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This article was originally published in issue #25
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Your Metal band is about to embark on a self-funded two week tour. First stop a city hundreds of miles away. You pile everything and everyone into your mate's Ford Fiesta, leaving no room for your 100 watt head and 4x12 cab. That's OK, though as you've been told by the promoter that the venue has a top notch back line that you can use. Ten hours later and many a service station sandwich in your belly, you arrive at venue number one, first things first: time to check out that back line. The promoter points you in the direction of a dingy little back room, and there in the corner is an old Fender Twin. Perfect for a Jazz gig, but certainly no use for you and your face-melting riffs and pinch harmonics of doom. It's also around this time that said promoter tells you that the OD channel doesn’t work, and the band on before you is a local Folk duo performing traditional songs to a local audience. With no pedals on you, you just have to grin and bear it, wanting the ground to swallow you up! Now let's imagine you have the same scenario but rather than trusting a dodgy promoter's word, you pack a small compact board specifically designed for good Rock and Metal tones that is also an amp, and can be plugged straight into a PA. “Is there such a thing?” I hear you cry. I'm pleased to report there is and it's called the Randall RG13.
Is it Pedal? Is it an Amp? Well it's both! The RG13 is a three Channel, 1 Watt high gain FET solid state guitar floor-pedal/amplifier with switchable FX loop. Channel one is clean with a Bright and Bass boost option. Channel two is crunch, and Channel three is full-on gain. Each channel has its own separate Gain and volume controls, which is essential for this kind of set-up. You can then also adjust the Bass, Middle, Treble, Presence and Master Volume for the overall output. There is also a Mid Scoop button that is ideal to give you that nice smooth scooped lead sound that works well with a saturated tone.
One of the most interesting features on this board is the Loop Boost button. This has three different functions depending on where you have the switch on the back of the board set. The RG13 has an effects send and return, so on the loop setting if you press the button it will isolate what you have in the effects loop - handy if you are running extra effects such as chorus and delay alongside this pedal. It can also work as a boost switch to give you more volume and gain on any of the three channels, you can adjust the gain level of the boost with the Loop-Boost gain control knob. Finally it can be used as a mute button, handy if you have to make guitar changes or are running a tuner through the FX loop for silent tuning.
So undoubtedly this is a handy unit to have, but how does it sound? You can make your own judgement by checking out the video, where we just ran the pedal straight into the studio PA with a completely dry signal. The pedal is marketed and styled as a Rock/Metal pedal to give you a decent distorted tone in the absence of a good amp or pedal selection. It achieves that in spades, both overdrive channels offer plenty of gain headroom from bluesy crunch through to full on dirt, and everything in between. The distortion never gets muddy or loses definition even at high gain levels, the addition of the Mid Scoop button is a welcome addition for extra smooth lead tones. The clean channel was also very pleasing to the ears, with plenty of depth and clarity, which can be missing from solid state set-ups. The Boost pedal option also worked well with the clean channel to give you a little more rhythm crunch and volume. At only 1 Watt, it still seemed plenty powerful enough, and will be fine with most of the PAs that you tend to find in smaller venues, or run through an amp cabinet. Other features include external 9v pedal power jack, 1/8″ Stereo Media input, Headphone output, Speaker emulated XLR direct output with ground lift and external RGA-13 Power Supply.
A great unit then, ideal for the scenario I outlined at the start. The only problem I can see is that it's fairly limited, just clean and overdrive sounds, you can get other pedalboards with much more on them. However, they don’t offer the power, can't really be thought of as an “amp”, and most don’t offer the quality of overdrive that the RG13 does. It's only going to appeal to a very specific market, but those that require a set-up like this would be hard pushed to find a better alternative.