By: Robert Cavuoto
Regardless of which British Invasion you prefer, The Beatles in the ’60s or the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the early ’80s, “this pedal just might be your bag” or should I say, “should be on your pedal board”.
Tech 21 has designed a series of Character pedals to emulate the sound of different amplifier lines, which they call SansAmps. These pedals allow you access to specific tone shaping characteristics of a tube amplifier’s sound spectrum. This British pedal is modeled after Marshall amps with the speaker simulation tuned to match Greenback-style speakers.
Just as music has evolved between the ’60s and ’80s, this rebellious pedal can evolve with your style of playing. It provides you with a bright distortion and classic rock tones from The Beatles to Def Leppard (pre-Pyromania) or The Who to Judas Priest (’78 to ’82).
The pedal has 5 control knobs; Low, Mid and High (3 band EQ), Level, Character, and Drive. The Level is the volume and the Drive is the distortion. The secret to the sauce is the Character knob; it allows you to sweep through tonal possibilities for its respective amp sounds. In combination with the Drive knob, you can dial up a virtual cornucopia of distortion types. By turning both the Character and Drive knobs to the 10 o’clock position, you can transport yourself back to the ’60s and get a Beatles’ type distortion similar to “Revolution”. Dial the Character to 3 o’clock and the Drive to 2 o’clock and you can give yourself a thicker and crunchy distortion for Def Leppard’s “Wasted” or Priest’s “Living after Midnight”. With the 3 band EQ I was able mix the tones to get it to sound brighter or darker depending on the songs.
Sonically the pedal has a very bright overdrive with a killer attack. I really liked the effect I got when I added some reverb on my amps to enhance the attack. I was able to achieve similar consistent results with this pedal when paired up with my San Dimas Charvel and my two amps, a Gallien Krueger 210G 100 watt when jamming with friends and at bedroom levels with my Peavey Audition 10 watt practice amp. I preferred when the Low knob was dialed up to 1 o’clock, and the High knob was dialed down to 11 o‘clock to add a little more low end to fatten my sound. Being a player that always likes more treble, this pedal really works for me. I really liked the fact that the overdrive doesn’t get muddy regardless of the combinations I dialed up with the Character or the Drive knobs. If you are looking for a thrash or the power metal distortion pedal this British pedal might not be the right pedal for you, but Tech 21 has several other Character pedals that may do the trick.
It’s a solidly constructed pedal, able to withstand the stomping. The pots are rock solid and tight. The noise level is low and it takes a 9V battery or a DC power supply (neither is included). The presentation is funky as it comes in a tin box.
Overall this pedal sounds very smooth and bright which is great for rhythm or lead playing. I really enjoyed playing around with it and strumming down memory lane to some influential songs of rock’s history.