AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

AC4, AC10, AC10 Twin, AC10 Reverb Twin, AC15, AC15 Twin, AC30 Twin, AC30 Super Twin, Top-Boost, Non-Top-Boost, AC50, AC100, 710, 760, 7120

AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby Funky54 on Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:59 am

AC30 TB / Les Paul -Overdrive / Distortion pedal shootout

I tried a lot of pedals, all side by side for eight weeks. My opinions are below. If you don’t wanna read my journey, skip to the summary at the end.

The Vox: 1965 AC30 TB with new JJ power tubes (early break up) new mallard 12 ax7s. Two original grey bell vox / Celestions. Keep up with a band at 3 with volume.
Les Paul: 1954 Custom with PAF’s from a 61. The coils have been tapped and can go in and out of phase
Neck to Bridge. ( Yes they are P.A.F. No I didn’t do this to it, P.O.)

PEDALS: Keeley Java Boost, Crowther Hot Cake, Wampler Plextortion, Wampler Super Plextortion, Wampler Cranked AC, Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret, OCD V4, Purple Plexi, TS9 Keeley mod, Cmatmods Signa Drive, Aullom 308

I wanted to try, but couldn’t get, a SIB Varidrive or a Exotic BB. All pedals were tried with and without attenuation (Weber Mass 50) I’ll review attenuators also.

The Mission: 1) a great sound all its own. Important, but not as important to me as can I sound like specific covers.

2) can I get Brian May's sound in any way? (I will try it with delay and three amps as well, Fender Blues Jr moded to sound AC30ish and 67 Fender BF Super Reverb) Then one repeat, each amp. Next one repeat and chorus in stereo on the delayed repeat amps. And finely, one repeat with high octave in stereo to the remaining two amps.

3) Can I get a great fitting sound or a good reproduction off What I play,
Thin Lizzy and Boston, Badfinger, ELO, Ronson, Cars, Foo fighters,
Weezer......

The Process: I put some Lizzy & Queen in my Opo blue ray player and listened to Jailbreak with 200 watts of tube audio bliss through Alon mains. I paused, and started adjusting pedal knobs..again and again for days. I did this with Cowboy song and the lead to We are the Champions. I wrote down every change. I let my ears calm down and rest every couple of hours. I would come back through all my findings days later as well. Once I knew what each pedal was doing and got a feel for them, I asked my wife (who likes elevator music and thinks American Idol is good music, a TOTAL non musician) to come in and listen to the CD solo, and then to me, then back to the CD and then to a different pedal. Her opinion was Interesting…I expanded to a friend who is also a guitar player. Read and Weep!

Finding Brian May

Keeley Java – Normal channel and my AC turned to about 3:00, my break up beginning (me facing the grill cloth) truly transparent. No Brian May yet. Added a little warmth. I’m not gonna dime my AC30. So,Half way it went..now starting to get a good overdrive..Petty not May.
Brilliant channel? Same as the Normal channel with the Java. You wanna dime your AC to see if it gets to Mr. May go for it. I love his tone, but I’m not gonna cook my amp for it. If you’re after Rory Gallager…Java is it! I love Ronson, with the Attenuator the java rocks!

Weber Mass- The Mass Attenuator was awesome. I only used it to cut a little of the volume. Just using it enough to play out and get that crunch without destroying the house. Look, I’m not Eric Johnson, but I didn’t hear that much difference when it’s used as a good helpful tool. The Mass is a keeper. I didn’t like the Ultimate.. it did cut the highs to my ears. My wife said it “was brighter” after I switched to the Ultimate..Meaning, the Ultimate took some highs. If she can notice it cutting treble…... everyone can.

Wampler Cranked AC-Normal Channel back to maybe 4:00 on the volume. The Cranked AC was good. Every bit as good as the Java and the attenuator for a Rory sound. The Cranked AC was pretty versatile. Still not May. Did a great Free, “All right Now” It’s a great alternative to playing loud. It was a real nice compromise between some of the other pedals. One thing I really liked is that it always sounded pretty good. It’s very lively. It didn’t compress nearly as much as the Plextortion pedals. In the Brilliant channel, you get a little more response and it’s a little livelier sounding. Go to proguitarshop’s demo of a cranked AC15..that sound dead on, at any reasonable volume! It’s really great! But it crunched a little more in the normal channel.

