Mesa/Boogie shocked us all by unveiling four new overdrive/distortion stompboxes earlier this year. Here we look at the Throttle Box - a pedal for high-gain fanatics.
We were as surprised as anyone to find out that Mesa/Boogie, bona fide guitar and bass amplifier legend, has decided to dip its tone-obsessed toe into the crowded waters of the pedal market.
The guys from Petaluma have built pedals before - the valve-powered V-Twin, for example, has its own place in history - but releasing a quartet of 'normal' stompboxes into a saturated market? Well, with a 40-year-plus reputation for some of the most memorable distortion tones of all time, you might argue that saturation is exactly Mesa's business.
Each of the new pedals shares the same sturdy metal chassis into which is loaded its custom PCB-based innards. The pedals are a little taller than the 'standard' MXR-type box, and finished to impeccable standards. All the jacks and pots are securely screwed to the chassis, the only downside being the forever-annoying task of removing four screws to access the batteries. The Throttle Box specifies a 25mA current draw (slightly higher than many overdrives) - you get a good few hours off a nine- volter, or use an AC adaptor.
You want all-out? Here it is - the Throttle Box's reason for being is gain, gain and more gain, aimed primarily at hard rock and metal players. Mesa's genre-conquering experience with its Rectifier series of amplifiers bodes well for the pedal, and straight away you get a hint of what's to come.
In addition to the expected level and gain pots, there's a mid-cut knob that dials in the fabled 'V' EQ curve (boosted bass and treble, cut in the midrange) the more you turn it clockwise. A tone pot governs the global response - darker to brighter - while a lo/hi gain switch gives you two levels of filth.
Less obvious is the little switch in the back, which offers a further boost to gain and low-end for the heavier end of things. It comes set to 'on', naturally...
Heavy metal means radically different things to different people. Metallica may well have been influenced by Black Sabbath, for example, and both are undeniably metal, but the guitar tones really are very different. So with the Throttle Box, let's start with James and Kirk, and then move forwards in time with that massive, compressed, cascading overdrive.
Active pickups, 6L6s, oversized cabs - you know the deal - and while a pedal can't hope to deliver all that on its own, it's nonetheless a grin- inducing experience to thud and squeal through slamming riffs in 'hi' mode.
80s and 90s metallers will want the mid-cut knob round to the right and the internal boost on for a hint of that oversized 4x12 cab resonance, while those of a more modern bent may well want to put some grinding mids back in. It should also be said that this has much potential as a modern blues-rock overdrive too, not to mention offering some satisfying classic rock tones in 'lo' mode.
If we could stop smiling long enough to put it down, we'd tell you that never has hard rock and metal been so utterly satisfying from such a small enclosure. Don't count it out for high-gain blues rock, or classic rock either for that matter: another winner!