I’ve noted elsewhere that I’ve entered a phase of exploring Brooks Blackhawk’s range of formidable pedals - where this article is really just a short summary introduction to some of the key aspects of his broad range of overdrives, distortions, fuzzes, and preamps. Brooks also makes very formidable Tube Amps - which I will not be covering on this occasion. All pertinent details and references can be found on the Blackhawk Amplifiers website. The purpose of this article is simply to give you a basic understanding of what to look out for - I will go into further details in forthcoming articles - including the comparative review of my first 3 Blackhawk pedals, leading into a more substantial and in-depth Range Review and Buyer’s Guide.
There’s certainly a lot to get stuck into - and my aim here is really just to familiarise you with the key pertinent facets of those pedals - so you can more easily figure out which ones will best appeal to your preferences.
Initially when you encounter this brand - that smart mix of Tribal symbols and Runes can be a little overwhelming for such a large selection of mostly all-black pedals. I know that it took me a wee while to fully get to grips with everything that was on offer - with some helpful guidance from Brooks of course. The intention here is just to ease you into these pedals in a few handy and easily palatable stages and steps.
For the purposes of this piece we’re really just interested in the key features - further details will be revealed in due course via subsequent articles. Brooks and I are still figuring out how best to structure and present the Range Overview. Where I will probably first tackle my current Blackhawk Trifecta before venturing into more expansive territory.
Typical Elder Futhark Era Rune Alphabet above
All pedal builders have challenges with ascribing functional labels and legends onto their pedals - how best to consistently, easily, and clearly apply those on what is often a relatively quite small surface area.
Brooks drew on his knowledge of various Tribal Symbols and Viking Runes in particular for an elegant and highly consistent and visual way of depicting knob functions. The magic here is how quickly you get used to those symbols. Obviously there is a certain familiarity of form at play here.
Brooks has had to be creative to a significant degree - and there are several innovations in how he has evolved his own particular character / symbol / glyph set - which doesn't fully align with the above referenced typical Runic alphabet, and takes some smart artistic licence in places.
Some of the Runes have been repurposed - in that the typical 'A' Rune symbol is used for the 'F', and the 'V' symbol is rather an inverted Runic 'U'. The 'D' is entirely innovated while similar to the 'Þ', and the 'Ø' for Octave Blend another extrapolated character. The most unusual glyph or symbol here is the highly stylised sort of pitchfork / trident - which represents the 'G' for gain. Conversely the typical 'G' Rune - 'X' is used to represent 'Gating' where the X symbol is often used to represent that in modern notation.
As Brooks' symbols are largely reminiscent of our own western Roman alphabets - those symbols are particularly easy to reference and recall. What initially looks a little complex is really rather simple and elegant with just 13 symbols consistently covering all those necessary functions.
Brooks is not alone in deploying symbols - both Fjord Fuzz and Caroline Guitar Company deploy symbols too - to varying degrees of ease of recall. Certain builders fall foul of using multiple different symbols for the same function, or using two of the exact same symbols on the same pedal interface - both of which approaches obviously lead to confusion. No such issues with Blackhawk though as everything here is wholly and robustly consistent!
This is something that wasn't immediately evident to me - particularly on the Blackhawk Reverb.com Store as it's not initially totally clear that there are indeed 3 different choices of enclosure style - with Blackened (Artistically Distressed) and Copper Hammertone typically carrying a $20 premium. Also generally the Copper Hammertone editions tend to be fairly few and far-between - and almost entirely based on individual commissions / acquisitions. While there is typically a good stock of both Black and Blackened varieties more generally available.
For the purposes of illustration I've chosen the 3 treatments for the first pedal that caught my eye - the Balrog V3 High Gain Metal Distortion. Here you can gauge exactly which varieties Brooks makes.
I initially did not spot the Copper Option, and I've pretty much gone down the standard Black route now. Perhaps I will acquire some Copper Hammertone varieties too for particular varieties. I need to decide during the Range Overview exercise which of all of these appeal to me the most - and which I feel would be strongest in Copper enclosures. I quite like to have some degree of demarkation and classification - to help me organise and logically deploy each of those pedals. You have to have some sort of methodology to keep proper tabs on things and to make sense of everything - particularly when your collection runs to over 600 specimens.
Although I quite like the Blackened editions, I've kind of decided that the Black and Copper varieties are more to my liking. Each of my current Trifecta is in Black - as per the below image, I still have a fair number of these pedals to add to the collection - and some will undoubtedly be Copper - I just need to rationalise which and why!
My own current Trio / Trifecta of acquired Blackhawk Pedals above
This is really just a one-line per pedal summary to give you some guide as to the depth and breadth of the Blackhawk Range of pedals - which currently number 29 - where for some - like the Valhalla Sludgy Fuzz there are a number of quite different editions.
The above visual shows my 3 Blackhawk's to date - which I feel is as good a place to start as any. Brooks makes a number of Dual-Pedals too - where I personally prefer the flexibility of single compact units - as they're easier to slot into my pedal-chain - and fit into many more different positions - while there are just a couple of larger pedal placeholders.
There's plenty more I have my eye on - including the Åsgard, Heimdall, Mithrandir, Uruk-Hai, and Valhalla Deluxe. My next two will most likely be the Mithrandir and Valhalla Deluxe - perhaps I should get those as Copper Hammertone editions!
Current Range of 29 Varieties :
Note that pedals are available on both the Blackhawk Amplifiers Webstore, and its Reverb.com Store - where if you're requesting special / limited / copper editions - you typically need to do so via the official Website.