Six of the best 'amp in a box' pedals
The stack of pedals designed to sound like classic amps has grown ever higher. Here's our pick of pedals that deserve a Tolex finish...
#1: Catalinabread Wiio
Capturing the brutal delivery of a 70s Hiwatt in a pedal seems like a tall order, but this pedal’s huge sound will come as a surprise.
It sounds best through an amp that can deliver some guts, too, of course – just don’t go expecting any sort of compressed, easy ride. Imagine being punched in the face with notes and enjoying it: you like that, don’t you?
Electro-Harmonix EHX Tortion
This is based on a multi-stage valve amp, albeit using JFET transistors instead of valves.
There’s a multi- position ‘pre-gain’ switch to take you from cleans through to full-on saturation, plus powerful three-band EQ and an additional boost section with its own gain and master controls. Use it in front of an amp, or direct to a mixer thanks to the balanced XLR out with cabinet emulation.
4 out of 5
Read our full Electro-Harmonix EHX Tortion review
BUY: Electro-Harmonix EHX Tortion currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music | DV247
US: Sweetwater | Full Compass
There are plenty of Fender and Marshall amp-emulating pedals out there, so how about the sound of the fabled Soldano SLO100 into your own amp, with a separate clean boost section to boot?
It delivers edge and girth aplenty to go from classic-rock rhythms to huge, soaring leads. If 60s/70s rock tones are too classic for you, and metal’s too modern, you’ll like this a lot.
BUY: Wampler Slostortion currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Gear4Music
Unlike all the other pedals on this page, this one uses digital technology to derive its sounds, based on a ’59 Fender Bassman (there’s also a ’65 Deluxe Reverb model).
It does a decent job of making any amp sound like the fabled tweed amp at home/ practice volumes, but is outshone by quality analogue pedals through high-end amps at gig volumes.
BUY: Boss FBM-1 currently available from:
US: Sweetwater | Full Compass
With a one-watt output stage, you could say that this pedal is an amp. It’s certainly a preamp: three independent channels covering clean to full-on gain tones, plus a switchable loop section.
You can connect direct to a guitar amp, and/or send a speaker- simulated signal straight to a live or recording desk. As with most Randall amps, hard rock and metal are well served by the RG13.
BUY: Randall RG13 currently available from:
UK: Thomann | DV247
Empress Effects Multidrive
Big ambition here with the promise of three different ‘amps’ used together in parallel.
You can have any combination of vintage overdrive, classic fuzz and the three-mode distortion section, plus three-band EQ and high/lo-pass filter options.
It’s all-analogue, with germanium diodes, FET distortion and LED clipping playing their parts in shaping the tones. Serious flexibility.
4.5 out of 5
Read our full Empress Effects Multidrive review
BUY: Empress Effects Multidrive currently available from: