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This article was originally published in issue #16
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Founded in Denmark the early '90s, the fledgling Carl Martin company began life as a professional PA rental business. Not long after, fuelled by a passion for making high quality audio products, it produced its first ever guitar effects pedal, the Hot Drive 'n Boost. Since then, it seems to have gone from strength to strength and in 2005 produced its first handmade tube amplifier. Most of us, though, will more than likely know the Carl Martin name from the extensive line of high quality effects pedals, two of which, the PlexiTone pedal and the AC-Tone pedal have found their way onto pedal boards the world over. Recently, due to specific request by users of both of these pedals, the company says, they have been re-released as single channel versions. Apparently, while they offer similar functions tonewise, there have been some slight tweaks to these new versions. Time for a review, in that case!
Taking a look at both pedals, the first noticeable thing about them is their size. Both are now housed in a much more standard stompbox format, much more 'pedalboard friendly' units, taking up far less space than their rather hefty predecessors. While the original pedals were dual channel units, these new versions have been condensed into single channel stompboxes offering three main controls: Level and Drive for both but with a 'Tone' control for the PlexiTone and a 'Cut' control for the AC-Tone as well as the on/off footswitch.
Another requested feature, and I'm sure one welcomed by many, is a change from the original internally connected AC power supply cable to a more standard 9v feed. However, as an element in the much-applauded tones of the original pedals came about as a result of the 12v current, and in an effort to preserve this, both new pedals come supplied with Carl Martin's new converter circuitry, allowing for the pedals to effectively operate on the same +-12v level as the originals. Note, however, that this means batteries cannot be used with either pedal.
Having played both original Carl Martin AC-Tone and PlexiTone pedals, which I consider to be excellent FX, I was intrigued to see if the new single channel versions could equal the originals.
Starting with the AC-Tone, it was clear from the outset that I was dealing with the same quality of tone as the dual channel version. Simple tweaks with the drive channel produced some lovely AC30 tones, whether that be very low gain setting for chiming cleans, or maxed drive settings for that classic AC/DC style rock rhythm tone that everyone knows and loves. The useful cut control, which essentially acts as a low-pass filter, is a great feature allowing for taming of those high end frequencies. Check out the video!
The PlexiTone pedal, offering more gain than the AC-Tone, was just as impressive as the original, producing those juicy lead tones tones made famous by the classic Marshall it was inspired by. The slight reductions, in this new version, to the low and high end frequencies make the PlexiTone a little more mid-focused than its predecessor and the result sounded great - the pedal having that unmistakable 'amp like' tone.
Carl Martin has done a superb job in recreating the great tone of the original PlexiTone and AC Pedals. Taking into account some of the changes they have made, it's clear these new version have an edge, albeit slight, even over the previous models, which makes them a great choice for those seeking some high quality classic tones in a pedalboard friendly package. Quality stuff indeed.