First Impressions: JRAD Monkeyman Tweed Overdrive

I recently picked up a JRAD Monkeyman tweed overdrive pedal.

The JRAD Monkeyman Tweed Overdrive on my pedalboard.

I think this is a fantastic tweed-tone pedal. Read on for my First Impressions, where I’ll try and demonstrate why.

What Did You Buy?

I bought a Monkeyman (or is it Monkey Man?) Tweed Overdrive, made by J. Rockett Audio Designs (JRAD for short). I got mine on the second-hand market.

I know very little about this pedal. When I try to Google this pedal, I mostly get back results for the 2024 action film directed by (and starring) Dev Patel. There doesn’t even seem to be demo videos of this pedal out there from the usual YouTube guitarists. I can’t remember the last time I bought a pedal that had such a low profile launch.

It was launched either in 2018 or 2019, and has largely disappeared without trace. It’s no longer listed on JRAD’s own website, and I couldn’t find any product listings in the places that I normally look.

It’s a very simple tweed-tone overdrive pedal. We get three controls:

  • volume
  • speaker breakup (a gain control?)
  • spring reverb

There’s no tone control, no EQ controls of any kind.

I’ve no idea if it officially chases the sound of a specific tweed amp, or if it’s one of those pedals that’s chasing the tweed-tone vibe instead. Either are good to me 🙂

Why Did You Buy It?

I collect tweed-tone pedals. If it’s a pedal that recreates the sound of those early 50s amps, then I want to try it.

To be honest, this wasn’t on my list that I’m looking out for. I didn’t even know that it existed until it turned up in my eBay feed. I don’t recall ever seeing one of these put up for sale before. Surely I must have, though?

Once I found out that it seems to have been discontinued, I thought ‘what the hell’, and bought it. Really not sure if/when I’ll see another one of these.

My Rig Today

I’m playing:

  • my Fender Telecaster (aka Mirage) and my Gibson Les Paul (aka GP)
  • into my Axe-FX 3 (for the tuner and EQ toys)
  • out to my pedalboard
  • back into the Axe-FX 3 (for amp, cab, delay and reverb)
  • out to my audio interface
  • and into my DAW.

The Axe-FX 3 is running a (pretty much) final version of my 65 Clean pedal platform preset. You can learn more about it here.

On the pedalboard, I have the Ceriatone Centura, Lazy J Cruiser Deuce and JRAD Monkeyman in separate loops of my trusty Gigrig G2. This allows me to take the other pedals completely out of the signal path when I’m not using them, so that they cannot colour the tone in any way.

I’m using the Ceriatone Centura as my Klon klone of choice. To my ears, it sounds identical to my Klon KTR, especially when used in the classic clean boost configuration. That’s not something I can say about many Klon klones!

I’m throwing in the Lazy J Cruiser Deuce as an alternative way to boost the JRAD Monkeyman. More on that further down this blog post.

All the delay and reverb is from the Axe-FX 3. There’s no effects added in my DAW. I will have done some level-matching in post (details on the process here).

How Does It Sound?

Sounds Great Through The Blackface Clean Tone

This is one of those tweed-tone pedals that sounds really good through a typical Fender-style “blackface” clean tone. I have turned the Mids control on the amp up to 6; that seems to suit this pedal best.

To start with, here’s the JRAD Monkeyman with the bridge pickup of my Telecaster (aka Mirage). I’ve got the Speaker Breakup control at around 9 o’clock, and that’s all the gain that I need.

Fender Telecaster (bridge position) > JRAD Monkeyman > Axe-FX 3

I could stop right there and call this blog post done. Straight out of the box, the Monkeyman is giving me a sound that I would happily use. It suits my Telecaster so well.

To my ears, that right there is a really nice tweed tone. I want to say it’s a “small box” or “little tweedy” tone, kinda chasing the vibe of a Champ perhaps … but I’ve never played a Champ, so 🤷‍♂️

For comparison, here’s a recent demo of the DanDrive Tweedy 5B3, which offers one of the best Tweed Deluxe-type tones I’ve ever had from a pedal.

