After years of waiting and being met with silence, Marshall has gone the whole hog and reissued three overdrives and a distortion pedal at once with the BluesBreaker, Guvnor, DriveMaster and ShredMaster now finally available to buy again. But along with this welcome news comes some confusion - what exactly are the key differences between them?
The BluesBreaker name and John Mayer connection carries some weight but it's not necessarily the main event here – all four of these reissues are serious contenders for your pedalboard. It's figuring out which one will be the right option for what you need.
Even though the pedal market in the early '90s was tiny compared to nowadays, none of these pedals were actually around for long in the first place, driving up demand on the used market that will now be harpooned by these reissues.
The good news is that, like the originals, they're all still made in Marshall's UK Milton Keynes factory – and that's everything down to screen-printing, using the same suppliers for the components and following the original schematics.
Marshall confirms that the one change comes as a result of the original manufacturer for the input jacks and pots no longer being in business, so it has instead requested another company produce them to the same original specs.
The new demo from Andertons above does a great job of illustrating the differences. Obviously the ShredMaster is a distortion, based on the JCM 900 but the three overdrives have their distinctions; the DriveMaster is inspired by the iconic JCM 800 but we've already covered the BluesBreaker not actually sounding like the amp that inspired its name. So what's the real story here?
The Guv'nor (late company founder Jim Marshall's nickname) came first in 1988; a unique circuit that was used by Gary Moore. The Master series followed in 1992 with the DriveMaster replacing the Guv'nor. So why reissue both again?
For starters, the Guvnor includes an effects loop on the back, further underlining its ahead-of-its-time 'amp in a box' design. And it also looks the most '80s!
It's an excellent medium gain rock tone with a three-band amp-style EQ to dial in. Ditto the DriveMaster – a real Marshall-in-a-box experience that could be ideal for plenty of rock and stacking.
The ShredMaster – as used by Jonny Greenwood on Radiohead's Creep – is not a pedal for the bluesers. Here there's a contour control in place of the mid – you turn it up to scoop. And it's quite a dark, compressed-sounding pedal (we remember owning an original) that will need you to push the treble in many cases. One for the harder rockers.
Keep in mind you need to spend some time dialing these pedals in to unity gain levels as they're not at midday. And in the BluesBreaker's case, it's a pedal that is known for a more subtle edge of breakup character, but in the upper reaches of the gain, it shows a lot more spice and changeability in minor tweaking.
It's won a lot of fans for its articulate (some will call it transparent) character that pushes your amp tastefully. And it can be very Mayerish, as Andertons illustrate.
Pete and Lee even A/B the reissues with originals provided by the team at Pedal Pawn just to confirm whether the used market for the Guvnor and BluesBreakers is going to burst.
They are generally, as expected, pretty much identical apart from some small pot tolerance differences that aren't unusual.