Review: Dunlop Fuzz Face Mini Fuzz

Fuzz Face MiniOften credited as being one of the very first distortion pedals in history, the Dunlop Fuzz Face has been a revered pedal ever since its creation in the ’60s. Dunlop’s newly designed Fuzz Face Mini range brings all of what you would expect from a Fuzz Face to a much smaller, compact casing. Given the fact that the insides of the classic Fuzz Face consist of little more than a handfull of components, input/output jacks and a bypass switch, it is not so surprising that Dunlop eventually decided to take all of this fuzz magic and put it into a much more convenient package. The Fuzz Face Mini is very faithful to the original design, and reduced price and size mean that it is a strong contender for a space anyone’s pedal board. The new range consists of a germanium fuzz (consistent with the earliest versions of the pedal), a silicon fuzz (consistent with latter models) and a Jimi Hendrix fuzz (designed as a replica of the fuzz used by the known and loved left-handed guitar legend. These are coloured red, blue and turquoise respectively.

Sound Quality

On top of the obvious benefits from having a much smaller casing, the tone of this pedal and its ease of use make it one of the best fuzz pedals ever created. While the fuzz is pretty extreme – being square wave it is very distinct – it is never-the-less a rather mild effect, which keeps your guitar sound unmuddied even when playing full chords and lower frequency bass notes. The fuzz is rather sweet, and notes sustain for a reasonable enough time that it is a great effect to use for both soloing (though it may have to be boosted a little by another pedal) and rhythm playing.

With only two pots controlling overall output volume and fuzz amount, this pedal provides sweet, warm fuzz tones in a convenient, easy to use little stomp box.

Build Quality

Dunlop’s new Fuzz Face benefits from increased strength thanks to its more compact design. The connections and screws which hold those few components together in the body are all well placed, and it seems to be able to withstand quite a bit of punishment. The LED is definitely bright enough to be seen easily on stage and the battery cover on the reverse of the pedal makes it easy to replace the 9v if you don’t want to use DC power supplies with it live.


Brilliant little fuzz pedal. Does exactly as advertised and – thanks largely to its simplistic circuitry – stays very faithful to the tones of the original. For the tone and size nothing beats this cute little guy.

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The Best Distortion Pedals

Distortion is such a widely used effect that practically every single pedal manufacturer produces at least three different kinds.  Useful for every genre from country to metal, no guitarist’s rig could ever be considered complete without one.  While there are literally thousands of different stomp boxes to choose from, they all fall roughly into only a few different types, the most common of which are overdrives, fuzzes and pure distortions.

Overdrive Pedals

Ibanez TS808Overdrive pedals are most commonly based on the Ibanez Tube Screamer (TS-808), which is held in high regard by a staggering amount of musicians over the world, and can cost a fair bit of cash for a second-hand original.  These overdrive pedals are designed primarily to replicate the light clipped distortion effects of a tube amp being pushed past its linear threshold (or to help to actually push a tube pre amp into this state at more manageable volumes).  These pedals are usually placed quite early on in the pedals chain, and are usually found just after a compressor.  This is because the boosting functionality of this kind of stomp box is particularly useful for driving other pedals and making them sound richer and much fuller.

Fuzz Pedals

Fuzz FaceWhile the Maestro Fuzz Tone of ’62 – claiming to offer ‘guttural, mellow, raucous, tender, raw sound effects for the guitar… with the touch of your toe’ was actually the first produced fuzz-style distortion, it is usually the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face which followed on from Gibson’s model which is commonly used as the inspiration for fuzz pedals.  The fuzz face was made famous by Jimi Hendrix, and practically every player in the ‘60s and early ‘70s had to have one of these distinctly UFO-shaped pedals on their boards.  Fuzz is a pretty simple effect with regard to components and wiring, and many players might be surprised by the distinct lack of guts inside one of the old Dallas Arbiter pedals, but used in the right context this kind of distortion can add a lot to your playing.  This kind of effect would traditionally be placed after an overdrive effect in a chain, as it will respond differently to line-level and boosted guitar signals.

