There are lots of great overdrive and distortion effects for hard rock and metal players that want balls-to-the-wall distortion, but I’ve had a hard time finding one that’s as

Xotic Effects AC Plus There are lots of great overdrive and distortion effects for hard rock and metal players that want balls-to-the-wall distortion, but I’ve had a hard time finding one that’s as good at a more subdued setting, and an even harder time finding one that fits the guitar I play and doesn’t ride roughshod all over my tone.

I usually play pretty clean, with the amp set at modest gain and a fairly flat EQ, so I can hear the distinctive flavors my Telecaster offers from the different pickup settings – sharp and twangy, smooth and jangly, thick and bluesy. But I like to hear just a little grit in there, too, especially at the bottom-end, and a mild breakup when I really lay it on. Whatever particular tone I’m going for, I’m always trying to build on top of that distinctive Tele sound, but it’s a fragile thing and it gets washed out pretty easily when I start adding effects.

That’s why I like the AC Plus so much; I love the way my guitar sounds, and it doesn’t make me give that up to get an overdrive with range, flexibility and precision. From the moment I plugged it in, I was impressed by its transparency; it sounds like my guitar, just a lot more of it. It preserved the clarity and presence of my tone through everything I did with it. It adds an edgy heft to the lows and mids, thickens the trebles, and gives the signal a livelier feel with terrific, even sustain – but leaves your distinctive sound intact.

The AC Plus is actually two stackable channels – a gain booster and a preamp channel – but it goes a lot further than other similar two-in-one effects since it offers more than just gain and level controls and a bass/midrange lift at the preamp stage. You can also switch between hard and soft clipping on the A channel to go from a crisp, clean boost to smooth, warm overdrive, fine-tunable with the three-band EQ. By adding the B channel and adjusting the second gain stage, you can push the overdrive a little bit further or make it sound like a really fat scream. Much cooler though is the fact that you can switch the direction of the stacked channels, from A>B to B>A, and change the dynamics of the gain structure significantly. This lets you coax an assortment of overdrive flavors from a single box, loose and fuzzy to tight and super-crunchy, all with huge sustain and no extra coloring of your tone.

Through humbuckers the AC Plus sounds closer to the dense, tubey compression with pronounced midrange that you get with other distortion pedals, but with the same precise control over gain structure. It sounds great set up for a brown sound – think Leslie West meets Brian May.

Whatever style or guitar you play, this booster knows how to get out of the way and help your guitar do what it does best. For single-coil pickup players who need versatility and sensitivity, this box is a real blessing.


Xotic Effects USA
MSRP $280

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An overachieving overdrive that gets way bigger than its name suggests.

Sweet balanced crunch tones. Dynamic. Sparkling, full, and clean at attenuated guitar volume. High-quality build.

Pretty expensive.


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