MXR Custom Shop Joe Bonamassa Signature FET Driver
Street price: $170
Joe Bonamassa knows tone. It’s evident in the guitar virtuoso’s collection of gear and the rich, glorious sounds he creates with whatever he uses. But for those of us looking to incorporate a little Joe in our rig, some things are in easy reach, thanks in part to the collaborative efforts between Bonamassa, Jim Dunlop, and pedal guru Jeorge Tripps.
The latest offering is the MXR Custom Shop FET Driver. Inspired by an illustrious “magic pedal” from the 1980s, this 100 percent analog overdrive/distortion cascades an op-amp gain stage into an FET stage, offering a rich, tube-like saturation. The FET Driver features controls for volume and drive, plus active Hi and Lo boost/cut, and a Hi Cut switch, which MXR recommends for use in “playing in high volume situations where excess noise is apparent.”
Testing the pedal with a Les Paul and a Strat into a Vox AC-30, I was incredibly pleased with its response. The lows were intact, the highs musical, and a midrange that made me want to dig in on some Chuck Berry licks, while the character of the AC-30 remained apparent. It has a slight hint of fuzz and analog sputter that classifies it from similar gain boxes. With the EQ dimed out I was in “controllable” Muff/Pickle territory (which led me to play one of two Smashing Pumpkins riffs I know). And turning down the high end brought out “violin tone” vibe. In front of an overdriven amp, I was able to boost the gain without losing low-end. Bridge pickup players will love the additional thickness obtainable through this pedal.
Tripps and Bonamassa have released an incredible dirt box in the FET Driver. Put it in front of any amp and it will transform it into the hot-rodded fire-breather it can be, but at obtainable volumes.