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This article was originally published in issue #12
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Review of Rocktron Boutique Series FX Pedals -
Rocktron Boutique Series FX pedals Review -
Rocktron offers one of the widest ranges of stomp boxes on the market - and in several distinct series too. We borrowed three of the US company's prestige Boutique range, including the new Guitar Silencer. First in the cue for reviews duties?Michael Casswell, of course!
Back in days when everyone was using huge stereo rack systems, Rocktron became a big player in that whole guitar processing scene, making switching systems, pre-amps, power amps, delays, reverbs, and just about everything you needed to have the guitar rack of your dreams. I know because I still have mine, and the Rocktron units I have in there all still work great. Last time I fired it all up, it still sounded really good, just different to a head and some stompboxes. Rocktron still makes all those units, which are nowadays shinier and probably more powerful, but they also make some nice true bypass stompboxes too, four of which we have here to check out and are from Rocktron's Boutique range. Constructionally, they all looked to be very rugged, with tough metal casings, standard 9V powered (via battery or a transformer). But what you want to know is how they sound, don't you? Check the video, then read on!
Sacred Fire Compressor
The Sacred Fire Compressor does what all good compressors should, which is smooth out any peaks in your tone, give you bags of sustain and generally add life to your sound. They're great for dead clean sounds that need sustain, or for pushing the front end of crunchy amps, or even average overdrive pedals. A compressor is the one pedal I would hate to do without, and if you haven't tried one, then I strongly suggest you do, because you could seriously be missing out on a whole new world of fun!
If you are no expert on compressors, or haven't tried many, then the Sacred Fire will indeed be a welcome addition to any pedal board. The trouble is for me is that I have tried a lot of compressors and it takes a lot for me to be blown away by one. I took this home and did a direct comparison with my old '80s Boss CS2, and the Sacred Fire did well in the shoot-out, but lacked some fatness to the note, and could not produce the same extreme compression to be got from my old favourite. The Sacred Fire is still a great compressor, and will do a great job in any pedalboard, and out of what is available to buy brand new, has got to be one of the better choices out there. It even has a picture of a fire, which is obviously sacred, on the front of it.
Next we have the ODB overdrive, which stands for 'Overdrive Dynamic Blues' apparently. Just in case you weren't sure it's good for playing Blues, there is a picture of a man in a nice hat, obviously 'playin' da blooz' on the front of it. Does anybody else find that a bit irritating, or is it just me?
Essentially, it is a good sounding overdrive that has inside it two of those magical germanium diodes, good for soft knee clipping and bringing out subtle nuances in your harmonic distortion, symmetrical and asymmetrical clipping, and output waveforms! The big trouble is, as I switched in these two plus and minus magical diodes, I could neither audibly hear nor feel the difference. I'm sure something very magical was happening, but it went way over my head. Thankfully, with or without the magic germanium diodes, the pedal gives a nice warm, dark sounding overdrive. With the right amp, you are in for some very juicy tones. With the wrong amp, you may find you lack a little high end to cut through. As with any hunt for good tone, it's all about the right guitar, pedal, amp combination, and the ODB sounds like it has a lot of promise.
Third Angel Distortion
The Third Angel Distortion pedal is just that. A distortion pedal giving copious amounts of gain. Just to tell you it can unleash doom, there is a nice picture of a skull with wings coming out of it, on the front. Is it just me again? If that isn't irritating enough, the Gain control is named 'Deceived' and what seems to be a contour control is named 'Unrighteous'. Really? C'mon!! Fortunately, sanity prevailed on the bass, treble and level pots, because they are called bass, treble and level. In terms of sound, well it will give you lots a saturated gain. Whether it's saturated gain and great tone is another thing! The unrighteous pot goes from OK to fizzy, the deceive pot (gain) to me isn't quite extreme enough, so again, it all depends on you as a player and what guitar and amp you plan to use.
If you are serious about tone, it's better to hunt down high gain by pushing the front end of your amp with a compressor or overdrive, rather than buying a dedicated distortion pedal. But if you disagree with me, then the Third Angel could be for you. It's true bypass and with its onboard controls, you should be able to find the sound that works for you. It just wasn't for me.
The Guitar Silencer is a pedal that will clean-up any hiss generated from your system and this one is a great pedal because not only does it have the famous Rocktron Hush circuitry on board, but it can also act as a harsher noisegate, an effect (if you can call it that) made famous from the greatly missed Dimebag's recordings. The difference between the Hush and noisegate mode is that the Hush circuitry will clean-up the sound without messing with your sustain and subtle tail-offs, whereas the noisegate will clamp down hard which gives dead silence in between heavy riffing or chording.
This pedal does it very well, and Rocktron was one the first to get noise reduction right. There is also a fantastic send and return to make your worst tone-sucking vintage pedal, true bypass, which is a fantastic inclusion in an already fantastic pedal. This pedal does lack pictures of skulls, wings, fires, and men in hats, but don't let that put you off, because it does what it does superbly!
Pedals are very subjective. What works for me might not work for you and all one can do when reviewing them is look for obvious faults and if there aren't any (there weren't - they are clearly well made, high quality products) then be honest about how you thought they sounded. There is a whole range of these Rocktron true bypass Boutique series pedals as well as less expensive non-Boutique style stompboxes, power amps, pre-amps, rack processors and noise reduction units and you can't go too far wrong with Rocktron. But you do have to know what it is you are searching for and which of their products will give it to you and then you need to audition them, like all pedals, very carefully to find what works for you.