ZVEX Distortron Vextron series pedal - $90 (monterey)
Hot on the heels of the supremely successful Box of Rock, the Distortron is a classic rock powerhouse in a compact pedal form. Vex describes it as "highly specialized to simulate the everything-on-ten sound of a classic Marshall JTM45 amplifier." Like the Box of Rock, the Distortron is a different kind of departure for Z.Vex. It aims at achieving a time-honored guitar tone rather than a wild, off-the-wall sound. The decision to design this pedal shows off Vex's love of the non-master volume Marshall heads of the past (beneath the mad scientist persona is a guitarist with a love of roaring British guitar tone). Achieving that sound with a classic Marshall is a relatively easy task; it's also easy with the Distortron. The pedal consists of only three knobs: Volume, Tone and Drive. A tiny three-way switch to control the amount of Subs (subharmonics) sits between the Volume and Tone controls. This switch alters the amount of low end the pedal provides. In normal Z.Vex fashion, this control greatly affects the overall tone of the pedal. Position 3 is full-bore, representing the Box of Rock's maximum Sub amount. Switching through 2 to 1 causes the tone to become noticeably thinner. This is especially helpful for amplifiers that naturally have large amounts of bass response, such as the 1973 Marshall Super Bass head that I tested the pedal with. In position 2, with a 2006 Gibson Flying V, it surrenders thick, articulate chords and a comfortable attack that is easy on the ears. Z.Vex suggests starting with the Drive control at the one o'clock position and adjusting to taste. The pickups in the Flying V are rather hot, but even at higher drive settings, the tone never muddied up and lost its articulate nature. One noticeable trait of the Drive is that when it's maxed, the tone takes on an interesting nasal quality, but it's not too overbearing to be annoying (at this point, it was practically begging for some classic Scorpions riffs).
After switching to a mid-90s Gibson Les Paul Studio with a Seymour Duncan '59 in the bridge position, I dropped the gain control to 11 o'clock. Just like the Marshalls of yesteryear, the Distortron clearly shines with lower output pickups. Pick attack is much more evident, and sustain and decay are considerably more natural and smooth, with a great punch in the mids. Lowering the guitar's volume control gives a terrific rhythm tone, with a clean upper register and growly midrange. Running the Distortron like this is really shows off how receptive it can be to pick attack, as it becomes highly sensitive to how hard the player smacks the strings.
The drive section also includes another mini-switch that sets the pedal to low- or high-gain modes with a simple flip. The "Lo" position is the standard Box of Rock level, and "Hi" gooses the gain stages for a slightly higher level. On lower drive settings, the effect of this switch is more noticeable; higher drive settings don't offer as perceptible a dissimilarity, except when digging in harder with the pick to produce pinch harmonics and the like. Using the Distortron in high-gain situations sounds really, really good, but it sounds fantastic in low- to mid-gain applications.
text or email, 831.869.1307
paypal or cash or deliver
- do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers