2019 Review: Pedals

Rather than do a ‘best of’ style post, every year I’m going to do a rundown of what pedals I’m using, and why.

tl;dr

I started the year with two pedals that give me ‘my’ sound: the Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive (boosted by the Mad Professor Forest Green Compressor), and the Bearfoot FX Uber Bee.

By the end of the year, Fender’s MTG Tube Distortion Pedal is fighting to replace those pedals as ‘my’ sound for 2020. It’s just too early to be sure, because it’s really close between them all.

I’ve looked at quite a few Klon klones this year. None of them have replaced the Klon KTR as my boost of choice.

‘My’ Sound

I’m not really one for chasing the tone of famous guitarists. There’s a few exceptions (maybe an idea for a series of posts in 2020?), but by and large I play guitar to express myself … and a big part of that is finding a sound that suits me.

Tess (my bandmate from Corynthium) can tell you I’ve been searching for this sound for a long, long time. And we both think I found it in the last couple of years.

Despite growing up with and loving the crunchy sound of a cranked Marshall (as long as I’m not in the same room as one!), it turns out ‘my’ sound is the growl and bark of the ‘tweed’ tone. Less crunch, a more percussive sound that still has a bite if I dig in.

I get that kind of sound from two different pedals:

  • the Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD), boosted slightly with their Forest Green Compressor, or
  • the Uber Bee from Bearfoot FX

I gravitate towards the SHOD a little more than the Uber Bee when I’m just noodling at home. They both work well together as complementary tones on a recording.

All of these pedals were designed by the legendary Bjorn Juhl of BJFe, and they are majestic. But there’s a chance that they’ll get onto the board much in 2020.

Here Comes The Next Contestant

In late November, I picked up Fender’s new MTG Tube Distortion Pedal. I’m a huge fan of all of their drive pedals from this new series of pedals, and my idea was to get the MTG just to keep the collection going.

At the weekend, I put velcro onto this pedal and stuck it on my board.

As part of writing up my first impressions of the MTG, I put the MTG head-to-head against both the King of Tone and the Sweet Honey Overdrive. It was just a way of helping me figure out what I thought of the MTG. I wasn’t expecting it to end up replacing them, especially as Fender’s MTG:LA pedal would win a Pepsi challenge against the MTG all day long.

It just goes to show that it doesn’t matter what you’ve read, what you’ve heard in demos from other people. What matters is what you feel when you’ve got the pedal on your board, through your rig.

I haven’t had the pedal very long. There’s a whole heap of things that I haven’t done with the MTG yet. Any one of those might convince me to go back to the tried and trusted Sweet Honey Overdrive. We’ll see.

Just straight into each pedal, there isn’t much to choose between them. Maybe it’s as much about refreshening up things as anything else. I don’t know.

I’m looking forward to finding out.

Klon Still Reigns Supreme

If you do any sort of research online into the Klon KTR, you’ll probably come away thinking that there are better pedals out there. Pedals that sound more like an actual Klon. That a klone is better than the real thing.

Maybe that’s right. Maybe some of the klones are closer to the original Klon Centaur than the KTR is. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never played an actual Klon Centaur, and even if I had, I’d need to play several to get a feel for how consistent they are from pedal to pedal.

Thing is, I don’t care about that. What I care about is how well the KTR sounds in my hands, for my style of playing. That’s all that matters.

And, on that measure, my Klon KTR has reigned supreme throughout 2019 for me.

I run mine as a clean boost: a little bit of gain to fatten the lower frequencies, treble around 1 o’clock, and volume just a little above unity. It’s not so much boosting the overall signal, it’s more shaping the tone.

None of the klones that I’ve tried this year seem to do this particular role right. Maybe I just haven’t spent enough time with them, but they all sound off to me. The problem’s normally in the lower frequencies.

The klones I’ve tried either add too much bass (cough, Wampler, cough) or don’t seem to add any at all (cough, every other klone maker, cough). It seems to be down to the gain circuit. That’s what adds that lovely low-end on the KTR. I’m not hearing that happen with the klones.

As part of #CoffeeAndKlon for 2020, I am going to put some serious time into comparing the klones against my KTR. Let’s see what I learn from that … and whether my 2020 review will still be ruled over by the majestic KTR or not.

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