Boss/JHS Pedals JB-2 Angry Driver Review

 

2 Builders, 1 Pedal, and Why It’s Okay to Be Angry

Boss needs no introduction as the Japanese brand has become synonymous with guitar effects pedals in the four decades since releasing their very first pedal: the Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble. JHS Pedals, however, is a much younger brand, growing from humble beginnings as a small boutique pedal repair and mod outfit to becoming one of the fastest growing US based pedal brands thanks to their dedicated and growing fanbase. In one of the most surprising pairings in the guitar pedal world, Boss teamed up with JHS Pedals to create the JB-2 Angry Driver. The result of this unlikely pairing of companies from across the globe is one of the more unique takes on a traditional overdrive pedal that breaks the mold to offer a much wider range of overdriven dirt tones than any of Boss’ previous compact drive pedals.

Angry Blues

The Angry Driver takes a familiar Boss pedal, the BD-2 Blues Driver, and pairs it with a variation of the JHS Pedals Angry Charlie. The BD-2 is one of the more famous Boss pedals, debuting in 1995 and still remaining in production to this day. The BD-2 is a characterized by its open and amp-like response compared to more clipped and compressed overdrive pedals and excels at a range of lower to mid-gain drive tones. The JHS Angry Charlie has been released in many iterations although it has always retained a sound that recalls a cranked British amp, a sound favored by guitarists who like meatier guitar tones. Between the two styles of dirt, the JB-2 Angry Driver looks set to offer a formidable range of drive tones.

 

 

Here’s a quick rundown of the pedal’s features before we dig in.

Features:

  • All-new overdrive pedal with massive tonal range, jointly developed by BOSS and JHS Pedals
  • Combines the voices of the BD-2 Blues Driver from BOSS and Angry Charlie from JHS Pedals
  • Three dual-concentric knobs provide independent drive, tone, and level control for each overdrive type
  • Mode selector for choosing individual overdrive types, two series connections for stacking, or parallel connection for unique new sounds
  • Also includes a mode for toggling between BOSS and JHS overdrives with the built-in pedal switch
  • Remote switch jack for controlling pedal modes and bypass from an optional footswitch or effects switching system
  • Multi-color LED indicator shows BOSS mode (blue), JHS mode (red), and both together (purple)
  • BOSS five-year warranty
  • Powered by Boss PSA series power adapter (current draw: 50mA) or 9-volt battery

Visit Boss for more info about the JB-2 Angry Driver.

 

 

Sound & Performance:

The JB-2 is a box that contains a lot of tone. Let’s break it down and talk about the sounds in detail.

Boss BD-2 Blues Driver

With the Mode knob pointing straight up to noon, you’ll be in Boss Mode which gives you a sound that’s pure Blues Driver. I hadn’t played a BD-2 in quite some time, so it was nice to get reacquainted with this classic circuit. As indicated by the labels below the knobs, the lower outside partitions of the dual-concentric knobs control the 3 familiar Blues Driver parameters for Drive (Gain), Tone, & Level. With the Drive set low in the ballpark of around 9 o’clock, the Boss circuit provides a cleaner response that’s a bit livelier than your bypassed clean tone. It just seems to have a bit more attack and cutting power. You can play chords and melodic clean passages that retain definition and clarity, yet the sound pops out a bit more in the mid-range. As you dig in with a harder pick attack, you’ll get a little more bite without the pedal really breaking up much. Pushing the Drive up a bit towards 10 or 11 o’clock brings in some more dirt for slightly hotter leads. Once you take the Drive up to noon or higher, you’ll find some grittier tones suited to classic rock rhythm playing. It’s a very well-rounded circuit in itself that has a range of useful applications outside of blues guitar playing. The response of the pedal varies depending on the output level of your pickups, but you’ll have no trouble finding solid tones whether you’re using single-coils or humbuckers.

JHS Pedals Angry Charlie

With the Mode knob fully clockwise to the JHS circuit, you’ll get a taste of Boss’ interpretation of the Angry Driver. This mode really excels at dirtier drive tones, and this is the setting you’ll go to when crunchier sounds are called for. The JHS side has a noticeably darker tone that will find favor with guitarists who prefer warmer and woolier flavors of dirt. I personally like how the JHS circuit has a very present lower mid-range, yet the pedal retains plenty of articulation in that area and doesn’t get muddy when chugging out palm-muted riffs. While various JHS releases of the Angry Charlie circuit benefit from additional eq or presence controls, the iteration presented in the Angry Driver still does a solid job at reproducing the essence of what makes the Angry Charlie loved by its fans. The Tone knob will let you color the sound as needed for the typically dark or a relatively brighter sound.

