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Boost and Overdrive

2017 Guitar Pedals seem to be all about Dual Action Effects

Atomic AmpsBig Muff Style FuzzBoost and OverdriveBuild Your Own CloneBYOCChase Bliss AudioDelayDelay WorkstationDiezelDigital DelayDigital ReverbDistortionDriveDual-DriveDwarfcraftEchoverbEmerson EffectsEmpress EffectsFriedman EffectsFuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionKeeley EngineeringMetal DistortionMooerMulti-DriveOCD Style OverdriveOverdrivePitchPitch-ShiftingReverbReverb WorkstationSource AudioStrymon+-
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My last pedal post was about Modulation, Delay and Reverb where I featured 12 pedals - 3 each at the different size footprints. I professed an unswerving devotion to Strymon at the top end of that scale and said I would be most unlikely to swap out any of those pedals. However, as things often are, I have watched a number of the demo videos, and am increasingly enamoured by the brand new Empress EchoSystem Dual Delay - which now happens to lie at the top of my current wishlist.


The only pedal I already have of the above is the Strymon Sunset Dual Overdrive - I obviously have an affinity for Strymon and like near enough everything they release, but it was a close-run thing between that and the Chase Bliss Brothers Analog Gainstage - both of which pedals do things in very similar ways, although one includes a fuzz stage and the other does not, and is mostly analogue while the latter is mostly DSP.


What Empress is doing to delay, Source Audio is in the throes of doing to reverb - dual parallel processors which allow you to run two effects simultaneously and preserve trails from one effect into the next. I have already made my mind up that I’m going to get an EchoSystem, and what I’ve seen of the Ventris looks very promising too.


I am still surprised by how many of the Namm 2017 announced pedals still haven’t materialised yet - such as the MKII Diesel VH4 Pedal - which they said was ready at the show, I am guessing that they’re waiting to sell out some of the existing incumbent stock. The final pedal that I have a close eye on is the BYOC Crown Jewel full analogue overdrive and distortion modeller - the only blocker on that is the lack of presets, otherwise you have an amazingly capable overdrive + boost, if not THE most capable / versatile.


So here are the 12 pedals featured in the visual above - in alphabetical order:


Atomic Ampli-Firebox


There are three pedals in the visual that do pretty similar things - the BYOC Crown Jewel, the Emerson Pomeroy and this one. Knowing Atomic’s heritage, this is the most digital DSP one with probably easily updateable profiles via USB / bluetooth, while the other two rely entirely on premium analog clipping components.


All three are of the Overdrive / Distortion + Boost variety, and have a number of toggles which allow you to tweak the profile of the sound - sometimes by digital processing / DSP, and sometimes by applying analogue clipping elements - such as diodes, transistors, op amps, LEDs and the like.


Of the three mentioned, this one is the least interesting one to me, but I will reserve judgment until officially released and properly demoed.


BYOC Crown Jewel


This is the one pedal that I did not see featured at the Namm show, and which is the newest to me. I have one mini BYOC pedal already in the form of the ProCo Rat Li’l Mouse clone - a very usable pedal but a little lacking in versatility.


The Crown Jewel lets you flip between LED and Silicon soft-clipping and simultaneous Silicon or Germanium hard-clipping. You can vary the EQ on the Mid Hump, and switch between 9V and 18V headroom - you then have all the usual tone controls you would expect, including order of effects toggle, and Mid Frequencies parametric control.


Finally, you have a swappable Boost circuit - where you can select between 18V JFET, 27V Boost, MOSFET, Linear Power Booster, Germanium Treble Booster and Electra Distortion for more of a dual channel vibe. If you don’t like any of those you can buy the blank ’Experimenter’ Boost board module - which allows you to wire / create your own boost circuit.


This does look like the most capable of the overdrive / distortion modellers in the analogue camp, and the ability to use the clipping modes simultaneously has some overlap with the Strymon Sunset. I am still seriously considering this one - but do worry about the lack of presets impacting longer-term utility.


Chase Bliss Brothers Analog Gainstage


When this first came out - just a little ahead of the Strymon Sunset, I was initially not particularly excited about it, but after acquiring the Strymon and playing with it at length, it has piqued my interest in the sort of similar Brothers Analog. I have long been impressed with Joel Korte’s elegant and smart pedal company, but have balked somewhat at the price to function ratio, and the general single use nature of his pedals (also too few presets). For instance I really like the look of the Gravitas Tremolo and Tonal Recall Delay, but they’re both well on the way to Strymon big pedal prices, but have only one FX machine type as such and lack the presets versatility.


Truth is I could happily own all the Chase Bliss pedals, but they do have a significant real estate cost, as well as a high ticket price, and they don’t have the flexibility and versatility of the Strymons in most regards, although I really love the Dip Switches and how they apply to the Ramp Dial and Expression Pedal.


