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9 of the Best Compact Vemuram Pedals

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This is probably not the best time to be featuring a range of pedals whose average price is circa £379 equivalent (for the Compact varieties, and where the most expensive currently is the larger DJ1 Bass Overdrive/Distortion at £474). Yet this article follows on from my recent post on Josh Smith’s pedalboard - where of course I featured his most excellent Signature Vemuram Myriad Hybrid Fuzz.

 

I have had my eye on a few Vemuram pedals over the years, but have always somewhat balked at the price of each unit - which for the compacts currently ranges from around £339 to £429 for the recent Ibanez Tube Screamer TSV808 collaboration.

 

Vemuram’s best known pedal is its Jan Ray - as sort of Super High Headroom Fender Blackface style Overdrive which is supposedly to some degree based on a similar circuit to the Paul Cochrane Timmy. Most Vemuram pedals feature more controls than your average pedal - with usually one or two externally accessible trimpots on the rear edge of the pedal. In the case of the Jan Ray it’s a Saturation control.

 

The most distinguishable feature about these pedals is their very distinctive brass enclosures, which I always felt deserved more specialist knobs than the standard Davies Moulding or Marconi types pictured here in black and cream. It’s kind of like when you buy a Bugatti - you want a proper Bugatti style steering wheel, but not the same one that is used in a mainline Audi from the same parent company. For this price point I feel surely the knobs should be somewhat more distinctive metallic ones to match the sleek chassis. I also wonder why the newer pedals don’t have top-mounted jacks which is all the rage at the moment. It’s not a dealbreaker for me for sure - but I so much prefer the ergonomics of the top-mounted variety.

 

Of course these are heavily differentiated and modified circuits, but essentially what we have here is a Clean Boost, Tweed Drive, Tube Screamer, Timmy, Marshall JTM/JCM Style Drive, Hybrid Fuzz Face (Silicon + Germanium), Silicon Fuzz Face, Germanium Fuzz Face and Nobels ODR-1 Style Overdrive.

 

I’ve seen some certain pedalboards which feature a whole line of Vemurams, but for most of us it’s probably not wholly practical. I have an inkling that some of these pedals might be acquired for slightly keener pricing in Japan - if you hunt around - as that is where they originate from. While I do see the occasional one nearer the £200 mark on Ebay and Reverb.com.

 

I’ve always kept an eye on Vemuram pedals, but until the new Tube Screamer project came along I wasn’t particularly inclined to go for one, and the pricing of that Ibanez collaboration turned out to be a major disincentive for me - so I will wait that one out for a few years - with the hope of catching a second-hand discounted one at some stage. My likeliest next Tube Screamer is in fact the forthcoming King Tone Soloist - also showcased on Josh Smith’s pedalboard. While I also quite like the look of the N-audio Firesound V3 Ultimate Guitar Overdrive which has its own cool features.

 

The one Vemuram pedal I have secured to date is the Josh Smith Myriad Fuzz - and only because that appeared on Reverb.com at a sufficient discount to make it worthwhile for me. So I will probably keep my eyes peeled for slightly more reasonably priced examples of the Galea (Tweed Drive), the Tube Screamer and Karen (Plexi essentially). I’m not on any timescale here - it’s just a matter of waiting it out and seeing what crops up when and if I’m in the right mood for one of these at the time. I’ve seen some in great nick at around the £200 to £250 mark - but obviously those get snapped up pretty quickly.

 

The Shanks ODS-1 (Nobels ODR-1 Style) is getting a lot of hype at the moment and probably justifiably so - but it is £379! I will likely rather look to snag a copy of the discontinued Mythos Erlking - which is Zach Broyles’ take on the same Nobels originating circuit. Of course if an ODS-1 is made available to me at a reasonable price / discount - I could very well go for that too in the right circumstances.

 

I can’t say for sure why I did not include the other 2 Shanks collaborations here instead - probably I liked the symmetry of the common enclosure and the related trio of Shanks 4K, Oz and Myriad Fuzz-Face style Fuzzes. Both the other John Shanks fuzzes are excellent too - the Shanks II includes an additional FET for a combination of Fuzz Face, Tonebender and Buzzaround tones, while the Shanks 3K (discontinued) houses a combination of RangeMaster Boost and Tonebender MKII circuit. The only other pedals I haven’t mentioned here are the medium-chassis RAGE e Distortion and a couple of earlier signature artist variations of the Jan Ray - oh - and the Neoplex Echoplex Style Boost - which is now also discontinued along with several of these.

 

These are obviously not your bread-and-butter pedals really - but more your occasional weekend runaround convertible sportster. I can’t see myself ever owning more than a handful of these at best - but time will tell.

