Fender Pugilist: A Marshall-In-A-Box Pedal?

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

I’m just going to put this out there. Is the Fender Pugilist distortion pedal secretly a Marshall-in-a-Box pedal? I think there’s a case to be made.

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I bought mine when they first came out. It’s largely lived in its box since then, because its siblings the Santa Ana and The Pelt are just killer pedals.

I dug it out earlier this week to finally spend a decent amount of time with it.

When I first got it, I was running it into my trusty Marshall Origin. This time, I’ve been running it into my Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 – a great budget amp for blackface clean tones.

The Pugilist has two drive circuits inside. You can use both in ‘blend’ mode or run them into each other in series. I’ve been using blend mode, and then running the blend control either fully at ‘A’ or fully at ‘B’ like this:

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The key characteristics I’m focusing on are: – initial attack – mid-range push / aggressiveness – top-end sharpness These are things that work for me when I want the rock tones I grew up with 🙂

For me, classic Fender-style dirt growls more than it crunches, with a Les Paul. A soft attack and smoothness at the top-end (like the top-end is compressing?) are part of what I hear from those tones. The Santa Ana does that really really well.

To my ears at least, the Pugilist has a quicker attack and sharper top-end. It has bite, and it does crunchy rhythm tones for days.

The mid-range, though, isn’t as aggressive as outright Marshall-in-a-Box pedals. If I grab the Marvel Drive, for example, and compare them, there’s a noticeable difference.

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The Pugilist doesn’t push the mid range anything like the Marvel Drive does. As I turn the gain up on the Marvel Drive, the difference is less pronounced, but it is still there.

It’s really easy to make the Marvel Drive sound boxy through this amp.

The other thing about just about every plexi pedal I’ve tried is that when you switch them on, the bass by and large goes away. The Pugilist keeps the bass, and even has a bass boost too.

And I have a theory about why.

Marshall Tones For Telecaster Players

My theory is that the Pugilist isn’t an outright Marshall-in-a-Box pedal in the strictest sense. I think it’s voiced to turn a Tele into a classic rock machine, to sound quite like a Les Paul going into a Marshall.

The Tele naturally provides the upper-mid emphasis, so the pedal doesn’t need to do that itself. And the bass boost addresses the thinness of the Tele’s bridge pickup surprisingly well. Just roll back the Tele’s tone to stop the ice-pickiness 🙂

I’ve been having a *lot* of fun with the Tele through the Pugilist while writing this 🙂 Here’s the settings I’ve settled on. Guitar is the Fender Vintera 60s Modified Tele. Fattest-sounding Tele I’ve got.

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Tell you what though, as with the Santa Ana, I think it really works well with a Les Paul. Key thing for me: I love the Santa Ana into a clean Marshall. For me, the Pugilist is at its best into a Fender-style clean amp.

Have you played about the with the Pugilist? I’d love to hear your experiences with it 🙂

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