Dynamic Duo

The real benefits of the Angry Driver are found when using both of the circuits together. The JHS/Boss Mode lets you use the pedal’s bypass foot-switch to toggle from JHS to Boss Mode and vice versa. The pedal is always active in this mode, so you’ll have to plug an external foot-switch in the Remote jack to bypass the pedal. (Another way to utilize both circuits in this mode would be to put the JB-2 in a loop of the Boss MS-3 Multi Effects Switcher, activating the pedal when its loop is active and using the MS-3’s CTL OUT with the JB-2’s Remote jack to alternate between JHS and Boss circuits.)

There’s also a pair of modes that allow you to use the two circuits in series in either order: JHS → Boss or Boss → JHS. Running the Boss JB-2 circuit into the JHS Angry Drive is akin to slamming a British amp with an overdrive pedal, a common technique that’s well represented in this convenient mode. Reversing the order is a bit novel and unorthodox, but you can still get some interesting sounds if experimental dirt tones are what you’re after. If you want the ability to break away from traditional dirt sounds, the JB-2 encourages you to do so.

The last Mode option is the Parallel Mode which lets you blend both circuits together side-by-side for layered overdrive tones. I really like the textures you can get from this mode. Try setting the Angry Charlie circuit to the kind of darker, dirtier grit it’s known for and add in a cleaner, brighter Blues Driver tone to the mix. You’ll have a chimier top-end with a bottom that’s like warm velvet. Then try brightening up the Angry Charlie circuit with higher gain and let the BD-2 circuit emphasize the lower frequencies. More great tones abound.

An external foot-switch will come in handy in the modes using both circuits simulataneously in case you want to bypass one of the circuits to use the other one by itself. The manual details which circuit can be bypassed in the 2 series modes and Parallel Mode, and several useful options are available.

It’s hard to find any serious faults with the Angry Driver. The closeness of the dual-concentric knobs might be a bit tight for larger fingers, particularly when adjusting the parameters of the Boss circuit. Also, the Angry Charlie circuit is sometimes a little dark for my usual tastes, but for a pedal this size, the sheer amount of quality tones onboard greatly exceeds the norm. Since there are so many useable settings, some users may wish you could access more than one or two sounds at a time, particularly during a live performance. But having too many great tones is hardly a thing to complain about. And even if the JB-2 doesn’t find a home on your pedalboard, you’re still likely find plenty of use for the Angry Driver as a studio tool or bedroom jam machine. But if you need a drive pedal to achieve one great sound (or two if you use an external foot-switch), the JB-2 will happily fill the spot of another compact drive pedal that has limited tonal options.

 

 

The Boss/JHS JB-2 Angry Driver has a wider range of tonal options than most single stomp compact overdrive pedals, and guitarists looking to replace another pedal that isn’t pulling its weight on their pedalboard will find a lot to love in the JB-2. The classic BD-2 Blues Driver is still as good as it has always been, and the JHS Angry Charlie inspired circuit is a suitable companion that greatly expands the drive tones offered in this unique pedal. While you may wish you could easily access more than one or two sounds during a performance, the sounds of the JB-2 are worth exploring on stage, in the studio, or at home. Boss’ first collaborative pedal is a winner, and I hope we see the esteemed builder doing more such partnerships in the future.

That concludes our Boss/JHS Pedals JB-2 Angry Driver review. Thanks for reading.

JHS Pedals Muffuletta Fuzz Review – Best “Big Muff Pi” Pedal?

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There’s tube amp saturation, overdrive, distortion, and then FUZZ. Even further, in the fuzz world, there’s the ultimate classic distortion/fuzz hybrid: the Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi. The original EHX BMP was designed by Mike Matthews & Bob Myer and introduced in 1969. The pedal has had plenty of different versions, interpretations, and updates, all changing and adapting the classic circuit design for new and exciting sounds. The JHS Pedals Muffuletta combines sounds inspired by 5 sought after Big Muff pedals and adds an original JHS interpretation for 6 different Muff flavors in one pedal.

