The Super Plextortion and Pinnacle from Brian Wampler aim for two iconic rock sounds: Plexi Marshall and Van Halen''s "Brown Sound."
Known throughout popular DIY internet forums and publications alike, Brian Wampler is a true example of just how powerful the internet can be. After he modded several pedals for members of the Harmony Central gear forums, word spread of his talents and know-how, and soon he was in demand from casual and seasoned players alike. He started offering his own designs for sale, and also formed indyguitarist.com with a forum for DIY pedal modding enthusiasts to post communicate with one another on how to improve the sound of their gear. With 15 pedals available for guitarists, Wampler has now added the Super Plextortion (a modern update of his admired Plextortion) and Pinnacle Distortion to the lineup.
|Download Example 1|
|PRS McCarty into a 1973 Marshall Super Bass with a Bogner 4x12|
The Super Plextortion is a beefed-up variation of Wampler’s popular Plextortion pedal. The idea was to provide a more modern array of tones by altering the internal gain stages (three total), giving more transparency and bite with a tighter low end. The original Plextortion is still offered by Wampler, as it has more of a vintage-vibe with a heavier midrange emphasis than its newer brother. Located on the front panel of the Super Plextortion is a 3-band EQ consisting of Treble, Mid, and Bass controls. Sandwiched between a Volume and a Gain control is a Gain Boost switch for saturated leads and heavier riffing.
Part of the Wampler philosophy is affordability. Brian likes to test his effects through affordable rigs that most people would have the chance of owning. I now own a really great-sounding 1973 Marshall Super Bass head, but before I was able to acquire it, I went through tons of pedals trying to capture that sound with whatever amp I had at the time. Simply put, pedals like this exist because not everybody can afford a vintage plexi or metalface Marshall amplifier, so I decided to give the pedal a run through a Fender Twin Reverb reissue with a 1998 Gibson Les Paul Studio equipped with a Seymour Duncan JB (bridge) and Jazz (neck) combination. With all of the controls at noon and the gain boost off, the Super Plextortion handled light, open-chord riffing quite well, with a great amount of transparency. I love pedals that allow me to hear my pick making contact with the strings as I slice through a chord, while at the same time keeping a reasonable amount of string clarity. Not only did the Super Plextortion handle this expertly, but as I increased the Gain, the definition just got stronger and punchier. Only on lower strings below the fifth fret did the low end start to muddy up a bit, but backing off of the gain helped restore the tone to its former glory.
The voicing of the pedal is darker than most vintage Super Lead heads I’ve come across. Gear hunters who have scoured the ends of the earth for vintage Marshalls will love this, as many of those older plexis had very different feel and voicings due to slight variations in the circuit. The voicing of the Super Plextortion is just right, perfect for high-gain work in the vein of George Lynch. While the Super Plextortion has a great deal of gain, it’s best applied to styles of music famous from the modded-Marshall era of tones—the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Think Slave To The Grind-era Skid Row rather than the more current, grinding rhythm tones produced by bands like Slayer. I especially liked how well it sat in line with the famously bright Twin Reverb. All too often I’ve seen bands with bright-sounding rigs try to pummel the front end of the amps with high-gain distortion pedals, only to produce horrible ear fatigue from a bad mix with the band. For players looking for that hot-rodded Marshall tone without having to lug a vintage half-stack behind them, the Super Plextortion might be just the ticket.
you’re looking for a versatile distortion to cover a wide range of hot-rodded British tones.
you are after a distortion that cops tones with a more American voicing, à la Mesa/Boogie.
|Download Example 1|
|Download Example 2|
|Ibanez 1978 Iceman into a 1973 Marshall Super Bass with a Bogner 4x12|
The Pinnacle Distortion is one of the more aggressive-sounding distortions in the Wampler line. The pedal was designed to cover light to heavier overdrive, but dishing out the famous Van Halen “brown sound” is where its heart really lies. The Pinnacle relies on two separate EQ controls, dubbed Tone and Contour, to shape its overall sound, coupled with separate volume and gain controls. In between the four knobs are two mini-switches, the first toggling the voicing between vintage and modern modes, and the second between normal and boosted gain amounts.
For testing out the Pinnacle, I used a 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom with a Bareknuckle Warpig in the bridge and a Vox AC30 reissue combo. With both the Tone and Contour controls set at noon, I gradually increased the gain on the unboosted vintage mode, and let loose a flurry of Jake E. Lee-inspired rhythm work. The tone was extremely impressive, with smooth, pleasing highs and soft yet aggressive lows coupled with a really grinding midrange. I could really hear the brown sound influence here, and wow, was it close.
Knowing that a lot of the original tone was due to a low-output PAF in Eddie’s original guitar, I switched out my guitar to a 1978 Ibanez Iceman set neck with a Seymour Duncan ’59 humbucker in the bridge. The clarity of the tone after this change was certainly noticeable, with a great, spongy low end to boot. While this tone was fantastic, the resulting sounds that I was able to coax out of the Pinnacle with very small adjustments to the EQ were even more impressive. The Tone and Contour controls are extremely sensitive and powerful, almost to the point of going overboard. The Pinnacle is capable of some really over-the-top, biting distortion, so it’s best to be conservative when setting the EQ knobs. With the modern mode and boost engaged, the pedal can get into thrash metal territory if you raise the Contour control to higher levels. It almost turns the pedal into an entirely different beast, one that only moment before was singing some awfully inspiring, smooth vintage tones. Even at these extreme settings, the Pinnacle’s low end stayed tight and present, even after switching back to the Les Paul with the much hotter humbucker. Flipping back to the vintage mode and leaving the boost on let the low end loosen up a bit, gave me back that great vintage British amp sag that Billy Gibbons and Cream-era Eric Clapton helped make famous, especially on the neck pickup with the tone rolled off a little bit.
The Pinnacle certainly achieves its goal of giving very convincing early-‘80s hard rock tones, but what really blew me away was its ability to get so many other sounds. However, extreme settings can sometimes give off a harsh and unruly sound, so being careful with the EQ positions is advised. I don’t think this is a downfall of the pedal, though. Actually, I like the fact that Wampler designed the Pinnacle to have the ability to go into these other tonal territories, as it helps give it more range for whatever rig is being used. Some darker amps could benefit from the added brightness of the higher EQ settings, and some rigs with a brighter edge might be improved with the opposite. Either way, the Wampler Pinnacle is flat-out a great distortion device, one of those pedals that makes you want to keep doing what we all love: play guitar!
you’re looking for a pedal that can cover a lot of British-voiced distortion tones.
American-flavored distortion tones are your thing.