There’s been a lot of chatter online about the relative merits of the established Thorpy OG Gunshot Overdrive and its new The Bunker sort of challenger. I’ve always likened the Gunshot to a Hot Rodded Plexi - while Adrian has revealed that its profile is actually closer to that of a JCM800 - but obviously there are significant overlaps. By contrast, The Bunker is at its core much closer to a JTM45 / Plexi range with its Texture knob rolled back, while dialling up the Texture gives you a smoother, slightly more choked / compressed sound - more akin to the core Brown Source sound - which is intended to augment slightly cooking amps as such. There is very evidently some degree of shared territory here, while the pedals look and function quite differently - but if you really wish to you can dial them in to sound pretty similar. Both pedals have that distinctive upper mids frequency register which is one of the signature markers for a Thorpy circuit.
I have both pedals so I thought I would run some comparisons - in terms of range covered, similarities and differences. The Bunker is obviously a Dan ’Lovetone’ Coggins collaboration which is identified by its blackened anodised aluminium plating vs the polished steel of the core Thorpy line. The graphics etc. on the Lovetone MKII pedals as such are also silk-screened, rather than laser-etched per the core Thorpy line - and the main font used is as per the original Lovetone pedals. The Bunker is very slightly dearer - by £5 at £190 - which is easily justified by its extra footswitch and Mode EQ Shift toggle-switch selector.
As mentioned - the Gunshot is the OG ThorpyFX - the very first official Thorpy pedal to be launched on April 1st 2015 - in the now very familiar and distinctive enclosure - which still marks these pedals out as products of quality and distinction. In many ways these can be seen as a complementary pair - which together give you a very extended Marshall style of overdrive and distortion coverage. I will though try to pick out an eventual overall winner - which will be revealed in Final Thoughts below.
Here follow a few more essential details about each one :
This Dan Coggins collaboration and Brown Source MKII iteration brings us the closest to Adrian's former career as a Munitions and EOD Specialist - featuring one of the numerous Munitions Bunkers from DM Kineton, his former base of operation, as the core pedal graphic. The association being that of ordinance surrounded by a tonne of brown dirt (earth/brown sound!) - in case you needed an explanation! This is very much based on the Lovetone Brown Source circuit - but is a proper MKII innovation interpolation with extended range and feature set - also at a more reasonable price than the originals.
The Volume, Drive and Tone controls behave exactly as you would expect them to - while the Tone is particularly interactive with the Texture control. In a sort of Timmy-fashion, the Texture dial is kind of opposite way around - in that you get the most harmonic content and feedback distortion / Texture when fully dialled back. In dialling up the Texture knob - to decrease the feedback distortion - the tone becomes smoother and more compressed. So in simple terms - more towards a Plexi CCW and more towards Brown Source CW. This is because the original Brown Source came out during a time of 100 Watt Plexi style amps - and it was designed to feed into those somewhat cooking amps. If like me you are playing on a clean pedal platform style rig - you need that extra harmonic content and texture - and so you dial back the Texture control - which may seem somewhat contrary to some of you - but the idea really is that you're dialling in more Brown Source with that control.
The other slightly misunderstood component is the Mode switch - which is actually a very subtle EQ Shift style control which is highly interactive with the Texture and Tone controls. In the upper position you get a slight emphasis on Higher Frequencies, Middle is sort of Neutral / Flat, and down is a more noticeable enhancement of the lower-end frequencies. The Top mode does very little for me - and I'm kind of torn between middle and bottom - where I get great tones either way. Adrian tends to prefer the middle position - while I sometimes prefer that, but sometimes a little more low-end sounds better - so I'm yet to make a definitive conclusion in this area. Update! - I've settled on the middle / neutral Tone mode as being the one I like the best.
We also obviously have dual footswitches here - the left-hand one being the On/Bypass - and the right 'Sauce' one is actually a tone-stack bypass - which really acts as a boost as in disabling the tone stack you get a pretty significant boost to Drive and Volume - and more Texture overall.
See my notes in Final Thoughts below for my preferred settings.
The Bunker has 5 controls :
The Texture, Mode and Tone settings are highly interactive - and tweaking any one can result in a need to re-calibrate the others.
For the two footswitches we simply have On/Bypass and Tone Stack Bypass / Boost.
