I teased the arrival of this pedal in my recent end of August pedal-chain update. At the time I wasn’t sure how imminent its arrival was as it had appeared and immediately disappeared off the American Musical Supply website and yet was showing as in stock and available on LoopersParadise.de. You often see that with pedal launches and then it turns out that it’s some sort of preorder thing. While as on this occasion the pedals are genuinely with several dealers already.
Many will obviously recall this as a somewhat metallic rosé enclosured pedal from NAMM - my picture of which was used by most! - while it has now transformed to the more apt Marshall-style colourway black and gold. I did not realise that Mateus Asato had been attached to this project from the very start - but you can see from the actual pedal demos - that they were recorded well before this year’s NAMM and featured and earlier prototype which has just a single sort of Master Volume knob for the Overdrive voicing - and the footswitch modes for that on said earlier occasion were more tone-modifier controls like on the Broken Arrow and Golden Boy righ-hand-side Boost footswitches.
I also somewhat unwittingly as it turns out - thought that the Drive side was going to be based on the 808 circuit of the Broken Arrow, but it’s an even better eventuality of a properly appropriate Plexi-voiced Drive - so you get switchable mode Plexi and JCM800 Channels which can be stacked too - Plexi into the JCM800. This is the most highly developed of the Jackson Audio drive pedals - combining the 6 regular control knobs - including 3-band EQ and Presence for the JCM800 Channel with 3 mini-knob controls - Volume, Tone and Drive for the Plexi Channel. It seems that the Tone stack on the Plexi Channel is a passive kind of Treble-style control where CW yields Brighter and CCW Darker tones; the main 3-Band EQ is fully active Boost and Cut.
When both channels are used together - the larger Volume control takes over as a Master Volume - so as to limit unwanted noise and deliver a more balanced output. Jackson Audio’s magical Level-Matching circuit is applied on both Channels - so you can liberally switch clipping modes while maintainaining perfectly balanced output levels.
It’s important to note that his is a 9V Max pedal as opposed to the 9V-18V of the Golden Boy. Brad Jackson has engineered the pedal to work entirely magnificently with the cleanest of amps. This means that incredibly rich and harmonic distortion textures are achieved at relatively low volumes - which is of course the antithesis to high headroom pedals.
I am both delighted and a touch sad at the same time that the El Guapo will be rotating out a very long-term favourite of mine - the quite superb MI Effects Super Crunch Box V2 - which has proved to be an exceptional saturation machine for so many years. It just can’t wholly compete with the all-round experience / delivery of these highly engineered Jackson Audio pedals. I’ve said it many times on this site - that the exceptional voicing control you have from just a pair of smart footswitches is next level ingenuity. And it’s so effortless to deploy in any live playback scenario - most players really don’t know what they’re missing!
In terms of smart mode control - these pedals are head and shoulders above anything else - particularly at this compact form factor.
The Clipping options for the two channels are controlled in exactly the same way as for the Broken Arrow and Golden Boy which I’m very familiar with. You can also press on both footswitches simultaneously to step up through the level of gain in 25% increments as defined by the maximum value set on the main Gain knob.
Here are the different clipping / mode options - first for the right-hand Plexi Side; interestingly for the first time the colour sequence and essential clipping components are identical for both footswitches / channels :
Drive Footswitch - Plexi Channel
Distortion Footswitch - JCM800 Channel
As before, you press+hold each footswitch to enter ’programming’ mode - which simply means you can step through the clipping options in sequence - all beautifully elegant and simple to use on-the-fly - and with that essential Level-Matching circuit component and Master Volume control to keep everything perfectly balanced.
As with all of Brad Jackson’s circuits there are so many clever things happening under the surface here. Yes there is a slight price differential from the NAMM announcement - where these were estimated to go for $279. Upon completion of the project the pricing has been adjusted to what I call CBA level (Chase Bliss Audio) - to that very round $350 mark. Considering you’re getting two fully formed, multi-mode Drive and Distortion circuits here - I feel that on balance the pricing is largely justified. Of course I would like it to cost less, but for what it delivers the pricing is fair. This is exactly the pedal I wanted and expected it to be - and it’s going to live for quite an extended period on slot #22 of my pedal-chain.
I feel that Mateus Asato is absolutely the perfect ambassador for this pedal - and the El Guapo the perfect tool for his particular virtuosity talents. Most of these demos were presumably recorded in advance of this year's Winter NAMM and feature the earlier silver prototype with single knob control over the Plexi Channel.
Everyone who has experienced the Bloom, Broken Arrow and Golden Arrow - loves how elegantly controllable those pedals are and how beautifully intuitive and interactive they are too. As I mentioned earlier in this article - there is lots of extra detail that goes into these to make the experience such a delightful one. I'm obviously a long-term Jackson Audio fan and have supported the brand since the Prism Boost + Buffer + EQ + Preamp first arrived properly in 2017. I've only gotten to know Brad Jackson relatively recently - since the start of this year really, and I would like to thank him for his kind support and patience in his dealings with me.
Eddie Van Halen is one of my all-time favourite guitar heroes - and I've always had a JCM800 / EVH / Brown Sound Distortion style pedal on my board - and the El Guapo in my opinion is at the very peak of that format currently available. Yes I am of course a fan of Mateus Asato too - but this style of pedal I always associate with one of my lifelong favourites - Eddie Van Halen. With 4 voicings per channel, extensive tone-shaping capabilities and multiple stacking combinations - the pedal is surely the ultimate choice for that format now. The rich character of the distortion breakup and saturation can clearly be heard in all of the launch demos - I fail to see how any Plexi or JCM800 fan could not be but overwhelmingly impressed and satisfied by those tones. The price tag for sure is a somewhat lofty but fair $350 - available from your dealer now and of course direct form the Jackson Audio Store. I would recommend you browse the Jackson Audio El Guapo Page in any case as it is rich with essentially usage and help information.
If you're in the UK - I would direct your attentions to the always excellent customer-centric Andertons Store where the El Guapo will be in stock imminently. Indeed that is where I will be getting mine from in a somewhat roundabout fashion - due to land within the next couple of weeks or os I believe - actually it states 22nd September currenly!
Special thanks to Lee Anderton and Pete Huggins for helping a brother out with trans-Atlantic door-to-door conveyance! Andertons have been so very good to me over the years - so thanks for the continued good will and support.
What are you all waiting for - go get yours!