OD Pedals Comparison (Friedman Dirtley Shirley, Rockett Majestic, .45 Caliber, Cmat Mods, JHS...)

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by Silenceborn, Oct 23, 2017.

  1. Silenceborn

    Silenceborn Supporting Member

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    [​IMG]

    Once every couple of months (sometimes once a year) I go to a great shop close to our studio and try new stuff (the new Synergy rackmount units are wonderful BTW) and this time I wanted to try couple of new pedals that I had in mind alongside some usual suspects as points of reference. Here are the new ones that I have tried today for more than 3 hours with three guitars (Gibson LP Custom with PAFs, Nash Tele with Lolars, an Ibanez Prestige with Seymour Duncans) through 4 amps (Victory V40 Deluxe, Friedman Runt, Boogie Mark V and a 65 amp):

    1- Rockett Majestic: It simply sounded great with both guitars and through all amps except perhaps the Friedman Runt (which I did not find very pedal friendly in general anyway). First of all, this pedal is very middy sounding, sort of like a smooth, very fine grind OD texture that is thick, fat, chewy and yet tight and defined. No lowend flab at all if you are wondering about that. However, as I mentioned it can be bit overly middy against some amps I imagine (e.g. Vox, Boogies and some Marshals) and because of its focused and pronounced mid range it feels a bit darker than other similar units. The OD sound is very usable and it stacks wonderfully with other boosters and ODs as well (I have tried Bondi Sick As, .45 Caliber, Maxon OD-9 and my KOT into the Majestic and it loves them all. In my opinion it is a very good sounding pedal for solo lead parts, but again can be a bit too mid humpy for rhythm stuff. Also I found that it cleans up very well with Guitar volume but in general I guess because of its specific focus on the mids it tends to become a bit dark (and perhaps a bit too bold) when picking dynamically (lightly) and when lowering the volume knob. You can dial in more Treble if you want but after a certain point (to my ears at about 2 o'clock~ish) it becomes a bit harsh sounding against some amps).

    8/10 - not 10/10 because it reminded me a bit of my Maxon OD-9 (which sounds great btw) with a smoother, finer texture and also because it was a bit challenging to find my sweet spot on the treble knob. There was a rather fine line between too harsh and too dark sounding (somehow muffled) areas.

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    2- Rockett .45 Caliber: Just like the Majestic I found this a superb and very usable pedal. In compare to Majestic, .45 Caliber is more open sounding with less focus on the mids. It still has enough mids for both rhythms to feel full, and for lead parts to easily cut through the mix and is not at all a scoop sounding unit. It is more edgy and modern and it has about 20~30% more gain on tap than Majestic. I loved it for dynamic picking and soft rhythm fusion/jazzy fingering stuff as well as pure rock riffs (with the gain cranked all the way). It is a very versatile pedal with a very usable 2-band EQ section. On almost all amps I preferred it with the treble on 10 o'clock and base around 11 o'clock and gain all the way! I then boosted it with the Majestic (Majestic --> 45. Caliber) and suddenly I had a super organic, tight, fat and organic distortion machine with a great definition and feel under the fingers. My LP custom loved this combination a lot! (I personally preferred the Majestic into Caliber rather than Caliber into Majestic, just like I prefer to boost my pedals with the TS9 rather than boosting my TS9 with other pedals). All in all, I think this is one of the best and pleasant sounding units I have ever tried. I used to have an Animal, but sometimes found it to be a bit thin sounding, this Caliber though is far from sounding thin (unless you want it to be).

    9/10 - only because for this price I preferred it to have at least an OD texture toggle switch for more options and textures which can be easily done (in fact I think Majestic and .45 Caliber could very well be a single pedal with just a toggle switch).