Distortion Pedals

Boss DS-1With pure distortion stomp boxes, it is a little harder to pin down one specific effect as a major inspiration; however Roland’s original DS-1 and the Pro Co RAT – both introduced in ’78 – are two examples of a classic, trusted distortion circuit which many boutique companies have since modded, copied and cloned.  These distortions differ from classic fuzz-style pedals in that they are a little more complex with regard to how they process the tones.  Pedals like the DS-1 have a characteristic scooped mid sound, with a high pass and low pass EQ which is controllable from the onboard tone switch.  For this reason, the DS-1 is often regarded as a rather thin distortion effect, as much of the body of a sound is contained in the mids.  The RAT utilizes the same circuit concept as the DS-1, however differences in the components used in the construction mean that the resulting tone is completely different.  The thing with distortion pedals is that it always comes down to personal taste, and so it is important to find the right pedal for you personally.  Distortions, like fuzzes, benefit most from being placed after overdrive effects, as they can sound a lot more powerful and present when the signal going in is already boosted by an overdrive pedal.

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Differences Between Tubes and Transistors: Why Valve Amps Wipe the Floor with Solid States

Pre Amp Tube



Musicians and sound engineers alike often comment on the differences between resultant audio when processed by tube amps and transistor-based alternatives. While this issue is a long-running debate, with much support on both sides, it is generally accepted that the sound quality of a tube amp is much fuller and has a lot more body than that of the solid state amplifier. Complaints about transistor amps often include something along the lines of ‘lack of character’, ‘weak mid frequencies’ or ‘hollow-sounding’. But what exactly is it that makes the difference between solid state and tube-based amp tone? The answer ultimately lies in the response of tubes and transistors to different harmonics when amplifying the signal wave. To really understand this, we need to think about headroom, as well as harmonic distortion and linear thresholds.

i. Linear Capacity and Clean Headroom

The basic function of a guitar amp – or any amp for that matter – is to take an audio signal and amplify it (make it louder). A guitar signal is comprised of a lot of different frequencies together which are usually roughly categorized as bass, middle and treble frequencies, and certain styles of music in particular require every frequency to be amplified by the same amount. An amp which does this is said to be operating at linear capacity and amplifies the signal with very minimal coloration of tone. A guitar amp operating in this way is desirable for music which requires bigger volume which still maintains the original clarity of the tone, and doesn’t add any kind of overdrive. Every amplifier nevertheless has a threshold; a point at which the signal is not only amplified but also distorted. This amount of clean space is referred to as ‘headroom’.

Amps with higher wattage have higher power and as a result, a greater amount of headroom: they can get to higher volumes while maintaining a clean tone. Lower powered amps are sometimes desirable for music like rock music, as they provide a natural overdriven tone at more reasonable volumes because of the fact that they have less headroom and a significantly lower distortion threshold.

ii. Harmonic Distortion

When a guitar amplifier is pushed up beyond this natural electronic-acoustic threshold, the signal becomes ‘clipped’ by the natural limitations of the amp itself. This results in the natural overdrive sound which shaped rock history and became an integral part of electric guitar performance. Basically, the clipping of the signal means that rather than looking like the traditional sine wave, the guitar signal looks and behaves a little more like a cross between sine and square wave. The flatter peaks and troughs caused by the clipping mean that harmonics are added to the sound, which were not present previously in the original wave source (which is – in our case – the signal as interpreted by the guitar pickups). The most important thing to the practical guitar player is not however how it looks when represented on an oscilloscope, but rather the effect that clipping has on the audible tone of the guitar amp.

Light clipping (of the kind that vacuum tubes are famous for producing) results in the guitar effect that we refer to as overdrive. With the amp pushed even further than this, the clipping effect becomes more prominent and the amp moves from overdrive into distortion territory. Distortion which occurs as the result of clipping is referred to as harmonic distortion, and it is this kind of distortion which is usually considered desirable for certain heavier genres of music.

iii. Harmonic Distortion With Tube and Solid State Amps

Due to the practical general usage and demands of guitar amplifiers, they deal a lot with transient signals (signals which occur briefly and decay quickly). With regard to transient signals especially, tube amps deal with harmonic distortion in a very different way than solid state amps. Much of the difference between the sound qualities of these two kinds of guitar amp is to do with the presence and dominance of certain harmonics over others. With music and what is generally processed by the human ear as tonally pleasant, the first few harmonics are of most importance, as they tend to play the most significant role in determining and defining the overall colour of the amplified signal. There are three major groupings of these harmonics which are particularly relevant to understanding the differences between transistor and tube tone; ‘lower even’, ‘lower odd’ and ‘high’ harmonics. These groups of harmonics have very different effects on tone, depending upon which ones are more dominant than others.

