Review: Big Joe Stomp Boxes

Posted by Michael Mueller on August 13, 2012 at 4:09 PM

We recently got the opportunity to give six new pedals from Big Joe Stomp Box Company a test run, and we were pretty impressed. Named for Delta bluesman and "King of the Nine-String Guitar" Big Joe Williams, this pedal series is the brainchild of brothers Paul and David Christian, analog circuitry designers who were inspired by the classic blues photography of Peter Amft to capture the tonal history of blues-rock guitar, from Freddie King and Muddy Waters to the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith—even dipping their toes into today's high-gain market.

We received six pedals in our big box of tone: two versions of the Vintage Tube, Classic Tube, Hard Tube, Saturated Tube, and a Phaser. Each comes in a cloth drawstring bag, presumably to help protect the stellar likenesses of Big Joe Williams painted on each chassis. All six analog boxes are true bypass and run on 9V power. We tested our with a Fender Telecaster '52 Hot Rod Reissue through a Peavey Classic 50 4x10, set for both clean and at that magical power-tube breakup stage.

The Vintage Tube and Vintage Tube 2 pedals both live up to their namesake, with Version 2 getting the edge for providing four distinct voices via its rotary switch. Personally, I prefer to drive the power tubes of the amp to that stage, and then use the guitar volume to clean up the signal, but for those whose amps  don't break up easily, these pedals will certainly do the trick.

The Classic Tube (B-402) offers more gain than the two Vintage Tube pedals yet it's not at all overstated. With its Presence, Gain, and Output controls, the Classic Tube allows you to dial in sounds ranging from that classic Keef rhythm tone to biting blues in a very transparent manner. The pedal also has a speaker simulation toggle that smooths the frequency response. At first, this feature didn't do much for me, but the more time I spent with the pedal, the more that option grew on me. It's subtle yet distinct.

The Hard Tube (B-405) simply screams—think classic British tube on steroids. Or, perhaps better said, when you can play Ratt riffs on a Tele through a 4x10 tweed amp in convincing style, you've hit a high-gain home run. The pedal features Presence, Gain, and Output controls, along with a variable Parametric EQ. Despite all its harmonic-rich power, the pedal never sounds "mushy"; chord tones remain audible.

The Saturated Tube pedal was my least favorite. To my ears, it was reminiscent of the "scooped" thrash metal tone, only without, ironically, the saturation. The Hard Tube pedal offered a fuller frequency and harmonic spectrum and seemed a much more versatile workhorse.

The analog Phaser (B-408) has controls for Speed, Depth, and Feedback, making it a very lush and versatile modulation device. But it's the Mix control, which determines the ratio of dry vs. effected signal, that really makes it stand out from other popular Phaser pedals.

All in all, these Big Joe Stomp Boxes are certain to find a home on the pedalboards of guitarists across the blues, rock, and country spectrum—which, given the incredible number of boutique pedal makers out there today, is quite an accomplishment.

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Big Joe Stomp Boxes (clockwise from top left): Vintage Tube, Vintage Tube 2, Classic Tube, Phaser, Saturated Tube, Hard Tube.

Big Joe Stomp Box pedals


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