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 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!
Depth and Clarity of Distortion: 5/5
EHX Big Muff Reissue
Depth and Clarity of Distortion: 3/5
Baroni Lab The Chorus Stereo Chorus Pedal
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
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.