Akai Deluxe Distortion

Let's hear it for hands: they pull the strings, fret the notes and throw the horns. But if all you do with your feet is tap out time, mount monitors and shoe the odd stage invader, then you're halving your body's potential to rock.

At this point, the more highbrow members of our readership will probably start muttering something about "favouring the organic break-up of valves" to "cheap outboard distortion". Their loss.

"You won't spend long chasing a cracking tone."

From the boutique-style units through to more affordable additions to your pedalboard, the modern pedal marketplace is a fun-packed pick 'n' mix, where a rainbow of sexy and savage stompboxes jostle for the attention of our size 10s.

No sector is more seductive (or more saturated) than distortion. From the moment that Roger Mayer built his first fuzzbox for Jimmy Page back in 1963, distortion pedals have been part of our lives.

In 2011, there are so many models that stacking them up could recreate the Great Wall of China (possibly), which is cool, but also means it takes a special flavour of filth to get our attention and stop us going over to the multi-fx side.

Build

The distortion market has plenty of workhorses. You get the feeling that Akai's Deluxe Distortion fancies itself as a thoroughbred: a pampered pompadour that's too swanky to share a gigbag with the rest of your ghastly, plebeian pedals.

And you must admit, the features do look top-drawer, with an analogue format, true bypass, array of tone- shaping dials, and even a Direct Rec switch that emulates amp output when you're going straight to the desk.

But there's a twist: Akai has managed to keep this little lot under £70. For us plebs, things are looking up.

All those switches look like a headache - and they might be a little flimsy and fiddly for rough or dark venues - but operation in a controlled environment is surprisingly intuitive, with your first choice being the EQ mode (Modern, Normal or Classic) and fine-tuning done via the Tri-Mode and High Cut switches and detailed EQ.

You won't spend long chasing a cracking tone, though, as wherever you point the dials, this unit's output is coloured by innate class.

Don't be fooled by the pseudo-elitism. The features of this pedal might scream, 'It's too good for the road!', but the competitive price tag whispers, 'Oh bugger it, it'll be fine'.

MusicRadar Rating

5 / 5 stars
Pros

Insanely versatile. Great sounds.

Cons

Looks a little flimsy.

Verdict

From the brown vintage warmth of the Classic setting, to the mid-scooped mentalism of Modern, this is both the best and the most versatile pedal we've seen in a while.

Review Policy
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.

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