With a name like “The Barbershop” you may think this overdrive is inspired by that delightful Johnny Depp movie where he plays a murderous barber. I suppose that would mean the pedal would have to be very raucous and over the top. Hardly the case here.
The Barbershop from Fairfield Circuitry is more like your neck line after it gets the straight razor treatment. Transparent, if not invisible. Think of it like the best pre-gain knob your amp ever had.
While most overdrive pedals try to emulate something besides your amp (be it a different amp, some older pedal, whatever), this fellow tries to be part of your amp. No dramatic tonal changes, not even an eq knob to speak of. This is the pedal for people who like their amp, or who have a tone-shaping gain pedal that they want to get so much more out of.
At the most simple level, The Barbershop will give you a sound quite similar to your amp with the master volume on 10. You can accomplish this by turning the Drive knob pretty high up, and adjusting the Sag knob as needed to fine tune. Generally, you’ll want Sag pretty high if you wish to get the right effect. Sag controls voltage to your amps input, turning it all the way keeps voltage all the way up. If cranking your amp causes a voltage drop, you probably should get it fixed.
With the settings I just described, you’ll be in a zen-like state of having your amp-cranked tone without destroying your ear drums or making your neighbors throw empty whisky bottles through your windows.
If you’re using The Barbershop to boost another gain pedal, these same settings will act like the best boost you know, because they won’t fuck with your sound. So many boost pedals accentuate the high frequencies, which is great if you want that… but sometimes you have an overdrive turned on and just want a “more” button. Now you have it.
But what if we turn that Sag control down? Less voltage, what will it do? With it up, we’re loud and dynamic and uncompressed and pretty clean. As it goes down, the opposite of all that happens. Gain becomes greater, we lose dynamics. You’ll have to crank the volume up a little more.
This is all similar to the “starved battery” effect that a lot of folks talk about with their fuzz pedals and whatnot. Except here, you are in the drivers seat. Turning this knob counterclockwise will give you the exact amount of that effect you desire. There are a lot of fun in-between points where you can still achieve a little extra dirt and volume by playing harder, but things are kind of gritty all the time.
Some random notes… The Barbershop uses closely matched JFETs, which is supposed to provide different noise levels and a more pleasing sound. There is certainly a lot of debate about whether the differences between matched/unmatched JFETs is perceivable, but people tend to say it is. Regardless, there is extra work involved in this process. Which is a long way of saying, it’s made with great care.
Also, the Volume knob just adjusts volume. Simple, right? Well, what I mean is, it doesn’t adjust the amount of gain or change any of those characteristics of the pedal… it just makes it louder or quieter.
This is a great tool to have in your arsenal. Definitely recommend putting it after your overdrive pedals but before anything else. Give The Barbershop from Fairfield Circuitry a try.