Since 1989, Tech 21 of New York City has been ploughing its own furrow in the quest for the perfect guitar tone. The company's SansAmp technology emulates the sound of valve amps and mic'd speakers, allowing you to record realistic guitar tones directly; but it's analogue, not digital.
Each pedal in Tech 21's new-for-2008 Character range is designed to emulate the classic sounds of a particular brand of amplifiers, but without any model-specific settings.
Instead, each pedal has the same set of easily understood controls, including the eponymous Character control, which moves through the range of 'flavours' associated with that amp company.
Level, drive and three-band EQ controls should be familiar to most people, while the character control changes the overall tonal response, attack and drive characteristics.
The Blonde has speaker simulation for direct recording, but it can also be used as a standard overdrive/preamp pedal. There's a mono input and output, and the pedal can be powered by either a single 9V battery (which should last around 100 hours) or a suitable mains adaptor.
While there's a recognised 'Fender tone', there are distinct sonic differences between amps of different periods in the company's history, and in order to reflect this, the Blonde has a Character control that takes you backwards through time.
With the Character control below 50 per cent, the pedal specialises in those crystal clean sounds associated with Blackface amps. Plugging in a Strat, the sound is crisp and bright, but with a perfect balance to the lower frequencies so it doesn't sound at all thin.
You can get a touch of overdrive with this setting, but mostly to add extra bite. Turning up brings you more into the Blonde era and then the Tweed era of the fifties. The available overdrive increases first, and then there's a prominent midrange boost, like the real thing.
At the maximum Character setting things get a bit more snarly and aggressive, described by Tech 21 as "Ted Nugent style".