Well, not very good. Those were my hopefuls for a good May tone. None of them were close enough for me. On to the next. (If that’s what you wanna find too, skip to the Summary…I find a good answer)

Finding Thin Lizzy

Dirty Little Secret: Normal channel of the AC30, volume around 4:00, me facing grill cloth. Ok, hear me out on this one. All these pedals are great, not one of them was a waste. The Dirty little secret is a tuff tuff call. It’s up against all these other pedals that make great Marshall sound. There isn’t one that’s better than the other in all things. Here’s what I liked, It doesn’t just turn your AC30 into a Marshall, It flavors it to a Marshall but retains its integrity. Your AC sounds awesome; at any given gig nobody would think you missed the mark. ”it sounds like the record” would be the audience’s compliments. It’s NOT the best at copying a Marshall sound. But it’s the best at giving you a ac30 with a marshal personality. Here’s what I didn’t like. Sometimes it sucks. It wants to get brittle on you, you have to adjust it, and it’s sensitive compared to the others. The treble gets a little Ice picky at times. You can adjust it out, but it has to be right on for each type of tone you want. The good side of that observation is some of the pedals get to dark or middy at times..not the Dirty little secret. Playing out I’d rather be a tad too bright then a tad too dark. You could get lost in the mix with some of the other pedals. The Dirty Little Secret is one of the keepers for me, But I’ll have to really watch it, so it doesn’t get out of hand. A tiny little turn of a knob and it’s a crappy sound, right on, it’s one of the best. Brilliant Channel was not a good fit. The Dirty little secret was just to bright and treble rich to go into the bright channel. She’s a high maintenance woman. Sexy and hypnotizing but a pain in the behind other times. She can Be Thin Lizzy..but man she is all over a Zepplin sound! The wife consistently picked out this pedal without looking as the favorite. She did this consistently for days. My buddy voted for the other guy.

Super Plextortion: Normal channel of the AC30, volume around 4:00, me facing the grill cloth. The Super Plextortion is awesome. It is very versatile. If you purchased it and not any others you would think it’s got to be the best ever. This one really does “nail” the Marshall tone. If you’re in a cover band, this is the one to sound the most like a Marshall amp. You can do a pretty good Rockman sound. Yes you can get a good Thin Lizzy sound. What I don’t like, however, is that it is the exact opposite of the Dirty Little secret in that it can get to dark and compressed at times. You can always tweak it out and get it to be what you want, but you have to adjust it just right. This is an awesome pedal, but she can get stale if you don’t insure some highs. In the Brilliant channel it’s much much more at home. It helps to keep the tone with enough feeling to be real sounding. When it gets dark it can sound a little compressed and loose some of its touch and response. Now you could always adjust your amp and use the bridge pick up to compensate, but I don’t wanna work against all my other tones. Remember too, I’m only trying humbuckers. It can lose articulation on the bottom at times without doing something to compensate. I’m never willing. It’s one thing to step on a pedal and have a new song, but if I have to adjust guitar, amp and pedal to get a sound, I’m too distracted to keep playing. I’m splitting hairs between the DLS and the Super Plex, they both require compromises. It’s just the DLS was more right for me. If I never had a DLS to compare I would have quit searching when I hit the Plextortion stuff. The Super Plextortion was my buddies pick. He had some Cult riffs going that were dead on. It’s that good. Also this has a lot more gain than the DLS. I usually had the switch on high gain but the gain knob rolled almost all the way down for a Lizzy sound. Half way up and it’s Boston in a can.

OCD V4: Normal Channel The OCD is a great pedal. I didn’t find it responsive like the other pedals I tried. It was my least favorite of the bunch. It kinda reminded me of my Proco Brat pedal that I got rid of. It really wasn’t good with my Fender Black Face Super Reverb either.

Purple Plexi: Nope. Good pedal, just not as good as the Plextortion or DLS. A little stale unless you crank the volume quite a bit. I’ll bet this would be a winner with single coils.

Keeley Moded TS9: This is a good pedal. I liked it because it always sounds good no matter where the knobs are. It compresses the mids a tiny bit, but in a desirable way. The pedal also gives you a nice rhythm and lead sound. It’s a little sweet yet hairy. I liked it in the Brilliant channel best. You can’t go wrong with it. It’s not a keeper. Not because it isn’t great, I just have been playing a TS9 for like 15 years, and I want something different and the Mod wasn’t enough of the “different” for me. You know I’ll tell you. I never got into the boutique pedals until now. I was expecting night and day improvement over the factory stuff. To tell you the truth, I think they are just different but not better. The TS9 holds its own with anything I have tried. It’s a great pedal. It has a nice harmonic to it when really driven. It’s the best for an Elliot Easton sound out of my Vox. My Gretsch guitars love the TS9 better than any of these pedals. In fact none of these pedals was even good with my Gretsches. But that’s a different review and post all together.

