G-Town Owner Club (Holy Grail and other Pedals)

snoop335

Member
Messages
214
Over the past months and years, a couple of TheGearPage members discovered and come to love the great products offered by Martin of G-Town. G-Town is a small boutique builder of pedals and amps, based out of Grosny / Russia. I own a Holy Grail pedal that I bought second hand and I think it's absolutely insane D-style pedal. That said, there's little information available about the pedals and amps. So I thought it'd make sense to start an owner's club thread to collect all available information in one place for future reference.

So here we go - welcome to the G-Town Owner Club.

Please share your thoughts, sounds, pics, vids, reviews etc. so that we can spread the word about Martin's pedals. I think, they are hugely underrepresented in TGP discussions. Let's do something about changing this. I'm really looking forward to your postings.

:beer
 

snoop335

Member
Messages
214
Ok, let me start with a review of a brand new pedal, that Martin has been working on since late 2020: The Holy Grail Small Box.

The Small Box is based on the original Holy Grail, that's been discussed to some extend in this thread. Some members posted their impression of that pedal, including @Crossfireblues and @snoop335 (myself). As you know by now, I'm seriously impressed by the sound, the build quality and the ridiculous low price of this pedal. At below 150 bucks, it's well worth giving it a shot, even if you've never heard of the builder.

I bought my first Holy Grail used from Reverb, as there was no way to buy new: Martin had to stop building for months due to COVID-19. After I received my pedal, I immediately fell in love with the pedal (see my postings in the thread linked above) I liked it so much that I was seriously considering to by a Holy Grail Dual Drive. So I reached out to Martin, asking for availability, eta etc. That's how I entered into a very friendly exchange of ideas with Martin. He told me about a couple of very promising new pedals that he has in the making.

Martin kindly offered me a demo pedal in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. Given the fun I have with the original Holy Grail, I was too curious not to agree. Right before Christmas, Martin sent out the prototype, which I received like four weeks later. In the meantime, I had like two weeks with the pedal - plenty of time to get a good understanding of the pedal. Now it's about time to let you guys know, what I think of it. Please find my review below.
 

ruger9

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
10,192
I recently got a HolyGrail. Quickly decided it wasn't my cup of tea, as I preferred my Barber Small Fry and Rockett Dude pedals to the HG.

But. This new prototype looks interesting... both the hi-cut switch and the THREE-way toggle (my HG had only 2-way: "comp" or "open").

Unfortunately, due to the difficult time Martin has had getting pedals shipped out of Russia reliably (mine never showed up, the one I found was used)... he did say he was looking to build up stock in the EU somewhere, to get more reliable shipping across the pond. If that happens, I would be very willing to order the "mkII" version from him. I hope he can get the shipping sorted.
 

snoop335

Member
Messages
214
So, Martin created a "Small-Box-Version" of the Holy Grail. It provides the original Holy Grail tone stack with some very well thought out twists. On top of the smaller footprint, he added some cool features that make this really a Mark II version of the original Holy Grail: He added a Hi-Cut switch (that basically emulates the "Jazz" setting) and added another switch that allows you to select one out of three clipping modes (Round/Bold/Sharp).

With the permission of Martin, here's photos of the prototype:









I'm not sure, if the final version will see some tweaks, but to the best of my understanding, the prototype is "very close" to the production units.

That said, let's jump into the details.

THE EXTERIOR / THE LOOKS

The "HG Small Box" has a "standard pedal size, equal to a BB Pre or slightly smaller as a TC Flashback. Right out of the bat, this eliminates one of the few issues I had with the original Holy Grail: The new form factor takes up approx. 1/3 less space on the board. Nice. But the input and output are now located on the sides, which takes away some of the benefit of the small box. Still, I prefer the new form factor over the previous.

With the new box, Martin offers a standard color (the metal is painted, lacquered, powder coated... I don't know, what exactly it is. But it's no longer a "some stuff" glued onto the box): Dark sparkling red / burgundy. Not sure if there's still options for vinyl or suede covers. The box has a beautifully and restrained designed, alloy faceplate. Combined with the classic dials and switches plus a new, smaller red LED, I consider the new design a huge improvement over the previous one. Obviously, Martin is going from "home grown" to "professional".

Build quality is also up one notch compared to the original: Pots run smooth, everything's metal, bypass switch is rock-solid. I would have preferred some "silent" switch though. This one is letting the whole world know when you kick-in the pedal. Not a biggie though.

The mini switches are a bit more of a concern to me: The Hi-Cut switch is at risk of being stepped on when jumping on the bypass. While the bypass looks like it's built like a tank, the toggle switch obviously is more sensitive. Looking at the 3 position switch for the clip modes is far better protected, as it sits nicely between the 4 dials. That said, it's a bit tricky to manipulate: With big hands / fingers, you'll have a hard time reaching and manipulating it between the pots. Aiming to flip the switch, you easily unintentionally twist one of the dials. Also, the 3 positions are a bit tricky to identify both, visually as well as tactile. An LED indicator of some sort would help with the usability...

That is about all I have to criticise on this pedal. Everything else is absolutely great!

The pedal offers 4 self explanatory dials: TONE and MIDS shape the tone, DRIVE adds distortion, VOLUME controls - well - the volume. To run the pedal on battery, you need to unscrew the bottom plate (4 screws) and throw in a 9V battery. I never run my pedals on battery, so this is not an issue for me. The bottom plate comes with 4 small rubber feet that do an excellent job to keep the pedal in position on a wooden floor. But they don't look to last a long time and need to be removed anyways, when velcroing the pedal on the board.

Talking about the power supply: You can run the pedal on 9V or 18V when using external power supply (Center negative). So far, I've only tested with 9V, as I was too lazy to pull apart my existing board with the more capable power supply. So, this is still a to-do in my testing.

The red LED is small, but easily visible during daylight. In the dark, it's almost too bright for my taste. For sure, you'll never run into a situation where you are in doubt about the current mode of operation.

Neither the pedal nor the box it came in have any RoHS compliance labelling or serial number.

The pedal comes in a simple cardboard box without documentation or any other goodies. Packaging was super protective so the pedal arrived in excellent shape. Shipping from Russia to Germany took like 4 weeks, including a Christmas break in between. Acceptable. I had no issues whatsoever with customs, taxes and what not.

OK, so much for the hard facts. In my next posting, I'll dig into the more important: The sound of this pedal.

In the meantime, feel free to ask any questions you may have. Happy to help you out as much as I can.
 
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snoop335

Member
Messages
214
I recently got a HolyGrail. Quickly decided it wasn't my cup of tea, as I preferred my Barber Small Fry and Rockett Dude pedals to the HG.

But. This new prototype looks interesting... both the hi-cut switch and the THREE-way toggle (my HG had only 2-way: "comp" or "open").

Unfortunately, due to the difficult time Martin has had getting pedals shipped out of Russia reliably (mine never showed up, the one I found was used)... he did say he was looking to build up stock in the EU somewhere, to get more reliable shipping across the pond. If that happens, I would be very willing to order the "mkII" version from him. I hope he can get the shipping sorted.

Hi Ruger, indeed - the original "comp - open" toggle isn't all that useful: I checked it out, quickly realised I liked the "open" setting better, and never used the other setting. So it was a case of "Set and forget". With the Small Box, the switches are adding a ton of different tones and all of them are useful in the context of the music I play. For me, the small box is for superior to the original.

I will post my findings re sound later this week.

You are right about the issues with shipping to the US: Martin confirmed there had been major issues in the past. To solve this, he is indeed looking into building stock somewhere in EU, aiming to distribute from there. So chances are, we'll see a more reliable supply soon. Let's see if Martin gets back to us with an update.
 
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PhuzzphayzZ

Member
Messages
6,608
I recently got a HolyGrail. Quickly decided it wasn't my cup of tea, as I preferred my Barber Small Fry and Rockett Dude pedals to the HG.

That was like a Tucks pad for my burning D-GAS. I'll stick with SmallFry!

Have you tried HRM?
 

snoop335

Member
Messages
214
I recently got a HolyGrail. Quickly decided it wasn't my cup of tea, as I preferred my Barber Small Fry and Rockett Dude pedals to the HG.

Forgot to ask: What did you like better about the Barber Small Fry and the Dude? I haven't played any of those, so would be cool to learn a bit about the differences.
 

ruger9

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
10,192
That was like a Tucks pad for my burning D-GAS. I'll stick with SmallFry!

Have you tried HRM?

No ... but I love Rockett stuff. The Blue Note is an absolute favorite (I own 2), and the Dude is one of the most versatile dirt pedals I've ever found... it's like a higher gain BN. I almost bought an HRM, but reading reviews here compared it to the GS124, which I did own, and didn't like...too compressed.

Forgot to ask: What did you like better about the Barber Small Fry and the Dude? I haven't played any of those, so would be cool to learn a bit about the differences.

The Small Fry is smooth; instant Robben Ford on the bridge pickup. The Dude is gritty; I like it more on the neck pickup... altho it's one of the best ODs I have ever found at "being a dirty channel" into a clean amp... very amp-like. If I was doing an open jam or something, and needed a good dirty rhythm tone, and had to use a backline amp, I'd bring the Dude. Can't get a bad sound out of it.

The HG, by contrast, had a high-end "fizz" with the gain that I wasn't a fan of. Also, the controls were SO interactive: turn up the gain? Then you also have to change the vol and EQ. Not so on the Dude and Small Fry- each knob does what it does, pretty independently of the others. Meaning they are much simpler/easier to dial in (and on the Small fry, this is discounting all the internal trims, which ARE a PITA, until you get them set where you want them).
 

snoop335

Member
Messages
214
Hi Ruger, I can totally relate to the interactivity of the Holy Grail knobs: Actually, to me that is one of the strong points of the pedal. It opens up a whole new dimension of tone sculpting: Drive and Mids heavily impact the character of the distortion. Tone and Mids shape the overall tonal quality. And now, there‘s also the clipping mode and Hi-Cut that - again - interact with the knobs. So yes - there‘s lots of interactivity going on. But I don‘t think that this would make the pedal hard to dial in. For me, there‘s so much to discover and there‘s so many settings that sound great. So, when you‘re not familiar with the pedal, it‘s a bit like a calidoscope: you turn it slightly and the pieces fall into a new, beautiful and surprising pattern. To me, it was instant magic, not hard to dial in at all. After a while, you get a good feel for what it takes to get a specific sound you‘re looking for.

But I guess, it’s a matter of personal preferences whether or not to consider the above being a plus.

Now, your remark re the „high end fizz“ leaves me confused: I have no clue what you mean by this. To me, it sounds smooth, round and warm. Will check once more next time I‘ll fire on my amp.
 

ruger9

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
10,192
Now, your remark re the „high end fizz“ leaves me confused: I have no clue what you mean by this. To me, it sounds smooth, round and warm. Will check once more next time I‘ll fire on my amp.

I've had a hard time explaining this to someone else as well.. it's got a high end "fizz" on the gain... I guess some people might call this "harmonics" or "harmonic content"? It's like an ultra-high presence in the gain. Wish I would explain it better than that. And it's not the only OD I've had over the years that does this. I search for ones that DON'T do this, but this isn't a design flaw or anything, it's just not something I personally look for. But I play teles most of the time. Maybe if I had a Les Paul though a warmer amp (I'm using a tele through a Princeton Reverb, with a 12" Alnico Cream)...
 

snoop335

Member
Messages
214
Hm, interesting. I‘m almost 100% on Humbuckers. Only exception is my Tele... that has P90s ... So, from how you describe it, could it be that your high end fizz is what I perceive as „transparency“ and „clearity“ (now, I‘m not a native speaker, so I may not get the „true„ meaning of the words). On top of that, my Zingaro amp has been described as being „dark“. If that‘s the opposite of ice-picky, earpiercing, than yes: The amp is what I would call „full / round / warm /...“

I guess, that‘s what you get when trying to explain in words how things sound.
 

Onenotesolo

Member
Messages
134
I've had a hard time explaining this to someone else as well.. it's got a high end "fizz" on the gain... I guess some people might call this "harmonics" or "harmonic content"? It's like an ultra-high presence in the gain. Wish I would explain it better than that. And it's not the only OD I've had over the years that does this. I search for ones that DON'T do this, but this isn't a design flaw or anything, it's just not something I personally look for. But I play teles most of the time. Maybe if I had a Les Paul though a warmer amp (I'm using a tele through a Princeton Reverb, with a 12" Alnico Cream)...
I‘m with you this 100%. Never liked that particular by-product of gain pedals either, so I’m always leaning towards pedals that do it the least. And it is indeed tricky to explain....

