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J. Rockett Audio Designs El Hombre review

J. Rockett’s tribute to Billy Gibbons is an overdrive offering amp-like feel in a compact box – for that Texan sound and more

J. Rockett El Hombre pedal
(Image: © Phil Barker / Future)

Guitar World Verdict

A great portal to Top-style tones, but it’s got enough flexibility to thrive well beyond the Texan state lines.

Pros

  • +

    Solid build quality.

  • +

    Compact size.

  • +

    Easy operation.

  • +

    Bite knob for tonal shifts.

Cons

  • -

    None.

The latest drive pedal from J Rockett takes some influence from the classic tones of ZZ Top’s Billy F Gibbons and is named after the main man of the Tres Hombres. 

The company says that the pedal’s genesis came about around the same time as Eddie Van Halen’s passing in late 2020. 

Aware of ZZ Top’s influence on Van Halen, J Rockett’s designers were listening to early ZZ Top records to see if they could hear those influences and then evolved the new pedal from an older design that they’d been working on, which was originally developed to emulate Van Halen sounds.

Like similar J Rockett pedals, this one is nicely compact and reassuringly robust in its construction. It has a basic three-knob control layout with the standard Volume and Gain knobs and a tone knob labelled Bite, which exerts a powerful influence on the sound. 

J. Rockett El Hombre pedal

(Image credit: Phil Barker / Future)

At the lowest levels of the Gain knob with the Bite knob set to more or less match your amp tone, you’ll get unity gain at about 11 o’clock on the Volume knob, leaving plenty of extra for a boost.

The Gain knob covers a very wide range from low-level grit right through to something reminiscent of a cranked Marshall Plexi. 

In between there’s something for everyone and certainly plenty of ZZ Top tones, tempting you to ease into the rhythm from La Grange or crank out Tush, among others. There’s a real amp-like feel as the pedal responds to your playing dynamics and variations of your guitar’s volume knob.

Tonally, the overall sound is solid with well-balanced midrange and no obviously wayward frequencies, but the Bite knob is key to the pedal’s versatility.

While it’s great for just tailoring the tone to suit your guitar amp and pickups, it really has a handle on top-end presence in the drive so you can ramp it up for a bright edginess that will cut right through a band mix, or take it down for something altogether smoother.

Verdict

If you are a fan of the Reverend Willie G’s playing, then you’ll find that there are plenty of satisfying tones to be had from this pedal. In a wider context, though, the J Rockett’s El Hombre has a flexibility that could lend itself to many styles of music besides Texas blues and boogie.

Specs

  • PRICE: $199 / £185
  • ORIGIN: USA
  • TYPE: Drive pedal
  • FEATURES: True Bypass 
  • CONTROLS: Volume, Gain, Bite, Bypass footswitch 
  • CONNECTIONS: Standard input, standard output
  • POWER: 9V battery or 9V-18V DC adaptor (not supplied) 18mA 
  • DIMENSIONS: 58 (w) x 102 (d) x 46mm (h)
  • CONTACT: J. Rockett Audio Designs (opens in new tab)

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Trevor Curwen has played guitar for several decades – he's also mimed it on the UK's Top of the Pops. Much of his working life, though, has been spent behind the mixing desk, during which time he has built up a solid collection of the guitars, amps and pedals needed to cover just about any studio session. He writes pedal reviews for Guitarist and has contributed to Total Guitar, MusicRadar and Future Music among others.