The high price and maintenance of old vintage units make it difficult for modern guitar players to have access to the full range of classic Muff tones. Luckily JHS intends to have us covered with this ‘greatest hits’ stompbox meant for rugged modern touring and studio work. Not too often can you get one pedal that is 6 iconic pedals in one small format, is incredibly easy to use, sounds great with no digital emulation, and weighs next to nothing.

I will attempt to approach my JHS Muffuletta review from a modern player’s perspective and not from the view of a vintage Big Muff purist or collector of those pedals. These pedals are a lot like microphones, guitars, and drums: no two units are the same and every original unit will have its own unique character making it difficult to replicate the sound of the definitive Muff of any era with 100% accuracy. There are a ton of fuzz pedals on the market with variations of the Big Muff’s design, but if 70’s The Who, 90’s alternative rock, or old school sputter-y sounds are your vibe, the Muffuletta may be the perfect pedal to add to your board.

jhs-pedals-muffuletta-fuzz-review-best-big-muff-pi-pedal-02Features:

  • Six modes from decades of the EHX Big Muff Pi pedal’s design, including a new modern spin by the masterminds at JHS
  • Great fuzz for guitar, but has enough low end focus to be a great bass fuzz pedal and enough high end control to be an electric violin pedal
  • Tone knob that interacts with the fuzz type and style; not your typical high cut or cut/boost knob
  • Analog sound quality is high and noise floor is low
  • Understated and cool black and yellow with meatball sub graphic
  • Incredibly lightweight pedal
  • An overall great value and workhorse pedal that is perfect for covering many tones on tour and in the studio without having to collect and maintain pricy and hard to find vintage muff pedals

Visit JHS Pedals for more about the Muffuletta Fuzz.

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Sound & Performance:

The pedal recreates 5 different sought after ‘eras’ of the iconic Big Muff fuzz, a pedal that has seen countless updates and changes since it was introduced in 1969. The Muffuletta pedal covers so much ground that you can can easily replicate tones similar to the Silversun Pickups, many noteworthy John Fruciante Red Hot Chili Peppers solos, Bush, the Black Keys, The Smashing Pumpkins, and countless other famous guitarists and bands. In my experience, the gain is controllable, unlike many other fuzz pedals. Even playing with my hollow body Tele, the pedal doesn’t cause insane feedback (it can if you want it to!) or introduce large amounts of noise into the signal. I typically cascade overdrives and distortions to get the best qualities out of multiple pedals (à la Dave Gilmour), but I’ve found the Muffuletta has more than enough full body and touch sensitivity to hold down your tone all by itself.

KNOBS!

jhs-pedals-muffuletta-fuzz-review-best-big-muff-pi-pedal-04The VOLUME knob controls output volume, and works well to match perceived volumes and level independently of the SUSTAIN knob.

SUSTAIN – The fuzz amount. Like the old school units, fuzz gives the notes more compression and sustain to the notes and chords for more expressive playing at high gain levels. The gain capability is dependent on the fuzz type selected, and can go from a touch of hair to over the top fuzzy goodness.

TONE – This is your EQ/tone control, and is not your typical fixed frequency boost/cut or low pass. Left gives you a darker tone by emphasizing the low mids, which gives your guitar that ‘woofy’ thick low end. Turned to the right gives you that added shrillness without cutting out your low end. What is cool and unique about this pedal is that the Tone knob interacts differently with whatever fuzz type you select. It’s worth noting that while the Mode knob changes the distortion character to selecting from 6 different Muff circuits, the Tone knob is always the same and is based on a Green Russian Big Muff Pi. JHS found this to be the most ideal Tone control.

MODE – There are 6 different ‘eras’ of the Big Muff in this pedal, each with their own cool symbol printed on the pedal. JHS’s designs are not exact recreations of the iconic pedals, but definitely nail the tones and character of these different types of the legendary muff. It’s best to know how old-school you want to go or what type of sound you are going for before deciding which one to start with. The types are not in order of ‘era’, with the left most being the original vintage muff design, and as you turn to the right, the tones become more recent and modern. I find that this pedal is a lot like picking a preamp for recording, whether it be SSL, Neve, API, etc: Start with what era or flavor you are going for and experiment away!

jhs-pedals-muffuletta-fuzz-review-best-big-muff-pi-pedal-05Civil War – More midrange, brighter tone, less gain.
Late 70’s Sovtek/EHX Russian design. It has less gain to work with, but cuts nicely with a high frequency boost character. Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth relies on this sought after old school muff sound.

