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This article was originally published in issue #44
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LunaStone? Not another effects pedal brand!? Michael Casswell walked into the GI studio with a box of three new pedals. He emerged with the biggest smile on his face that we've seen this year.
We're spoilt for choice nowadays when it comes to overdrive pedals. There are all manner of pedal brands and makers out there vying for your attention and many of them are offering great products. Which you end up buying is often a matter of what you can get to try and afford and is always going to be down to personal taste in the end. Despite this massively oversubscribed market, new makers are appearing all the time and you have to wonder how many of them can survive. As you can imagine, we at GI are forever being approached by new brands hoping for reviews and we see so many new pedals that it takes a lot to really impress us. That said, it does sometimes happen – and in the case of three pedals recently sent to us by the Danish company LunaStone, the best phrase I can find is – and how!
Steen Grontved is the founder of LunaStone, apparently an experienced guitarist and electronics engineer who was never happy with the pedals available to him. He wanted transparency, sustain and the true character of an amp and guitar to come through when using a high gain overdrive pedal. So he set about analysing every component that's needed to make a good overdrive. He discovered how each JFET, MOSFET, op-amp and diode coloured the tone of a pedal, and how the vast majority of pedals we are offered are based on 'diode clipping'. Steen decided that diode clipping is not the best way to build an overdrive pedal and came up with a design he called 'TrueOverDrive'. This design has no clipping diodes and is instead based on the pedal having cascading gain stages from the input to output, which in turn gives a sound and feel including all the dynamics and nuances you'd expect to get from a great hi gain tube amp, except in a pedal.
Does it work? Well, to me these three LunaStone pedals do have a lovely organic transparency to them and a body and depth of sound that is definitely noticeable, so it looks like Steen is on to something.
The three pedals on offer from LunaStone are the Wise Guy, the Big Fella and the Three Stage Rocket. All are true bypass and give enough of a variation in character between themselves to give a choice to suit the buyer's style of playing and current guitar and amp set-up. They take either the usual 9 Volt battery or standard power supply.
LunaStone The Wise Guy
Out of the three LunaStone pedals, this is most mid EQ focused. What this means is that if you are more of a Blues style purist who plays an old Strat, then this might well be the one you should try first. LunaStone describes the Wise Guy as more vintage sounding, but saying it's vintage sounding doesn't really do justice to what this pedal can do. It will deliver amazing tone and response no matter what style you play and what guitar or amp you use. It's a little tighter on the low end than the other two, with more of a midrange hump, but with bags of gain on tap on the Overdrive 1 setting. This thing screams in a real musical dynamic way, and no matter how you set it, it is extremely controllable from your guitar volume pot. Overdrive 2 gives you a little more headroom and a little less gain, which could work great if your amp is already cranked and cooking. The added advantage of the 15db boost opens up a whole world of versatility and again will do great things to your amp and in conjunction with how you have the OD side of the pedal set. The booster works independently or in conjunction with OD so in effect you are getting 2 pedals in one. It's hard to get a bad sound out of this pedal!
LunaStone Big Fella (see image)
It would be hard for me to pick a favourite out of these three pedals but I think for my approach to playing, this Big Fella overdrive just edges it very slightly for me as the one I would like to own. You could describe it as full bodied, thick with a modern tone, but again it depends on the player and application. It's voiced with some nice low end and a smooth Rock tone, but could easily cover all genres in the right hands. OD 1 and OD 2 differ in terms of headroom and are both extremely dynamic and sensitive to your guitar's volume pot. Consider them a way of fine tuning the pedal to your amp and how clean or dirty you are running it. The independent booster side of the pedal opens up yet more possibilities and even though the pedal as whole offers bags of gain on tap, the depth of sound and transparency remains. It's hard to describe, but both the Wise Guy and the Big Fella are organic sounding and addictive. Again, no matter how you set the Big Fella, it sounds and feels fantastic. I want this pedal!
The Three Stage Rocket
LunaStone has designed this one in conjunction with the Danish guitarist Soren Andersen and it's based on the drive circuit of the Big Fella but effectively gives you a three channel gain stage in one pedal. You can set up a great classic rhythm tone with OD 1 that can still be set for high gain if you crank the settings. Then you can engage OD 2 for yet more drive that will take over from where OD 1 left off. And then the ultimate cool feature that sets this pedal apart is related to the independent booster. You can flick a little toggle on the pedal to put your booster before your gain stage to give you yet more or saturation, or after the gain stage of the pedal to give you a simple volume push. This facility alone makes this pedal the most versatile of the three and yet again, no matter how you set it, it sounds great. This pedal will take up more real estate on your pedal board but it is extremely versatile so well worth the extra space. I could certainly make a lot of use of one of these.