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A Quick Overview on the Best of the OneControl Mini Drives, Fuzzes and Distortions and their Alternatives

Big Muff Style FuzzBlues Driver Style OverdriveBoostBoost and OverdriveBrown Sound DistortionDistortionDriveDumble Style OverdriveFuzzMarshall Style DistortionOneControlOverdriveTubescreamer Style Overdrive+-
2018GPXOneControlMiniDrives700-min.jpg

So OneControl is sort of 1 corner of the Björn Juhl empire as such - as he designs pedals for his own BJF line, Bearfoot FX in the USA, Mad Professor in Finland, and largely mini pedals for Japan’s OneControl - although a couple of compact pedals have also been released now.

 

Many of you will know OneControl through its excellent utility and loop-switching pedals - like the Crocodile Tail. I though know them entirely through their Björn-Juhl-designed drive pedals. In fact I first bought Björn Juhl pedals from Mad Professor, then OneControl, and finally Bearfoot FX, but did not really join the dots until quite far into the experience. I have around 12 Björn Juhl pedals in total now - including 5 from OneControl - so I’m obviously a fan of his work / ears.

 

The five I currently have are:

  • Anodized Brown Distortion
  • Baltic Blue Fuzz
  • Persian Green Screamer
  • Purple Plexifier
  • Strawberry Red Overdrive (OneControl Flagship)

Most of those enjoyed principal pedal status in their respective slots early on in the evolution of my pedal-chain although none are currently active. An apart from the Baltic Blue Fuzz and Strawberry Red, each of those has some very stiff competition nowadays - even within my own collection - so I will need to see which I still select as favourites at the end of this overview.

 

Generally though Björn Juhl pedals have quite a distinctive sound signature which is normally very articulate and richly textured and can tend toward the brighter end of the tonal scale - which does though result in excellent richly harmonic tones throughout the range. With increased competition in the mini pedal sector - these seem to fluctuate in and out of fashion and in and out of distribution with often very few local distributors.

 

For me the largest selection is available on Thomann.de, but there are gaps in their selection. These used to be stocked in the UK by vendors such as Andertons, Bax, GuitarGuitar, Gear4Music and Scan UK - while currently there is just a smattering of the older pedals available still in the UK. Most of mine came from Thomann if I recall correctly.

 

Just a slight word of warning too as these are somewhat more delicate than they look. The brushed aluminium casings are quite thin and the knobs are not replaceable but attached to plastic posts. If you drop one of these pedals they will dent, and the knobs may snap off - as happened to my Baltic Blue which I had to replace - so handle these with care - Boss they are not!

 

Also the little trim-pots and dip-switches on the side of the pedals are made of rather too soft plastic - and get all too easily worn out! So be warned to handle these somewhat delicately. Other than those provisos they are actually delightful little colourful gems - both sonically and visually. Some of these are 3 times the price of the Mooers, but these generally do have a somewhat richer and more complex tonal profile. If you’re tight for space on your pedalboard - there are a few here that will most definitely give you the best results. I already have the Golden Acorn and Jubilee Red on my wishlist - we’ll see how many there may be at the end!

 

Here is the full range list:

  • Anodized Brown Distortion : based on EVH 5150 Amp / Brown Sound
  • Baltic Blue Fuzz : based on Big Muff Pi 90’s, Ram’s Head & Triangle
  • Cranberry Red Overdrive : based on Strawberry Red Overdrive, but lower gain and with additional Low Cut Trim Pot
  • Fluorescent Orange AIAB (Amp in a Box) : based on Orange Rockerverb Amp
  • Golden Acorn Overdrive Special : based on Dumble Overdrive Special Amp
  • Granith Grey Boosted : +15dB Super Clean Boost
  • Lingonberry Overdrive : based on Strawberry Red Overdrive, but higher gain and with additional Low Cut Trim Pot
  • Jubilee Red AIAB (Amp in a Box) : based on Marshall Silver Jubilee Amp
  • Persian Green Screamer : based on TS808 Tube Screamer
  • Purple Plexifier : based on 1959 Marshall Plexi Super Lead Amp
  • Raspberry Booster : vintage style textured boost / overdrive
  • Rebel Red Distortion : based on BJF Dyna Red Distortion Pedal
  • Sonic Blue Twanger : based on Fender Blackface Amps
  • Strawberry Red Overdrive : sounds like circuit evolved from Tube Screamer, slightly darker, tighter and more gain
  • Super Apricot OD : based on 60’s Supro Tube Amp

NOTE that pedals are listed alphabetically by model name with the exception of the Jubilee Red - which I thought looked better in centre of the above visual!:


Anodized Brown Distortion (EVH 5150 / Brown Sound) - £69

This was my second Brown Sound pedal - funnily enough after another Björn Juhl design pedal #1 for Mad Professor. I like both of these, neither is quite as good as my MI Effects Super Crunch Box - but both do a very acceptable Brown Sound. I also have the Xvive Golden Brownie which does a very similar thing with slightly more tone-sculpting control - albeit the single OneControl Tone dials are genius in how range they cover. For this sort of sound I think my current favourite at this size is the newer Suhr Mini Riot - but this is half of that. Mooer also has the two Brown Sound Micro PreAmps as well as Cruncher and Solo pedals - I think I will still award the category to the Mini Riot - but only by a hair's breadth. The Anodized Brown does near enough everything you would want of it.