Russian – Less clarity, less low end
Later updated Russian black design, used frequently by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.

Pi – Aggressive Sound
Late 70’s design. This muff pedal is the most famous and popular aggressive and unsubtle fuzz tone you have heard from John Frusciante, Jack White, Frank Zappa, Pete Townsend, and various 90’s alt-rock guitarists, most notably Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins. Works great for solos, as the sustain and compression really force the solo to the front of the mix and you don’t have to dig into the strings to get the volume.

Triangle – Low End, Articulate
The original. This setting is a full bodied fuzzy tone that is usable for a lot of different types of music, and definitely old school. Gilmour, Santana, insert guitar god name here ____.

’73 Rams Head – Scooped Mids, less gain, darker tone
This setting is great for a more tightened rhythm tone that tucks in behind another guitar/violin/vocal. Great for fuzzy modern bluesy stuff like Black Keys or Jack white riffs.

JHS 2015 – Less compressed, great for bass, focus on midrange
Not only did JHS make admirable recreations of 5 iconic pedals, they added a new and unique Big Muff inspired flavor to this pedal. The JHS Mode is a great all around modern fuzz with added bass and a smooth midrange perfect for a modern take on the old school sound. This setting will smooth out shrill high frequencies and give your instrument a little body, perfect for a bass player that feels left out, a telecaster that needs some weight, or an electric violin that needs to settle down.

This pedal is truly inspiring to play. You can of course get a great sound out of the pedal by just plugging in and playing, but it really opens up possibilities of the pedal once you know the design and legacy of the originals, and I wouldn’t call this pedal a beginner’s pedal. Finding out which Muff your favorite guitar players have used and having the ability to dial it up without buying six pedals is very cool and should help you get writing and playing quicker.

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Overall-Rating-4.5

The JHS Pedals Muffuletta delivers legendary sounds inspired by 5 iconic Big Muff Pi pedals and a 6th original JHS fuzz creation for one incredible value in a pedal. Collectors of the original units may scoff at the intricacies of these reinterpretations, but the Muffuletta is a workhorse and its many tones keep it from being a one trick pony on your pedalboard. Fuzz is generally not a subtle effect, but the Muffuletta can be dynamic and expressive or give you over the top gain while still maintaining that touch sensitivity and low noise we as guitar players always want to keep intact. You can dial up plenty of Muff tones from 70’s progressive music to alternative 90’s grungy fuzzy goodness, 2000’s Chili Peppers, and modern blues based riff rock. If you pick one up, you’ll likely not be disappointed.

That concludes our JHS Pedals Muffuletta review. Thanks for reading!

 

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JHS Pedals Colour Box Review – Best “Neve 1073” Preamp Pedal?

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The JHS Pedals Colour Box is a landmark release for the Kansas City based effects pedal builder and an equally noteworthy pedal in the realm of guitar effects in general. What makes it so special? Well, this bold undertaking seeks to deliver a studio-grade “channel-strip-in-a-box” in the vein of the iconic Neve 1073 microphone preamp/EQ module from the Neve 80 series analog mixing consoles, something never before so thoroughly attempted in a guitar pedal. The Colour Box was a concept so promising that this author even ranked it as the most impressive pedal at the Winter NAMM 2014 show, greatly adding to the initial hype surrounding this product (for better or worse). So did it live up? Is it the ultimate tool for achieving Neve 1073 style “direct-in” saturation and dirt in a guitar effects pedal? You’ll find out in our JHS Pedals Colour Box review.

Features:

Inputs/Outputs

  • Neutrik ¼” / XLR Input allows guitar, bass, vocals, acoustic guitars, keyboards, etc., to be used live or in the studio
  • Separate ¼” mono output & Neutrik XLR output are independent and allow you to run parallel outputs to two destinations

Utility Switches

  • ¼” / XLR switch lets you choose between ¼” or XLR input
  • -20dB switch is a standard 20dB pad for use with the XLR input

Controls

  • Master – The Master Gain (labeled “Master”) is what would typically be considered as a Volume control.
  • Pre-Vol – The Pre Volume (labeled “Pre-Vol”) can be used the same as you would a Drive knob on an overdrive pedal.
  • Step – The Step Gain (labeled “Step”) changes the gain of each preamp stage in five stages (from left to right: 1st is x 18dB, 2nd is x 23dB, 3rd is x 28dB, 4th is x 33dB, 5th is x 39dB).
  • Hi Pass – The High-pass spans from 60Hz to 800Hz with a 6dB per octave slope. This control allows you to only let high frequencies pass.
  • EQ Controls – The tone control section is a highly modified Baxandall type that is tuned for less control interaction and more boost/cut capability. The center frequencies are Treble 10kHz, Middle 1kHz, and Bass 12hZ, with +/- 17dB of control.

Power – 18VDC negative center power supply (included).

JHS-Pedals-Colour-Box-Review-Best-Neve-1073-Console-Preamp-Pedal-04The Colour Box sports JHS Pedals’ characteristically minimalist appeal, packaged in a clean white enclosure (the prototypes were grey) with an attractive studio console inspired graphic on its surface.

The knobs will be familiar to anyone who’s seen other JHS Pedals releases, and they’re easy enough to grip with a moderate potentiometer resistance that yields a satisfying and smooth knob feel. The 3 blue Treble, Middle, & Bass tone controls also have a center indent at noon which allows easy placement to a neutral ‘flat’ tone position. A handy flip-switch allows you to activate the Hi Pass function, activating the dedicated knob for sweeping out the lows from 60Hz to 800Hz.

The foot-switch is located near the edge of the pedal which allows plenty of space away from the knobs, useful for avoiding the kicking of parameter knobs when the Colour Box is used on a pedalboard. The foot-switch is of the nice hearty variety that offers a satisfying ‘click’ when activating the pedal from true bypass although its pop bleeds through quite loudly, particularly when engaging the pedal. This may not be as noticeable in a loud band situation when you’re blasting into some thick saturated Colour Box distortion or when the pedal is placed in the loop of an effects switcher, but you’ll want to be mindful of the noisy foot-switch when kicking on the pedal during a quiet song transition.

JHS-Pedals-Colour-Box-Review-Best-Neve-1073-Console-Preamp-Pedal-02The Neutrick jacks seem solid enough as expected and should provide years of reliable use. The Inst/XLR & -20dB switches are accessed from the right side via 2 small holes in the enclosure. You should be able to flip these with a small screwdriver or pen should you require the XLR input for a microphone or other XLR line audio signals. The -20dB pad will come in handy if you ever experience any clipping from running a hot signal into the Colour Box’s XLR input.

Visit JHS Pedals for more info about the Colour Box.

See the lowest price on Amazon.

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Sound & Performance:

We’re going to jump right in to the nitty gritty. The biggest selling points of the Colour Box are its saturated distortion and fuzz-like textures that come courtesy of the pedal’s 2 gain stages (the Neve 1073 has one) and a Lundahl transformer. The tones sound great whether you’re playing the Colour Box in front of an amp or plugging directly into a recording interface and jamming through studio monitors. There are plenty of bells ‘n whistles and other applications, but this is where the Colour Box shines its brightest.

With the Colour Box in front of a clean amp, start with the Master knob pretty low (around 9-10 o’clock), max the Pre-Vol, and sweep the Step knob through its 5 positions. You’ll notice at the 3rd position that there’s a noticeable amount of grit. The 4th position is pretty saturated, and this is a solid starting point for dialing in some classic drive tones reminiscent of those sounds achieved from plugging a guitar straight into a mixing console. The 5th Step position produces some buzzy fuzz that sounds pretty gnarly (watch your Master volume level; it gets loud!). To make the most out of this position, you’ll probably want to back off the Pre-Vol a bit to rein in the fuzz from the brink of full-blown saturated chaos as the signal can get choked off at the highest Pre-Vol levels. Pulling it back a bit farther towards 1-3 o’clock yields a range of great wooly overdriven tones. There are plenty of tasteful tones and textures to be found with a little exploration and careful pairing with your guitar, pickups, and amp.

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The EQ controls help dial in the sound and offer great flexibility for crafting a tone that’ll sit in the mix well. It’s also the EQ section in conjunction with the Lundahl LL1578 input transformer that give the Colour Box its “color”. At noon the Baxandall style EQ produces a generally balanced sound, but you can easily tame any unruly frequencies (like reducing the high-end of your fuzz when playing a bright sounding guitar) or add a little boost where needed. The EQ knobs function independently of each other and are designed to leave the other frequencies unchanged when a particular band is altered. The Colour Box’s EQ should also be the strongest consideration for choosing this pedal over JHS Pedals’ recently released Crayon, a stripped down version of the Colour Box that claims to offer a similar style of saturated crunch and fuzz but with a single knob tilt style EQ instead of the 3 knob Baxandall arrangement. (More about the “Crayon vs Colour Box” below. Also, see the Diamond Compressor for well-executed example of a pedal featuring a tilt EQ.)

