Taking the concept of its original Character Series pedals a step further, Tech 21 has broadened the range of tonal options in its new SansAmp Character Plus Series—celebrating the unique chemistry between specific historic amplifiers and specific historic pedals and cleverly unites them together in single packages. With tones ranging from a '50s Fullerton to a Blackface and a Silverface, Sam Bell reviews the Character Plus Series Screaming Blonde.
Tech 21 has been making great analogue rig solutions for many years now, coming out with compact, gig-able, all-in-one solutions for the no-nonsense guitarist. In this review, we're looking at one of the excellent new offerings from Tech 21's Character Plus Series. The Screaming Blonde is a Fender Style amp emulation with a Tube Screamer style boost. Also available in the series is the English Muffy, which is a HiWatt + Big Muff. Fuzzy Brit, which is Marshall + Fuzz Face, and finally, Mop Top Liverpool which combines a Vox-style amp and a treble booster. All the classic combinations all leading to very versatile results depending on how you use them.
These units are the size of a chocolate bar, super compact and very easy to use. They are powered by a 9v in (included and high-quality power cable!) They feature an input and an output plus an XLR out for going into a Mixing Desk or DAW. This XLR connection has the appropriate speaker simulation for the amp the pedal is emulating. In the Screaming Blonde's case, this is a Jenson 12" speaker. This sounds great; it's well-balanced and interacts nicely with each channel's EQ section. You can also use this pedal in front of an amp, so if you're turning up and using house backline, you can have a way better chance of dialling in your preferred sound. You can also use the XLR out at the same time, so you can monitor your tone on stage from a real amp and send a great-sounding signal from the pedal to the front of the house. Superb!
The Screaming Blonde gives you two identical channels, which can be characterised by the 'character' control; you can go from a super clean black and silver face style clean all the way to a pushed tweed and beyond. This way, you can have two very different "American amp" qualities at your fingertips. You can further boost this with the 'Scream' section, which is a classic TS808 style drive which interacts as a boost with the channels so you can further tailor your gain stages, EQ and sustain.
Tonally, the Screaming Blonde sounds great. Direct into the Mixer at the studio, the speaker emulation sounds great. Thanks to the very interactive EQ on the pedal, you can really tailor your high and low end to the room and your guitar. It also feels very responsive; it's very fun to play through the different tonal pallets this unit allows you to dial-up. The Black and Silver Face style cleans are punchy, funky, cutting, yet warm. Boosting it leads to creamy, mid-pronounced leads, which are perfect for country/blues-tinged playing circumstances.
The SansAmp technology really sets this aside from any other 'modelling' style pedal/direct-to-front-of-house solutions. I've always been slightly jealous of my bass-playing friends who turn up with their SansAmp on their boards and are able to get their tone sounding great direct off the board. Now guitarists can do the same, and we can easily fit it in our back pocket. Amazing!
If you're a musician on the move and you want a 'direct' solution or something to spice up the house backline without too much faff, gadgets or screens, then check out Tech 21's SansAmp Character Plus Series. They have the active musician in mind. The only limitation is our ears and playing! Go check one out now.
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