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    3- Thorpy Gunshot: Without a doubt a very pleasant and usable sounding pedal out there. The Caliber knob is the key to dial your own unique tone. The gain and caliber knobs work together beautifully to provide many different textures of overdrive tones. It sounds fat and bold, yet defined, glassy (if you want) and pleasant. It can go from a TS9~ish sound with the Caliber all the way to the left (off) to medium gain (Sabbath, Deep Purple, etc...) easily. After those points if you crank both gain and Caliber it also gives you a kind of unique OD that has some Fuzz characteristics to it which I found very usable as well. If you are looking for a smooth and fat sounding OD that is super versatile with great built quality and unique tone this is it! However, it is not (or at least I could not) dial in a tight and edgy JCM~ish sound out of it. Also I found that perhaps it is not the best pedal when it comes to cleaning up the overdrive with the guitar volume. Don't get me wrong though, It cleans up good but not as good as say the .45 Caliber, Analogman KOT or Bondi Sick As. I guess because of its unique compression style and its borderline fuzz elements (when Caliber passed 3 o'clock) it wants to be cranked in volume and I would not recommend it for low volume playing. All in all, a versatile and very amp like pedal indeed.

    8/10 - not the highest score, because I personally think (although I have the Fallout Cloud and I think it is the best Muff in the market, period; and I have owned and tried gazillions) for such high price tag, as an OD unit it could be a bit more versatile for tone shaping purposes, specifically for recording in the studio. For instance if it had a pre-gain section mid-control knob (something like the Peace Keeper which is awesome) as well as a post-gain base knob it could make into top 3 of perhaps the best overdrive units ever.

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    4- Friedman Dirty Shirley: First of all, I have to say that I have a love/hate relationship with Friedman amps general. I liked the Small Box and I own it for the studio already as a very versatile and pleasant sounding amp (for some reasons I actually liked the sound of Small Box more than BE-100, go figure!). And although the Dirty Shirley amp was not exactly my kind of amp to begin with (maybe too emphasised on lower mids while being a little bit too grainy OD texture for my taste, which to my ears makes it an either overly fat or overly thin sounding amp without many balanced sweet spot points in between.) but I thought maybe I could find some usable tones out of the relatively well priced pedal. Well, now I have to say that I was not really impressed ^^

    Dirty Shirley Pedal is a versatile and well built pedal, no doubt about that. It even sounds good at some settings with some amps (not all) but there is definitely a problem somewhere in the main tone that is not easy to describe in words. IMHO, the unreasonable emphasis on the lower mids on this pedal made it a bit boxy sounding in compare to other similar units (MI Audio SCB, JHS AC, Friedman BE-OD and many others). And I think to compensate for that, they provided the treble and presence knob with very big range which I must say does not really help the pedal in my opinion. I could hardly find a usable, balanced and pleasant sounding tone out of this pedal unfortunately. I have tried boosting it with other units against multiple amps with different guitars and pickups but no, it was not possible; At least I could not do it. The tone was either defined and overly tight at the cost of becoming too harsh, cold, lifeless and brittle, or overly fat, greasy, dull, boxy and undefined. Of course it is possible to get some usable tones out of it (gain at 10 o'clock, presence 9 o'clock, the tight toggle up and all the rest at noon and then boosted with a TS/Klon/KOT type or a Treble Booster can be a remedy) but for such high price tag with such hype around it I personally found it a mediocre unit at best.

    6/10 - Honestly I can't stress enough how difficult it was to find a setting that could get rid of or at least mask that somehow intrinsically cold, brittle and lifeless nature of this DS pedal. Even with bass at 3 o'clock, Mid at around 11~2 o'clock, Gain at around 11 o'clock and Presence almost all the way to the left (off), there was still this cold & grainy hue all over the tone which was not pleasant at all. I think some people used to describe such sound as transistory or overly glassy perhaps? I guess some people might actually like such sound and can find a use for it, but for me it was not a ear pleasing tone at all. The funny thing is that it somehow reminded me some of those very early digital distortion units that I found either overly dull or overly harsh, lifeless sounding.