The Hi Pass is definitely worth exploring as this can provide some great lo-fi, treble-focused sounds. Raising the Hi Pass knob up clockwise reduces more and more of the lower frequencies. You can make it sound very brittle (in a good way) by also reducing the Bass and Middle, or you can perfectly define your top-focused tone by carefully sculpting the EQ knobs to achieve your desired sound, maybe with some additional bass or midrange presence.

A Lundahl Transformer… in a pedal?

One of the most hyped selling points of the JHS Pedals Colour Box is its Lundahl branded microphone input transformer. The pedal even has the “Lundahl Transformers” logo emblazoned on the bottom side of the pedal next to the JHS logo. This might mistakenly lead some guitarists to believe that the very inclusion of a transformer from such a highly regarded company as Lundahl means that this is an ultra-high fidelity studio-grade pedal. The XLR I/O options and mixing console artwork also add to this “studio-grade” impression. But all Lundahl transformers aren’t the same nor are their applications or implementation in the products that may feature them.

I happened to first spend some with and hear a production Colour Box shortly after I reviewed the Origin Effects Cali76-TX-LP (a compressor pedal), with that unit and the similar Cali76-TX-L being the only other guitar pedals I’m currently aware of that contain Lundahl transformers. My initial lack of a deeper understanding about the differences in the transformers used and their differing functions in the Colour Box and the Cali76-TX-LP led to severe disappointment with the Colour Box when I first played it and searched for so-called “studio grade” clean tones when playing it in front of a clean amp.

Essentially, while the Cali76-TX-LP maintains a very respectable low-noise signal integrity when placed in front of a guitar amp, the same can’t be said for activating a Colour Box in your guitar signal chain. Even at the lowest Pre-Vol levels with Step set to the 1st position, you’ll hear an obvious noise added to your signal whenever the Colour Box is engaged. (Noise isn’t color; noise is noise.) It’s not overly intrusive while you’re playing and probably wouldn’t be noticeably bothersome in a band setting (or if you’ve never heard the other pedal I’m referencing in person or side-by-side with the Colour Box). But the Colour Box’s lack of pristine signal clarity when placed in front of an amp might be off-putting for those considering the pedal for end-of-signal-chain preamp use or general EQ’ing and tone-shaping duties. While the Colour Box may appear misleading if you’re looking for a pristine “modern” studio-grade preamp pedal, the higher than expected noise floor does add to the “old vintage gear” vibe, which may be appealing if you’re looking for that sort of thing. It’s also worth remembering that the pedal is based on Neve 1073 microphone preamplifier modules which were originally made over 40 years ago at a time when the noise floor standards were obviously less stringent than they are today. Ultimately, having a proper perspective on what the Colour Box is rather than what it isn’t will help you avoid similar initial disappointment.

Getting back to those transformer specifics, the Colour Box contains a Lundahl LL1578 Microphone Input Transformer while the Origin Effects Cali76-TX-L & LP both contain the LL1517 Audio Output Transformer. Without going further down the rabbit hole of comparison, just know that these are different transformers for different audio applications, and they’ve been applied in these products by builders with drastically different backgrounds (i.e. stompbox builder vs studio equipment engineer). The transformers play different roles and functionality purposes in their respective circuits. Also, while the Lundahl equipped Cali76 pedals are meant to be studio grade in all areas of operation and audio fidelity, the Colour Box, first and foremost, is a tool meant to help you achieve “direct-in” saturated guitar tones, and at that the pedal greatly excels. Bearing all this in mind, it’s not fair to make comparisons to other pedals as there really isn’t anything else out there that does what this pedal does.

