AMT’s serviceable pedal casings won’t win any design awards, but they’re tough enough to survive years of stage abuse. I kicked a few pedals across the studio driveway, and then jumped on them with both feet, and I wasn’t even able to knock off a knob. Those knobs, however, can be turned with a feather, and I inadvertently changed settings whenever my boot slipped from the on/off switch and brushed against the controls. An instruction manual would have been nice, but they weren’t available at press time. Happily, these true-bypass pedals are simple to operate.
Session Tools and Direct Recording
Each AMT distortion pedal offers speaker emulation, but I discerned a hint of brittleness and a lack of dimension when they were plugged directly into Pro Tools HD through an M-Audio Firewire 410 preamp. Chords sounded more passable than single-note lines, but the tones were closer to a fuzz box plugged into a console, rather than rich simulations of speaker movement, air, and microphone coloration. So I opted to plug the pedals into a Mesa/Boogie Stiletto, a Marshall JCM 900, or a solid-state Vox Brian May, and close mic each amp with a Shure SM57. Although the emulation circuitry cannot be defeated, I didn’t notice any adverse effects when using an amp. Session guitars included a Fender Strat, a Gibson Les Paul Junior, a Fernandes Ravelle, a Squier Obey Telecaster, and a Dean Psychobilly. AMT recommends running your amp clean for best results, but I ignored the rules, and auditioned each pedal at several gain levels.
The DistStation ($167 retail/$139 street) offers a ton of firepower: three amp simulations (California, British, Tweed), three gain stages (Hot Wired, Hi Gain, Clean), three mic-position emulations (Off Axis, Center, Classic), master Level and Drive knobs, and blissfully aggressive Low and High EQ controls (crank those babies and the boosts and cuts are extreme). Players who dig having multiple distortion pedals onstage can buy single California Sound, British Sound, and Tweed Sound pedals for $109 each (street), but the DistStation delivers those tones with more parameter options for just 20 bucks more.
I became an almost immediate fan of this box when I goofed into a fab simulation of George Harrison’s tone on “Wah Wah” by setting the controls to Center mic, Clean mod, and California amp. And that was just the beginning. I found myself using this pedal continually throughout the session to craft different textures. The only really clean setting is Tweed/Clean, and, from there, I dialed in varying degrees of fuzzy glory—everything from My Bloody Valentine distortion tsunamis to Faces-style gronk to AC/DC wallops. The levels jump all around as you mess with the knobs and switches—you can only select one sound at a time, however, so the volume roller coaster isn’t a concern—and yet audible hiss was minimal. The DistStation is a monster!
Since press time, the unfortunately named “Packer” has been given the more dignified title of “Guitar Krusher” ($155 retail/$129 street). This compression pedal is somewhat modeled after the classic MXR DynaComp—which means if you love the sound of your pick attack being aggressively munched, then you’ll adore the Krusher. Not being a fan of obvious compression, however, I decided not to use the Krusher on this session. Articulation and sustain is excellent, but you’ll experience those familiar “note pops” as the compression kicks in to tame your dynamics. I was also able to “fool” the compressor by plucking an open E on the sixth string, and then playing a treble melody with my fingertips. The bass string would momentarily get squashed, and then ring out until the preset compression threshold slammed down the next pluck. This certainly isn’t a bad compressor for the money, but it’s not for me.
TH-1 Tube Hall Reverb and Delay
I could have used a manual for this programmable, 16-preset multi-effect box, but I was able to suss out its operations after a few minutes of trial and error. The stereo TH-1 ($405 retail/$369 street) offers hall, room, plate, and spring reverbs, and eight delays—all with modulation, level, time, and other parameters. The sonic control is impressive, but despite the tube in the signal chain, the reverbs sounded slightly cold. I was more impressed with the articulate and chunky delays, and I used several custom presets throughout the session to sweeten or “weird-ify” parts. The Bank Up/Down switching might be a tad unwieldy live if you like to quickly change reverbs/ delays in mid performance, but this obviously wasn’t a factor in the studio. My only hang up with the TH-1 is its price, as you can nab some fine, non-tube delay and reverb machines for much less.
Tube Magnum and Tube Platinum
If you desire more glassy articulation and punch from your distortion, the Magnum ($227 retail/$189 street) and Platinum ($239 retail/$199 street) employ 12AX7 tubes for decidedly macho fuzz flavors. While the Magnum is initially tighter and thinner, and the Platinum is wooly and beefy, the Low and High EQ controls on each pedal are so versatile that you can almost make each pedal sound like the other. Both boxes sounded fabulously gritty, but I opted for the Magnum’s sharper shade of toothiness—although I did use the Platinum for a low-tuned D drone. You can pull a lot of rugged overdrive timbres from these boxes with just subtle tweaks, which makes them fun, surprising, and, ultimately, ferocious. g
Contact AMT North America, Inc.,
(901) 581-1893; amtnorthamerica.com