Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The JunkPuncher: a review...

As my first design from scratch, I've always been proud of the JunkPuncher pedal, and Michael James Adams (now of Seattle, WA) was kind enough to give the JP a workout, and to write this review. I always love to hear how other people hear my pedals so I was stoked to read these kind words. In case you're interested, keep an eye out over the next few weeks because I'm about to do a release of the JunkPuncher with some flashy new artwork! Well, not too flashy, but I am going to bring it in line with the rest of my offerings. Anyway, the review...

"Roughly the size of a BBE, the Junk Puncher isn’t much to look at. With its grey and black textured chassis and hand-painted yellow and black logo, the Puncher seems rather subdued visually compared to many of today’s up-market offerings. That isn’t to say it’s ugly, but the mission of this pedal is about impressive sonics, not candy cane paint jobs.

With the standard three knob control set, it’s easy to assume that you’ve been here before. Ah, but there’s a surprise waiting under that textured exterior, and it comes in the form of the tone knob. With tone pots, the idea is to adjust the brightness of the circuit, but functions more like a sweep from dark to bright, and the trick is finding that happy place in the middle where it sounds best. This one’s no different, right?

Wrong. It’s more appropriate to say that this pedal has a certain fundamental character, and by turning the knob counter-clockwise, you’re attenuating the highs while leaving the unit’s ample low-end intact. This makes for a very musical tone control, enabling the user to dial in exactly the right amount of treble bite- which is never too sharp or piercing, always clear and well-defined. If you’re wondering what it sounds like, think of The Raconteurs’ “Salute Your Solution”. This pedal nails every tone in that song.

As for the other parameters, ‘Fuzz’ ranges from a very controlled and polite overdrive to all-out raucous sonic bliss, then goes a step further, sounding as if your amplifier is about to collapse in upon itself. Add to that the ‘Level’ knob, which has more than enough output to force any tube amp into submission, and you’ve got Baddy’s signature “Implod-O-Sound”.

Plugged into a ’79 Marshall Master Volume, the Junk Puncher seemed equally pleased with humbuckers and single-coils. With a ‘90s Les Paul Standard and the Fuzz knob dialed in at relatively low settings (this pedal produces no sound when fully counter-clockwise), the J.P. produced suprisingly crisp, slightly compressed, organic overdrive with that wooly edge that makes fuzz such a popular effect. Dialing up the fuzz took me somewhere close to an Arbiter, though a touch more strident and Hi-Fi, to full-on velcro goo. And, while a few boutique fuzzes hold a special place in my heart, the Junk Puncher nails the aural anarchy while really filling out the bottom end, without the self-oscillation present in some more expensive units. Switching to an American Strat, the Junk Puncher seemed just little more tame, but responded well to the inherent roundness of the Strat’s pickup complement, though the neck position tended to be almost too dark at times. With either guitar, this pedal responded well to both picking dynamics and volume-knob tweaks. At any setting, this thing is a blast to play.

While it’s often difficult to find a pedal built for guitar that can also do double-duty on bass, this little box of wonder pulls it off with aplomb. While playing solo, I wasn’t sure what to think, initially. With a ’73 Fender Precision, the pedal sounded more like a speaker operating at the threshold of its tolerances instead of the usual blanket of noise I usually expect. I would describe the tone as ‘broken’ or ‘chaotic’, but even these words don’t get quite there. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how this one would fit in when I took it to practice.

That’s the thing about the Junk Puncher, though; it may sound a little quirky on its own, but it LOVES sitting in with a band. I’ve found that my favorite sounds come with every knob dimed. It seems as if the aforementioned dicey nature makes the bass sound bigger and more authoritative, like the 8x10 voice of God. After my first kick of the switch, I was sure I’d blown something.

Apocalyptic and crude, I’ve come to love the Junk Puncher for its imperfections, and that’s exactly what sets it apart from the crowd. In a world replete with faces and factories, the Junk Puncher stands out for its ease-of-use and insanely rewarding tone, as well as boasting the brightest LED I’ve ever seen on a pedal. So, if you’re looking for something with more of a human touch with a reasonable price (or a pedal that threatens to turn your rig into a singularity) the Junk Puncher is more than willing to be the best sub-$100 you’ve ever spent.

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