Plextortion: Great pedal. Again, if I never tried others I would think it’s the winner. My only complaint is that it’s to compressed. If you open up the volume quite a bit it becomes to my ears much more open, but if I’m gonna open up the volume that much I might as well turn up the amp with no pedal. Again it’s not really Thin Lizzy for me. It can be…but it just looses too much definition. I think anyone would be happy with this pedal. But after comparing it to the DLS, I have to go with it for now. The DLS and the Plextortion are opposite ends of the spectrum in that while the DLS is too trebly the Plextortion is to compressed. I would rather deal with the peaky highs of the DLS than the over compressed Plextortion. If I was running single coils, the Plextortion would be the one.

HOT CAKE: Oh yeah….I hated its look. I thought it was a goofy name. I didn’t like this pedal aesthetically. But ohhhh…baby…..It is special with the Vox. At first I didn’t see the big deal. It sounded good nothing like overly special. With all the pedals I tried you had to fool with them to get a good tone.. NOT THE HOT CAKE! Any ware the dials are, it’s awesome. Spend some time with them and oh baby.. this turned out to be the closest Brian May sound I have found in a pedal. It’s just plain awesome no matter what! It is less open than some I tried, but in the best way. I may just go with two Hotcakes adjusted two different ways for a Brian May lead tone and a Lizzy vibe. This pedal is NOT a marshall in a can. Its gonna make its own sound. I still think its an ugly pedal to look at. But man is it the best! Great Bad Finger riffs. Like I said any ol way the pedal is twisted, it’s a great sound.

Cmatmods Signa Drive: Pending
Allum 308: Pending
Ok I can finaly update this review. Real simple in a nut shell,

Signa Drive: It just wasnt good with the vox. Way to fizzy sounding. Compared to the "keepers" the DLS & the Hot Cake, it just pales on all counts. AGAIN, I"M SAYING WITH AN AC30 AND A LES PAUL, it pales. Its a well made pedal that I'm sure sounds great with many combinations.

Allum 308: Awesome pedal. Now I know why so many recomended rat pedals. I must have tried all the crap rats out there, cause this pedal is really nice. Its very dynamic in both the top boost and normal channels. It isnt the best at a Thin Lizzy or Brian May sound..not even close. It's its' own sound. I am keeping it too. Its a medium gain, and gives the Vox a very modern sound. If you play covers and need to do Foo Fighters...ding ding ding! This pedal gives you that. Its a great pedal for doing covers, if you want I nice less used sound, that is appropreate for many covers, but you don't care about "sounding like the record" Its a keeper..still no mild gain pedal for the Vox. The closest is the DLS when set that way.

Summary: So far the best tone period is the Hot Cake. The best Brian May tone is the Hot Cake. The best Thin Lizzy, Zepplin sound it the DLS. The Allum 308 is a great go to versitile pedal, that is its' own sound and more modern sounding than the DLS or Hot Cake to me. To tie it to a sound for a common ground for all to get the idea of it, I say Foo fighters is prime.

I also bought a couple of Deluxe Memory mans and a Behringer time machine to compare the three. One Vintage one. A ri old box separate ac DMM and well the Behringer …..Pending.

I did this review, Its posted in another spot, in a nut shell, to me, the Vintage DMM was the best. It was warmer to me. The RI is very good too. Actually if your broke, the Behringer does sound a little like a DMM and for $60 you get a analog wet/dry pedal that does a lot . Its not perfect. It occillates to soon and it's not as warm..did I mention it was $60.00!!!
Last edited by Funky54 on Mon May 17, 2010 4:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby 8MilesHigher on Thu Mar 25, 2010 5:49 am

Wow -- thanks for posting your detailed research. :thumbsup:
Very informative !
"What we've got is Blind Faith in each other" --- Steve Winwood, Newsweek July 28, 1969
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby g60_dave on Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:34 am

I love my hotcake. Versitile, and but sensitive controls! I run that into a Super Hard On (always on). I sometimes use a Double muff I got 2nd hand for £15 and sounds great, better than my 702 big muff shockingly.
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby Crazy Eddie on Thu Mar 25, 2010 11:48 am

Cheers!
I'm looking forward to your Allums 308 review - I have an Allums modded Rat pedal that I love with my Vox, so I'm interested to see what his take on the Rat circuit sounds like...
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby Frankie Sixxxgun on Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:56 pm

I can get a pretty good may out of my AC30's normal channel with a Keeley Java Boost. I don't mind diming that sucker out either though.
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby stevewire on Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:26 pm

Funky54,
Glad to see you posted the Shootout here as well as the GearPage. I'm sure I'll be using it as a reference. Did you try the Java Boost into the Hotcake? Care to share some settings on the Hotcake? I am trying to like mine. I like the bottom end, I am just feeling it is missing some detail in the top end.
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby Funky54 on Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:39 pm

stevewire wrote:Funky54,
Glad to see you posted the Shootout here as well as the GearPage. I'm sure I'll be using it as a reference. Did you try the Java Boost into the Hotcake? Care to share some settings on the Hotcake? I am trying to like mine. I like the bottom end, I am just feeling it is missing some detail in the top end.


i really think the differnce is the speakers. My Hot Cake is really open harmonic and fantastic through my grey bell celestions. I also have my amp set for the earliest break up possible.

