Other Equipment

Pedal Quest or The Search for the Sound of my Teen Years


For the past couple of weeks I’ve been on a quest for a distortion (overdrive?) pedal that, as much as a pedal can, emulates the guitar sound on some early John Mayall recordings and at least some of the sounds that Eric Clapton used with Cream. Yes I know, tone is in the hands and ears, of course, and nothing sounds like a dimed Marshall with a Les Paul, but there is a certain type of distortion that, even with the myriad of brands claiming to have captured it, is very rare. Being a complete layman when it comes to electronic terminology, I can only say that it has something to do with these elements; compression, sag, and a tonal character that emphasizes the lower midrange. Single notes sag, bloom, and then decay or ‘decompress’ in stages. In a dimed Marshall, like a Bluesbreaker, the preamp tubes and power tubes are both at work, and some are of the opinion that the output transformer is involved in this ‘breathing’ process as well. I once read an interview with a guitarist whose name eludes me, who commented that the best sound he had ever had was the few seconds before the power transformer in his dimed amp blew up. So, I hooked up my I Mac to my little recording setup in my music room and began listening to every demo of every pedal claiming to be the ultimate Bluesbreaker ‘amp in a box.’ The demos wore thin pretty fast, and I’m still resisting a rant on the number of bad demos and cliche product claims, but there are a few decent ones out there in the YouTube ether that were helpful. After a lot more time on the exercise than I could really afford, I discovered three pedals that, to me, sounded like they really captured the sound. The first one was made by a Canadian company called Cause and Effects and sported the juvenile name, ‘Fet Dream.’ They are out of business and I found only one pedal, in Japan, listed on three different eBay auctions, with each seller claiming in emails that they had stock. The pedal in each auction used the same photo with the same velcro on the bottom. No matter, as in hind sight, I don’t think it would have been the best choice anyway. Here is a link to a demo, albeit with the wrong reverb/delay setting for this pedal:

It really came down to deciding between two pedals. Number two is called the Jetter 45/100 Gold, and its claim to the Marshall JTM 45 sound is warranted, especially with the inclusion of a Les Paul type of guitar in the demo:

The one that I finally decided to buy is the Keeley 1962. It was designed to emulate a Marshall with KT66 power tubes. (the Bluesbreaker amp) A newer version of the pedal has been released called the 1962X, that has a switch that kicks in a transistor to emulate the sound of a Marshall with KT88 tubes. I have no need for the higher gain (Malcom) sound so went with the original version. I also got a great deal on a new one for $100. I think the first issues had the Union Jack on the face; would have been nice. Update: The seller just emailed to say that he is out of version 1 and is sending version 2, the 1962X with the KT88 switch. Here’s the demo:

Recent pedal acquisitions include a Timmy (completely different pedal compared to the above, but very nice) a Digitech Polara reverb (loving it) and I’m patiently waiting the arrival of a Mystery Brain from Tavo.

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