October 23, 2005
About 15 years ago, I stuck a little homemade booster FET preamp in a Jim Dunlop JH-1 Wah-Wah pedal and connected up a relay so I could switch it on and off via a home made foot switch for boosting gain for my lead breaks. I was struggling to make a buck at the time and simply couldn't afford the Boss pedals. This worked for me for every recording I made as well as every gig that I did during this period of time, but unfortunately it started to become unreliable at gigs...after 15 years of the treatment I gave this thing, you would expect it to have only lasted the first 6 weeks!
I had a 3 week tour of France lined up in September of this year (2005) and I thought now was a good time to throw the old JH-1 and grab me a new Cry Baby Wah...problem being that I had to find a new preamp as well. I spotted a Cry Baby for about 100 Euros at a music store in Aachen, Germany and decided it was a good deal and...sitting next to it in the display window was a new Behringer Preamp/Booster PB 100...for 18 Euros...so, what the heck, I'll give it a try...
This pedal sounded good...no, it sounded great when I hooked it up to my rig. Clean, crisp signal boost with USABLE bass and treble controls and no "squashing" sound. All my playing dynamics were true and accurate, even when the device's level was maxed out and slammed down the input of my Line 6 PODxt. I used this for the entire French tour, and LOVED it...this lil' cheap, plastic box is a steal for what it is...it's simply amazing! This got me interested in the other pedals...so, I next bought a Behringer Blues Overdrive BO 100 to try out on my upcoming Polish tour.
Ok, off to Poland for 7 gigs...I used my PODxt through the front of a supplied Rivera tube combo amp plus the Cry Baby and the newly purchased Blues Overdrive pedal. You are probably thinking why didn't I just use the PODxt's switching capabilities through it's own FVB floorboard? Well, first I don't have one and secondly my experience tells me no...I just don't like the idea of using non guitar type cables in a live environment plus I get really dyslexic with heaps of switches and lights.
Anyway, no problem, the Blues Driver worked just as well as the Preamp/Booster did, maybe a slight midrange increase or bass response decrease and a slightly warmer response...it was cool by me. It sounded great, I used it with the gain on 0 and level about 2 o'clock as I like boosting the lead cleanly without extra distortion. I also found the "flat" EQ spot on the Tone knob to be about 10 o'clock but this may vary if you increase the gain from 0. All the dynamics and the original tone was still in tact. I probably wouldn't use this pedal as a straight distortion unit as I found the overdrive a little loose and thick for my rock style rhythm playing, but remember this is called a BLUES Overdrive, and I think this tone would be perfectly suited for the die hard purist blues guitarist or SRV type player....and it has more than ample overdrive, even for lead playing...this unit will retain your guitars tone even when maxed out. For my purposes, this unit worked very well as a clean signal booster. Try this instead of a Tubescreamer, this is a great alternative...believe me, I own a Tubescreamer. (Sorry Ibanez)
Everything was sounding good until I left the power supply to the PODxt the night before at a club the other side of the country...does anyone have a distortion pedal? Yep, the sound guy has a Boss. No offense to Boss, but I'm not a huge fan of their pedals now, even though I own a Boss OD-3 in Australia...it's ok, but...something doesn't quite work for me...something to do with the dynamics and the "smallness" to your sound it creates when it's in the signal chain, even when the effect is off. Oh well, it got me through the gig and in all fairness to Boss, it did a good job...but I was still without my PODxt power supply for the last 2 gigs.
The next day we trundled into the nearest city, being Katowice and found a music shop...of course there were no PODxt power supplies, but... maybe I can try another non-dyslexic Behringer pedal. The only distortion pedal left was the Behringer Ultra Distortion UD 100, and it was the display model. I plugged it into a solid state VOX amp in the store and immediately loved this pedal...tight, gritty and retained tone and dynamics. This pedal BREATHES. There are two modes on this pedal via a switch. I personally went for Mode 1, as the other setting sounded a bit "honkey" for rhythm guitar...it does say on the "manual" sheet that Mode 11 is voiced more for lead guitar, but it sounds more like a wah pedal rocked halfway. Could be useful if your rhythm sound is really mid scopped, or you like that Brian May type lead sound.
It's also probably worth noting that the Rivera amplifier I was gigging with was set to just start overdriving and then I bought up the level of the pedal to almost match the direct guitar level, with the distortion set around 10 - 11 o'clock and tone around 2 o'clock...this was my "sweetspot" with this setup. The last 2 gigs sounded cool! Good guitar tone...I was happy.
Note: If I had used a cleaner amp, (like a Fender Twin) I would have increased the level of the pedal from 10 o'clock to about 2 o'clock and slightly upped the distortion control.
I am so confident with the sound I am getting, that I will be retiring my PODxt to the studio for a while, as it is getting a little beaten up on the road. It deserves a well earned rest. Don't get me wrong, the PODxt is a SERIOUSLY good unit for live work, but I may now get what I need from the Behringer pedals live instead of mistreating the POD. Time will tell, as no doubt I will have other guitar amplifiers to try these units through whilst on the road.
I can use the Behringer Ultra Distortion UD 100 for rhythm playing then kick in the Behringer Preamp/Booster PB 100 or the Behringer Blues Overdrive BO 100 for boosting solos. They seem a little on the hungry side with batteries, but then again the LED on/off light will take your retinas out at 50 paces..you definately SEE these pedals on stage...I'll probably end arse up in a set of drums...ah well... The construction is of plastic and I have no idea how long these pedals will last, but I can afford to have spares if needed at the price they go for. All I know is that the TONE is there.
After fooling around with the
Behringer Overdrive Distortion OD 100
I have to add this to the list of great sounding and useful pedals. As well as the standard
Level, Tone and Gain knobs, this unit boosts a "Mode" control. Turning it fully counter clockwise, (marked as OD) you have
a smoother, warmer overdrive distortion more associated with an overdriven Fender amp with more midrange emphasis.
Turning the control fully clockwise, (marked as DS) you get a more raspy, scooped, Rectified type of distortion more
suited to metal guitar.
A way this can be used effectvely is that if you have thin sounding single coils you could turn the control more towards the OD setting and with a fat humbucker, you could "thin" out the tone by turning more clockwise towards the DS setting. I found about mid-way very good for the single coils I was using with my Squier Strat.
The tone difference between this pedal and the Ultra Distortion pedal reviewed above, is that the Overdrive Distortion OD 100 pedal had a more "open" tone with seemingly more useful options, especially if you switch between a Strat and a Les Paul. I would not have any hesitations of swapping either pedal at a gig at short notice, as with a little tweaking, very usable results can be acheived by both pedals...they both have their own likable character. I really couldn't find a downside with this pedal.
The Behringer Tube Overdrive TO 100 is
probably the pedal out of the 5 that I bought that is the least useful to me.
It reminds me very much of a Boss OD-1 that were really popular
late 70's / early '80's. It has a very soft type of overdrive that I guess would be useful if you just wanted to soften
a clean sound...you know, like on a Roland Jazz Chorus amp or something like that.
It doesn't have that "in your face" tone, but in all fairness, It's not supposed to...this is softly compressed overdrive.
If you like a mellow tone of blues, you would probably really dig this...a late night, sit down blues jam would be a good setting, I would use it for that...or jamming alone just for smooth tone...definately un-offensive.