I have become more and more enamoured with fuzzes of late, so what originally put me off about this pedal is now a key driver to get it. At the time it was a head-to-head with the Sunset, which obviously won for me, but I could have gone either way, and some days wish I had gone for the Brothers Analog instead. You know what you’re getting with Chase Bliss - amazing build quality and really smart tone generation, and this is still high on my wishlist - even though it does overlap the Sunset to a significant degree.


Diezel VH4 MKII


As I said in the intro I have been waiting for this pedal for an age. The original VH4 pedal - which replicated the Channel 3 of that illustrious amp, is soon to be joined by an updated version with two more dials - an additional Master and Gain for the Channel 4 for the VH4 - so you can now have both the highly saturated Channels.


The rest of the pedal is as before, and I use the original most days. This is a really great full throated distortion pedal which should hopefully improve further a pedal which already sounds amazing on my rig. Bizarrely it was announced that it was already available at the Namm show, but has failed to appear in any of the retail Channels since.


I sent a message to Diezel USA (actually Dave Friedman’s Boutique Amps Distribution company) to ask about release dates, but have still not received any reply. This has been on my wishlist since January - I’m just waiting for it to come out.


Dwarfcraft Super Wizard



Dwarfcraft are best known for their various weird and wonderful fuzz pedals, but are increasingly moving into Red Panda territory with more interesting odd noisebox effects - such as this pitch shifter pedal. 7 dials and 3 toggles allow you to create a plethora of pitch shifting + delay effects - which are further enhanced by two momentary footswitches - ’Bender’ and ’Dindindin’ a sort of glitch repeater.


It is not long since I did my ’16 Weird and Wonderful Guitar Noise Pedals’ post - and this pedal would have fitted well into that context. I am increasingly looking to go more into glitch and bitcrusher territory and this pedal very much fits the bill very nicely indeed.


The only downside for me here really is the relatively large pedal enclosure - for such a specialist effect it takes up a lot of room on your board, would have preferred something more in a Chase Bliss form factor - that said, with the on / bypass switch we are talking about 3 footswitches and you need the space to make that useful.


Emerson Custom Pomeroy


I saw this well before I acquired the Pigtronix Disnortion Micro - which looks like a similar take on this in a smaller pedal format - albeit without the additional boost switch. This pedal seems close in concept to the Ampli-Firebox and Crown Jewel featured above, but somewhat cleaner in format.


The rotary dial is what brings the main smarts here - allowing you to select between - Symmetrical, Asymmetrical, Germanium, Bypass, LED, & Combo clipping components / circuits. There was a real fanfare about this at Namm, but none of these have appeared in the wild, and Andertons no longer notes when this may be due in stock - seems to have been beset with development gremlins.


I am intrigued to see how it compares with the Crown Jewel and Ampli-Firebox when all three are finally available and can be put head-to-head.



Empress EchoSystem Dual Delay


This is likely my next acquisition - I love everything I’ve seen about this pedal, the aesthetic, enormous versatility and ingenious way the various deadly effects can be applied and stacked - singularly, in series, in parallel and one per each stereo channel.


I also like the way that they minimise the number of controls available, with the Strymon TimeLine you often end up in option paralysis territory when confronted with so many digital sub-menus that you can scroll through and apply. Here everything is available on the surface of the pedal, and you can make it as simple or complicated as you wish.


I of course love Strymon and still will, but this is likely so supplant the TimeLine at least for a while. Will be interesting to see how / if Strymon reacts, as there seem to be a lot of dual processor effects pedals coming through.



Friedman Fuzz Fiend


I am a big fan of the David Friedman sound, and even though I don’t posses a Friedman Amp, I do have and love the BE-OD pedal which captures the essence of that most notable of Friedman amps. The Fuzz Fiend is one of two recent tube-loaded pedals which use a single 12AX7 to generate the unmistakable tube warmth and harmonics, the other being the Motor City Drive.


The Fuzz Fiend features in this list because of its momentary ’Rage’ boost footswitch which allows you to ramp your fuzzrociousness up to 11 when you need to. Would have been nice to see a similar boost feature on the Motor City Drive. They could use the same kind of soft footswitch that TC Electronic use in their Spark Boost Mini - which can work in both latching and momentary modes.


Even though this looks a cool pedal I can’t see it replacing my Frazz Dazzler or Muffaletta, and I also really like the look of the single dial EQD Erupter Fuzz.


Keeley D&M Drive


As an avid fan of the Dan Steinhardt and Mick Taylor ’That Pedal Show’ I have been aware of this pedal for a while. And if you lasso in Robert Keeley with those two, you could not think of a more well-deserving trio. Shame then that this pedal has been somewhat overshadowed by the Brothers Analog and Sunset pedals which do similar things but in more clever ways and with more versatility.


For sure it’s price point is different, but I would have held off the release until I could have produced a more competitive pedal as compared to those two. When you see what the likes of the Chase Bliss and Strymon can do, I’m not so sure you would settle for a rather bog-standard overdrive plus boost configuration.


Of course it has been tuned by those genius ears, and will surely sound fantastic, but with all the pedal innovation that is currently materialising, I just feel that this is something of a lost opportunity. It does not sit alongside either the more classic King of Tone, or the more modern multi-option alternatives - both new and old have various additional toggle switches for tone-shaping that this pedal lacks.