Telecaster (bridge pickup) > Axe-FX 3 (+3dB gain boost) > DanDrive Tweedy 5B3 > Axe-FX 3

Compared to the DanDrive Tweedy 5B3, the JRAD Monkeyman has that extra cut and upper-mids focus that makes me think of the smaller tweed amp and its smaller speaker.

I think they’re both great sounds.

No Tone Control Means It Can Get Muddy

If I switch over to the middle position of my Telecaster (humbucker neck pickup & single-coil bridge pickup together), the JRAD Monkeyman does struggle with low-end mud:

Fender Telecaster (middle position) > JRAD Monkeyman > Axe-FX 3

I wouldn’t say it’s completely collapsing with the low-end from my Telecaster, and I’m sure that’s a sound that someone has a use for. It’s not for me, though.

It’s not quite as bad if I switch over to my Les Paul in the middle position:

Gibson Les Paul (middle position) > JRAD Monkeyman > Axe-FX 3

That’s a very thick, fat tone to my ears. I think there’s still plenty of note definition. Not quite enough for me, though: on the demo, you can hear how I’m struggling to play this tone well.

If I was a lead guitarist, I think it would be fun to slam the front of the JRAD Monkeyman with a clean boost and see if I could get a saturated lead tone out of it.

A Simple Tilt EQ Sorts Out The Mud

Thankfully, if (like me) you mostly play in the middle position on your guitar, a simple tilt EQ in front of the JRAD Monkeyman gets rid of the mud.

Gibson Les Paul (middle position) > Axe-FX 3 (tilt EQ) > JRAD Monkeyman > Axe-FX 3

Listening back, while the mud has gone, I think there’s still a little too much low-end here. I don’t think this pedal’s tone and character really suit having a lot of low-end. I would probably turn the bass down on my amp and try again, to be honest.

In this situation, though, I prefer to shape the tone using a different technique …

Does It Klon?

Oh yes.

I think the Klon (and reasonably accurate Klon klones) are a great way to get the best out of the JRAD Monkeyman.

Here, I’m using my Ceriatone Centura in the classic clean boost configuration (gain around 8 o’clock, treble at 1 o’clock, and level just above unity). I’m still on my Les Paul, and still playing in the middle position.

I’ve dropped the Speaker Breakup of the JRAD Monkeyman down to around 8 o’clock. This is the sweet spot for me when I’m boosting this pedal.

Gibson Les Paul (middle position) > Ceriatone Centura > JRAD Monkeyman > Axe-FX 3

That, right there, sounds really good to me. It’s still got that “small box” character that I heard when I was playing my Telecaster, just with the added fatness of my Les Paul’s humbuckers.

To finish, let’s try something different …

Boosting With The Lazy J Cruiser Deuce

I appreciate that the Klon thing isn’t something that everyone likes. Let’s swap out the Ceriatone Centura and put a Lazy J Cruiser Deuce in its place instead.

If you’re not familiar with them, Lazy J makes some of the most respected modern tweed amps around. Their Cruiser Deuce pedal isn’t an overdrive pedal as such; it’s specifically designed for boosting real tweed amps.

I’m running mine here with both sides enabled, Gain down around 10 o’clock, Volume just below noon, Drive just below 10 o’clock, Saturation just above 11 o’clock, and the toggle switch in the middle position.

Here’s how that sounds with my Les Paul in the middle position:

Gibson Les Paul (middle position) > Lazy J Cruiser Deuce > JRAD Monkeyman > Axe-FX 3

For comparison, here’s the JRAD Monkeyman again with a tilt EQ in front of it:

Gibson Les Paul (middle position) > Axe-FX 3 (tilt EQ) > JRAD Monkeyman > Axe-FX 3

To my ears, they’re very similar – but not quite the same. I think I’m hearing a slightly thicker mid-range from the Cruiser Deuce, as if it’s a little more saturated. Maybe there’s a little more crunch there too?

