DigiTech Brian May Red Special review

Models of 14 classic Queen tones in an impressive box

  • £209
  • $299.95
The authenticity of the Red Special's sounds is staggering

MusicRadar Verdict

For those of us who do revel in the guitar sounds of Brian May, the models here are absolutely the best available today. We´re told that Brian has been considering using a unit on stage and surely there´s no better recommendation than that.


  • +

    The authenticity of the sounds is staggering.


  • -

    Limited potential if you're not playing Queen covers.

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DigiTech's Artist Series had already seen impressive signature pedals from guitar legends Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix when it launched this Brian May model in 2005.

Indeed, the Red Special is based loosely on the Jimi Hendrix Experience pedal, insofar as the expression pedal, thanks to heel and toe switches, offers two different options for each of the seven basic models, which are accessible via a rotary model selector.

The tones are modelled from those found on the relevant Queen albums, hence the involvement of legendary producer Eddie Kramer, who delved through the master tapes in search of just the right sections. As an example, model six gives the classic equidistant two-delay effect in order to recreate May's live solo piece in Brighton Rock. However, the basic tone was modelled from that found on the Live At Wembley '86 album, rather than simply a doubled delay slapped over a model of a boosted AC30.

DigiTech has also addressed - and solved, in our opinion - the obvious conundrum of the influence of Brian's unique guitar. Using the company's patented and rather hush-hush guitar modelling technology, you can use the Guitar control to fine-tune the character of your own instrument to mimic that of the associated Red Special pickup setting. So, if you use a Strat, you simply have to make sure you have the knob all the way to 'SC', or, with a Les Paul or similar, turn it the opposite way to 'HB'. If you own one of the many Red Special replicas, the central position is for you. The inner segment of that dual-concentric knob controls a specific parameter of selected models, such as the level of reverb for the Crazy Little Thing... solo. Some, such as the delay level of the aforementioned Brighton Rock option, can even be altered in real time by using the treadle.

For added versatility, there are three output modes, allowing you to calibrate the unit for use with a single amp, a stereo mixer or even a pair of amps for a full stereo effect. You can even plug in an optional FS3X footswitch for hands-free model selection.

As the icing on the cake, DigiTech even includes a genuine silver sixpence with each unit. Ours dated from 1954, and it's difficult to estimate its overall influence on May's tone unless you've actually used one while you're playing - and now you can.


Even if you've only dallied with Queen's back catalogue, it's difficult not to be open-mouthed with wonder when playing some of these models. Among the most impressive are the models of the Bohemian Rhapsody solo and We Will Rock You lead tone. With a Burns BHM in hand, these are just about indistinguishable from the original recordings.

The best news of all is that these and the other models are equally striking when using more traditional guitars. With a Mexican Fender Strat and Gibson Les Paul, simply altering the Guitar pot and tailoring the EQ and gain results in the authentic character remaining virtually unadulterated. We were less impressed with the Crazy Little Thing acoustic model, because it sounds very artificial to our ears, even though we were prepared for that eventuality. Also, the 'Deacy' tone, although spot-on in terms of accuracy, may well be the least used of all.

It's hard to pick holes though, because the Red Special takes any player even remotely interested in May's sounds closer than you'd ever imagine.

Music Radar Team

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