Here I've gone back to the first proper demo video I believe for the Gunshot - Dan and Mick of That Pedal Show featuring the pedal around one month after its launch. Dan really is a fantastic authority on effects pedals and brilliantly explains the interaction between the Gain and Calibre dials - and how best to dial those in to your preferences.
As soon as you get the basics of the Interplay between the Gain and Calibre dials you quickly understand how to make the most of this pedal. The Gain adjusts the Gain of the first Mid-Focused Gain Stage, Calibre adjusts the Gain of the second Flat-EQ Gain Stage - via a sort of Bias control (hence slightly 'scratchy' when you move it). So in a large way you are balancing the mid-range of the Gain dial with the added Low and High end you mostly get from the Calibre dial. Dan prefers the Gain slightly higher than the Calibre - but it works really well for me with both around 12 o'c right from the start.
I found that I need to dial the Tone dial pretty high to get to my preferred tonality - which is kind of the opposite of The Bunker where I was largely trying to dial the brightness back. And you get an amazing tonality on the Gunshot with Gain and Calibre in the middle and Tone control at around 4 o'c - at least that is what sounds stellar on my rig.
There is a huge gain range to this pedal - from quite mellow overdrive with everything dialled back - to a really pleasantly saturating JCM800 style soundstage with things maxed out. The Gunshot really is a joy to dial things in - and you very quickly get a handle on the interplay between Gain and Calibre.
The Gunshot has 4 controls :
Some really interesting results of the head-to-head tests - where I was also on occasion referencing my recently arrived Menatone King of the Britains - which is another Plexi derivative (and which overall has a slightly softer profile). I will solely though be weighing up how The Bunker compares to the Gunshot.
Firstly it's quite evident that although there is some degree of overlap - these are quite different circuits - I find overall that the Bunker is much brighter and has more bite to its tonality - reflected by how I mostly use the Tone control there somewhat knocked back versus on the Gunshot where the Tone is dialled up really pretty high - so The Bunker is definitely brighter - particularly if the Texture dial is in the left hemisphere.
In terms of gain ranges and saturation - I find that to my ears the Gunshots seems to cover slightly more range - going from fairly mellow medium gain to really quite high gain - while overall in my own usage my profile is probably more towards Plexi! On the Bunker with everything dialled back the gain starts very slightly above that of the Gunshot - and if you fully crank everything the brightness and potential brashness / bite of The Bunker can make it sound more aggressive and punchy - even though in real terms the Gunshot would seem to go gainier and more saturated.
Back to the core tone profiles - I find the Gunshot warmer and more rounded - with slightly softer overtones - while the Bunker is tighter, brighter and a bit more modern - with some semblance of aggression and brashness at times.
A good place to star is with all the Gain dials at mid-day or 12 o'c i.e. Drive, Gain and Calibre - and then adjust to taste, As mentioned, I play on a clean stereo pedal platform setup - so on The Bunker I have my Texture dial around 9 o'c - Tone somewhere between 10 and 11 o'c. For the Gunshot the tone dial is around 4 o'c.
As mentioned, you can get the two of them to sound pretty similar - while there are still differences in the core frequency profiles - but generally they can get close enough if you really need them to.
It's very difficult to separate out which pedal is my preferred option here - initially I was leaning towards the slightly warmer tones of the Gunshot - but then I really like the modern aggression and sort of punch of The Bunker. So these are not two versions of the same thing in the slightest but quite distinctly differently voiced circuits - with some slight degree of overlap.
Funnily - and typically for me counter to convention - I would tend to use the Gunshot for more Plexi style applications - and The Bunker for slightly more higher gain applications - both are really strong - I would imagine The Bunker might stand out a little more in the mix - but it may be a little much for some.
I really thought I would have a clear winner at the end of all of this but there isn't really. I suppose if it went through to a tie-breaker then the Bunker might win because of its additional sort of boost function - but that would be somewhat unfair on the Gunshot - which in many ways is a slightly more well-rounded proposition. I'm just glad I have both - and I will continue to use them for somewhat different applications. As with all my pedals - each has a distinct core character and personality - and seems to bring out quite different styles of playing.
So in short this isn't really a one or the other type of situation - it's a bit of both really!