Mooer Ocean Machine Dual Delay and Reverb


This is a huge step forward for former budget pedal manufacturer Mooer. I have a number of their mini pedals, and in fact their Blues Mood is one of my all time favourites and solidly affixed to my pedal chain.


This Devin Townsend collaboration has been a year or so in the making, and does some very clever things, but possibly only fully useful to Devin himself. These guys though were the first to introduce me to the concept of multiple parallel delays and reverb in the same device - long before I knew about the EchoSystem or Ventris. But the Mooer seems to pick up many of the weaknesses of the big Strymons, and very few of the advantages of the newer EchoSystem and Ventris.


For me it does not compare that favourably with Strymon, Eventide, Empress or Source Audio - a number of the effects here don’t see to be particularly useful or usable, while I can see myself using pretty much everything on the EchoSystem. The two things the Ocean Machine has to recommend it is the relatively small form factor for two delays plus a reverb, and the relatively and comparatively small price tag. I fear that the LCD interface lets it down a bit though, and I am not sure it will appeal to those on higher budgets, while out of range of the more typical Mooer customer. So a bold and brave move, but not quite right for me at this first attempt. I also think if you are selling at near boutique prices then your aesthetics and material and colour choices need to be more upmarket than this device currently reflects.


Source Audio Ventris Dual Reverb


After viewing various demos from Namm and seeing documentaries about exactly recreating the audio profiles of various spring tanks, I am very excited to see what will manifest in the final version of this. The new Empress EchoSystem has set the bar really high, and shown what kind of things can be accomplished in this kind of form factor and with dual parallel processors.


I guess the race is on for Source Audio to introduce a dual parallel processor of its own for its Nemesis, while Empress reworks its Reverb to make use of the same processing power as the EchoSystem. For soon Source Audio will have a dual reverb to go alongside Empress’s dual delay. I am already salivating at the thought of dual delay plus dual reverb, and waiting with excitement to see how Strymon and Eventide will react too.


As it stands, I am definitely getting the Empress EchoSystem, I will probably fling them an email to see if they are considering doubling up their own reverb, before I make a decision on the Ventris. At one stage I was thinking of getting both Source Audio pedals (Nemesis and Ventris), but now I am considering Empress... this does mean I will be losing the looper function of the TimeLine and will need to add a Ditto to make up for that



Strymon Sunset Dual Overdrive


The only pedal on the above visual that I have got around to acquiring thus far. I have indicated interest also in Brothers Analog, Diezel VH4 MKII and the Ventris per above. The Sunset arrived though in a rather timely and wholly unexpected fashion - just aa people were still mulling over whether they actually liked its Riverside predecessor.


For me the Riverside still is a fun pedal to use, as long as you know what it is and what it is not, but for most people - the Sunset will be infinitely preferable - with its two parallel channels and dual clipping abilities. I’ve actually already discussed the merits of this pedal on my Pedal Chain Delight post.


And however much fun the Riverside was to use, this one is more fun still - allowing you to easily and effortlessly dial in a trio of complementary tones - each of the two channels individually, and both in combination - parallel or serial in both directions. And even though they use very similar JFET circuit topologies, the Sunset comes out as significantly more versatile, but without the ’sweet spot’ of the Riverside, a little tougher to dial in the perfect tone!





Every month that passes helps to shape my ToneQuest and feeds into the always changing decision process of what to do next. At one stage I was considering another guitar, or possibly swapping out one of my amps, while mostly I am just thinking about my pedal chain - what can stay, and what can be improved.


I’ve kind of already decided that the Elektron Analog Drive will be relegated fairly soon, and that will likely be joined by the Mad Professor Golden Cello which I find I am really not using much at all these days.


There is always a question of what to replace those slots with - and there are of course several items on my wishlist, for which the top 10 currently looks like the following (alphabetical):

  • BYOC Crown Jewel (Multidrive / Analogue Modeller) - possible replacement for Elektron Analog Drive slot
  • Chase Bliss Brothers Gainstage (Multidrive) - possible replacement for Elektron Analog Drive slot
  • Diezel VH4 MkII (Distortion) - direct swap-out for current MKI version of same
  • DigiTech FreqOut (Modulation) - alternative for Mini CryBaby slot
  • Dr Scientist BitQuest (Modulation - Bitcrusher) - alternative for Mini CryBaby slot
  • Empress EchoSystem Dual Delay (Delay) - likely replacement for Strymon TimeLine
  • Eventide H9 Max Stompbox (Modulation / Pitchshifter / Delay / Reverb) - possible Addition +1
  • Source Audio Ventris Dual Reverb (Reverb) - possible replacement for Strymon Big Sky
  • TC Electronic Ditto X2 Looper (Utility - Looper) - possible replacement for swapped out TimeLine looper functionality (+1)
  • Wampler Dracrys (Distortion) - possible replacement for Elektron Analog Drive slot or +1



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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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