When I first got the UA Ox, I got really frustrated with hearing this high-end fizz when I listened to guitar tracks I’d recorded, mildly overdriven by a pedal, in isolation. I figured I wasn't dialling in the amp and Ox properly. Then I realised that it’s there all the time with a lot (actually most) gain pedals: put your ear close to the speaker and you’ll hear it, and the mic (or mic emulation) will pick it up more than the human ear does because it’s often masked by the rest of the saturation.
It also does tend to disappear in a band or recorded mix. It’s just annoying when you’re noodling by yourself or soloing guitar tracks.
 
Messages
489
Let me chime in being that I feel responsible for some of this heat around the Holy Grail. I have searched and searched for several years for something ‘dumblish’. Ive used the hrm, multiple zens, amplified nation, big fat Larry, small fry, none gave me anything I thought it should. I have 3 emfx kelvedons and though it’s great I use them for lead boosts. The hrm was just scratchy and hissy, the zens was either ice picky or too middy, the small fry wasn’t even in the ball park for what I expected, the others just didn’t have what I was hearing. So after hearing the HG I ordered it. 4 weeks to the day I got it. I immediately found it was the one. Perfect harmonics and over tones. Now I play huge headroom fender amps so I don’t worry about crunching my pre gain too much off the rip. I have a hand wired tweed bassman and I have to say it’s not as good thru it as it is my other fenders because that amp is gritty as it is. Now his dual drive has a zen for the lead drive so I picked up a zen and I use it that way when I want higher gain but the kelvedon works beautifully for any lead after the HG. I can’t imagine any variant of his HG being unusable. Even his 335 looks enticing. I told him to let me know when his inventory is ready to be shipped and I would dive into his other pedals. Great stuff, maybe not for everyone but it’s far above every thing that I’ve tried
 

snoop335

Member
Messages
214
Hi Crossfireblues! Great to see you chiming in. Actually, I was really hoping you would do so. I guess, it’s fair to say, that your postings pushed me over the edge and made me pull the trigger on my original Holy Grail.

Didn‘t you say you own both, a Dual and a Standard Holy Grail? Would be eager to hear how the Dual does compared to the ZEN. I was close to pulling the trigger on a dual. But then Martin told me about upcoming new pedals so I put the buy decision on hold. Now, that Martin sent me the fabulous Small Box Prototype, I wonder how much more versatility I would actually need...

I haven‘t played any of the pedals you listed. But I‘m with you: The Holy Grail was love at first sight. It just does, what I‘m looking for and what I think, a Dumble should sound like. Is this an accurate reproduction of the original amps? I don‘t know - and I don‘t care. It inspires me to play things, I never thought I would play. Is there anything else you could ask for?
 

martingt

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
19
Hello friends,

Martin from Gtown Amps here. I’m just registered with TGP, so I’m very new here so have a mercy ))

I’d like to say thank you to all my gear owners for supporting me and thanks to all the others who’s looking for the TONE and gives their time and attention.

As it’s been said above we are here in Russia currently facing a troubles with Russian Post delivery service, especially for North America continental. My last few packages showed up in US only after 80 more days. It is a terrible service. For that reason I decided to arrange a stock in EU and make shipment from there. So it’s arranged and working good by now. Therefore any orders for available gear could be accepted. Please contact me by email or via my FB/Instagram pages @gtownamps , martin@gtown-amps.com

Regarding that new Holygrail Overdrive small box version - it became much more versatile then first edition. That high fizz which been experienced by some users is definitely depends on amp been used as a basis. New HG been tested with Fender Deluxe Reverb. We all know how BRIGHT that bright channel. Switching ON a HiCut switch let’s the pedal sounding without any fizz pedal even into the bright channel and even more with ROUND clipping mod.

Regarding to new Dr335 double channel overdrive pedal - both channels are based on Zen. Of course some changes is made. In between of channels there is also a difference in s gain level - second channel has more gain. Three clipping mod’s on both channels gives a lot of options. Channels are wired in series 1-2. There’s a small demos of pedal at my Instagram page could found, but my playing is very far from the right point, so...within a short time I hope, will be ready a demo of Dr335 pedal performed by John F-Klaver very well know high professional guitar player from The Netherlands. I believe this video will tell more then thousands words I would say ))
 

snoop335

Member
Messages
214
Hi Martin, so cool to have you chime in! Really looking forward for insights from "the man" himself. Can't wait to hear and see John's demo, as he really is a monster player. In case people haven't seen his demos of the original Holy Grail, I'll link them below.



This next one is a demo of low gain setting, also demoing one of Martins amps.


