I’ve always been a great fan of JHS pedals and with their growing collection of pedals I get more and more questions about how these pedals would apply to David Gilmour’s tones. In this review I’ll present some of my favourites. The Unicorn, Charlie Brown and the Pulp N Peel.
The essence of David Gilmour’s tone, apart from his mind and fingers obviously, is the combination of loud Hiwatts and fairly mids scooped uncompressed pedals. Right from the early days, with the Powerbooster and Fuzz Face up until more recent years, with Big Muffs and Tube Drivers. Despite minor changes in the selection of pedals, the essence has always been the same.
As I’m sure you’ve experienced, this can be hard to achieve unless you have that loud Hiwatt or similar sounding amps. Mid range and compression is the key to getting smooth tones and tones that cut through the dense band mix.
Personally I’ve gone from trying to replicate David’s tones to experimenting with more mid rangy and compressed overdrives and distortions. Part because I now tend to use other types of amps that demands different pedals but also because I find that scooped uncompressed pedals often have their limits.
The Charlie Brown is described as a Marshall JTM45 in a box, which to my ears at least, it really is. It’s got that classic early Marshall tone fairly similar to the early Fender tweeds, with a fat low end, sparkling top and smooth mid range.
Unlike most JTM style pedals, the Charlie Brown has a considerable output and an overall much smoother character. You can certainly crank the treble for that bright late 60s tone but the powerful 3-band EQ makes this an incredibly versatile pedal capable of anything from a glassy Powerboost to the warmer sounding Tube Driver and beyond.
Now you might think that Marshall and Gilmour doesn’t quite fit but those early Marshall amps had a lot in common with Fender tweeds, which has been David’s choice for studio recording since the early 90s. The Tube Driver is also no doubt based on the JTM/Bassman circuit.
I use the Charlie Brown both as a stand alone overdrive but also as an EQ stacked with other overdrives, like the Buffalo TD-X. Its transparent volume boost and onboard EQ makes it a great tool for shaping your tones.
The Pulp N Peel is a super transparent compressor capable of anything from smooth and subtle compression to really deep and squeezed limiting. Like most pedal compressors, the Pulp N Peel feature the common level and compression controls and additional controls for blend and tone as well as a toggle switch for adding a bit of dirt.
The blend control allow you to finely tune the amount of compression, while always keeping the signal transparent and clean.
The tone control allow you to roll of some of the high end that’s often boosted with higher compression or, if needed, add a bit of sparkle if you’re tone gets too dark.
The dirt switch simulates the effect you get from cranking tube compressors. It adds a hint of dirt or gain boost that’s great for either adding a bit of life to your tones or for adding more bite to an already overdriven tone.
What I like about the Pulp N Peel is that while similar compressors like the old Boss CS2 or MXR Dynacomp either gets too subtle or too squeezed and hard to tame, the Pulp N Peel always retain your guitar’s tone and character, while allowing you to have full control over the amount of compression and attack.
Much like an optical compressor, it makes everything sound better and more dynamic without ruining the tone. This is certainly a pedal that you want to leave on all the time.
The Unicorn is a classic Uni-Vibe based on an analog photocell circuit just like the original late 60s models made famous by Hendrix, Trower and Gilmour. In addition to the familiar depth and speed controls and option for phasing or vibe, the Unicorn also sport full analog tap-tempo.
A Univibe is essential for David’s Dark Side of the Moon tones. The liquidy slow phasing is heard on Breathe, while a faster rotary throb was used to create the unique Any Colour You Like.
Unlike David though I prefer having the Univibe in front of the dirt pedals. This makes it sound darker and smoother and it just blends better. The Unicorn deliver classic tones whether you place it in front or after. Whether you prefer Gilmour or Wylde.
What I like about the Unicorn is that it’s capable of delivering that deep tremolo modulation on even the highest speed settings that crucial for songs like Any Colour You Like. Not all clones seem to do that.
A couple of years back I also did a review of their excellent Muffuletta. A Big Muff that feature no more than six super authentic classic Muff tones. See the Muffuletta review here.
See jhspedals.com for more info.