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  2. Silenceborn

    Silenceborn Supporting Member

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    <<<-------

    5- CMATMODS Scenic Drive: First of all, I have to say that I love almost all CMATMODS pedals. They have a great built quality for such reasonable prices. I don't know how they do it there (all through-hole PCBs with top components used) but their pedals not only sound wonderful but they last forever and again are amazingly well priced! The Scenic Drive was a greatly versatile unit, sounded great and pleasant with some amps and not so ideal with other amps. I liked it with the V40 Deluxe but did not like it with 65 amp. I honestly expected to like this pedal more than anything else and was almost ready to buy it right away because all the other pedals by CMATMODS are incredible (Analog Choruse, Signa Drive, etc...). However, this pedal although was usable and sounded great, I found it to be a bit flabby in the low end regardless of where to set the Base knob and also the high-end to be a bit harsh sounding. Which is surprising because on their website it is written that the Scenic Drive stays tight and defined throughout the whole gain range which was not exactly my experience with it I must say. But if what you are after is a fat, and smooth sounding unit (say a vintage cranked small Fender amp or a good old Vox) with a very powerful 3-band EQ to shape almost any tone you want, and if you are not after a tight and super defined OD tone, then you must try this one for sure.

    8/10 - not the highest score, because based on my experience with their company, I expected more from this pedal, both in tone and design. I still think this is a great unit, but it could be much better. I have to say it was not sounding very open at lower gain settings either (which is totally acceptable and is expected from pedals with such wide gain range). But again I expected nothing but the best from CMATMODS!

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    6- JHS @, Angry Charlie and the rest of them (I already reviewed this more than a year ago):

    I have used MI Audio Crunch Box and Super Crunch Box and currently waiting for the V2 and also used these JHS units alongside of it because although JHS stuff are obviously based on MI Audio CB but they being from a different company they sound different enough. I have used them many times in both recording sessions and on live rigs. Controversy aside, they sound good enough and when it comes to med/high gain and MIAB units I somehow have them as references (alongside Marshall Guv'nor and of course the good ol 86' Rat). JHS @ and AC sound great while the gain is set to at least 1~2 o'clock~ish but lower than that and they sound meh at best. The 100w mode on the AT@ is nice especially for stacking but in general the JHS AC is a more professional unit because of the very usable 3-band EQ (I had a different idea back then but now I think AC is more usable for my needs) and to my ears. AC also sound tighter and more defined in general. These pedals designed for high gain and for lower gain purposes I think there are way better options out there.

    The only important downside to these JHS high gainers (again to my ears) is that they seem to become a bit fizzy and loose/flabby with gain set above 3 o'clock and lose definition significantly. I think the best way to use these is to set the gain at 11~2 o'clock and boost them with a Klon or TS like pedal for the ideal result.

    8/10 - not the highest score because first of all the price for these units are not justified IMHO as inside is just a very simple machine built SMT board with off the shelf components and also the enclosure can become microphpnic when the volume and gain are near cranked and I tried many many units to be sure about it (try to crank both knobs and then tap on the chassis). And although they sound good at higher gain, but even then there are also other great high gainer units out there.

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    Currently I'm waiting for the MI Audio Crunch Box V2 (with 3-band EQ and an extra lower gain mode) as I think it has the potential to become one of the best if not the best MIAB in the market. And with all those features, the price is also very reasonable.
     
  3. adamdaniel

    adamdaniel Supporting Member

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    The .45 Caliber is awesome. If it had more sag, less stiff attack, it'd be my favorite MIAB.
     
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  4. jamester

    jamester Silver Supporting Member

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    Great reviews!

    Yeah the .45 Caliber is the best JTM 45 pedal I've heard...I wouldn't dock it for not having a "texture switch" though, since it's intention is only to do one type of sound.

    Regarding the new Angry Charlie, how does it compare to the .45 Cal as a low gainer? Realizing they are doing two different Marshall sounds, is there any similarity/crossover or are they two very different types of pedals? I'd really like to see a .45 Cal/Charlie Brown comparison someday...
     
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  5. jAcKoFsPeEd

    jAcKoFsPeEd Member

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    Partial to the Jetter 45/100 for those tones and not a fan of Rockett pedals at all.
     
  6. johnh

    johnh Silver Supporting Member

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    I own a .45 and used to own an AC v3. I sold the AC because, while it sounded wonderful at high gain, chunky, compressed sounds, I personally thought it wasn’t so good at lower gain settings.
     
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  7. Dorman

    Dorman Member

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    Love my .45 caliber. I'm intrigued by running the Majestic into it...
     