Can't wait to see other folks post their recordings....
 
Messages
489
Hi Crossfireblues! Great to see you chiming in. Actually, I was really hoping you would do so. I guess, it’s fair to say, that your postings pushed me over the edge and made me pull the trigger on my original Holy Grail.

Didn‘t you say you own both, a Dual and a Standard Holy Grail? Would be eager to hear how the Dual does compared to the ZEN. I was close to pulling the trigger on a dual. But then Martin told me about upcoming new pedals so I put the buy decision on hold. Now, that Martin sent me the fabulous Small Box Prototype, I wonder how much more versatility I would actually need...

I haven‘t played any of the pedals you listed. But I‘m with you: The Holy Grail was love at first sight. It just does, what I‘m looking for and what I think, a Dumble should sound like. Is this an accurate reproduction of the original amps? I don‘t know - and I don‘t care. It inspires me to play things, I never thought I would play. Is there anything else you could ask for?
I do not own a dual because Martin had none in stock when I got mine. So since I was gassing for what I heard in the dual drive demos I bought a velvet pedals katana and was able to achieve that sound. Of course the base of it is the HG. And I don’t want to discredit any of the pedals I listed, I’m sure they’re great for some people. But for me I don’t like fuzz, I don’t like unnatural tones and for me I found this to be the most pleasing. I get the same tones and over tones and sustain with every amp I have (vintage fenders and a ceriatone ots) however my tweed bassman does not respond well with it. But it breaks up waaaaaay sooner than a deluxe or bassman 50 or pro reverb, etc.... that being said, your amp could affect what you’re going to hear. Smaller low head room amps may prove to be unsatisfactory. The pedal has to have room to open up or you won’t be pleased. I don’t mean being loud I mean you can’t have an amp that breaks up too easy. I’ve played bedroom levels and stage volume levels and the performance was the same on it. What anyone can expect from the pedal is perfect harmonics (much like analogmans king of tone), the right amount of sustain without seeming forced or unnatural and a balanced mix of bite that’s there when you need it depending on your attack. It’s the best at doing this dumble thing. No I don’t play one, never have never will. But from what I heard this does what you would think a dumble should do
 

snoop335

Member
Messages
214
Over the weekend I continued testing the HG Small Box. In particular, I finally switched from 9Volts power supply to 18V. I was pretty amazed by the difference that this makes with regards to sound and tweak ability. Here's some of my initial findings:

  • seems like the gain is drastically different: On 18V I had to turn it up more to get the same amount of gain I liked on 9V.
  • 18V seems far more suited towards low gain settings, as there seems to be a more "gradual build up" of gain and tone gets more clarity. Even with gain all the way up complex chords (like minor sharp 11 or minor seven flat five) remained identifiable and didn't got mushy (as opposed to 9V, where cranking up gain all the way first shifts sound into fuzz region and ultimately ends up in mess - at least for my taste)
  • I also noticed that 18V setting takes away some of the "Interactivity" between the knobs. In particular, the mid knob doesn't have the same impact on the gain texture as it has on 9V. I'm actually not sure which of the behaviours I prefer. But as some of you seem to dislike the interactivity with the 9V setting, going 18V may be something to consider.
  • While on 9V, I thought the range of the volume knob was a bit exaggerated, on 18V, this makes total sense to me
  • On 9V, with high output pickups and extremer settings of Gain, Volume, Tone and Mids, I noticed some harsh clipping / distortion, when monitoring through headphones. Didn't notice this when listening to the amp / speaker. Not sure if this may be the "high-end fizz" that @ruger9 was referring to. Interestingly, whatever I hear on my cans disappears on 18V setting. So maybe the 18V setting is kind of adding some "headroom"?
Overall, I like the 18V settings a bit more than the 9V settings. I wouldn't say it's "better" - it's just different. So, another cool feature of the HG Small Box is that switching the voltage changes the character of the pedal, which I like.

I have no clue, if the original Holy Grail can also run on 18V. Maybe @martingt can comment on this.
 

ruger9

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
10,192
Well, that's cool to hear about the 18V thing... but now it's a "con" because I'd have to use 2 power ports to power it... can't really afford to do that, I'm constantly switching out various pedals, and I need all the 9V power ports... I used to run my FD2 at 18V, but I stopped... if a pedal can't sound the way I want it to at 9V, it's likely not a keeper for me.
 




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