Let's be honest, $385 is a lot of money for any pedal. But session legend Michael Landau and high-end Tokyo brand Vemuram carry a lot of weight in guitar circles so their Butter Machine distortion pedal collaboration will snare plenty of eager tone hounds with deep pockets. But we want to hear it – and Landau has obliged in a video detailing the pedal's development.
Landau has been using Vemuram pedals for a decade, with the Jan Ray as his first. His admiration for the Japanese company's products and friendship with the founder Shingo Hirano and CEO Daiya Tezuka eventually led to a discussion of a distortion pedal to replace Landau's Maxon SD-9 for high gain.
"I've always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the pedal," admits the guitarist. "It can be shrill and overly compressed if it's not dialled in just right."
Tezuka's mission was to design a pedal that took what Landau liked about the SD9 without the things he didn't. It took several prototypes and months to get to a final design that reflected "many improvements" on that initial request. The guitarist toured with prototypes in 2022 and 2023, and used them in the recording studio too.
"Besides the gain, volume and tone knobs, there are two trims pots that let you fine-tune this pedal in a unique way," notes Landau.
Firstly, there's the Sparkle trim pot for a peaking type of boost that's centred around the 6k mark to allow players to dial in the kind of crunch they want in the high-end frequencies. The Low-Mid trim pot is for tuning the level of bottom-end players want to dial in.
The overall character is "a perfectly open, natural feeling overdrive," says Laundau. "It has fain and sustains for days. Yet it stays clear, punchy and solid when you roll the volume back on your guitar. It's very easy to dial in the perfect amount of overdrive with this pedal while keeping all of the musicality intact.
"Vemuram has designed the best distortion pedal that I have ever played through."
That statement alone from Landau may well be enough to warrant the investment from many players.