Tech 21 has launched the Character Plus Series, four floor-based pedals comprising an analogue guitar amp emulator and a switchable effect, offering players the chance to dial in some classic electric guitar tones.
The Screaming Blonde, English Muffy, Fuzzy Brit and Mop Top Liverpool all share a two-channel design, and they can be used in a number of ways. Use them as you would any guitar effects pedal and place it between your guitar and amplifier.
The option is there to use simply as an amp emulator or to use the effect on its own. You can use the Character Plus units as a preamp section and send your signal through a power amp, or as a super-portable rig to send direct to the desk when playing live or recording.
The control setups on each of the units is largely identical, with illuminated, colour-coded controls for the amp emulator and the independent effect section. There are dials for Channel A Volume, Channel B Volume, High, Mid, Low, Drive, and Character A and Character B, plus Level, Tone and a single knob to dial in the Scream, Boost, Fuzz, or Muff depending on the unit.
The Character knobs are interesting. With one each per channel, you can dial in two variations on a theme and toggle between them via the channel footswitch.
Take the Screaming Blonde, a Fender-style amp emulator with a switchable Tube Screamer-style overdrive section. Set below noon and the Character dial offers classic Black panel and Silverface Fender sounds.
At noon the Character of the amp emulator ventures into what Tech 21 describes as “Blonde territory with more of everything – more lows, more mids, more highs”. Anywhere above noon and the tones are Tweedy, with lead boosted tones when dimed.
The Scream section of the unit offers a single Tone control to adjust the highs and mids, and an overdrive for dialling in how much TS-style gain you want. Fender amp plus Tube Screamer? Pairings do not get much more ubiquitous than that.
The English Muffy is inspired by large and overpowering HiWatt amps with a Big Muff fuzz pedal in front of them.
Below noon on the dial and the Character knob presents “clean, classic HiWatt-style tones” but set around noon you are into crunchy ‘70s Pete Townshend sounds. Keep turning it clockwise and the upper-mids are accentuated for Gilmour-esque lead tones.
The Muff section of the pedal has a Tone knob to adjust a specialised passive tilt EQ voiced similarly to those found on the original ‘60s Big Muffs, with a Sustain knob to control how much fuzz you need.
The Fuzzy Brit is for the Bluesbreakers heads and is voiced after a JTM45. With the Character at noon there are Plexi-style sounds, and beyond that there are Metalface-style Marshall tones.
The Fuzz section here is based on a Fuzz Face, with its Tone knob controlling a specialised low pass filter that allows you to tame some of the highs without it getting muddy.
Finally, there is the Mop Top Liverpool. With its name and the burgundy diamond pattern on black paint job, there are no prizes for guessing what inspired this one. However, this will cover a lot of ground tonally.
The British Invasion tones will be there at the turn of a dial. Just add Rickenbacker. But as you turn up the Character A control more of that classic British midrange will make an appearance, with overdrive and crunch giving way to the “upper mid crackle of pushed Alnico speakers” when dimed.
Character B is voiced a little differently on the Mop Top Liverpool. Whereas Channel A offers throaty cleans and warm drive below noon, Character B offers full cleans, and above noon it evokes the “woman tone” with a boosted low-mids sound when turned up full – think non-Top Boost AC30.
The independent Boost section here is interesting. Unlike the others, it has no tone knob. Instead there is a button selecting between a treble boost or a midrange boost, with up to +12dB available via the Boost knob.
While the Character Plus units are not as compact as the Character v2 pedal series Tech 21 launched nine years ago, the expanded feature set makes them more versatile. Pick up the Mop Top Liverpool and you can go from classic Beatles to Rory Gallagher and Queen tones with the turn of a footswitch. The Fuzzy Brit promises all your vintage gold-panelled needs, from Beano-era Clapton to classic rock.
The SansAmp Character Plus Series will be available late June, priced $279. See Tech 21 for more details.