Named after 9-string Delta blues kingpin Big Joe Williams (1903-1982), Bridgeport, Connecticut’s Big Joe Stomp Box Company was founded
in 2011 by David and Paul Christian, the designers of the Pocket Rockit headphone amp. The Christian’s mission is to “capture the tonal history
of blues/rock guitar” with their product line. bigjoestompboxcompany.com
B-401 Saturated Tube
Sporting a sound reminiscent of a famous diamond-grilled British amp, this box roars with a ballsy, yet
bright and articulate overdrive. High frequencies are front and center, and engaging the High Boost switch
makes the highs even more aggressive. If the shimmer is too much for you, backing off the Presence/Tone
control tames the spikiness. The pedal is pretty sensitive to picking dynamics, so hard or soft attacks affect
its sound as well. Although the B401 doesn’t stray too far from the bell-like raunch of ’60s Brit Pop, I managed
to also dial in some excellent classic rock and melodic-metal tones.
B-402 Classic Tube
The B402 is chunky and harmonically rich with a distinct Texas blues
quality when using a guitar with single-coil pickups, and an early ’70s
Pete Townshend overdrive flavor if you’re rocking humbuckers. Either
way, however, I found great tones at all settings. The B402 also offers
a 2-position speaker simulation switch that cuts some highs and evens
out the overall attack when plugged into an amp. The cool thing is this
switch also lets you plug the pedal directly into a recording device or P.A.
system and still get some of that amp-like sonic impact.
B-403 Vintage Tube 1
The most transparent pedal in the Big Joe line, the B403 packs a lot
of dynamic response. The harder you pick, the more grit, bite, and kick
you’ll get, but the pedal always maintains its vintage vibe by never
going into heavy overdrive. The sound reminded me of an old Fender
Twin. The Shape switch was great for crafting classic Freddie King
licks in its Round position, as well as providing some country twang
in the Sharp position.
B-404 Vintage Tube 2
The B404 shares the dynamic sensitivity of the B403, but adds a very cool Amp Contour knob, which
delivers four different EQ settings that go progressively from bright to warm. With the Drive knob dimed
and Amp Contour on a bright setting, I got a gritty-clean Exile on Main Street raunch that will get a classicrock
lover’s rocks off. Going for a warmer Amp Contour setting and tweaking the Presence knob got me in
B.B. King/Robben Ford territory.
B-405 Hard Tube
Looking for blissed-out heavy overdrive with a sultry, yet crystalline texture? Here it is. Great tones
are available at almost all settings. I found my sweet spot with the Gain knob at 2 o’clock, which
yielded juicy, hard-clip distortion brilliantly complemented by great note definition—even from full
barre chords below the third fret. From Nirvana to Smashing Pumpkins to Zakk Wylde, the sounds
are all there, and much more—thanks to the extremely beneficial semi-parametric midrange EQ and
hefty output. The B405 made my Vox AC30 combo sound like a tower of 100-watt stacks. Wow.
B-406 A/B Switcher
The B406 is simple to operate, the mechanical switch is
whisper quiet, and overall noise is almost non-existent. It’s
also tough. I abused the switch by hitting it every two beats
at 120bpm for several minutes, and it responded perfectly each time. Two bright LEDs (one for
each channel) are a nice touch and really help you verify that the right amp is “switched in” during
noisy gigs. I also routed two test guitars into one amp using the B406, and switching between
them was trouble free.
It’s nearly impossible to get a bad sound out of this pedal.
The B408 starts with the vintage sound of a famous script
phaser, and then adds controls for Depth, Feedback, and wet/
dry Mix. I was able to dial in everything from a slow, flange-like
phase, to a sultry chorus, to a fast, rotary-like warble, and each sound was lush and striking. But
the real killer app was using the Mix control to blend in just the right amount of effect to maintain
both pick attack and tone. A definite Editors’ Pick Award winner here!