I’ve actually been meaning to do this post for a while now - I’ve had several requests over the years to do a ’best of’ feature for Catalinbread - with some even wanting one specifically on delays - which actually only number 6 and therefore don’t quite merit a solo outing - although we’ll see. So this at last is that post - taking in the best of new and established, innovative and unique - across the 4 sub-categories - Foundation Overdrives | Delays and Reverbs | Boosts, Fuzzes & Distortions | Modulations. I’ve thought long and hard about it, and figure the above selection is about right for this builder’s highlights. I personally have 6 Catalinbread pedals as I will detail later, but own only 4 of the top 9. I’ve selected to do a mix of my favourites and those Catalinbread best reviewed and best-loved pedals around the world.
Catalinbread has gone through a number of upheavals recently, and I’m not sure how entirely I stand as regards the ’management’ of said company nowadays, a criticism that could also be levelled at DigiTech. Catalinbread was founded by one Nicholas Harris back in 2003, but he alas died in a freak weather-related traffic incident in 2016 which meant lead engineer Howard Gee sort of took over as company figurehead for a while. Howard and a number of the senior engineers then tried in effect to do a management buyout of Catalinbread to wrest control back from the Harris family which had taken over the estate as such following Nick’s death. The management buyout process ended in acrimony though and Howard and his partners who were responsible for sustaining the company after Nick’s passing were kicked to the kerb. I’m really not sure who is in charge currently, but Andy Martin still seems to like these pedals, and I picked up the recent limited edition Red Mod of the Dirty Little Secret - which I really like - so I still seem to like this builder’s output too - at least for now.
In prepping for this article I had acquired 5 pedals when I started writing, but as is often the case, and in the process - decided I really wanted the Oscillating Distortion - that is the Teaser Stallion. As I’ve said before - some enclosures appeal to me, and others not so much - so while I really don’t like the recent limited edition pink colourway version - I really like the general edition that came before that - in the orange and yellow. I had to hunt one down, and am not completely sure I got the right one - as the one I initially paid for on Reverb.com turned out to be not in stock. And the replacement I then went for did not have a product picture! So the yellow and orange version is the most likely outcome, while I might inadvertently have acquired the even older silver version - I will post that as an update!
Generally I would say that Catalinbread is most famous for its delay and drive pedals, and then fuzzes. In delay - its Belle Epoch (Echoplex) and Echorec are literally everywhere - on pretty much every other pedalboard. They don’t suit my stereo rig, but I actually really like most of the Catalinbread delays - especially the quirkier trio of Adineko Oil Can Delay, Bicyle Travelling Delay, and Csidman Skipping/Glitching Delay. There’s no doubt though that the Belle Epoch and Echorec are the flagships here.
In the Foundation Overdrive series I may only have 2 to date - the Dirtly Litte Secret Red Mod, and Galileo Boosted Vox style drives, but I have long had the RAH (Treble-boosted HiWatt) and Sabbra Cadabra (Treble-boosted Laney Subpergroup) on my wishlist, recently joined by the Ampeg style SFT. The remainder of the range is decent too, but I have my own preferred alternatives for most of those others.
The Delay & Reverb series is particularly strong - with all those delays I mentioned already and joined by the Talisman Plate Reverb, and Topanga Spring Reverb - each pretty grand in their category and each featured on this side before also. In fact, a great many Catalinbread pedals have been featured on this site over the years - and remain viable options within their respective categories.
In the Boost, Fuzz & Distortion category I recently featured the Karma Suture Germanium Harmonic Percolator and Naga Viper Treble booster, while pretty much all this range has featured on my site in respective categories at some stage - including the Octopussy Octave-Up Fuzz, and Perseus Sub-Octave Fuzz. I have 4 from this section - the deliciously odd Antichthon Oscillating Fuzz, authentic Moseley Fuzzrite Fuzz, Katzenkönig Tone Bender / Rat Hybrid and just recently - the Teaser Stallion Oscillating Distortion. I feel I will likely acquire one or two more from here in the forthcoming years.