Lower even harmonics – the 2nd, 4th and 6th – are by far the most desirable. They produce a rich, singing tone which really brings out the full body of the sound. Lower odd harmonics, on the other hand, (the 3rd and 5th) have exactly the opposite effect. They close up the sound, giving that muffled recorded underwater kind of feel. High harmonics – 7th and above – contribute to the edginess and bite of a sound. When considering the different effects of these harmonic groupings on the overall experience of the listener, it becomes evident that in order to give the best possible tone, an amplifier needs to have dominant lower even harmonics, reduced lower odd harmonics, and carefully controlled high harmonics. This would mean that the sound is full, rich, bold and open, yet at the same time not so uncomfortable to the average ear.

Herein lays the fundamental difference between tubes and transistors in the context of the guitar amp. Transistor-based amps naturally give more weight to undesirable harmonics like the 3rd, and therefore when pushed past the threshold into overdrive, the natural drive sound of the amp becomes cold, bodiless and almost sterile. Tubes behave differently and will naturally accentuate the desirable, more musically pleasing lower even harmonics of the distortion.

It is because of this fundamental distinction in the natures of tubes and transistors that tube amps are often praised for tone and still used by the majority of modern professional guitar players the world over.

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Baroni Lab: Great Boutique Effects Pedals

When I started this blog the idea was to provide an online resource, as comprehensive as possible, which musicians old and new could use as a reference for equipment setups, effects and amplifier explanations and reviews of some common products on the market. I started to review some of the big names and famous pedals like the Boss DS1, Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 reissue and Electro-Harmonix Big Muff. This naturally led me on to spend a bit of cash on some newer pedals to review, so I checked out a few manufacturers on the internet and decided it might be a good idea to try out some of the smaller boutique companies as well as the big names. The idea being that in doing so the scope of the blog would be a lot wider and therefore more helpful to those players using it to help them to decide which pedal to buy next. As the Klon Centaur proves, some of the best effects pedals can come from smaller outfits, which have passion, ideas and a love of great guitar tone.

While browsing through some of these lesser known boutique companies, I came across one that I just had to try out. They are Baroni Lab, and are a boutique manufacturer of vintage-style guitar pedals and full tube amps. I am a pretty big Pink Floyd fan, and so I decided to grab a few of their pedals after stumbling upon their ‘Wall Era’ distortion effect, which is clearly primarily aimed at fans of this band. As I couldn’t really afford to get one of the tube amps to review but was quite interested in what these guys are doing, I decided to buy a selection of stomp boxes from their online shop to try out. They separate their range of pedals into a few distinct categories; compressors, overdrives, distortions, modulation and delay and pre amps. In addition to the wall era, I ordered one of their modulation effects – The Chorus – as well as one of their pre amp pedals, the Hi Tube Pre Amp. I was so impressed with what I got that I just had to put this post up, as a general introduction to what I reckon is a pretty cool company overall.

Some of their products are fresh ideas based on vintage effects and popular classic tones, and others are more unique designs, but if the rest of their products are half as good as the three that I tried out, I’d say that these guys are definitely going in the right direction. They are all true hand-made effects pedals and are great quality for the price. For this introduction / review I thought it would be a good idea to both talk about the pedals themselves and the pros and cons, and compare them with similar pedals from the more established brand names in order to give a real, more accurate reference for the tone and quality.

Here we go, starting with the pedal that first caught my eye, the Wall Era.

Baroni Lab Wall Era Distortion Pedal

The Wall Era Distortion

The Wall Era Distortion

The Wall Era is – as you can guess by the name and the graphics on the pedal itself – is a distortion based on Gilmour’s distorted tone from Pink Floyd’s famous 1979 album The Wall. It is a ruggedly designed pedal, made from aluminium. Pretty light, yet strong and definitely capable of being taken on the road for a beating. Control-wise, Baroni Lab’s Wall Era has three pots (drive, tone, volume), a very vintage looking bypass switch, and a toggle to choose between normal and mid boost modes.

