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Boost and Overdrive

2021 February Pedal-Chain Update - Episode II - A Typical Transitional Lull

Big Ear PedalsBoostBoost and OverdriveChorus and VibratoCryBabyCustom Audio ArtDigital DelayDigital ReverbDistortionDunlop EffectsElectro-HarmonixFlangerFuzzGated and Velcro FuzzKlirrton ManufakturMetal DistortionModulationOverdrivePettyjohn ElectronicsPhaserPitchSilicon FuzzWah and Fixed Wah+-
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I would like to start by apologising to those builders who didn’t get a pedal featured in Wednesday’s final 32 Key Guitar Effects Pedal Types article. Know that I hold you all in the highest of esteem - and that said overview is/was simply a somewhat temporary and fleeting snapshot of my current preferences on that day - with a particular emphasis towards versatility and variety delivered by a single pedal. So some pedals are typically more narrowly focused and specialist, while others are broader and more generalist. I can explain all the final criteria that were applied to get to those momentary results - which of course are liable to shift and change with prevailing mood. Were this snapshot to occur at a different time, a lot of the results would be slightly different - while the Freak Fuzz BD-2 will likely mostly be my favourite Overdrive of all-time, and the CBA Brothers the most versatile and variable fuzz machine out there!


February is often a somewhat subdued month - especially after the excitement and high hopes of January’s NAMM / Virtual NAMM new pedal coverage. As usual, a lot of the new products announced aren’t fully finalised and delivered until several months later.


Also we Brits always seem to have to wait a while longer for American-released pedals - like say the Way Huge Atreides which doesn’t seem to be fully landing on these shores until the end of March - while lots of Americans already have their hands on one. Considering that most of the International pedal releases happen in North America - it’s something of a slight disadvantage being UK or European based as a whole.


That said, I still had a fairly decent crop of new pedal arrivals in February - which you can mostly track from my featured articles for the month. My long-awaited Big Ear Albie finally landed - and goes straight in on slot #29 - which is though usually the Analog Chorus slot.


I picked up a couple of DOD Overdrives (Gunslinger and Looking Glass) in line and inspired by the ’9 Best DOD Electronics Pedals’ feature, and several of the in-depth reviewed pedals - the Custom Audio Art Ultrasonic, Klirrton Oh My Goat! Devil’s Distortion, and Pettyjohn Electronics’ ODI Overdrive with Classic Mods and Diodes - all of those go straight into the chain - as follows below.


I had been meaning to snag a Boss DC-2W for the longest time, and my ’32 Compact Pedal Types’ article was the final trigger for that - it will go onto slot #29 once the Albie has had a decent outing. Also both recent EHX Fuzzes - the Nano Metal Muff, and Ripped Speaker landed, as did my CryBaby Mini CBM535AR Auto-Return, and Greenhouse Effects Roots DSS Fuzz. I also picked up a NFYFX Fuzz War 2 Compact clone, and Pigtronix Mini Octava - both of which I had been after for a while.


There are 3 pedals currently still inbound - The Drunk Beaver Bat Rat Selectable Opamp Distortion, Tone Electronic’s Animalizzer Multi-Muff Fuzz, and Crazy Tube Circuits’ Constellation CV7003/OC44 edition.


My longer-term most pressing priority is still the Coppersound Triplegraph - which I will look to press play on in March when the next batch is announced / released - I may just go direct to Third Man Records again - versus waiting yet longer for it to get into UK or European distribution. I’ve also definitively come to the conclusion / decision that the the CBA Automatone CXM 1978 will be my next Reverb. I will probably look to snag one of those in March/April - when there are more in circulation again - Joel has a lot of catching up to do with the CBA dealer backlog.


So some encouraging movement for sure - and actually relatively plenty for me to get stuck into, while not necessarily earth-shatteringly radical or that significantly evolved and advanced to make a big difference to my chain. There are a few exciting releases happening in March - including a cool new modulation pedal coming from ThorpyFX - which I look forward to sharing with you all closer to its time of launch! Also looks like Brian Wampler is about to announce a Mini Rat Distortion pedal / WampRat / Ratsbane very imminently!


