EFFECTS PEDAL £124-£136
FACTFILE House Rocker DESCRIPTION: Distortion pedal. Made in USA CONTROLS: Drive, Volume, Bass Boost
Like this? Try this... MXR Custom Badass ’78 Distortion Our favourite last year, a simple but versatile dirt machine with switchable harmonic booster RRP: £109
Ibanez JD9 Jet Driver A recent newcomer to the old-style 9 series, this flexible but sometimes flabby-sounding unit has a useful Mids control RRP: £91
FACTFILE Old School Delay DESCRIPTION: Digital delay pedal. Made in USA CONTROLS: Delay, Blend, Repeats PRICE: £124
CONTACT: Harmonicas Direct 01274 411600 www.harmonicas-direct.com www.lonewolfblues.com
Like this? Try this... T-Rex Reptile 2 Another digital-in-disguise job. No handmade vibe but lots of control over the filtering of the repeats RRP:£185
Electro-Harmonix Memory Toy You can still get real analogue delay if you want it – and this tiddler has a taste of classic Memory Man modulation thrown in RRP:£71 approx at tame settings. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of voltagecontrolled fartiness, as any owner of a Lovetone Big Cheese or ElectroHarmonix Germanium OD will tell you, so it’s a shame that trimpot isn’t more easily accessible.
House Rocker Amp-style saturation is also promised by the House Rocker, which may not boast any glass tubes but does use LED clipping, a feature found in the original control, just a bass booster; again it’s a good-looking piece of kit on the inside, with immaculate wiring and a distinct air of boutique quality despite the printed board. This one takes a single battery or a standard 9v adapter.
Sounds No confusion this time – the House Rocker is a plug-and-play box of smooth, throaty muck. It’s not entirely different in voice to the Tube Powered Overdrive, favouring deep and fattening distortion over angular snarl, but it offers more bluesy transparency than the valve pedal.
With drive set anywhere up to 3pm it’s a fine and soulful low-gain cruncher, leaving pick-attack unflattened and sounding very pure and classy on the wound strings. Despite its belligerent name the House Rocker never gets properly hairy even when you nail it to full, but as long as you don’t mind keeping things on the restrained side it’s really rather fantastic.
I’m not so sure about the bass boost, though. It seems to close off the top end as much as it opens up the bottom, and even the bridge pickup of a snappy Telecaster sounds best with it close to zero. A feature conceived with the honky frequency range of a harp in mind, perhaps?
The House Rocker is a box of smooth, throaty muck which favours deep and fattening distortion over angular snarl
Marshall Guv’nor and claimed by some to produce a more valve-like sound than silicon diodes. You’ll notice the second red LED on the front of the pedal, below the ‘on’ light – it can be seen to glow more brightly according to how hard the signal is clipping, and there’s another one right behind it on the reverse of the circuit board.
The dark blue box is narrow but deep, and this unit shares its big brother’s feel of neat solidity… as well as its weeon-the-pavement printing. There are knobs for Drive and Volume but no tone
Old School Delay Old school… do they mean ‘analogue’? No: this is another entrant in the everexpanding market of digital delays with faux-analogue filtering. This pedal has the same dimensions as the House Rocker, with knobs for delay time, blend and number of repeats. Digital delays chomp through batteries like a baby eats mashed banana so the input for a 9v adapter is particularly welcome on this unit, and like the other two on review it has true bypass. The maximum delay time is half a second.
Sounds Yep, it sounds analogue alright. The progressive blunting of the top end on the repeats has been convincingly done, and there’s a decent range of delay times available from shuddery slapback to lush, almost reverb-like atmospheres. But this is one unit that wouldn’t dream of doing the swooping, self-oscillating thing – well, that wouldn’t be very blues, would it? – and in fact even with everything completely on full the repeats die off completely after about four seconds. You might also notice that there’s background noise splashed all over those filtered repeats, which can be quite obtrusive at high blend settings, and that’s an analogue feature that most modern pedal manufacturers are anxious not to emulate.
Verdict Let’s not, ahem, harp on about the harmonica thing. The Tube Powered Overdrive and Old School Delay are nice pedals that any blues or retro rock guitarist would do well to have a look at, even if the latter is up against some far more versatile units in its price range. And above all, despite any reservations about that tone-cramping booster, the House Rocker is a superb-sounding low-gain distortion that would be worth a sniff at any price.
FINAL SCORE TUBE POWERED OVERDRIVE Build Quality 18 /20 Playability 16 /20 Sound 16 /20 Value for money 16 /20 Looks 17 /20
FINAL SCORE HOUSE ROCKER Build Quality 18 /20 Playability 17 /20 Sound 19 /20 Value for money 17 /20 Looks 16 /20
FINAL SCORE OLD SCHOOL DELAY Build Quality 18 /20 Playability 15 /20 Sound 17 /20 Value for money 15 /20 Looks 16/ 20
76 Guitar & Bass FEBRUARY 2012