The sound from this pedal is simply amazing. The tone takes it all of the way from the deep dark depths of bass all of the way to sparkling highs, and not only does it change the tone, but it also has a general effect on the way that the distortion is applied to the sound overall. The drive is particularly responsive and when set low enough, it is possible to use the pedal as a boost. Doing so is not completely transparent, but it works well in certain situations. Crank it high enough and you get into hard rock territory. Thanks to the fact that the pedal runs on a twelve volt power supply (no room for batteries in these pedals) the Wall Era has a significant amount of headroom for a distortion pedal. When set to unity volume, there is still plenty of space left on the volume pot to really play around with getting your rig set just right, and it plays extremely well with the pre amp of my amplifiers, as well as other effects pedals.

The mid boost is a particularly handy feature; it does exactly as it says, which has the effect of making the distortion even warmer and harmonically rich, bringing definition and even more character to the tone. This mode is particularly useful for emphasizing the guitar for solos when playing with a full band.

This pedal is actually one of four boutique versions of Electro-Harmonix’s classic Big Muff that Baroni Lab currently have in production and they hit the sound perfectly. It has all of the sustain and ‘violin’-sweet distortion that the original ‘70s Big Muffs were famous for, and thanks to the dedication of the design team and no skimping on component sourcing, the Baroni Lab pedal actually pulls off the classic, vintage Muff tone better than EHX’s own recent reissue of the effect!

This distortion comes highly recommended for anybody serious about vintage distortion, and when complimented with a good chorus and delay and tweaked to the sweet spot, it does indeed get you in the area of Comfortably Numb’s famous second solo!

Wall Era
Headroom: 5/5
Tone: 4/5
Depth and Clarity of Distortion: 5/5

EHX Big Muff Reissue
Headroom: 4/5
Tone: 3/5
Depth and Clarity of Distortion: 3/5

Baroni Lab The Chorus Stereo Chorus Pedal

Deep, clean and rich chorus pedal

Deep, clean and rich chorus pedal

Chorus is one of those effects which adds a lot to the tone of your guitar sound, and can be used to different ends on both clean sounds and distorted sounds. For clean guitar, it adds that shimmery meatiness to arpeggios and chords, which instantly makes rhythm playing much deeper and instantly more pleasing to play and listen to. When used after a distortion, it can make lead lines take on a new character, and make bending and single vibrato sound absolutely amazing. In recent times, a lot of players go for digital chorus effects or even use a multi-effects unit to take care of modulation and delay in general. Baroni Lab’s The Chorus is a welcome return to the golden ago of analogue modulation. One of the first things that you’ll notice is that this pedal has two outs (left/mono and right) which means that it is a stereo effect. While it will work mono, getting the best out of this effect means two amps, or at least an amp with two individual channels and two separate inputs. The Chorus not only splits your signal into two, but the speed and depth of the chorus effect is also different between the two. This means that on top of the normal layer of shimmery goodness, there is yet another layer which really adds depth to your sound.

Chords shine out bright, lead is given a new lease of life and distortion pedals seem to absolutely love this vintage stomp box. One of the best analogue chorus effects I have heard in a long time, The Chorus has pots to control the speed and depth of the modulation, as well as the mix (the volume of the effect in relation to the original guitar signal going into the effect. On top of that if it is still not deep enough, the Baroni Lab team even added a ‘Deep’ switch, which takes the effect to the extreme.

Light-weight and durable too, The Chorus gets a solid 9/10 from me.

Baroni Lab Hi Tube Pre Amp

Amazing tube amp tone anywhere you go

Amazing tube amp tone anywhere you go

With this stomp box, the third and final pedal for this post, I have saved the best until last. I won’t beat around the bush, but instead just come right out and say it. This pedal absolutely blew me away. It is by far one of the best sounding stomp boxes I have ever had the pleasure of owning, and one that has found a permanent place in my rig.