Here follow the individual #slot updates, note that the JA Prism is back in again on #6 - which I’ve explained elsewhere - so no point in giving additional publicity to that :


Slot #04 : Envelope Filter / Auto-Wah / Fixed Wah / WAH


February was a great month to catch up with my own wishlist backlog. I had intended to get the new CryBaby CBM535AR Auto-Return Wah for a while - and this month was ripe for that timing. I have two key further targets for this slot for the year - the Flower Pedals Hosta Auto-Wah and Filter, and the Spaceman Effects Artemis Modulated Filter. While of course current long-term favourite the Dr Scientist Dusk Dynamic Filter will regularly be back in for a rotation or two. For the CBM535AR I'm still sort of tweaking it at the moment in trying to get to the very best range and Q settings for the material I mostly play.

Slot #5 : Germanium / Sensitive Fuzz


I have voiced my admiration of Mike Matthews' recent output - where EHX are definitely on some sort of roll - with some really cool and innovative pedals continually emerging from that imprint. The Electro-Harmonix Ripped Speaker Fuzz is a great texture machine for fuzz fans, while for fuzz-detractors this is most probably evidence for the prosecution. I am a big fan of most fuzzes which have external bias control - where you can really shape the timbre and texture of the fuzz character and voicing. This pedal will sit on slot #5 until my Crazy Tube Circuits Constellation Multi-Fuzz CV7003/OC44 edition arrives some time around mid March. There are of course numerous fuzzes still in rotation on this slot - of course including former incumbent the Reeves BlackHatSound, and Fulttone Queen Bee from earlier in the year.

SLOT #10 : Mid Gain / Dynamic / Blues Breaker / Harmonic Overdrive / JTM45 / Screamer


As noted in the recent review - the Pettyjohn Electronics ODI with Classic Mods / Diodes comes in really strong as one of my favourite all-time overdrives. A great companion pedal for my Freak Fuzz Blues Driver - this has all those same dynamics with a somewhat more open character. Both are beautifully full-frequency and richly harmonically textured! Note that I still really love the Zander Circuitry Surplus Overdrive - and that continues to be in major rotation with the ODI.

Slot #24 : Modern Metal 2 / High Gain Metal 1 / Punchy Metal


The Custom Audio Art Ultrasonic High Gain Distortion has taken over the Toneczar Openhaus slot for an extended rotation / run. It delivers an equally compelling high gain distortion, albeit with a little less granular controllability - but the advantage of Two great-sounding Channels - for individual Rhythm and Lead tones. Beautifully calibrated and with great dynamics an equally impressive low noise floor as the mainstay incumbent.

Slot #26 : Modern Metal 4 / High Gain Metal 3 / Extreme Saturating Distortion / Rectifier / Diezel / Orange


Another really killer high gain distortion - in the form of Klirrton Manukfaktur's Oh My Goat! Devil's Distortion. A properly pounding brutal metal machine for super saturated tones. Has a distinctively different core texture to most, no doubt helped by its inline Boost circuit. A truly formidable heavy metal weapon really - which will no doubt enjoy an extended run on slot #26 - lots of players seem to like this in 2021!

Slot #29 : Analog Chorus (Usually!)


So Big Ear Albie 80's Ambient Modulator sort of breaks protocol and is the only digital effect in my otherwise usually entirely analog modulation section. Of course the Albie features a number of chorusing effects algorithms along with key other combinations of effects - to recreate all you favourite The Cure and The Smiths songs in particular. It seemed right that it should go in on this slot. Once it has had an extended run, the Boss DC-2W will get its turn - before I switch back to perennial favourite - VS Audio Alchemy again. I'm actually expecting quite a bit of movement in my modulation selection for this year as so many of my pedal-builder friends have new modulation pedals out this year - including Choruses, Phasers and Tremolos in particular!

Final Thoughts

As stated in the intro - February largely saw a shift in variety / different takes vs evolving the chain in any significant manner - it wasn't like I was lacking in any sort of quality anyway - while I do feel that the Pettyjohn ODI in particular is going to be a key pedal for me over the long run.


A number of key targets for the year remain to be sorted - but hopefully we will have a better sense of where things are heading during March and April. Obviously enormously looking forward to the arrival of the Boss TB-2W, Coppersound Triplegraph and Way Huge Atreides in particular, while I need to schedule in the acquisition of a Toneczar Dove Overdrive, and some more of Dave Friesema's superb Mini Function F(x) Fuzzes. Oh and some more custom Expresso FX types, and a package from my Fjord Fuzz friend - Daniel Thornhill!


I would love to hear what pedals you are chasing / highly expectant of - do drop us a line or two in the comments below! Also - would be cool to see some more comments on the 32 Preferred Pedal Compact Types - listing out your own preferences!

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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