In the Modulation Series pretty much all those 4 have been featured on this site too - the Valcoder Tremolo, Zero Point Flanger, Callisto Chorus/Vibrato and Coriolis Effect Multi-Modulator which I didn’t quite get at this year’s Winter NAMM, but have since realised makes a really decent all-round waveform modulator - just not particularly to my own specific preferences - but it is no doubt the strongest in its category which is why it makes the top 9 - me being objective as I always try to be!
So this article features first the Top 9 per the above visual, then those I already have or am considering and have a place in or around my wishlist, and then the remainder of the range which does not appeal to me quite as strongly or where I have one or more preferred alternatives from other builders.
Pedals as always are listed in alphabetical order by name:
I would probably say that right now this is Catalinbread's current flagship pedal - has much loved by many a guitar luminary including Mick Taylor of That Pedal Show. I dare say I see more of the Echorec on actual pedalboards in pure volume terms, but the larger Belle Epoch is a fantastic engineering achievement in replacing pretty much every aspect of the original Echoplex tape delay unit. The big miss here for me is a lack of stereo outputs - which I why I take the Strymon Volante over this and Dawner Prince's excellent Boonar. Many players prefer the sound of those mono output delays - while the Volante of course gives you more in overall features. Some players have preferences for particular builders for particular categories, and I would probably take Strymon for delays and reverbs over most others. That said and sticking to the focus here - this is a gorgeous sounding delay with everything bar stereo output - if you're looking for a tape style delay for a mono rig - then this should most definitely be in contention.
This is a actually quite a simple pedal superficially, but the magic is in the interaction of its 3 dials - and those in-betweeny-places! What you have in effect here is a Sustainer, Wah, Filter, Pitch Shifter and Harmonizer all in one. The 3 knobs - Position (Dry/Wet Mix), Velocity (Pitch - 0 Hz / Octave Down / None), Acceleration (2-Pole Low Pass Filter). And inportantly you have a 2-way toggle switch which allows you to control either Velocity or Acceleration with and Expression pedal. Finally the Hold footswich stops, holds and loops the current sample giving you typically stutter sorts of textures. To be fully enjoyed, this pedal requires a lot of foot interaction and most definitely an Expression pedal in tandem - which some will like and others not. The cleverness here really is the variety of effects you can get out of so few controls really - I can see the appeal for sure, but this is not really the kind of pedal I personally naturally gravitate towards.
I've mentioned several times that the MKIII DLS has long been Andy Martin's personal favourite Marshall Style (Plexi) pedal - yes Andy of Pro Guitar Shop, Tone Report and now Reverb.com fame. This pedal has been on my wishlist for the longest time - but each time I went for a preferred alternative - most recently the Menatone The King and REVV's new G2 Overdrive. Yet Catalinbread finally managed to reel me in with proper re-worked and refined version of the pedal. There was a Purple Levant edition back in 2015 - but that was purely a colourway option. The Red Mod has significantly re-tuned dial ranges for more punch, more gain and just more tweakability overall. This pedal has only just recently arrived, so I've not fully formulated whether I prefer it to current incumbent on that slot - the Menatone King. And then I need to go through the whole exercise again when the G2 arrives - the Red Mod DLS will get a decent innings though and I will put it through its paces. The one thing they should really have done here though is externalised the still internal Super Lead / Super Bass voicing switch - surely they've been watching what Xotic Efects and Vemuram are doing amongst others - having a key voicing switch inside the pedal makes no sense nowadays - it really should be externalised in one way or another!
While the Belle Epoch Deluxe is obviously the most accomplished of Catalinbread's delays, I would hazard a guess that this is its most popular pedal. I have seen this on so many different pedalboards - again Mick Taylor uses it quite a lot, and we witnessed it recently on the Chris Buck That Pedal Show episode - this delay is just in very wide pedalboard distribution and understandably so. This is one of the most perfect miniaturisations of the original Binson Echorec unit - the 4 parameter dials Swell, Tone, Delay Time and Mix give you near enough everything you need - and when combined with the 12-position Program Selector you get an excellent facsimile of the Echorec in a very compact pedal enclosure. Many prefer the added tweakability the Dawner Prince Boonar provides - but if you want to keep things simple and effective this is the one for you. It sounds incredible really, and actually works really well as an always-on delay. Even though a mono delay - his one has still appeared on my wishlist on and off. Since I now have the Strymon Volante, it's appeal is somewhat diminished, but for its size it sure packs a punch.