According to Baroni Lab’s own description of this pedal, it is designed with a special DC-DC converter which steps up the voltage from 12v to 300v. This means that inside of this pedal, it really is running at the same level as a real pre amp. Coupled with the internal 12ax7, this makes it for all intents and purposes a real tube pre amp. In a pedal. This concept has so many uses it is unbelievable. Basically, you can bring your full tone – including pre amp EQ levels – with you to any gig in your pedal board. No matter what amp you plug into at a gig, as long as you go directly into the end stage (the ‘return’ jack on any decent amp) you will have a wonderful tube tone which is instantly familiar to you, and not have to worry so much about setting up your rig to fit the amplifier. Another practical use is that it allows you to maintain some essence of that warm tone only a tube can achieve, even when going directly to a mixer and PA setup, or into a recording studio sound capture card. You can even simplify your setup a lot, as anything that you place after the pre amp pedal and before the return jack behaves just like it is in the FX loop of an amp.

The Hi Tube has a total of four knobs, which makes it very simple and easy to understand, as well as dial in a great tone. You can change the output volume of the pedal, along with the bass, middle and treble. No frills customization tried and tested over the history of tube amplification, which just works.

The Baroni Lab Hi Tube Pre Amp is the first stomp box so far that I can truly say is well deserving of a 10/10 rating.

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Review: MXR Phase 90 (‘Block Logo’) Phaser

Eddie Van Halen was a big fan of this one

Eddie Van Halen was a big fan of this one

Phase is one of the lesser used effects nowadays. Heard a lot throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, it brings an unusual angle to the tone of the guitar and can liven up pretty much any sound at the click of the onboard switch. Van Halen redefined the rock solo when he used it on famous instrumental track ‘Eruption’, and inspired generations of players to practice their lead chops. This latest version of the Phase 90 comes from an MXR under the wing of Dunlop, and I was very interested in testing it out for myself, after hearing a lot of mixed reviews from others, ranging all of the way from ‘loved it!’ to ‘absolutely hated it!’

The thing about this pedal which is great is the simplicity of it. One input, one output, one DC input, one knob and a footswitch. This pedal was clearly designed to do one thing and one thing only; add a little sweep to your tone.

Sound Quality:

The phase effect itself is pretty good, and exactly what you’d expect from an MXR phase 90 pedal. The speed control works well, and is particularly responsive, and the sound of the sweep effect itself is reminiscent of the classic metal songs that made this effect famous in the first place.

Now for the cons. It has A LOT of background interference. The footswitch gives a pretty loud pop when the effect is switched from bypass and there is a lot of hiss. The phase sweep is accompanied by a muddy distortion which takes away from the phase itself and makes it hard to get a consistent tone when using it with outher effects. Another negative is that the pedal acts almost like a boost; when engaged it ups your volume noticeably; something you don’t want in an effect which should be subtle and decorative.

Build Quality:

MXR have a good reputation for building sturdy pedals, and this one is no exception. The pot feels good and the switch has just the right amopunt of resistance (although that pop when it is engaged is a serious drawback). The case is sturdy enough, and with minimal moving parts (one pot and one switch) it is likely to last a long time before any kind of mechanical failure occurs. One thing about MXR pedals which is extremely annoying is the placement of the DC input. It is on the side of the pedal, next to the input jack, instead of being on the top of the pedal. This makes it more than a little awkward to fit into a pedalboard if you want to use DC power to it and the effects around it.


While the Phase 90 is a truly legendary effect historically, this one doesn’t quite live up to the name. The phase effect itself is completely fine, and the pedal is very easy to use, but unwanted distortion, a loud switch, a significant amount of background hiss and a huge jump in volume level all bring this pedal’s score way down. There are much better phase pedals out there.

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Review: Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Distortion Pedal

A well-known classic

A well-known classic

Back in ’69, the Electro-Harmonix guys hit on something huge when they developed their first Big Muff prototypes. Based on the concept of long sustain with creamy distortion – a ‘violin’ tone – some of the very first units were sold to big-name artists like Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix. Over the years, the Big Muff (so called because of its larger size compared to the previous ‘Muff Fuzz’ pedal) proceeded to dominate distortion in rock music. The company have come a long way since then, with an impressive range of products available to buy from distributors world-wide including envelope filters, chorus pedals, flangers, overdrives, distortions, delays and fuzz pedals among others. With the Big Muff, EHX raised the bar on distortion effects pedals, and even today still inspires countless boutique clones. A simple pedal, the Big Muff has three knobs for tone, sustain and volume, and between the input and output jacks the guitar signal passes through cascading sections, each providing an amount of clipping which eventually results in their signature tone. There are a number of different incarnations of this classic effects pedal, and the one that this review is focussed on is the NYC reissue, currently advertised on EXH’s official website.

