I obviously featured 3 of these in my recent Eddie Van Halen Pedals roundup, and have only just completed the overview of compact enclosure EVH-style pedals in that same territory. As a final bookmark to Eddie’s legacy, at least for now, I’ve decided to expand the scope of the medium enclosure alternatives for those looking to recreate that classic EVH Brown Sound and have more real-estate/ floor-space at their disposal.
As with the compact enclosure exercise there is a mix of targeted brown Brown Sound pedals, Plexi and JCM800 style variants and at least one slightly quirky one that really delivers the goods. I decided in the end to limit the selection to 9 for sake of symmetry and ease of referencing as much as anything. This means there was no room for the following assortment :
While each of those is also very capable of dialling in the correct amount of EVH sizzle. I though thought that the selection of 9 would be adequate to the task of giving enough different and diverse options.
At the medium enclosure size I own 5 pedals which are all excellent at delivering the required tones - the Pushking Ironfinger, BYOC Crown Jewel, Empress Multidrive, Suhr Eclipse, and Strymon Riverside. In fact you could probably get satisfactory tones out of the Strymon Sunset too - but the Riverside is really the more pertinent one in this context.
I’ve already indicated that I aim to snag the 3 core ones eventually - EVH 5150 Overdrive, Seymour Duncan Diamondhead and Wampler Plexi Deluxe. While I’ve also been interested in the 320 Design Brown Feather, Mad Professor Loud’n Proud and PedalPalFX 800 Gold Overdrive in particular. This has evidently become something of an obsession for me - but I will surely wise up eventually and call that status satisfactory at some stage - I really don’t have space to accommodate them all!
Here follow the usual details, pedals are arranged alphabetically by brand as is customary :
This Japanese-made very obviously targeted Brown Sound distortion pedal has a rather ingenious dual-control EQ section where the 'Wide' band allows you to sweep the frequencies from Low to High where you can then enhance the frequency band you land on by tweaking the 'Narrow' control. So one is a sweep really, and the other the fine-tune for that. Other than that you just have very regular Volume and Gain knobs. This is a really phenomenal pedal which gets the maximum out of its 4 controls and really hits the spot on EVH's Brown Sound. Moreover it works really well with Guitar Volume knob clean-up - so there lots of inherent dynamics with this particular take. 320 Design does have a few overseas distributors including one in France - Micros Boutique. The occasional example also turns up on Reverb.com every now and again - and there's one currently on there for £230 equivalent - which is considerable less than the regular RRP it seems. This is one that has always intrigued me - but it's a matter really of snagging one at the right price!
This awesome 'Marshall in a box' with added Boost/Fuzz is based on the vintage 4-input amps which helped define the sound of bands like AC/DC, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Free, Yngwie Malmsteen and others. You get a rather splendid 10 controls here - Bass | Middle | Treble | Gain | Volume | Presence | Fuzz Volume | Boost/Fuzz | Character - Compressed/Open | Fuzz/Boost Mode. You also of course get a second Boost/Fuzz footswitch for ramping things up to the next level - covering all varieties of Marshall through JTM, JPM, Plexi and pushing onto JCM even. This is one of the most versatile and satisfying MIAB types currently out there and has long been on my wishlist, but never quite close enough to the top to trigger acquisition yet. This can easily hit those EVH style tones - but also deliver classic AC/DC and Hendrix - just a really cleverly engineered and smartly versatile box. There's just so many great choices out there - while this still sits firmly on my wishlist. Its time will come!
I've covered this pedal a lot of late and obviously it's pretty decent at recreating Eddie's tone and as I've already mentioned - this is the one actual branded EVH Signature pedal that I quite want to own. With its controls for Output, Bass, Mid, Treble, Gain, Gate, and Boost-button - it does pretty much everything that you want. There are other alternatives that you can dial in somewhat finer and a greater variety of range. But this pedal should certainly be in the frame for most. There may be other pedals that you prefer though or that deliver a little more - but everything about this is solid. I of course wold have preferred it in a more vertical orientation - particularly since it doesn't justify its orientation with multiple footswitches. That's why in the original suggested trio I stated a slight preference for the Seymour Duncan Diamondhead and Wampler Plexi Deluxe!
I first came across Venezuelan builder PedalPalFX courtesy of Phillip McKnight's YouTube 'Know Your Gear' show - some years ago. Since then there have been a few demos online - including one or two by Andy Martin. There's no doubt that PedalPal is a very accomplished builder of MIAB style boxes - having delivered a variety of mostly medium-BB vertical style enclosures. The range currently consists of the compact The Breaker Drive (Bluesbreaker), and medium 959 Plexi Emulator V2 (1959 Super Lead), and 800 Gold Overdrive V3 (Hot Rod JCM800). The newest medium boxes now have I/II twin channels as such to represent the twin inputs of those classic amps - where one input offers somewhat louder output, with some variations in EQ too. The new V2 and V3 varieties take the replication up a notch to go even closer to the original source material. The latest 800 Gold Overdrive also absorbs the former 034 Night 'Slash' pedal variety as the #34 Mod has now been carried across with its own dedicated toggle-switch. You get 4-band EQ including Presence, with Volume and Gain and a G-Voicing Low/High Gain Structure toggle switch and a secondary Footswitch to toggle between the two amp Input types. I was in two minds about whether to feature the 959 or 800 here - and decided in the end that the 800 was a little more straight-forward and overall closer to the mark. I've long wanted one of these, and seems I've been fortunate to have held out as these continue to evolve - and simply get better and better. PedalPalFX does have a shop on Reverb.com but is frequently out of stock, While right now it has one of its latest 959 V2 varieties available. I do believe I will have one of these in the collection before too long.
I came across one of these very serendipitously while browsing the Effekt-Boutique.de web store a while back. I was so impressed that I snagged one of the first ones from the very first batch. This smart Parametric Mids + Q-Control distortion pedal is actually Axel 'Ironfinger' Ritt's signature pedal - the lead guitar player from the band Grave Digger. And while obviously aimed at Axel's signature tone - so powerful is the EQ section that it will tackle most distortion varieties with ease - and does indeed do a particularly fine line in EVH Brown Sound Voicing. Controls here are Output, Treble, Gain, Mid (Cut/Boost), Frequency (350Hz-4kHz), Bass, and Q. And as ably demonstrated by Axel Ironfinger himself - this pedal is capable of covering pretty much most of the key heavy metal and hard rock tones - where the Brown Sound settings are very suitably impressive indeed. This is still a very much unsung and under-the-radar pedal which deserves much more attention.
I don't believe Seymour Duncan's Diamondhead Distortion has had as much attention as it deserves either - this is another superb MIAB variety with a further additional boost level - so 3rd stage as such - courtesy of a Tube Screamer style boost activated by the Saturation toggle-switch. The 7 controls comprise of Bass, Mid, Treble, Boost, Level, Gain, and Saturation On/Off switch. While the second footswitch activates the Second stage more clean Boost. I really like this pedal and its another unsung variety which deserves to do better. It entered the market at quite a high price level in the UK in particular versus its obvious competitors which I feel has impacted too. Prices are very much more favourable now and I've seen this as low as £209. While Andertons are somewhat on their own at the current £249 RRP.
This is the most recently released and the latest of Marc Ahlfs Skreddy Pedals. Most evidently voiced after the Marshall Super Lead 100 and another ideal candidate for Brown Sound. It doesn't hurt that Marc uses Van Halen's 'You Really Got Me' riff in his demo. This has 6 very straight-forward controls - 3-band EQ, plus Volume, Drive and Sag - the last mentioned of course which defines the elasticity / tightness of the distortion's low-end. This is another excellent candidate here and we all know how good Marc's ear for tone is. We're really spoilt for choice in this selection.
This has always been the first obvious alternative to the EVH 5150 Overdrive and usually gets mentioned in reference to that all the time. In most instances I understand that players either go for Eddie's endorsed signature box or Brian's vertical alternative. The Pinnacle Deluxe has a better form factor and second footswitch over the EVH510 and some additional advantages up its sleeve with its 9 controls - Bass, Mid, Treble, Gain, Volume, Boost, Sag push-button, Modern/Vintage Mode Switch, and Boost/Gain Mode Switch. I've indicated that I really like all 3 principal varieties I of course included it in my original Eddie Van Halen pedal overview feature - and that very much means it has to be here too! I can't possibly add all to my collection, but this has been an acquisition target for a while. As is always the case though - new targets pop up daily!
I've featured German builder Weehbo a few times on this site. Another somewhat overlooked builder but one that has a very impressive roster of pedals including this JCM800 variant - which of course delivers suitably satisfying EVH Brown Sound tones. There are 7 controls at your service here - Level, Bass, Middle, Mid Freq Low/High switch, Treble, Gain and Input. The Input dial here obviously does similar things to the PedalPalFX 800's I/II mode switch - with emulates also the original inspiration amp's dual input jacks. This delivers a quite neat sort of take on Parametric Mids via that 2-way switch - and with a second Gain Boost footswitch certainly offers plenty of versatility and variety. Another option worthy of some due consideration.
There must be something wrong with me! I'm already overflowing in MIAB / Brown Sound style pedals and I still seem to want more. I'm really still very fascinated by the subtle shades of differences in all the MIAB style pedals and all those nuances in chewy texture - how some are slightly brighter and more elastic while others are darker and denser.
I feel the core selection is an excellent frame of reference and from my further list of alternatives I could have chosen quite a few more. I feel for nostalgia reasons alone that the EVH 5150 Overdrive is still a very strong choice here - but each of these other ones has something special to offer too - no two are exactly alike - and the Mad Professor Loud'n Proud and Pushking Ironfinger deliver even more variety and versatility than most.
I obviously like and want my original referenced principal trio (5150, Diamondhead and Pinnacle DLX) but I'd also quite like a 320 Design Brown Feather, Mad Professor Loud'n Proud, and PedalPalFX Pal 800 Gold Overdrive V3. Of course something will have to give eventually and I will stop when I've added a few more - which may not be the ones defined here - by that time there will likely be some further options added into the fray.
Just like how Eddie's riffs and techniques were copied by pretty much everyone - such is also the case with his specific and very particular sizzling tone - which remains a key target essential for legions of rock guitarists to this day and beyond.
I really don't think you can go wrong with any of these - all have a great means of refining and honing in not that sound - and some have a little more prowess still in that area - which are your own personal favourites?