both the Blues Shaman and Double Shaman are constructed from 16-gauge stainless steel and adorned with colorful graphics printed on polycarbonate panels. Shared features include a single 1/4" input and output, a 9-volt adapter input, and a battery compartment that’s accessed through the back panel’s four Phillips-head screws. High-quality parts are used throughout: WIMA wound caps, low-noise FET and bipolar transistors, and Analog Devices chips are mounted on double-sided PCBs, while metal-barreled jacks ensure road-worthiness and long life, and the knobs and stainless-steel housing suggest Paul Rivera isn’t the slightest bit interested in skimping. These pedals were built to last and were obviously designed with love and care.

Blues Shaman

Download Example 1
Gritty Strat in Combo Mode
Download Example 2
Gritty Strat in Stack Mode

Download Example 3
Hamer Korina Special (P-90s), heavy distortion
Clips recorded through a Blackheart Little Giant 5 and 65 Amps London Pro 1x12 cab (Celestion G12H-30). Mic'd with a Shure SM57, dry into a Chandler LTD-1 mic pre with no EQ into an Apogee Symphony I/O to Pro Tools. No added reverb or FX.

The Blues Shaman was designed to reproduce

the dynamic range and soft-clipping overdrive

typical of a ’50s tweed Fender with 6V6s and

an alnico Jensen speaker—for example, a

Deluxe or Tremolux. Controls are simple and

to the point: Level, Tone, and Gain knobs,

a Stack/Combo mini toggle, and two stomp

switches labeled Ascension (boost) and On/

True Bypass.

I set up a Fender American Standard

Strat, a Blackheart Little Giant 5 head, and

a 65Amps London Pro cab with a Celestion

G12H-30 speaker to evaluate the Blues

Shaman. With the Blackheart set clean and

flat, the pedal delivered a classic, slightly

fizzy, thick-bottomed blues mood. The pedal

translated picking dynamics superbly, and the

whole rig felt lively and very touch sensitive.

The Blues Shaman has a knack for conveying

the nuances of the interaction between fingers,

wood, and wire. It’s very organic sounding.

Digging in with the Gain at 1 o’clock

imparted the beautiful sound of a small combo

nudging up against the breaking point. In

the Combo setting, you can hear the Blues

Shaman take on many of the qualities of an

open-back cab with its airy, and less bass-heavy

sound. The Tone knob is effective and has a

very wide range. Rather than just add treble, it

shapes the voice in a more dimensional way—

moving from darker to brighter and fizzier

without sacrificing bass clout. At first, I was

leery of having only one control for tonal voicing,

but in this case it was more than enough

to dial in tones ranging from James Gang-style

grit to Leslie West’s Mountain-sized hugeness.

Switching to my humbucker-equipped

Hamer Korina Special, I cranked up the

gain and toggled to Stack mode, which

thickened and tightened up the bottom

end while emphasizing low mids. With my

eyes closed and the amp volume high, the

bristling, compressed tones made me feel

like I was onstage at a late-’60s outdoor

festival. Small as the test rig was, it sounded

as badass as a Sunn Coliseum head—only

at a much more practical volume. The

Ascension switch propelled that sound

even further into the stratosphere—adding

a killer boost and livelier harmonics.

There is no doubt Rivera knows his

amps. And the Blues Shaman feels like a

pedal built by someone who understands an

amplifier as a living, breathing beast. The

Blues Shaman nails that tweed sound and so

much more. I can envision situations where

I’d happily take the setup I used for this

review over a ’50s tweed Deluxe simply for

the versatility the Blues Shaman adds.

Buy if...
you need a wide range of tweed-style tones in a single pedal.
Skip if...
your overdrive tastes tend toward modern flavors.