Sound Quality:

The thing about classic pedal reissues is that they are coming from companies which are usually a lot bigger nowadays than they were when they first started to produce the original versions. EHX started off as a kind of boutique effects company in the ’60s, but is now a much bigger international manufacturer which has proven its worth over fifty years. As with any well-known company, success and market demand can sometimes have an effect on the overall quality of the finished product. This is, unfortunately, very much the case with this newest version of the Big Muff. Component changes and modifications mean that the pedal is a little easier and cheaper to mass produce, but the quality of the tone suffers as a result.

I’ll start with the positives. The pedal actually sounds wonderful when you listen to it by itself and don’t compare it to previous muffs. It delivers that wonderfully thick and creamy distortion tone we’ve come to expect from an EHX distortion, and the control knobs – in particular the tone pot – have an amazing range. The tone goes all of the way from thick bass to bright treble, making this pedal a pretty versatile effect. The tone range actually means that this distortion can be used on bass guitar as well; it sounds pretty good for those metallica bass riffs. The pedal also works well with other effects in a chain, and plays nicely both in front of a pre amp and in the effects loop. Deep chorus and long tailed delay after the Big Muff in particular offer a great tone for solos and bring you into David Gilmour territory. Bringing down the sustain control provides a suitable tone for choppy Jack White-esque rhythm guitar and taking it to the max is great for low end power chords which ring out until tomorrow.

Issues do however arise when the pedal is compared to olded versions of the Muff. And why not compare? The 70s original Muffs – and the DIY clones which pedal enthusiasts and boutique builders have produced – are proof of just how great EHX can make this pedal sound. The latest reissues just don’t quite live upto expectations on this front. One wonderful thing about the older Big Muff circuit design is that it creates a tone which is incredibly rich in harmonics. With the sustain cranked and volume and tone in just the right sweet spot, a chord or note will not only ring out for a very long time, but will also fade into beautiful natural-sounding musical feedback under certain conditions. With the reissue, the distorted sustain has more of a tendency to just break up at the end of the note, and the sustain is not near as long as it could be. The tone control, while still providing that fantastic range, seems to be all one way or all the other way; it has lost the gradual sweep that it used to have. Its like choosing between muddy bass tones and ear-splittingly piercing trebles.

Build Quality:

As usual with boutique units like the Big Muff, the metal case is built pretty well and can withstand a fair bit of punishment. This is definitely a pedal which can be taken on the road. One thing which lessens the build quality a little is the fact that the paint job chips a little easily, so you need to be a little careful when installing in your rig, transporting and switching between active and bypass modes. The pedal also has a fair amount of background hum when used; so much so that if clarity is your thing, I’d highly recommend setting it up with a good noise gate!


EHX have given us a great looking remake of a wonderful classic. The Big Muff Pi lives on as one of the most important effects in the history of the electric guitar and it is great that this effect is still available for any guitarist to buy easily. The tone of the distortion is out of this world and really adds a lot to both lead and rhythm guitar, and it is a worthy addition to any effects rig; whether you are a touring guitar player or a studio session guitarist. Tonally, the pedal does however suffer a little when compared to previous Big Muff versions. Distortion has more of a tendency to break up rather than swell into feedback when long sustain is needed, and the tone pot is all bass or all treble; great range but in reality this Big Muff has two main tones, very high or very low.

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Review: Boss CS-3 Compressor Sustainer Pedal

Boss CS-3Another popular pedal from one of the most well-known manufacturers ever; this time is the Boss CS-3 compressor / sustainer pedal. The CS-3 is the latest model of Boss’ famous CS compressor line, and while it shares both the colour and the ‘CS’ name, this pedal is in fact very different to the previous incarnations. Compressor pedals are used to clean up and even out every note you play, no matter how hard you push. With their special attack and release function, they help to create distinctive popping notes which are clear and crisp, either for chords or single runs. The CS-2 was a wonderful pedal – sadly quite hard to find now – but I believe that the CS-3, while it does do everything a compressor should, doesn’t do these things as good as other compressor pedals out there.