Catalinbread's pretty faitful Silicon replica of the original late 60's splatty and unrefined Mosrite Fuzzrite Fuzz - which never gained quite the following of its other 60's peers - the Fuzz Face and Tone Bender. The Fuzzrite is less flexible and less articulate in most ways - does not have that guitar-volume-knob clean-up etc. It's a little rawer and more ragged, and became popular with garage punks and noiseniks! This is however still a fabulous fuzz voice if you know how to best use it - and is probably closer to the original Maestro fuzz overall in its somewhat unrefined nature. That said Catalinbread have done a lot of work with the Volume and Depth controls - to give you far more variety than was possible with those original units. This still though happens to be a somewhat acquired taste for most fuzz players, and is unlikely to ever reach the same degree of popularity as say the Fuzz Face, Tone Bender or Big Muff.
I actually really like pretty much all of Catalinbread's fuzzes, and have seen fit to add 3 to my collection already - including this rather interesting hybrid of Tone Bender and Rat. I really see this as more of a rat style pedal than a Tone Bender even though it includes characteristics of both. I don't always include it in my Rat overviews as it is strictly speaking a hybrid even though its core sound is mostly Rat Distortion! You get 4 controls - Input (Input Sensitivity), Gain, Filter and Volume - three of those obviously directly derived from the Rat topology; while the Input dial kind of tames or pushes the distortion character over the top. I tend to like this pedal best at relatively cranked values - preferring to use my VFE Alpha Dog for subtler flavours of Rat - even though this one is capable of that too. As a fan of the Rat format - I think I have 12 now of that type - I really like the slightly different character this one brings, and it still gets in on the rotation fairly regularly.
The RAH or Royal Albert Hall pedal was designed to sound like Jimmy Page's Treble-Boosted HiWatt from a seminal 1970 Led Zeppelin gig at that famous venue. Catalinbread in fact had another HiWatt style pedal out prior to this - the 4-knob WIIO (The Who) pedal with separate Treble and Bass controls; the newer RAH combines the WIIO with the 3-Band EQ from the Dirty Little Secret to produced a slightly more refined and tweakable HiWatt style pedal - which though does not quite match the slightly more rawness and gain of the original WIIO circuit. For me the mid-frequencies are key, and while I've considered hunting down the WIIO, the RAH is the one that's on my wishlist - I've been wanting one of these for a while - it just hasn't happened yet!
This is another Catalinbread pedal that I've had on my wishlist for a while - although there still seem to be some differing opinions on its prowess - I still really rather quite like it. It's a take on that essential Tony Iommi Black Sabbath Treble-Boosted Laney Supergroup Amp sound - a slightly fuzzy drive / distortion. To my ears it sounds about right, which the Galileo also did from my research, but in playback I found that could have done with both more range on output volume and gain - so I can't say for sure about this one. Tone-wise it sounds about right, but we must also contend with playback and feel - and how this pedal ongoing responds and fits into setups. I still want this one, it still remains on the wishlist, but it hasn't been so much a priority of late. There are plenty of clones of this pedal about though which seems to attest to its still significant popularity! The Sabbra has 4 controls - Presence (Post Gain EQ), Gain, Volume and Range (Treble Booster) which give you surprisingly varied tone-shaping abilities - the key one here is probably range though - which generates those fuzzy overtones!