Street $249 - Rivera Amplification -

Double Shaman

Download Example 1
LA Mode, Super Lead Tone, Godin Icon Type 2
Download Example 2
Austin Mode, Stack, Epiphone Sheraton

Download Example 3
Austin Mode, Combo - Texas Rhythm Tone, Gibson Les Paul
Clips recorded through a Blackheart Little Giant 5 and 65 Amps London Pro 1x12 cab (Celestion G12H-30). Mic'd with a Shure SM57, dry into a Chandler LTD-1 mic pre with no EQ into an Apogee Symphony I/O to Pro Tools. No added reverb or FX.

The Double Shaman is two very different

pedals in one. Its two channels—L.A. and

Austin—range from the ’80s hair-metal

feel of a modified Marshall on one to hot,

Gibbons-/SRV-style Texas tube tone on the

other. Both channels have simple layouts,

with Level, Tone, and Drive knobs, and a

Stack/Combo toggle. There are also two

stomp switches for Destination (channel

selection) and On/True-Bypass.

Given that I came up during the hairband

era and actually owned several modded

Marshalls back in the day, it was a

fun trip down memory lane to jump into

the L.A. channel. Plugged into the same

Blackheart/65Amps half-stack I used with the

Blues Shaman, I fired up a Godin Redline

HB and cranked up the Drive control. Lo

and behold—hair metal on demand!

Much like the amps we modded back

in the Reagan years, the L.A. channel has a

ridiculous amount of gain on tap, and the

mids sounded focused for maximum cut

and wailing tone. In Stack mode, there was

plenty of attack and clarity, though it comes

with the same trade-offs you experience in a

modded amp: With the ridiculous amount

of sustain you get from so much gain, you

also lose some of the dimensionality that

comes with less-extreme voicings with lower

gain settings. It’s not a super-versatile tone,

but if you’re nostalgic for Warren DiMartini’s

solo tone on “Round and Round” or you

want to lay into some Dokken-era Lynch

sounds, this pedal was made for you.

The Tone control was quite flexible

and handy when changing from guitar

to guitar and matching just the right

amount of attack and presence. It even

made my low-gain Strat kick like it was

loaded with humbuckers. In Combo

mode, the L.A. section’s tone became

brighter and a little looser on the bottom.

But my preference—especially in the L.A.

channel—was to stay in Stack mode: It

achieved maximum punch and bottom-end


On the Austin channel, the same three

controls and Stack/Combo toggle seemed

to offer up a wider range of tones. With a

Les Paul R8, it was easy to dial in a killer

Billy Gibbons Texas tone. Individual notes

rang rich with harmonics, and with the

Gain set fairly high (around 3 o’clock)

there was a raunchy vibe that just stank of

coolness. I really enjoyed the compressed,

spongy feel of the attack, as well as the flexibility

of the Tone control.

With the Les Paul in hand, I assumed I’d

prefer Stack mode, but it was Combo mode

that availed my favorite Texas-boogie tones.

And with a Strat and a roll-off of the Gain,

it was easy to conjure round, muscular SRV

sweetness. Switching into Stack mode with

this combination made the sound even bolder

and more powerful, and the pedal really

responded to digging in harder.

At times, I wished there was a third stomp

switch that added a boost capability for each

channel. Absent this feature, you can still

easily set up one channel to be hotter as a

boost for your solos, but because their tonal

differences are so substantial this approach

will be ineffective in certain musical contexts.

The Double Shaman accomplishes a

lot for a single pedal—it can transport

you from the Sunset Strip circa ’87 to the

South with the click of a switch. Both

channels are highly specialized and offer up

very different sounds for those who work

across a wider tone field. In my experience,

I’ve never come across a pedal that moved

between two extremes and made them

work so well together.

Buy if...
your playing incorporates ’80s hair-metal sounds and ’70s Texas grit.
Skip if...
you don’t need such radical variance in your lead tones.

Street $299 - Rivera Amplification -

The Verdict

Paul Rivera’s decades of experience

show in the Blues Shaman and Double

Shaman. Both pedals are dynamic, sensitive,

and responsive to different guitar

voices and playing approaches—just

like a great tube amplifier. And if you’re

looking to expand the range of your

own amp without sacrificing its essential

tube character, the Blues Shaman

and Double Shaman have the goods.