Review: Tech 21 California (from the Character series)

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by ben_allison, Jun 17, 2008.

  1. ben_allison

    ben_allison Member

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    The Character series of pedals from Tech 21 is fresh on the market, and has some interesting offering. Apparently the VT Bass cops killer Ampeg tones.

    I wanted to say the same for the California... it's almost there.

    The California hopes to emulate Mesa tones, from the Marks up to the Dual Recs – it comes pretty close. The California cleans up very well, and it manages to maintain your guitar/amp tone reasonably well (pretty impressive considering it has "speaker modeling" circuitry).

    Big points here.

    The controls are super responsive and the EQ points are centered on the right frequencies. I felt that the California way out performed the GT-2 when trying to cop hi-gain Mesa-like tones and even did the "Mesa-thing" better than some Mesa products!

    The distortion was reasonably smooth and not too synthetic sounding. Even at high drive settings, there were no "bees in a can" to be found. All in all, very well done.

    So why did I return it?

    I'm looking for a pedal to cop heavier modern rock/metal tones and while the flavour could easily be dialed in and the right amount of gain was on tap, the low-end was way too problematic; it lacked tightness and at higher gain settings just went "splat." It warbled and oscillated in a way that said, "Stop hurting me!"

    For reference I was a/b'ing the California with the Metal Muff. Though somewhat scooped, the Metal Muff is a shining example of a pedal that can produce hi-gain tones that remain tight, especially in the low-end.

    In contrast, the low-end on the California was very, very strained and loose. For some, this might not be an issue, but for my distortion needs, this made the California unusable; sad considering it did everything else so well.

    Despite my experience, I would still recommend that you give it a try. In your rig with your playing style it might excel. More than a few people are bound to enjoy it, especially if they like the GT-2.

    Addendum: it appears the California is heavily inspired by the Mesa MK3, and emulates its low-end. What I've observed is not a design flaw, but reveals the California is actually doing what it was designed for. I'll re-iterate: assuming you don't need to play metal or huge "tight" low end, the California is definitely worth a shot. Highly recommended.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2008
  2. Andre357

    Andre357 Member

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    Interesting. Thanks for the review. I thought the California was trying to emulate early Mesa designs like the MK1 , 2 and 3 and not recto's ? If thats the case the loose and flubby low end is very much like those early mesa amps interestingly enough. Very untight bass on those mark series amps. In fact pedal makers have even made after market devices to improve the bass on the mark series amps ( The AYAN smooth and slim comes to mind ).
     
  3. ben_allison

    ben_allison Member

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    In the manual for the California it has a preset setting called "Rectifier Style." On the site it says:

    Interesting point about the Marks though. Maybe running a pedal before it can tighten the bass.
     
  4. Andre357

    Andre357 Member

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    gotcha - lack of tight low end will keep me away from this pedal as well then ( I was interested in it for when I'm forced to use a crappy backline amp )
     
  5. ben_allison

    ben_allison Member

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    The Metal Muff is great. I'm wanting to try a Reezafratzitz bad. The upcoming Pisdiyauwot looks interesting, as do the TRex Bloody Mary and the Krank Distortus.
     
  6. MBreinin

    MBreinin Supporting Member

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    I don't know...my MkIII through a halfback Mesa 2x12 with EVs was plenty tight on the bottom end....

    Mike
     
  7. Andre357

    Andre357 Member

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    with the bass knob on two maybe ?? I used a MK III for many years by the way and loved it. But lots of tight low end I dont think is the Mesa MK series sound.

    The Mesa graphic equalizer did help as well of course on the lead channel....but still I think the upper and lower mids were a lot more pronounced than the lows.
     
  8. Kyle Ashley

    Kyle Ashley Supporting Member

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    Ben's review is really accurate. I put together an entire pedalboard based around the new Tech 21 pedals, and I've found the California to be my least favorite. I really only intended to use it to get some liquid violin-like lead tones, but I prefer the British pedal more. The California was just SO tweaky in trying to get the bass right. Literally moving the knob a couple of millimeters makes a drastic difference.
     

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