Review: Rocktron Boutique Series Stomp Boxes
The following content is related to the October 2012 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.
Rocktron quietly rolled out its Boutique Series stomp boxes a few years ago, perhaps taking the “boutique” concept a little too seriously by not aggressively promoting the products and allowing buzz to build by word of mouth (or, in these electronic times, via internet and social media). The line has steadily grown and now consists of 16 products that include a variety of boost, overdrive, distortion and fuzz boxes; standard effects like compression, chorus and delay; useful tools like the Guitar Silencer noise reduction/gate and Tru-Loop effect loop pedals; and entirely new designs like the Texas Recoiler “single-coil tone shifter.”
I took a closer look at three of the coolest pedals in Rocktron’s Boutique Series—the O.D.B (Overdrive Dynamic Blues), the Texas Recoiler and the Third Angel Distortion, all of which offer guitarists a great introduction to the Boutique Series’ impressive lineup. If you like what you hear from these effects after doing your own auditions, it’s worth digging deeper into this surprisingly innovative and refreshingly affordable line of products.
All of Rocktron’s Boutique Series pedals are housed in gray/silver brushed-aluminum boxes that measure approximately 3 1/2 by 4 3/4 inches and are decorated with laser-etched graphics. All of the pedals feature true-bypass switching and heavy-duty knurled metal knobs, and operate via nine-volt battery or with an optional center-negative nine-volt DC adaptor.
Refreshingly, the O.D.B breaks from the ubiquitous three-knob Tube Screamer–style overdrive design with its two concentric knobs that control tone/output and drive/dynamic range (soft-knee compression). Even cooler are the pair of switches for the circuit’s germanium diodes, which allow users to individually engage clipping to the positive and negative portions of the overdrive circuit to produce symmetrical clipping (both diodes on) or asymmetrical clipping (one diode on, the other off).
The Texas Recoiler is designed for use with single-coil pickups and features knobs for controlling output, frequency, high-pass filtering and Windings. Together, these controls emulate the effects of different pickup construction techniques, such as the midrange dip of certain popular custom Strat pickups, the icy treble tones of pickups with fewer windings and the aggressive punch of pickups with extra windings.
The Third Angel Distortion’s control set seems like the usual array found on most metal distortion pedals. However, while it has controls for level, bass and treble, it also includes controls named Deceive (actually gain) and Unrighteous, which alters the waveform’s symmetry and definition.
As one would expect for Rocktron—the company that perfected noise-reduction technology—all three pedals provide stunning noise-free operation even at the most extreme “all-in” settings. While in this instance O.D.B is an acronym for Overdrive Dynamic Blues, the pedal reminds me of another famous O.D.B—namely Ol’ Dirty Bastard—as its tone is downright dirty, funky and nas-tay. The pedal produces a hotter version of overdrive reminiscent of Billy Gibbons’ bluesiest edge-of-distortion moments as well as Octavia-style fuzz with the germanium diodes dialed in to asymmetrical soft clipping. Even at the most maxed-out settings, note definition remains muy bueno, with single notes sounding fat and humongous.
The Texas Recoiler offers single-coils an incredible injection of muscle and responsiveness, instantly transforming the tone of 97-pound weakling pickups into beefy, brawny Charles Atlas beasts. The frequency control selects the center (or peak) midrange frequency; the Windings control adjusts the center frequency’s gain; and the high-pass filter dials in the desired amount of bass response. A trim pot inside the pedal allows users to adjust the width of the midrange filter with a screwdriver.
With its tight bass, aggressive midrange, and razor-sharp treble, the Third Angel Distortion is undeniably voiced for metal. While the bass and treble EQs can dial in some rather extreme tones, the pedal’s midrange remains full, so even the most radical settings never get lost in the mix. The Unrighteous control is this pedal’s secret weapon, enabling players to dial in harmonic overtones that sound like two or even three guitars layered together.