Baltic Blue Fuzz (Muff Pi 90's / Ram's Head / Triangle) - £92

Björn's really clever take on 3 key Big Muff flavours - Pi, Ram's Head and Triangle - all accomplished by interplay between Tone and Sustain dials. You can go as smooth or as textured as you like, and when compared to Mooer's still decent Triangle Buff - this one offers more dynamics and articulation, as well as more textural richness overall. If you want to get a major flavour of Big Muff in a small pedal - then I still think this is the best one out there.


Cranberry Red Overdrive (Lower Gain Strawberry Red) - £60

This is essentially a lower gain overdrive based on the flagship Strawberry Red Overdrive - for those who want slightly more articulation in the lower gain register. It has the same controls as the original - classic 3-pot topography plus Low Cut Trim Pot on the side of the pedal. I'm not sure why you would need both the Strawberry Red and the Cranberry, but if the former is a little too much for you - then this should be more to your liking.


Fluorescent Orange AIAB (Orange Rockerverb Amp) - £55

I believe this was OneControl's first AIAB model (Amp in a Box) - essentially based on the classic Orange Amps sound - which I presume to be the flagship Rockerverb. I'm not the biggest Orange fan as such - but I do detect that slightly darker crunch tone which seems to be part and parcel of Orange's DNA. Obviously Wampler's CataPulp does the same in a compact-size enclosure and has a touch more body and range to it. But there's nothing wrong with this one either - I believe it's the only Orange-flavoured mini to date - so if that's part of your core sound and you wish to easily carry it with you, then this is a pretty solid bet. It's a good sounding pedal, just not necessarily exactly my sort of thing - Orange fans thought should be relatively happy.


Golden Acorn Overdrive Special (Dumble Overdrive Special Amp) - £104

This is still my favourite sounding mini Dumble clone. I somewhat prefer its core tone and articulation to say Mooer's Rumble Drive. Most Björn Juhl pedals have a degree of sizzle to them, and I feel that with the Golden Acorn - he more closely captures my favourite characteristics of the Dumble sound - that singing drive with just a hint of fuzz on the edges of the breakup. This has been on my wishlist for a long while - I still need to get my core Fuzz mission out of the way - before I revisit some of these more classic drive tones again.


Granith Grey Boosted (+15dB Clean Boost) - £69

This is kind of the odd one out here being a sort of high-headroom clean boost - with the character of keeping the signal clean as long as possible. If you put this in front of a drive - the push will thought add to the gain, while after a drive this pedal will only ever add volume - there's obviously no tone-sculpting here, just a single dial. It has plenty of range on tap, and is truly one of the best clean boost of its type.


Lingonberry Overdrive (Higher Gain Strawberry Red) - £117

This is the final corner of the Strawberry Red Overdrive triangle - we've already covered the Lower Gain Cranberry, and this one give you quite a bit more gain and aggression than the standard Strawberry Red. Obviously there were players that wanter both more and less of the Strawberry Red - so this caters to those that need a little more in the higher gain register - it sounds slightly darker too I find. This pedal does not seem to be in stock in Europe, but there are a number available on Reverb.com and Ebay.


Jubilee Red AIAB (Amp in a Box) : based on Marshall Silver Jubilee Amp - c$145

I really like this recently released Marshall clone - has a lovely rich harmonic quality, and it really helps having both Mid and Treble Tone Controls. This is an instant star in the making, but has yet to properly reach distribution as I've seen next to none offered for sale yet. Truly a great sounding mini - should be on most players' wishlists!


Persian Green Screamer (Ibanez TS808) - £95

This was for a significant while my favourite Tube Screamer style pedal, preferred even over Ibanez's own TS Mini. There is so much competition in this area now, and however great this one sounds and its does - I would still probably prefer the slightly more versatile KHDK Ghoul Screamer today. All these mini Tube Screamers sound slightly different - and you should really audition each one to see whether it hits your desired tonality. The Persian Green has plenty of range and rich harmonics, and still gets a rotation every now and again - I really like this one too.


