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.
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This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
Adding to the company’s line of premium-quality effects pedals, Missing Link Audio has unleashed the new AC/Overdrive pedal. This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal – the only Angus & Malcom all-in-one stompbox on the market – brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
The AC/OD layout has three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone. That user-friendly format is perfect for quickly getting your ideal tone, and it also offers a ton of versatility. MLA’s new AC/OD absolutely nails the Angus tone from the days of “High Voltage” to "Back in Black”. You can also easily dial inMalcom with the turn of a knob. The pedal covers a broad range of sonic terrain, from boost to hot overdrive to complete tube-like saturation. The pedal is designed to leave on all the time and is very touch responsive. You can get everything from fat rhythm tones to a perfect lead tone just by using your guitar’s volume knob and your right-hand attack.
- Three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone
- Die-cast aluminum cases for gig-worthy durability
- Limited lifetime warranty
- True bypass on/off switch
- 9-volt DC input
- Made in the USA
MLA Pedals AC/OD - Music & Demo by A. Barrero
Energy is in everything. Something came over me while playing historical instruments in the Martin Guitar Museum.
When I’m filming gear demo videos, I rarely know what I’m going to play. I just pick up whatever instrument I’m handed and try to feel where it wants to go. Sometimes I get no direction, but sometimes, gear is truly inspiring—like music or emotion falls right out. I find this true particularly with old guitars. You might feel some vibe attached to the instrument that affects what and how you play. I realize this sounds like a hippie/pseudo-spiritual platitude, but we’re living in amazing times. The Nobel Prize was just awarded to a trio of quantum physicists for their experiments with quantum entanglement, what Albert Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” Mainstream science now sounds like magic, so let’s suspend our disbelief for a minute and consider that there’s more to our world than what’s on the surface.
I recently spent a day filming a factory tour of Martin Guitars in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. After we wrapped, we discovered that Martin has this amazing museum that showcases more than 170 historic instruments. We decided to meet at the museum at 7:45 a.m. the next morning to film a few choice pieces before catching our flight in not-too-near Newark, New Jersey, that afternoon.
These were not ideal conditions for a performance. Neither my brain nor my fingers work well before 10 a.m., plus I hadn’t slept well the night before. Even so, we loaded into the museum, met the curators, set up the shoot, and began rolling by 8 a.m.
The first guitar was an 1834 gut string, perhaps the oldest Martin in existence. It was beautiful but had some tuning issues and did not project very well, so playing it felt more like work than music.
Next was a prewar D-45 worth over $500k. The strings were ancient with that rusty feel, like you’ll need a tetanus shot after playing it. I’m sure it sounded great, but I was tired and thinking more about making our flight than playing guitar. Wonderful instrument but uninspired performance on my end.
Then, I played a 1953 D-18 coined “Grandpa” by Kurt Cobain. I picked up the deeply sacred D-18, and my hands went to an A minor. This sounds like hype, but honestly, I closed my eyes and connected with a deep, beautiful sadness. The feeling was palpable as soon as you picked it up. This guitar pretty much played itself, leading me to a sad version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” I don’t know if it was any good, but I know I felt something deeply. That’s why I started playing guitar in the first place. I don’t have to play well to feel moved.
I later talked to the museum director, who told me the D-18 was given to Cobain by his 1991 girlfriend Mary Lou Lord. Cobain played it on tour before and after Nirvana’s Nevermind. It was returned to her after Cobain married. Shortly after that, Mary Lou loaned the guitar to Elliott Smith, who played it until his death.
When I’m sad, I make myself play guitar to feel better, because it usually works. This 70-year-old guitar spent a lot of time literally pressed up against the hearts and chests of two artists who were so tormented by their emotions that they ended their lives. That’s heavy. You can’t explain those feelings that make the hair stand up on your arm, or when you feel like crying for no reason … but hitting that A minor made me feel it.
We had to split for the airport, so Chris Kies and Perry Bean started packing up. As they did, I saw this cute little 1880 Martin 000 that belonged to Joan Baez. In the photo next to it, Joan looks like my mom in the ’60s. I asked the curator if I could play it, and Chris grabbed his phone to do a quick Insta video. I swear there was a happy vibe coming off this tiny guitar. It felt like watching my mom dance—like a warm hug I needed after Cobain’s D-18.
In Chinese culture, there is a superstition that antiques may hold evil spirits, and chi (energy) transfer can bring this negativity into your home. Feng shui is all about objects carrying good or bad chi. Here’s how I see it: All matter is made of atoms. Atoms contain energy. Ergo, everything contains energy, or, more aptly, everything is energy. Ever walk into a room and feel powerful emotion: joy, sadness, fear, tranquility? That’s energy. We all have felt energy coming from people, places, and things. But that’s what I love about old guitars: Their atoms spent the first few hundred years as a tree in the forest connected to nature. Then, they’re turned into an instrument that makes people happy or consoles them when they are sad. That’s the kind of chi I want around me.
The Saddest Martin Ever? A 1953 D-18 Owned by Kurt Cobain & Elliott Smith
Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.