What is it?
The PG-14 might just be the overdrive-cum-distortion pedal of 2020. Developed by JHS Pedals with Paul Gilbert, it operates as an extra dirt channel for your amplifier, juicing it with the sort of grit that typifies Gilbert's rock sound.
Gilbert's input is all over the design, from the hot pink and powder blue chassis, to the hi-top with his name on it, right through to the tones – it is a signature pedal after all – but that's not to say that you just plug it in, et voila! You sound just like Gilbert. Or that you can't find your own tone lurking in its circuit.
No, the PG-14 is designed to be tweakable. Again, just like an amp channel. It has controls for volume, drive, push, tone, mid, and mid-freq. The latter two mids controls interact, with the mid-freq control used to set the frequencies of the mid knob controls, from 400Hz to 7.5kH.
Push is interesting. It controls the amount of gain that goes into the circuit's FET amplifier, opening up a diverse range of overdrive and distortion flavours and allowing the PG-14 to operate a little like having a high-gain amp in front of your amp, with the potential for some really hectic drive tones.
Performance and verdict
This is not your granddaddy's Tube Screamer. Nor is it a genero-dirt box that encourages you to dime it en route to a terminus parked somewhere out in High-Gain Land. In some respects, it is a complex beast; it requires some careful adjustments and a little patience experimenting before you find your sweet spot (s).
But that is part of the fun. With so much gain, we ran it through a clean amp and then through an amp that was just on the edge of breakup. It's funny how much effect the push and drive controls have on the overall tone of the pedal. Turning the push way past noon lets the bass really bloom and widen.
The PG-14 largely keeps the high-end in check. It never feels shrill or scratchy. Instead, it favours instead a more pronounced midrange. No matter where you position the dial of the mid-freq control there is always a sturdy response that holds up.
Here it positions itself as a formidable tonal power-up for solos, adding biting drive at the frequencies that count. But it's a source of dirt and heat that works well at all volumes. For bedroom players rocking small combos and a healthy respect for neighbourly relations, the PG-14 could be an invaluable tool in giving your house-trained guitar sound that feel of a throttled valve amp.
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The PG-14 is dynamic. Crank the drive and it will tighten ever-so-slightly but always such that rolling back your volume control or adjusting your pick attack will be rewarded in kind by the pedal. That comprehensive midrange control, not to mention the wider bass response, makes the PG-14 a very capable option for adding girth to single-coil guitar tones.
But goodness, it can get hot and feisty, with a fiery crunch for the ages, reminding us that while the PG-14 might be a sophisticated overdrive/distortion, all clever circuitry and carefully considered controls, it is nonetheless built for Friday night rock tones.
MusicRadar verdict: The PG-14 had got heaps of musical, amp-like gain to play with, offering a dynamic playing experience that only gets better the more you experiment with the controls.
The web says
"The drive and push controls work in tandem to provide a righteous variety of OD tones that are amp-like in feel and respond well to touch and guitar settings. Paul Gilbert's signature overdrive pedal is compact, powerful and a blast to play, and earns an Editor's Pick award."
"Paul Gilbert may have helped bring the PG-14 to life, but it is much more than a high-gain shred machine. The dynamic feel of the push control is a pleasure, and the range of distortion flavors is as varied as any other drive pedal I’ve played. Single-coils, humbuckers, and P-90s all sounded rich and full of harmonic grit."
JHS's Josh Scott and Paul Gilbert at Sweetwater
Reverb (with Paul Gilbert and Andy Martin)
Living Room Gear Demos
- ORIGIN: USA
- TYPE: Overdrive/Distortion
- CONTROLS: Volume, drive, push, tone, mid, mid freq
- CONNECTIONS: Input and output jacks, power jack for 9-volt DC supply (not included)
- POWER: 2.1mm centre negative 9V DC adaptor, 67mA current draw
- DIMENSIONS: 121mm (h) × 55m (w) × 41mm (d)
- CONTACT: JHS Pedals