I had not been particularly aware of this pedal until Catalinbread recently re-introduced a limited pink colourway edition of this. I generally quite like pink pedals, but for the Teaser Stallion much prefer the black, yellow and orange main version that preceded it. The very original versions were landscape medium silver boxes, then regular compact enclosure in silver or yellow, then the black, yellow and orange as pictured, and finally the pink limited edition. For those who are familiar with the Antichthon - this is along similar lines, but being a Distortion rather than Fuzz - and not quite as weird reacting, but close. You have 4 dials at your disposal here - Feedback, Timbre (Character), Volume and Distortion, as well as the 2-way Oscillation switch - for which weird things happen when you engage it. Like the Antichthon it is very sensitive to the Volume and Tone dials on your guitar, and although not quite as temperamental, it produces still some interesting flourishes - including a Pink Floyd style 'Seagull' sound! It can just be a fairly normal distortion if you need it to be, but it has several more interesting characteristics besides - definitely a rather unusual pedal, and why it is included here.
There are two in this list I already have - the Antichthon Oscillating Fuzz and the Galileo Boosted Vox style drive - both excellent pedals in their own right, but not quite up to the level of the Top 9. I chose the Teaser Stallion over the Antichthon, and while I had the Galileo in my pedal-chain for quite a while I always felt it could do with a little more gain and more volume, which is what I get with my preferred Bearfoot FX Emerald Green Distortion Machine.
Besides those is the smaller compact version of the Belle Epoch - somewhat overshadowed by its more recent bigger Deluxe brother but still a great delay in its own right. More interesting for me is the quirkier Bicycle Delay - which even though a mono pedal, I would still use probably as a more textural element within my stereo pedal-chain - definitely something unique.
I also really quite like the Germanium Karma Suture Harmonic Percolator and the Ampeg-like SFT Drive - all great choices, and all on my wishlist.
It's interesting how many of these have been featured on this site - I've pretty much touched on each of these at one stage or another. There are still some unique gems here - like the Adineko Oil Can Delay, and I've seen Paul Gilbert favouring the Callisto Chorus. The Csidman Skipping/Glitch delay has feature a whole number of times in both delay and glitch categories - and so the list goes on. The two Formual drive pedals were also both in my recent Tweed Drive overview.
I really don't think there is a duff Catalinbread pedal in the range. There are some that don't particularly interest me, or where I have preferred alternatives from other suppliers. But generally all of these pedals are made with a lot of care and due attention. I've stated before that I don't particularly like the knobs on these pedals - while I think the graphics here are largely quite elegant and distinctive. You can always pick out a Catalinbread pedal easily on a pedalboard. Price-wise they're pretty reasonable too all-round, and don't suffer as much with Dollar to Pound parity as many of their USA Peers do.
I've already just stated that there isn't a duffer amongst these, but then again these pedals are of course different degrees of good or outstanding. Catalinbread is still persevering with side-mounted jacks in the main where most competitors are moving to top-mounted jacks. There is also quite an old-fashioned touch in some of the interior trim-pots and switches. As is the modern trend some of those should definitely be externalised - like the DLS's Super Lead / Super Bass switch - makes no sense to have those controls out of reach??
As my rig is stereo and I exclusively use stereo Delays and Reverbs it takes quite a number of these pedals out of consideration/contention for me. I also prefer to have tap-tempo on my modulations which removes quite a few more. It's really the Drives and Fuzzes here that I like the most - as is born out by my own collection of 6 - Antichthon, Dirty Little Secret Red Mod, Fuzzrite, Galileo, Katzenkönig, and Teaser Stallion.
I will definitely be getting the RAH and Sabbra Cadabra at some stage and probably one or two more from the range eventually - bringing the tally to a round 10 - when I will do a feature once more - this time on my own Catalinbread favourites. On this occasion I have though tried to mix up my preferences with the best and most popular Catalinbread has to offer. And even though I'm personally not particularly enamoured with the Coriolis Effect, it's still great to see that Catalinbread is continuing to innovate, while DigiTech seems to have totally stagnated since they turfed out Tom Cram and his team of very capable engineers - I hope Tom was able to take some of those across with him to his new Spiral Electric FX venture.
Funnily enough and despite original intentions - I seem to have focused most on the Catalinbread delays in this post overall - with only the Adineko not getting a featured video here. Some players will obviously see Catalinbread as principally a time-based effects specialist!