Purple Plexifier (1959 Marshall Plexi Super Lead Amp) - £135

Have no doubt that this is another great pedal - and fully represents that gorgeous chewy Marshall drive sound, for me though it gets somewhat overshadowed by the more versatile Xotic SL Drive - with I have in the very useful Alchemy Audio modified version with externalised voicing / dip-switches. I still really like the Plexifier which gives me a slightly more open sounding tone, while I tend to use the SL Drive for quite a dark Plexi tone. I feel most players will be highly satisfied with this one - it truly sounds great, it just does not have quite the same degree of flexibility / versatility that the modded SL Drive does.


Raspberry Booster (Vintage style textured boost / overdrive) - c£100

Diametrically opposite to the Granith Clean Booster, this is more of a vintage-style tone-shaping booster - which also works really well as a low-to-medium-gain overdrive - really richly textured with plenty of body - and sort of amp-like dynamics. Most should appreciate the sweet tones that emanate from this tiny box - it's another one that I really like! Alas it is not readily available in Europe, but there are a few on Reverb.com.


Rebel Red Distortion (BJF Dyna Red Distortion) - c£100

This is essentially the Mini edition of Björn Juhl's much sought-after Dyna Red distortion - available in compact size from both BJF and Bearfoot FX and in mini size from OneControl. A richly textured mid-gain distortion with plenty of sizzle. It's got a slightly rawer style about it than some of the others here but does have quite a beautifully complex breakup. Alas these are in short supply with only a few second-hand ones currently on Reverb.com.


Sonic Blue Twanger (Fender Blackface Amps) - £95

A slightly more mellow pedal for the Fender Blackface fans. I would really prefer more of a grittier Tweedy sound - but I can't deny that this one is right on the money for the territory it's aiming at, it's just not really for me I guess - I prefer a little more texture in my drives while this is mostly super smooth!


Strawberry Red Overdrive (Tube Screamer Evolved?) - £69

I guess this is sort of OneControl's flagship pedal - which I see as a considerably beefed up bluesy kind of Tube Screamer+. For me it sits somewhere between a Tube Screamer and a Boss Blues Driver. Its advantage is a significant gain range - which takes you right through the range of low and medium overdrive and into glorious mid-gain distortion. It sits in the middle of the Cranberry and Lingonberry Overdrives which are lower and higher gain versions of the Strawberry Red respectively. I find the Strawberry Red pretty perfectly encapsulated as it is - a really handy and versatile drive pedal. It's everyman status possibly does not give it a sufficiently unique voice of its own - but have no doubt that this is a great / classic even drive pedal, even though it's probably still not quite my favourite OneControl one, but a suitable flagship nonetheless!


Super Apricot OD (60's Supro Tube Amp) - £117

I guess this is sort of the third OneControl AIAB type pedal - based on a vintage Supro Amp. I must confess that I have little more than a passing acquaintance of Supro amps, so cannot gauge its authenticity as such. It does sound suitably gorgeous though - particularly on mellow / smooth settings, but has a full range of texture and jangle if you need that too. I actually rather quite like this one also!


Final Thoughts and My Favourites!

It's interesting to review all these now as I probably haven't touched on some of these for a good 18 months. It's good to be able to reaffirm and correct existing preconceptions. As I said before there's a lot more competition around nowadays - both in terms of quality and price - and I consider all factors of course - while overall tone / versatility / utility is the main decider.

 

I still find the OneControl drives to be pretty much uniformly excellent, there are really no duds here - although not all will necessary appeal to your own tastes. I need to think though in terms of if I was buying these sorts of pedals today - would I still get the 5 I already have or would I prefer something else currently. So even though I still love them, if there is something that I already find better out there in the world - that pedal has to be demoted to second tier - which includes the Anodized Brown, Persian Green and Purple Plexifier. I would in preference to those probably nowadays get the Suhr Mini Riot, KHDK Ghoul Screamer and Alchemy Modded Xotic SL Drive - the last mentioned of course which is still active in my pedal-chain and has been since I acquired it.

 

The Baltic Blue Fuzz and Strawberry Red Overdrive still stand up on their own merits - I personally don't really see the point of the Cranberry or Lingonberry pedals - the Strawberry Red seems perfectly pitched to me. I am also not particularly a fan of the core Orange Amps tone, nor the Fender Blackface style, and I already have several boost options in my chain - so I don't really need the plain / clean Granith boost.

 

What then remains are my 7 favourites - with the 3 at the top of the list for acquisition being the Golden Acorn, Jubilee Red and really pleasantly surprising Rasberry Booster!:

  • Baltic Blue Fuzz
  • Golden Acorn Overdrive Special
  • Jubilee Red AIAB
  • Raspberry Booster
  • Rebel Red Distortion
  • Strawberry Red Overdrive
  • Super Apricot OD

I hope these words have gone some way towards helping you in your own ToneQuest.

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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