The news that Marshall has officially launched its reissued range of drive pedals – the hallowed Bluesbreaker, Drivemaster, Shredmaster and The Guv’Nor – deserves a drum roll. Everyone knew they were coming and yet that somehow only makes it more exciting to know that when you rock up at your local music store you’ll see Marshall’s ‘Fab Four’ in the pedal cabinet.
Fair play to Marshall. The British guitar amp icon might not be able to keep a secret but it can see the funny side of things, admitting on the video thumbnail for their demo that this was indeed their worst kept secret.
The rumours, the leaks, the denials that these pedals ever existed, none of that matters now, because the pedals have arrived, they are widely available, and they present guitar players with four options for putting genuine Marshall drive tones on their pedalboards.
As the YouTube demos, and various leaks will have told us, these reissues are very much following the design template Marshall used in the ‘90s for their MkI stompboxes. The only thing that tells you the Marshall pedal that you have in front of you is a reissue or a vintage model is the text on the manual and the box.
Each of these pedals comes housed in a robust black steel enclosure, just like the old days. The Drivemaster, Bluesbreaker and Shredmaster enclosures are embossed with the Marshall logo, a single footswitch and control dials protected by a raised metal contour.
The O.G. Marshall pedal, the Guv’Nor, has an angled enclosure with the controls facing away from the footswitch There is a simplicity to the design.
The Bluesbreaker, by some distance the most sought after of these models on the vintage market, not least because that is what John Mayer used on Continuum, and Mayer remains one of guitar’s most influential taste makers, but also because it is a superb overdrive pedal, summoning tones that call to mind early Clapton, back in the days when you might spot him reading a comicbook in the street.
The Bluesbreaker [and we’ll go with these in all one word rather than ‘Blues Breaker’ because that’s how Marshall has listed them] has controls for Gain, Tone and Volume.
Like all of the pedals in the series, its 1/4” inputs and outputs are mounted on the top of the unit, which should help a little when arranging them on the ‘board, and it is run off a 9V DC pedalboard power supply or a battery.
As for the Guv’Nor, its provenance dates back to 1988, with a circuit voiced for “smooth overdriven sound with a touch of compression”. It’s name? Well, that’s refers to Jim Marshall himself. The sound is unmistakably Marshall, but then what else would you expect.
There have been a few pretenders to the throne since but this is the archetypical Marshall-in-a-box, with its complement of controls very much like that of an amplifier: Gain, Bass, Middle, Treble, Level. There’s even a Y-insert send/return loop so you can add some effects after the EQ stage. You’ll have to buy that Y-insert cable separately.
The Drivemaster appeared a little later alongside the Bluesbreaker and Shredmaster, and offered a streamlined take on The Guv’Nor. The effects loop was gone. The chassis was this new design.
But it offered players a similarly amp-like and thorough control over shaping their sound. The drive tones had a strong JCM vibe, with low-gain crunch all the way through to gnarlier NWOBHM-friendly gain.
The Shredmaster was a more high-gain sibling to the Drivemaster, and again, like the others in the series the circuit is the same spec – the only updates have been to pots and output sockets.
Here you have controls for Gain, Bass, Contour, Treble, and Volume, and while this pedal might suggest use with hotrodded S-style electric guitars with hockey-stick headstocks, it was arguably more famous for being included on Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine pedalboards.
Whichever way you use it, there is a little more heat on tap here. A lot more, and can be a hard-working distortion pedal if you regularly operate in high-gain scenarios.
The Marshall reissues are all made in the UK. They are out now – for real this time – and they’re priced £169 street. See Marshall for more details.