Note: At the time of publishing, Daft Paragon was a retailer of the product being reviewed. The manufacturer did not encourage or influence this review in any way.
I’m not a Vox guy.
It has nothing to do with them being bad amps, they’re quite the opposite. I just don’t enjoy the idea of being a “Vox guy.” The proposition reminds me of the “menage” episode of Seinfeld where Jerry was afraid of becoming an orgy guy.
If you’re a Vox guy, do you have to grow a goatee and start wearing tweed hats? Can you only hang out with other Vox guys? Do you suddenly start having arguments about how Train’s earlier work was much less complex and thus more palatable? Terrifying.
The idea of being a part-timer, however, is quite attractive. You can get all the shimmering highs and biting gain without having to change friends.
Should you find yourself playing this pedal into a very clean amp, the first thing you may notice is that for an overdrive, it doesn’t provide much gain. If this sounds like you, I have three suggestions. 1) Turn your amp up louder (assuming it’s a tube amp). 2) Crank the gain knob. 3) Pick harder.
Based on all of that, I’d say the Catalinbread CB30 does a pretty good job emulating the original. It’s incredibly dynamic and behaves very similarly to a tube amp with power tube distortion.
If you’re using this with an amp that breaks up on its own, you’ll be in business. My amp breaks up with the volume knob around 4. Anything below that, and the CB30 is kind of an EQ and boost pedal (unless I peg the gain). But in that area where the amp is getting pretty hot, I can get a ton of control over just how much the pedal pushes things.
As far as the EQ goes, this is where we enter territory that the Vox lovers may adore and everyone else may be a bit perplexed. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the treble and bass controls, at least in the way the majority of people will use them. The thing is, they act like the same controls on the real amp. Crank both treble and bass, mids go away. Not just that they get overpowered, but completely scooped out of the mix. If each control is past 75% of the way up, my ears say it’s unbearably chimey. But, I suppose it’s true to the original, which will be to the delight of some. For the rest of us, the EQ is incredibly usable outside of those extreme settings.
This pedal is like a good belt; you start to feel weird without it. It’s a great pedal to have on all the time and use other boosts or overdrives to further shape your sound, increase gain levels, etc. I’ve experimented with putting more transparent overdrives both in front and behind the CB30 and cannot decide which I prefer, but tend to leave the CB30 in front.