 

Here follows a little more detail on each :


Budi Super Clean Boost - discontinued - £369 when new

This is one I've featured on the site before - and initially I somehow confused it as having 3-Band EQ - which is something I actively seek out. While the Mini controls here are actually Bass, Level and Treble. There's a neat trimpot accessible around the rear of the pedal which allows you to set Minimum Volume at a unity level with your amp - before you then make any further adjustments. This did really well in an Anderton head-to-head boost challenge a while back per the above demo - and is a nice to have for me rather than an essential - I am pretty well covered in Boost territory at the moment.

 

5 Controls :

  • Boost
  • Bass
  • Level
  • Treble
  • Minimum-Volume - Externally accessibly trimpot

Galea Medium Gain Tweed Style Overdrive - £369

This is one that I've only come to know particularly well of late - Vemurams take on the 50's Fender Tweed Deluxe 5E3 series of amps. What is unusual for a Tweed drive is its '7' Controls - including 3-Band EQ, and externally accessibly trimpots for Saturation and Drive - the former allows you to adjust the simulated Tube Saturation in the circuit, while the Drive trimmer lets you adjust the gain on the tone circuit. This is definitely a Vemuram I would like to add to the collection at some stage.

 

7 Controls :

  • Level
  • Gain
  • Bass
  • Mids
  • Treble
  • Saturation - Externally accessibly trimpot
  • Drive - Externally accessibly trimpot

Ibanez Collaboration TSV808 Tube Screamer - £429

This is the first Vemuram I really really wanted - probably for more commemorative / memorabilia reasons than anything else - being the official 40th Anniversary Tube Screamer. It is different to all the pedals featured here in that is has a slight tint / sheen of green in the clear lacquer that coats the typical Brass Chassis - harking back to the colour of the original. The enclosure shape is also classic Tube Screamer - but you get two additional externally accessible trimpots to control Saturation and Bass, and you also get 2 sets of Clipping Diodes with two internal dip-switches - which allow you to set the circuit as a Tube Screamer or Jan Ray, or a half-way mix. So this is not your typical Tube Screamer - but rather a 2-in-1 Tube Screamer + Jan Ray - which some may use to justify its pricing. As I said in the intro - I'm happy to bide my time here - and try to catch one of these when they come second time around onto the very slightly used market!

 

5 Controls :

  • Overdrive
  • Level
  • Tone
  • Saturation - Externally accessibly trimpot
  • Bass - Externally accessibly trimpot

Jan Ray High Headroom Blackface/Timmy Style Boost/Overdrive - £339

This is of course Vemuram's best known pedal - which many see as a slightly smoother and more polished take on the Timmy style of circuit. I already own a Timmy and like it just fine - so I'm not in anyway motivated to go for one of these. I would prefer to have it as part of the 2-in-1 Ibanez Tube Screamer collaboration as just detailed. It lacks the 3-way clipping and compression selector the Timmy sports, but has an externally accessibly trimpot for adjusting Saturation. There are certainly legions of fans for this pedal - which often sounds a little too subtle for me. I guess if you're looking for just a hair of elegant gain overdrive - then this might be your weapon of choice!

 

5 Controls :

  • Volume
  • Gain
  • Bass
  • Treble
  • Saturation - Externally accessibly trimpot

Karen Marshall JMP/JCM Style Overdrive/Distortion - discontinued - £339 when new

As mentioned in the intro this is Vemuram's take on the Marshall Style Drive/Distortion sound - right in that Plexi/JTM/JCM territory. Some find it a little too high gain overall - possibly looking for something a little closer to a Blues Breaker - while it sounds pretty decent to me - despite its lack of a Mids Control! There's plenty of harmonics and range on tap here - and this is a really lovely Marshally-voiced pedal. I may have managed to snag one of these at a very decent price - but I don't count my chickens until they're fully hatched - so we'll see what finally lands! This has very simple controls - the classic Volume, Gain and Tone - which I've superimposed on the visual for illustrative purposes!

 

4 Controls :

  • Volume
  • Gain
  • Tone
  • Gain Adjust - Externally accessibly trimpot

Myriad Hybrid Germanium/Silicon Signature Josh Smith Fuzz - £389

The Myriad Fuzz has the honour of being my first Vemuram pedal - although officially I don't count it in until it's in my hands and I have played it - it's definitely on its way to me, but I have no way of knowing how long it will take to get here from France - some deliveries have been perfectly normal while others are seemingly taking twice or three times what they used to. I've already documented this Josh Smith Signature Hybrid Fuzz - which features a Germanium and a Silicon Transistor which is fairly unusual. I still think it's roughly in Fuzz Face territory - with a little more gain and attack on-tap. You have the very typical Level, Fuzz and Tone, but also a Feel knob which controls the feedback mix between the two transistors - so CCW is more Silicon and CW is more Germanium. There is also a surface-accessible Germanium Bias trimpot on the rear of the pedal. This is a hugely versatile Fuzz pedal, and tune my the amazing ears of legendary tone-smith Josh Smith - in some ways I wanted this more than the Tube Screamer, and I was very lucky to come across one at a really good price - I'm always cautious though and withhold my final verdict until I've lived with the pedal for a week or two!

