First Impressions: Marshall ShredMaster Distortion Pedal

At the start of March 2023, I picked up all four of Marshall’s vintage reissue drive pedals. The original pedals are all legendary pedals, much revered in the guitar pedal community. Alas, that means that the original pedals also come with second-hand prices to match.

These re-issues are bringing these classic circuits back within reach of regular guitarists (just about …).

Regular readers might be wondering why I bothered with the ShredMaster at all, and why I’m posting about this pedal first. There’s a good reason for that. Read on for my First Impressions.

What Is The Marshall ShredMaster?

I think the easiest way to do that is to link to one of the many product demos that came out long with the reissued pedal:

Marshall ShredMaster Pedal Demo by Sweetwater

(Btw, if you don’t follow Sweetwater on YouTube, I highly recommend it. Their videos strike a great balance between selling products and educating home-tone guitarists like me. I’ve no affiliation with them – I’m on the wrong side of the pond to be a customer – I’m just a fan of their approach to their YouTube channel.)

Why Did You Buy It?

I bought this one because it’s different.

The ShredMaster is the darkest-sounding, highest-gain pedal of the four Marshall drive pedals. Everyone seems to think of it as a pedal for metal.

So I want to see what low-gain tones I can coax out of it 🙂

A Happy Accident

I popped this onto my pedal board to test, and after adjusting the EQ and volume, I got this tone out of it:

Charvel > ShredMaster > Cruiser Deuce > Axe-FX 3

Admittedly, I’ve no idea what to do with it at the moment, but still … isn’t that an intriguing guitar tone? I think it is, and if that was all this pedal did, I think I’d be happy with it.

What happened here? How did I get that guitar tone?

  • When I put the ShredMaster onto the board, I still had my Centura and Cruiser Deuce on the board too … and I forgot to bypass the Cruiser Deuce. The ShredMaster is going into the Cruiser Deuce, which is then adding a bit of boost and texture before slamming the front of my pedal platform amp.
  • Another key part of this is turning up the mids Contour control to about 9 o’clock. That takes out some of the mids, and brightens up the sound a bit. (The Treble control is already cranked.)
  • The Gain control is also turned down … all the way down to about 9 o’clock. Turn it up much higher than that, and the signal stops fuzzing out and it sounds like a regular drive pedal once again. (I’ll include an audio demo of this pedal sounding like a normal drive pedal further down.)

But it’s the low-end that seems to be pushing the signal into this soft fuzz-like tone. Reduce the amount of low-end that’s going into the pedal, and/or turn down the Bass control on the pedal, and this fuzz-like tone disappears pretty quickly.

I’m really curious about running an actual bass guitar into the ShredMaster now!

The Pedal Can Rock Out Too

First and foremost, I’m a rhythm guitarist. Any drive pedal that I get, that’s what I’m going to audition it for. And I’m happy to say that I can get some nice rock rhythm guitar tones out of the ShredMaster.

Charvel > ShredMaster > Axe-FX 3

I’m not entirely sure about the mids on that. They’re a bit honky, perhaps. But certainly good enough that I’ll keep exploring this sound in the future.

Yes, It Can Do The High-Gain Thing

I couldn’t resist. I mean … this is what the pedal is known for, and I did buy my Charvel back in ’91 to play metal on it, so …

Charvel > ShredMaster > Axe-FX 3

I think that proves that it nails those classic late 80’s / early 90’s metal tones 😉 (That’s got to be the closest I’ve ever gotten to the sound of that particular album!)

It does get a little fizzy on top; it’s not your modern metal tone. Someone who knows what they’re doing can probably get it sound far heavier than I’ve managed here.

Final Thoughts

Of the three circuit designs (the DriveMaster and The Guv’nor are the same drive pedal), I was expecting the ShredMaster to be the one that I used the least. While I grew up butchering hard rock and thrash metal, it’s not what I do these days … and if I did, my amps have me very well covered there.

And yet, I’m writing up my First Impressions of the ShredMaster before any of the other pedals even get a look-in.

The ShredMaster has plenty to offer a low-gain rhythm guitarist like me. It doesn’t remind me of any other pedal that I’ve tried. That’s good; I like options! And, if I do want to embarrass myself by trying to relive my heavy metal youth, this pedal has me covered too.

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