Sound quality:

The problems with the CS-3 come largely from the sound and the way in which it changes the guitar tone. For a start, I’d say that compressors do their job best when you can’t even tell that they are there. This compressor, however, is about as transparent as a brick. It does provide the popping guitar notes and a bit of sustain, but not quite as much as the CS-2. When used as something to boost signal and power distortions and overdrives, the CS-3 will work, but it brings with it a fair amount of unwanted background noise too.

A lot of these issues arise from the fact that Boss have changed a few things for the worse with regard to the inside workings of the effect pedal. While these changes allow Boss to continue to offer the best low prices for their pedals, sound quality unfortunately suffers as a result. At around $100 on this pedal is definitely affordable, but the problems can make it a little hard to play with. The main thing is how it works on a clean tone; notes can be uneven in attack as well as volume, which is not a good thing in a pedal designed to regulate exactly these two things.

Build quality:

Absolutely great on the outside! As with all boss effects pedals, this stomp box feels like it would survive a month or two at ground zero of a bomb testing site. Aside from the cutting back in quality in the inside of the pedal, there are no complaints from me about the durability of the CS-3.


Boss pedals are known for reliability, durability and affordability; the CS-3 compressor / sustainer really doesn’t disappoint in this area. Built to last, and easily one of the more affordable compressors on the market. While it works better with a distortion, overdrive or modulation in the chain after it, inconsistent performance on the clean tone reduces the score considerably. With the price considered, the CS-3 is still good as an entry level effect, but if you have the cash to spend there are other compressors (to be reviewed soon) which are much better all-round performers!

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Review: Ibanez Tube Screamer Overdrive (TS808 Reissue)

Ibanez TS808When Ibanez released the tube screamer guitar overdrive pedal, I bet they never would have thought that it would eventually become one of the most revered overdrives of all time. Used by a great number of professional players over the years – Stevie Ray Vaughan beig the most often cited – this pedal was created with blues rock in mind. After a lot of requests, Ibanez finally reissued the famous TS808, with the original JRC4558D component, and the pedal is really pretty good!

Sound Quality:

This pedal sounds great. Not quite the same quality as the original TS808, but close enough for most tastes.It gives just the right range of crunch for playing most blues and classic rock songs, and goes all of the way from clean boost to dirty overdrive. Tonally, it favours the mid ranges, and so it provides the right kind of punch when it comes to guitar solos.

Used as a boost pedal, the TS808 really shines, and can be set just right to give those extra few Db when needed.

As is the case with most overdrive pedals, the Ibanez is at its best when placed before the pre amp of a good quality all tube amp head. It can really bring out the natural, sweet overdrive of the valves. Remember that the TS808 is primarily an overdrive pedal; designed to drive a tube amp into natural distortion, or make the sound of a solid state amp or PA slightly warmer and deeper. It is not a high gain distortion, and so those metal-heads out there would need to suppliment this pedal with a stronger distortion, or even just go straight for a strong distortion pedal and forget about the Ibanez.

Build Quality:

The unit itself is mostly metal, and very durable for day to day use. For the reissue, Ibanez have used the smaller square-ish switch that was a feature of the original 808 series, and sometimes this kind of switch can be a little awkward to engage, if your foot is slightly out then it might not work as smoothly as one would like. The PCB inside is not the same design as the original 808, and is more similar to later Ibanez effects models. While this doesn’t matter so much to the majority of players, it could be an issue with serious pedal collectors who are looking for a truly faithful recreation of the TS808.



This is a great reissue of a classic pedal, loved by pretty much every rock and blues player ever to pick up an electric guitar. It provides a warm, sweet overdriven tone which is heavy in the mid frequencies: the recipe for a perfect blues rock lead tone.

Used before a good tube amp, it works very well with the valves to produce natural, organic overdrive which is very responsive to the way that you play the guitar. It fights back with crunchy bites when pushed, and cools off to milder distortion when you back off a little more.

A great pedal for blues and classic rock, but not strong enough for anything too heavy.