I will try the Java through the Hot Cake soon.
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby Frankie Sixxxgun on Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:51 pm

Might get different results with a more jangly guitar too. My AC30 didn't seem to like my Lesters as much as other guitars. Gretsch or a Telecaster might've had totally different results.
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby moon'nwillie on Thu Mar 25, 2010 8:22 pm

Nice writeup. I automatically plug tele's and such into the normal channel and always have my overdrive (od-1 metal button....I know, a dinosaur) plugged in. If I'm in the brilliant channel, its always with a humbucker guitar and seldom with a pedal....i'm like Frankie, I crank that sucker! I guess I am balancing channels with the guitar choice....bright channel gets a warmer guitar, normal channel gets a bright guitar with OD. Pretty sure Brian May is normal channel cranked with a booster.
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby Funky54 on Fri Mar 26, 2010 1:36 am

Frankie Sixxxgun wrote:Might get different results with a more jangly guitar too. My AC30 didn't seem to like my Lesters as much as other guitars. Gretsch or a Telecaster might've had totally different results.

Yeah that was kinda my point. I wanted to know for a Paul what i would get and all the reviews and most of the online demos are either NOT an AC30 or NOt a Les Paul. Thats the combo I like. I play a lot of Gretschs too, but for Thin Lizzy, Boston, Bad Company, Bad Finger, Foo Fighters, Queen, Zepplin so on and so forth...well a Gretsch isnt what I'm gonna choose. I Realy don't like tele's or Strats..I've tried. Just cant get into them.
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby exgenerator on Sun Apr 25, 2010 12:11 am

Had an opportunity to get a Super Plextortion for some pedals I didn't want, and wow, this thing really cooks. Thanks for the heads up!
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby Mayhawk on Sun Apr 25, 2010 1:49 am

Nice bit of work here. Will have to try out a Hotcake for sure.

Personally, I am fairly simple and oldschool. Raised on Tubescreamers, so to speak. But that pedal doesn't seem to work well with an AC30 IMO. I do like my OCD 4 and Boss Bluesdriver with my Vox's, however. Will have to hunt down a Hotcake now........ :hmm:

Re: Les Pauls and AC30's. Again, I never have liked playing LP's and these amps. I dunno, I guess there are just too many mids all around. LP's and Fenders and esp Marshalls with their dimed treble and volumes seem to be perfect. Strats and teles OTOH are just right with AC30's.....as well as P90 guitars. I know Frankie is a Gretsch user. I guess the maple flavored twang of these guys work well with the strong mids of the AC30.
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby Funky54 on Sun Apr 25, 2010 3:37 pm

I like a good tube screamer as well. I just have used that combo of pedal and amp for so many years that I needed to change things up a bit. The Tube screamer was ok with the vox for rythm in my opinion but not really lead. It was good with my Super Reverb, and until this shoot out I have for years ran in stereo, together with the tube it was a good sound. Now I'm going back and trying for the best sound I can find with each amp. then I will still run stereo but I plan to play with volume so that one is dominate for a particular sound and the other is just a repeat or added for texture.

As far as the Allum and Signa... I will finish the review, but I want to really be fair to them, and I'm still sttleing in from a move and it takes time to get the acoustics in my listening room really right before I mess with comparisons of them with actual recordings.

The DMM and Behringer comparisons are gonna be fun. I deffinantly have a winner between the vintage two prong, RI old box (seperate AC )and the Behringer time Machine. All of them are good and usable. The Time machine is impressive for the money to say the least.
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby alschnier on Mon Apr 26, 2010 12:47 pm

hey 54:
great work here. you're a man after my own heart. I have to recommend the analogman beano boost for the brian may tone you're after. it's a great rangemaster & sounds esp. good w. the mid switch engaged.
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Re: AC30 distortion Pedal shootout!

Postby LangMurf on Mon Apr 26, 2010 4:21 pm

Funky54 wrote:AC30 TB / Les Paul -Overdrive / Distortion pedal shootout

I tried a lot of pedals, all side by side for eight weeks. My opinions are below. If you don’t wanna read my journey, skip to the summary at the end.

...

Summary: So far the best tone period is the Hot Cake. The best Brian May tone is the Hot Cake. The best Thin Lizzy, Zepplin sound it the DLS.

I also bought a couple of Deluxe Memory mans and a Behringer time machine to compare the three. One Vintage one. A ri old box separate ac DMM and well the Behringer …..Pending.


Wow! Great post; thanks for sharing your experiences with so many pedals. Much appreciated!

Best,

Lang
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