The differences aren’t huge to me. I doubt I could tell them apart in a blind test.

Final Thoughts

This pedal has been a total surprise from start to finish. I didn’t even know it existed until a few days ago, and I’m very glad that I now do.

I think this pedal sounds fantastic with both my Telecaster and my Les Paul. It also offers me a different flavour of tweed tone too, giving me a great option to add to my collection.

Why did JRAD discontinue this? I’d love to know. Sure, the lack of tone / EQ controls might limit the appeal to some players, but that’s the only knock I’ve got against it. And that’s easily sorted by running a tone-shaping boost or EQ in front of it.

I think it’s a great tweed-tone pedal, right up there with the best that I’ve tried so far. Definitely a keeper.

5 Replies to “First Impressions: JRAD Monkeyman Tweed Overdrive”

  1. Hey! So I literally just grabbed one of these too and am really impressed. One thing I’m a bit puzzled by though…not sure if it’s just what it is or if my pedal may be busted, but it’s like the reverb is always on and can’t be shut off/made totally dry. If you set the volume at say 1 or 2 o’clock and then have the gain at 1 or 2 o’clock or higher and just “thwack” a chord…especially with tehe gain maxed…there’s always a Reverb trail for me with mine even with the Reverb knob on zero.

    Any chance you could try that out with yours and write back to me? It’s faint enough and it’s harder to hear the less the gain you use, but it’s like mine literally can’t be turned off. Just curious if this is just how the pedal is.

    1. Hi Eric! Just tested it, and mine’s the same: there’s a very very short reverb trail when both volume and tone are up above 1 o’clock. Any lower, and I can’t tell that it’s there.

      1. Hey thanks!

        Just for fun, I also contacted J. Rockett and they offered for me to send it in for them to check out since they don’t make them anymore. At least it’s cool to know thr conpany is pretty legit with customer questions, haha. If it’s normal and there with you too…that’s all I need to know and could care less now about it =)

        But I’m going to check out your blog and appreciate this SO MUCH. It sort of makes sense in that the Reverb circuitry is never really switched out of the signal path…upping the gain is just like doing the same with a Reverb pedal and would cause it to get louder, so it makes sense for the gain pot to interact with the reverb level. Analog Alien has a pedal called the Rumble Seat that has built-in Reverb around a Plexi and slap-back, with all three circuits being independantly switchable. I have a feeling that design aspect is what solves the bit of a reverb leak.

        Still love this pedal to death…hangs in there with Supro’s drive pedal, I find it better than Way Huge’s Red Llama, and it’s got that “rude” tweed thing moreso than the Honey Bee/Honey Beest pedals which are more polite by comparison. Total winner of a pedal and so happy that you weighed-in on that for me!

        1. Hi Eric! Glad to hear you’re happy with yours. And I agree that these results make sense. A shame that JRAD didn’t use a pot that would take the reverb completely out the circuit when off, but hey. I wouldn’t have noticed it at all if you hadn’t asked me to go looking for it!

          I haven’t tried Supro’s drive pedal yet. I will keep an eye out for one. I’ll also do a side by side comparison between the Monkeyman and the Honey Bee family at some point. Very keen to showcase the differences there.

  2. Yup; I only noticed by accident myself. You can actually turn the gain all yhe way down and get the volume low enough/adjust your guitar’s volume as needed to get a perfectly clean signal…and zero reverb leak/it acts like a one knob reverb pedal. Then up things back to full on your guitar’s volume and to where the gain poy is back in play, and hear that single reverb tail come back at the end, lol. It’s 100% related to the reverb’s path running through everything else in there. No biggie to me, but it’s a weird little error to leave. That Supro Drive actually has a little output transformer…it’s a wild idea/creation to say the least. And definitely would love to see the Bee/MonkeyMan comparison one day!

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