 

5 Controls :

  • Level
  • Fuzz
  • Feel - Silicon > Germanium Transistor Feedback Mix
  • Tone
  • Germanium Bias - Externally accessibly trimpot

Oz - Oz Noy Signature Silicon Fuzz Face Style Fuzz - £399

Oz Noy's Signature Fuzz is very much an NOS Silicon variant of the Shanks 4K Germanium Fuzz which preceded. Both pedals have exactly the same controls and are simply separated by a different colour of knob. This is very much your classic Silicon Fuzz Face style circuit as far as I understand - obviously with some Vemuram tweaks - which includes 2-Band EQ and Fuzz Color and Bias trimpots - which are surface-accessible via the rear edge of the pedal. The Fuzz Color trimmer allows you to control the fuzz character from a spitty fuzz through to a smooth overdrive. So a really versatile Fuzz Face - but an expensive one.

 

6 Controls :

  • Volume
  • Fuzz
  • Bass
  • Treble
  • Fuzz Color - Externally accessibly trimpot
  • Bias - Externally accessibly trimpot

Shanks 4K 4-Knob Germanium Fuzz Face Style Fuzz - discontinued - £399

This pedal bar for the black knobs looks identical to the Oz Fuzz - it is loaded with NOS Germanium Transistors and tuned to the ears of celebrated rock producer John Shanks - who also plays rhythm guitar with Bon Jovi! I see this as an extended range Germanium Fuzz Face - with some extra controls - considering the originals only had Volume and Fuzz. Here you can really shape the tone and character of the fuzz output. Whether it justifies the high pricepoint is entirely down to you - compared to JHS's limited series at the same price point - I would definitely lean towards the more versatile Vemurams!

 

6 Controls :

  • Volume
  • Fuzz
  • Bass
  • Treble
  • Fuzz Color - Externally accessibly trimpot
  • Bias - Externally accessibly trimpot

Shanks ODS-1 Nobels ODR-1 Style Overdrive - £379

This most recent release is purportedly Vemuram's take on the Nobels ODR-1 circuit - of course in cahoots with main collaborator John Shanks - here for his 4th Vemuram joint venture. This again has a couple more controls beyond the original - including rear surface-accessible Bass and Saturation trimpots. It sounds fantastic - I'm sure many of you heard in on That Pedal Show - as I did. I already have a mind to get Zach Broyle's discontinued Mythos Erlking - which is his take on the ODR-1. We'll see how it all pans out - I'm certainly not opposed to acquiring an ODS-1 if I can get one at the right price!

 

5 Controls :

  • Level
  • Gain
  • Tone
  • Bass - Externally accessibly trimpot
  • Saturation - Externally accessibly trimpot

Final Thoughts

I thinks it's fair to say I've done something of a 180 swing-around on Vemuram. A while back I found them somewhat overpriced and inconsistent in overall approach. The very standard plastic knobs and side-mounted jacks irked me somewhat for that level of pricepoint. And I did not really see / hear the appeal of their best known Jan Ray Overdrive.

 

I was also disappointed by just how pricey the 40th Anniversary Tube Screamer collaboration was - at $450/£429. As a man of the people I've always thought that product anniversaries are to be celebrated by as many as possible - and thus you should do something like the Boss/JHS Collaboration for the JB-2 Angry Driver. The TSV808 always seemed as something of a money-grab for me - and not the all-inclusive memorabilia it should have been. I've since understood that it's really 2 pedals in one as it contains really both the circuits of the TS808 and Jan Ray in one box - and you can switch between or mix the circuits to a degree. So I like it quite a bit more - but I still don't want to pay £429 for it!

 

The TSV808 through really opened up the door to further enquiry and exploration for me - and I started looking more closely into Vemuram's offerings. As a long-term follower of Josh Smith - and fan of his core tone/s - it seems the TSV808 primed me just right for wanting to get in the Myriad Fuzz. This retails in the UK for up to £399 - which is a lot of outlay - particularly in these times of financial uncertainty. Yet I came across one located in France on Reverb.com - which was being offered at a significant discount - and which seemed to good an offer to turn down. Hence one such pedal is on its way to me - and I will deliver my verdict later on that experience.

 

Of all this group it's really only the Jan Ray that I'm not that particularly interested in - rationalising that if I eventually (some years hence no doubt) get the TSV808 - then I get that flavour with the Tube Screamer. Top of my Vemuram wishlist is the 7-controls Galea Tweed Drive - which I fancy I can snag at a decent price in the not too distant future. And in fact I did snag a second Vemuram very recently - second hand admittedly - but a pretty pristine Karen for a really great price - another offer I really could not refuse - despite these times!

 

I'm definitely going to give it a rest for a while on the acquisitions front - but I need to be careful for what subject matter I choose to cover next - as every research mission seems to lead me down some new rabbit hole.

 

I hope you are all still well and safe and remain relatively sane! Sometime we each need the occasional treat just to keep us going ...

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