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3 Hot Shots From Carl Martin

January 30, 2014
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Carl Martin released its first effects pedal—the Hot Drive’n Boost—in 1993, and the Danish company now has approximately 28 guitar pedals on the market. carlmartin.com.

HeadRoom
$272

Reverb pedals containing actual springs have been around for a while, but the HeadRoom adds a new twist by providing two independent sets of controls, effectively doubling the pedal’s versatility. There’s only a single spring assembly, so you can’t get two different reverb sounds happening simultaneously, but being able to switch between what amounts to two presets is still pretty cool, and the assembly is an Accutronics unit featuring three 7" springs, so the audio quality is excellent. In fact, the pedal is dead quiet overall, and there’s no level loss (or gain, for that matter) when the effect is engaged. Of course, since there are springs involved, you do hear a bit of a clang when you stomp on the footswitches aggressively, but that’s to be expected in a pedal of this type, and a minor concern. And even if it is a concern—or you just want to keep the unit next to your amp or rack—external footswitch jacks are provided. An ingenious mechanism also locks down the springs for safe transport. The HeadRoom’s wide-ranging Level controls are essentially linear, allowing you to dial in just the right amount of ’verb, from super-subtle to dripping wet, and the Tone controls are similarly versatile, modifying the response of the reverb in addition to attenuating high frequencies. The sound is a “short-pan”-type for obvious reasons, but nonetheless quite vibey and musical. And while it may not be the equivalent of a tube-powered long-pan spring reverb unit, it can definitely get you to Bluesville, Twangtown, or Surf City in style—and do so under power of either a 9-volt battery or an (optional) external power supply.

Single-Channel PlexiTone
$188

Designed in association with session and stage ace Pete Thorn, this bantam-sized pedal purports to pack a plexi wallop—and it definitely delivers more than a little old-school Marshall punch. Based on the bigger, AC-powered PlexiTone, it incorporates Carl Martin’s new DC-DC converter circuitry to get 12-volt operation out of a regulated 9-volt power supply (optional). Control-wise, Level can unleash a huge amount of boost, Tone is voiced to sound great in every position as well as optimizing the pedal for use with very different-sounding guitars, and Drive sweeps a vast range from crisp early Clapton-style breakup to tight and chunky channel-jumpered crunch to silky over-the-top gain far beyond what an actual Plexi could muster. I could go on about how quiet it is, its dynamic response, how it cleans up like an amp when you roll back the guitar volume, etc.—but suffice to say that I was floored, and will be adding this little beauty to my collection.

Single-Channel AC-Tone
$188

In exactly the same way that the Single-Channel PlexiTone is a condensed version of the larger and more elaborate PlexiTone, this pedal embodies the heart of the AC-Tone, which aims to channel the Vox vibration. It boasts the same DC-DC circuitry, and most of what is true of one pedal is also true of the other. Soundwise, however, there’s a dramatic difference. Since clean tones aren’t the focus, there’s not a lot of “chime,” but there is plenty of smooth Vox-y overdrive and gobs of glorious gain, which makes for one fab tone machine.

Heptode Heavy Tone Dynamic Hi-Gain Preamp
$265

The Heavy Tone seeks to achieve Soldano SLO lead-channel tone. As such, you can bypass your amp’s own preamp and run the pedal into the effects return or power amp in, use it direct into your mixer or recording interface (with built-in Cab Sim if desired), or feed it straight into your amp’s front end, where the little box roars with super-saturated, overtone-laden gain, bountiful body, and easy sustain. The tones can lose some of their tube-like color with the Cab Sim off—but if you’re looking for loads of high-gain sizzle and sustain this pedal is a great choice. europeanmusical.com —DH

Jacques Meistersinger
$209

Analog chorus, with bucket-brigade technology. For some players, no other modulation will do. This little Jacques box delivers rich, chewy chorus tone that you can vary the level of with the handy Effect Level control. Shimmers, seasick detuning, and fast pseudo-Leslie textures are all possible with the Meistersinger, all so rich they feel like a great big hug. After all, the Jacques website says, “Chorus was invented to make believe you are not alone.” Doesn’t it feel good? jacquespedals.com —MB

Mad Professor Golden Cello
$199

This marvelous mindblower is a set-and-forget, tape-echo-simulating delay coupled with fuzz/ distortion. It’s not for obsessive tweakers, as you can only control the delay level from the front panel, and you must be brave enough to open the casing and mess with four trim pots on the circuit board (Gain, Delay 1, Repeat, Delay 2) if you want different settings than those preset at the factory. Myself, I love the factory delay settings, and adore the fact I can get a soaring, dimensional, saturated, and ambient ’70s-era lead tone by putting my boot to one switch on one small pedal. Heaven. madprofessorusa.com—MM

Maxon DB10 Dual Booster
$264

Featuring independent Clean and Vintage boost circuits—each with its own input and output jacks and Level control— the DB10 lets you run a cord from the output of one boost circuit and feed it into the other (the order doesn’t matter) for a cascaded distortion effect. You can also place another distortion box (or any effect for that matter) between the two boost circuits to get increased saturation and/or a volume boost of up to 20dB for the host effect. Getting everything connected to the DB10 on a crowded pedalboard might take a little effort, but this pedal invites more possibilities than any booster we’ve ever seen. godlyke.com —AT

Maxon RTO700 Real Tube Overdrive
$389

With powerful Bass, Mid, and Treble controls, the RTO700 can dial in single-coil-equipped guitars, as well as humbuckers, yet I found its quick attack and overall snarly demeanor better suited for my Gibson SG. Although it’s technically an “overdrive,” the RTO700 gets very aggressive. In fact, dump the mids and crank the bass and you’re in modern metal territory right quick—even with a Tele. The pedal has a good amount of output—enough to kick a tube amp into high gear—but it doesn’t really do the transparent clean thing. godlyke.com –DF

Mission Rewah Pro
$269

Housed within this vocal-sounding wah’s sweet looking gloss purple enclosure is a custom audiophile- grade inductor and four micro switches that can be used to fine-tune the response in a number of ways: Activating switch #1 adds a slight gain boost with some soft saturation. Switch #2 lowers the center frequency and narrows the bandwidth for a snarkier wah tone. Switch #3 takes the center frequency down even further for bass-heavy wah. Switch # 4 reduces gain and broadens the bandwidth for cleaner, funkier tones. The switches interact in interesting ways depending on how you set them, allowing you to put your own sonic ID on this excellent sounding wah. mission-engineering.com—AT

Mod Kits Trill Tremolo
$44

This handwired kit requires some skill with a soldering iron, but done right, it’s a sweet sounding tremolo with a rich, chewy sound over a fairly wide range of speeds. There’s a slight amount of boost when you kick it on that keeps the effect present in the mix, and the Depth and Speed controls react predictably, though the latter knob takes a moment to “catch up” when you quickly turn it from low to higher speed (or vice versa). A bypass LED would be a handy addition, but otherwise it’s a great pedal for DIY tremsters. modkitsdiy.com —AT

Option 5 Destination Delay X2
$299

An impressively versatile echo box, the X2 has two channels that offer from 33ms to 620ms of digital delay via an analog signal path, with individual Delay, Repeat, and Level controls on each, plus shared Tone and Wow & Flutter. This compact pedal delivers clean contemporary delay or vintage tape-like sounds, but you can also cascade the channels to achieve, for example, a bold slapback into a longer atmospheric echo. Simple yet versatile, with good delay sounds and some faux-vintage tape tones, my only concern is that the X2’s footswitches are rather close together for accurate dark-stage stomping. option5fx.com —DH

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