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Review: Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal

One of the most popular distortion pedals ever

One of the most popular distortion pedals ever

Distortion is one of the most popular effects for electric guitar players, and a necessity for anyone who wants to play rock, metal and heavier blues rock. It takes the clean tone of your guitar and clips the signal in order to add either a warm fuzz or a cold metallic buzz to your tone, which can sound amazing when applied tastefully in your playing.

Boss (Roland) is one of those companies who pretty much lead the way in the field of guitar and bass stomp boxes and effects pedals. They are popular largely because they create very robust, sturdy pedals which are rarely complicated to operate, and usually much more affordable than boutique equivalents.

The Boss DS-1 is definitely one of the company’s most popular effects pedals, and it is also one of the most popular distortion pedals used today. Artists famous for using this little orange distortion include Steve Vai, who swears by the tone of the pedal when the drive is cranked all of the way up to the max.

Sound Quality:

The Boss DS-1 is a very good pedal for those guitarists just starting out with the electric guitar. By itself it delivers a very standard, classic distortion sound with very little personal character. Although this is a matter of personal preference, I’d say that this is not the pedal to buy if you are looking for something particularly rich and ‘creamy’. It is however good in generic rock and blues to add that gritty kind of tone, and considering the low price, it is good value for money.

Issues with the sound are that it is pretty limited in range. It will never get you into hard rock territory, and I felt that it was a little quick to go into distortion too, which limits its effectiveness in a clean boost kind of role on the pedalboard. The tone can be excessively trebly when pushed up past 12 o’clock, which creates a rather unpleasant tinny overtones and harmonics in the distorted sound.

It works best as a lead or solo guitar boost when placed in front of an overdriven tube amp head, although even for this role, there are many pedals out there which do a better job.

Build Quality:

The DS-1 – like all Boss pedals – is built to withstand some serious punishment. Its rugged metal frame and basic control layout means that it could easily withstand a huge amount of gigs and weather it out on the road like a pro.


Plus points are definitely ease of use, tough, durable design and great value for money. The negatives include limited range, lack of character and excessive high end frequencies in the tone control.

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Famous Guitar Amplifiers: Fender ‘The Twin’ (Red Knob)

Huge companies like fender have been around for decades, bringing fantastic products from the world’s most recognizable electric guitar to some of the finest amplifiers ever created. Fender’s glory days as far as amplifiers are concerned is generally considered to be the period between the 50s and the 80s. It was in this time that they really produced groundbreaking tube amplifiers which can be heard in recordings from renowned artists like The Beatles and Eric Clapton.

The Twin series of amplifiers is perhaps one of the most well-known series that Fender ever produced. Introduced in 1952, these amplifiers are even older than the Stratocaster itself, and have been released in a number of different forms over the years. Famous models included the Twin Reverb, the Super Twin, the Twin Reverb II and, the subject of this post, the ‘Red Knob’ Twin.

It is easy to see where the Red Knob got its nick-name.  These amplifiers are instantly recognizable and sound truly wonderful.

It is easy to see where the Red Knob got its nick-name. These amplifiers are instantly recognizable and sound truly wonderful.

Released following the Twin Reverb II in 1987, this amplifier has that classic clean twin sound, rich in harmonics and packed full with that sparkly signature tone. Featuring two separate channels (clean and gain) as well as switchable overdrive for the clean channel, this amplifier is perhaps one of the most versatile produced by the company, and was intended to be used in a wide variety of practical applications, including gigging, performances and studio recording.

Another special feature about the Red Knob Twin is that it has selectable power output, meaning that the player is able to change the output power to 25 watts or to the full 100 watts of raw, clean tone. This, along with the two built in speakers and convenient wheel-mounted casing, means that The Twin really is one of the more practical amplifiers for gigs. All tube, they also have plenty of clean headroom, so they work very well for clean blues and jazz, as well as offering plenty of breathing room for effects pedals (which can be placed all before the pre amp, or in the buffered send and return loop.

Sadly, these amplifiers were discontinued in 1994, when the next version of the Twin amplifier series was developed, but the Red Knob holds a place in the heart of many a player, thanks to its sweet tone and great looks. If you ever find one in good condition, it would be well worth the investment!

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