  8. la noise

    la noise Supporting Member

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    Dave has sold a ****-ton of those Friedman BE-OD pedals,
    and I am sure he will sell another ****-ton of the DS pedal.
    I think it is based on name recognition and a lot of hype.
    Friedman is a HOT name right now, and Dave is capitalizing
    on it in every way he can now. I still think the pedals sound
    like pedals, at best, and like ass, at worst. :hide

    Not hatin', just sayin'. ;)
     
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  9. la noise

    la noise Supporting Member

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    Have you tried sagging the voltage on the pedal with a
    power supply that offers that ability? That can introduce
    more sag and soften up the attack. :aok
     
  10. jamester

    jamester Silver Supporting Member

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    Gotcha, thanks. I wish JHS would make a Sweet Tea variant that was the Moonshine and Charlie Brown, for us lower-gain guys...
     
  11. Myron Stratis

    Myron Stratis Member

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    Thank you for the great reviews!

    As a new owner of the Dirty Shirley pedal (I also own a Smallbox 50 amp and the BE-OD) at first the pedal to me sounded honky. I took the mids as far as 9 o clock, still a bit midrangey but I wouldn't take it any lower because I was thinking with my mind, not my ears and I thought that this would be a wrong move.

    Then it all came together, here is what Dave Friedman wrote on another TGP thread:

    Hey guys try starting with the mid off and dial in the pedal before you even use the mids. Mids just add mid. The eq is the same as the BEod this way. Mid is a additive. Use it sparingly.

    Boom! That changed the game. Dirty Shirley with the mids at 0 has almost the same voicing with the BE-OD. Now I recognise that amazingly balanced Friedman sound. I think that the folks at Friedman should communicate better that Dirty-Shirley-midrange-knob thing....
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2017
  12. adamdaniel

    adamdaniel Supporting Member

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    OMG, I never thought of that! Don't have a .45 anymore, but now I need to get ahold of one and try it. Thanks, sir.
     
  13. Silenceborn

    Silenceborn Supporting Member

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    Thanks, I agree that most people (perhaps unconsciously) set their gears with a conditioned mind... but I already tried the pedal with the mid knob all the way to the left. In fact, what I usually do is to bring some reference pedals to the shop and use them in the A/B test. I usually use my old 86” Rat, KOT, Maxon OD-9 as I perfectly know how they sound through most rigs. You are correct about the mid but honestly, the problem I was describing is not related to mid only.

    For instance, add your favorite classic OD/Dist unit to the A/B comparison here, push both DS and your favourite unit with more gain or boosts, now play couple of full on open chords (b7, dim7, etc...) and listen to both the OD texture and the decay, the DS pedal sounds overly grainy, cold, brittle,artificially tight? and weird... to me, (and I had this problem more or less with some other pedals as well - most Amptweaker units and many Wampler dirt pedals behave similarly as well) it’s like there is a kind of multi-band compression running on some areas which should not really be there. That is exactly the problem that gives it that so-called transistory/cold/overly grainy feeling. Sometimes it feels that the sound is coming from a very narrow direction out of the speakers and does not have enough presence to fill the room in a musical way (I’m talking about pro acoustically treated room).

    Anyhow, I think although the mid plays an important role here (everything guitar related in fact) but the problem I’m talking about has hardly anything to do with only mids.
     
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  14. PvtKingpin

    PvtKingpin Member

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    Awesome review!
    I'm currently in possession of a Rockett Majestic and was wondering if you also found the Majestic to not have much volume.
    I think it sounds great (into a VOX AC30C2X), but volume-wise it doesn't get very loud, nothing like The Dude?
    Can the .45 get louder?
    Hope you can share your experiences!
     
  15. GAT

    GAT Gold Supporting Member

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    I got to try a Dirty Shirley pedal through my Dumble modded Marshall, my Komet and Mesa Mark V 35. I really liked it, so much that I bought 2, one for single coils and one for humbuckers. I also tried it through a Deluxe Reverb and it sounded really good too. I guess it depends on what tones you're going for.

    FWIW, I play my amps pretty cranked and only use pedals to push them over the edge for solos.
     
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  16. auratnik

    auratnik Supporting Member

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    I'm a huge fan of Friedman pedals, I feel that my fingers have a great response to the sound that these pedals produce. BE OD is my all time high gain favorite, Dirty Shirley is also fantastic, both are different enough to keep them in my arsenal.
     

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