Colour Box: Direct In

Again, it’s the Colour Box’s saturated tones that are where the real fun happens. Cranking the Pre-Vol to higher levels and experimenting with Step settings 3-5 yield many shades of useable overdriven “direct-in” guitar tones. While you lose the pleasing filtered effect from miking a speaker cabinet directly, the EQ section does an adequate job of shaping your recorded guitar tone, especially curbing the high-end if needed. You can have more fun with the audio once it’s “in-the-box”, the box being your computer in this case, or you can use the Colour Box in a similar way to “re-amping” by sending a clean recorded guitar track out from your DAW (i.e. Ableton Live, Pro Tools, etc.) and into the pedal, then recording its output on another channel.

JHS-Pedals-Colour-Box-Review-Best-Neve-1073-Console-Preamp-Pedal-03Surprisingly, when plugging the Colour Box directly into a recording interface via the ¼” output or XLR output, the pedal’s noise issues are less apparent than when using it in front of an amp, and it does a pretty solid job at getting reasonably clean guitar tones into your DAW. It’s still not entirely “studio grade” by modern standards, but the minor noise issues will be even less noticeable in a full mix with other instruments. And if you’re purposefully going for a classic, mildly-noisy, vintage vibe in a world of sterilized and overly pristine recording equipment and digital audio, the Colour Box’s drawbacks (let’s call it “analog character”) may indeed become a boon for your use.

Colour Box V2?

My main gripes with the pedal have been mostly mentioned throughout this review, but while The Colour Box remains a very bold and largely successful attempt at producing a Neve 1073 microphone preamp channel strip in a guitar pedal, there is room for improvement. Considering that other pedals inspired by famous studio gear like the audiophile grade Effectrode PC-2A (based on a Teletronix LA-2A) & Origin Effects Cali76-CD (based on an Urei 1176) are both immaculately quiet and pristine while offering unobtrusive silent-switching when activating/bypassing those pedals, I’d love to see JHS Pedals upgrade the Colour Box in the audio fidelity department (i.e. lower noise) and with quieter operation (i.e. silent switching). Also, while another pedal, Dr. Scientist’s The Elements, offers solid distortion with significantly quieter EQ’ing, tone shaping, and clean boosting capabilities (and is nearly half the price of a Colour Box), a little attention to the Colour Box’s noise floor could put the pedal at least on par with The Elements’ sound quality and tonal flexibility when it comes to clean tones and EQ’ing. Although, remember, the Colour Box’s main focus is achieving dirtier, saturated “direct-in” guitar tones, an area so far only pursued this thoroughly and effectively by JHS Pedals.

JHS Colour Box vs JHS Crayon?

As mentioned repeatedly, the Colour Box’s strongest points are in its saturated overdrive and fuzz tones, but the recently released JHS Pedals Crayon aims to capture a similar “direct-in” vibe at half the price. It mainly does this by getting rid of all the unnecessary XLR options, removing the transformer (while still aiming to achieve a similar saturation), replacing the 3-band EQ section with a single “tilt” EQ knob, and simplifying the Hi Pass section to a switch (with 2 internal voice options). Value isn’t usually a consideration when we’re grading pedals as sound quality and inspiration are priceless commodities, but the Crayon may be an equal or better option for achieving a “direct-in” style of saturation at a considerably smaller financial outlay that could better suit the needs of budget-minded guitarists. But if JHS Pedals can find a way to address the cleaner applications of the Colour Box without sacrificing the great saturated tonality of this pedal, we’ll look forward to re-evaluating any improvements to this unique concept.

Let’s see the final result.

JHS-Pedals-Colour-Box-Review-Best-Neve-1073-Console-Preamp-Pedal-06

Overall-Rating-4.0

The JHS Pedals Colour Box excels at producing “direct-in” style overdrive and fuzz tones similar to the countless guitar recordings that were made by recording a guitar directly into a Neve 1073 microphone channel strip. Whether you’re plugging the Colour Box directly into an audio mixer or recording interface or running it into your amp, the Colour Box adds a broad palette of pleasing saturation to your tonal toolbox. We’d like to see the signal noise addressed for cleaner tones & EQ’ing when used in an effects pedal signal chain or alone in front of an amp. This would also translate to a cleaner, more high-end and modern recording experience for other audio sources as well. And while the newly released JHS Pedals Crayon could cannibalize Colour Box sales since it aims to achieve similar direct-in style tones for half the price, the Colour Box’s greater EQ flexibility and individual mojo will ensure its lasting appeal among JHS Pedals fans and guitarists seeking a great “direct-in” tone solution from a guitar pedal.

That concludes our JHS Pedals Colour Box review. Thanks for reading.

 

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