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12 of the Best Marshall Style Pedals

BossBrown Sound DistortionCatalinbreadDawner Prince EffectsDistortionDriveEmpress EffectsEVH GearFriedman EffectsJHS PedalsMarshallMarshall Style DistortionMI EffectsMulti-DriveRamble FXXotic Effects+-

Obviously Overdrive, Distortion and Fuzz are my favourite types of pedals - it’s incredible just how many different textures there are within each of those categories. I am a huge fan of distortion of course, and within that field my favourite type as such, though a fairly broad category in and of itself - is Marshall-esque. I already possess more than 10 Marshall-style pedals - including 5 of the 12 listed here - most of the others listed are already on my wishlist.


There are several key Marshall sounds, but for my purposes I break them down to my 3 favourites really - Plexi, JTM and EVH/Brown Sound. The core texture of the Marshall sound for me is that lovely crisp crunch with a sort of hint of jangle. I like it at medium gain - where it is slightly more open and rounded and sustaining, I also love it at higher gain - where it becomes tighter, more compressed and more percussive.


A best-kept secret for many Marshall pedals fans is the original MKI Guv’nor pedal which still sounds stellar today, albeit its enclosure is now somewhat over-sized and old-fashioned. It’s a pity that the latter Guv’nors don’t retain the lively dynamics and bright sparkly nature of the original. Please Marshall - do a proper re-issue of the original circuit and components in a proper compact enclosure - it would be a runaway success! Alas Marshall seems to have totally lost its way these days - both it and it’s usual pairing ’Gibson’ seem to be resting on the laurels of their past celebrated history. Truth is though that amp brands like Blackstar and Friedman have been slowly eroding away Marshall’s market-share - because Marshall does not understand or care about the needs of the now predominantly modern guitarist - the mainly domestic hobbyist like myself! On the pedal front - Catalinbread, JHS and MI Audio have long been strong in the Marshall pedal area, while Friedman too is playing a really strong hand now. Marshall’s recent pedals just aren’t quite good enough, and their new amps aren’t sufficiently honed for the modern domestic customer - just look at how Boss (Katana) is eating up the marketplace at the moment - Marshall seriously needs to up its game.


I’ve said many times before that I’m not too keen on larger size pedal enclosures - although I don’t mind the medium size ones like the Empress Multidrive or say the MI Audio Megalith Delta - or EVH 5150 OD size - but the MKI Marshall Guv’nor is just too large for what it delivers, and there are other really good modern alternatives currently.


I had the JHS Angry Charlie on my wishlist for the longest time, but then along came the Boss JB-2 Angry Drive, which combined that with another one of my favourite pedal circuits - the Blues Driver - so it was a win-win for me, and combining the Blues Driver and Angry Charlie circuits gives you spectacularly complex and rich Marshall-esque tones - funnily up until recently though, I’ve been leading more on the Blues Driver half of the circuit, as I already have so many other Marshall-style pedals within my chain. Of those listed, they include the Empress Multidrive, Friedman BE-OD, MI Audio Super Crunch Box V2 and Xotic SL Drive.


I have had Catalinbread in sight for a while, and since getting their Boosted Vox type - the Galileo, fully intend to acquire also the Dirty Little Secret, RAH and Sabbra Cadabra pedals at some stage. The Dawner Prince RedRox was brought to my attention by the Andertons head-to-head ’Rock Pedal’ Distortion pedal shoot-out.


Like I said earlier, I’ve long been aware of JHS’s Marshall-esque pedals - the aforementioned Angry Charlie, Andy Timmons ’@’ derivation of that, and the slightly lower gain Charlie Brown. I actually prefer Friedman’s Dirty Shirley in that slightly lower gain distortion category - it makes a great companion pedal to the tighter, more compressed and percussive BE-OD.


The newish V2 version of the celebrated Super Crunch Box is just exceptional - giving you full 3-band EQ plus presence, and 2 x 3-way toggles to adjust gain stage, headroom and compression - it’s just super flexible. I’m a huge fan of Eddie Van Halen and his ’Brown Sound’ which is obviously Variac modified Marshall - I actually have 2 different versions of the Brown Sound in my chain at the moment, one courtesy of the Strymon Riverside, and my main one from the Super Crunch Box. I’ve long considered the MXR EVH 5150 OD and the Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe - siding with the former eventually.


Finally in the listing are the very suitably Marshally styled Ramble FX Marvel V3 pedal, and then the Xotix SL Drive - which I use for a slightly darker Super Lead and Super Bass-style Marshall tones - works really well for that. I have 3 of these pedals pretty high up on my wishlist - the Catalinbread DLS, Dawner RedRox, and Friedman Dirty Shirley - difficult to say when those will be added, but eventually I will possess all in this listing and possibly a couple more. As with everything, none of these pedals sounds exactly identical, and each has their own tonal profile to a degree and obvious strengths and weaknesses that marry up with that. It really depends on which aspects of the key Marshall amps you are trying to capture - I pretty much like most of them when done well - as in this case, all these are highly creditable and worthy of consideration.


Original listed first, then alphabetical.

Marshall Guv'nor MKI - c£150-£200 (


This sounds totally fabulous - pity that the follow-up versions aren't nearly as good, and pity that this pedal is a little too over-sized for its own good. My preference will always be for compact enclosures - unless the pedals is some sort of workstation and offers up lots of different voicing options. I sincerely hope Marshall consider doing a proper modern update of this one - same circuit, components etc. and in a compact enclosure - it would then go straight to the top of my Marshall-type wishlist!

Boss JB-2 Angry Driver - £178


This is already one of my favourite drives - although used mostly towards the Blues Driver half - the Angry Charlie side though is still exceptional, and the two in combination are simply magic. I look at this as both the ultimate Blues Driver pedal, as well as the ultimate Angry Charlie. Even though you have just 3 separate dials per circuit side, you can combine the 2 voicing in both directions in series and in parallel - for some extraordinarily complex and rich harmonics. A modern classic in the making.

Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret - £137


The 'Secret' in this pedal is in the internal Super Lead / Super Bass mode switch and Presence trim-pot. Which in essence makes this sort of a larger version of the mini Xotic SL Drive - albeit with a full 3-band EQ. I find the DLS is also by default a touch brighter than the SL Drive, yet both are highly versatile and highly competent Marshall sound-alikes. Many rate this as the ultimate Marshall-esque drive - including Tone Report's Andy Martin, and I'm a big fan of Catalinbread pedals in general, and this one is definitely fairly high on my extensive wishlist.

Dawner Prince RedRox Distortion - £179


Back in October Andertons did a Rock Drive Pedal Shootout for which the surprise winner was the then unknown to me RedRox from Dawner Prince - most famous for their Boonar - Echorec style delay pedal. I think this one surprised a lot of people - wonderfully dynamic proper crunchy distortion and as a result high up on my own wishlist. It has gone out of stock a couple of times, and I've had other priorities to handle, but this remains fairly high priority.

Empress Multidrive - £249


Even though not specifically associated as a Marshall style drive, this hugely versatile pedal nonetheless has a very Marshall-sounding distortion voice - which can be further enhanced by stackable fuzz and overdrive flavours. It creates a lovely richly textured Marshall tone - and can pretty much cover the whole range of styles - a wonderful often overlooked pedal - definitely one of my favourites.

Friedman BE-OD - £199


A great high-gain JTM-style pedal great for tight percussive distortion sounds - many metal players really like this pedal. The only issue really is the lack of middle-frequency control. When compared to the Dirty Shirely pedal - this is higher gain and more compressed - which works really well for heavier tones. I tend to mix this one up with the Empress Heavy, MI Audio Megalith Delta and Diezel VH4-2 for my more metal types of tones.

Friedman Dirty Shirely - £199


A lower gain Plexi-style vs the JTM of the BE-OD, the Dirty Shirley is less tight and less compressed than the BE-OD and has a more rounded and even tone - sort of a more jangly Marshall profile. I had for a while considered getting the JHS Charlie Brown for a similar thing, but I prefer the sound of the Dirty Shirley.

JHS The '@' Andy Timmons - £199


I've long considered all 3 of JHS's main Marshall-style pedals - the Angry Charlie, Charlie Brown and this Andy Timmons derivation of the Angry Charlie which does not have the current 3-band EQ of the Angry Charlie, but makes up for that with a 3-way voicing switch which gives you different gain, compression and headroom profiles. I was always torn between the Angry Charlie and the Andy Timmons - so the arrival of the Boss / JHS collaboration Angry Driver has taken that Charlie off the board for me. I also latterly decided that I prefer the Dirty Shirley to the Charlie Brown - which mean I have JHS's '@' Andy Timmons left on my radar.

MI Audio Super Crunch Box V2 - £179


Michael Ibrahim's amps and pedals are renowned around the world, but currently in very short supply in the UK - I bought my V2 Super Crunch Box from Van der Haar Guitars in the Netherlands. And am so glad I did, as this is the perfect base for my EVH / Brown sound. You have 6 dials here and 2 x 3-way voicing switches for different gain, headroom and compression tones. A hugely powerful and versatile pedal which gives you all manner of Marshall tones - possibly the pedal is too-tweakey for some though. I bought this ahead of the MXR EVH 5150 and the Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe which I still like too - and which I will likely acquire also at some stage in the future.

MXR EVH 5150 - £196


Pipped by the Super Crunch Box for me, most Eddie Van Halen fans though select either this or the equally excellent Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe. I aim to have all 3 eventually, yet as Eddie has had direct development input into his signature pedal, this comes just slightly ahead of the Pinnacle for me.

Ramble FX Marvel Drive 3 - £171


This was unknown to me until fairly recently - a great Plexi-style pedal beautifully styled in Marshall-type livery - with authentic dials and square shape red LED. Has a 2-way voicing toggle based on 9V / 18V headroom - which gives you different gain and compression profiles. A really dynamic and great sounding Marshall-style pedal with a decent amount of versatility.

Xotic SL Drive Alchemy Audio Mod - c£135 (


I love this mini Plexi-style pedal which covers very similar territory to the Catalinbread DLS - this time via single tone dial, but 4 internal voicing dip-switches. I recommend you go for the Alchemy Audio modified version which externalises the voicing switches via toggles - per mine, and updates some of the components for improved performance. This is my Led Zep -style pedal - and it gives me a slightly darker Marshall tone which sounds great for that material.

Final Thoughs

I've already said that I believe that the Tube Screamer is the most popular pedal type of all time, but it could equally be the Marshall pedal - which seems to be at the core of the vast majority of distortion pedals. If pretty much every pedal-maker has a Tube Screamer to their name, then they also likely have a Marshall pedal too.


I could have listed twice this number of Marshall pedals I like the sound of - including other greats such as Alexander Pedals' Jubilee, Lawrence Petross Sixty 8 and Eighty 7, Lovepedal JTM and Purple Plexi, Pedal Pal 800 JCM and 959 Plexi, Suhr Riot etc. etc.


I am already a self-confessed Marshall fan, and there seems always to be a better pedal just around the corner. Currently I am very happy with my existing selection, but I will definitely be acquiring a few more over the year/s. Top of my Marshall wishlist are the RedRox, Dirty Shirley and EVH 5150 OD - oh, and the Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret - in fact all of the ones above I don't already have .

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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