Finnish valve amp specialist Bluetone Custom Amplifiers has broken new ground by releasing a trio of handmade pedal effects, comprising a delay/reverb-unit, called Echoes, as well as two different preamp/distortion boxes, the Fried Eye and the Bugaboo.
Bluetone’s Fried Eye Distortion (269 €) offers two high-quality effects in one box:
The boost circuit can be run separately from the pedal’s distortion side. It offers a considerable amount of boost (up to 12 dB), which is adjustable with the pedal’s Boost control.
But the Fried Eye Distortion’s main raison d’être is, of course, its comprehensive distortion section. The pedal’s distortion circuit is a solid-state version of the acclaimed Bluetone Fried Eye tube amplifier’s crunch channel. Its aim is to give you a wide range of Marshall-inspired crunch and distortion tones.
Bluetone’s Fried Eye Distortion pedal runs on nine to eighteen volts DC supplied by a PSU (not included) via a standard 2.1 mm plug (centre negative). A look under the hood reveals a large circuit board and clean and neat wiring.
Soundwise the Fried Eye pedal hits the bull’s-eye in my opinion, offering a wide range of Marshall-type tones from a light crunch to full blast. The effect’s three-band EQ works really well in tailoring the effects sound to your musical needs.
This short audio clip gives you an idea of the Fried Eye’s basic sound with the Gain control set to 12 o’clock. The first half showcases the distortion side on its own, with the boost kicking in for the second half. I used a Hamer USA Studio Custom with the bridge humbucker engaged. The clip was recorded direct off a Blackstar HT-1R’s speaker emulated output:
The Muse-inspired demo song shows you how the Fried Eye performs in a band mix. I used a Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo and a Shure SM57 to record all guitar tracks.
The demo features the following guitars:
• rhythm guitars – Hamer USA Studio Custom (left channel), Gibson Melody Maker SG (centre), Fender Stratocaster (right channel)
• reverse guitar – Gibson Melody Maker SG
• lead guitar – Hamer USA Studio Custom, Morley wah-wah
The Bluetone Bugaboo Distortion pedal (249 €) is based on the company’s none-more-Metal Bugaboo valve amplifier’s crunch channel.
The Bugaboo is aimed more squarely at the Hard Rock- and Metal-crowd, offering much more gain and a lot more juicy compression than the Fried Eye pedal.
The wiring inside our review unit looks a bit less tidy, due to the long wires going from the circuit board to the pots and switches. I’d like to stress, though, that this specific pedal is a very early production model that has been superseded by a more compact version (but with completely identical specs and features) recently!
The Bugaboo-pedal, too, runs on nine to eighteen volts DC supplied by a PSU (not included) via a standard 2.1 mm plug (centre negative).
Bluetone’s Bugaboo does exactly what is says on the tin:
This pedal turns any amp into a fire breathing thing of beauty, offering plenty of gain. The three-band EQ has been bolstered by two very nifty mini-switches. Bite offers a presence boost that will help your guitar to cut through even the densest mix, while Tight helps you keep the bottom end from becoming too boomy.
This short audio clip gives you an idea of the Bugaboo’s basic sound with the Gain control set to 12 o’clock, Bite engaged and Tight turned off. I used a Hamer USA Studio Custom with the bridge humbucker engaged. The clip was recorded direct off a Blackstar HT-1R’s speaker emulated output:
The demo song shows you how the Bugaboo performs in a band mix. All guitar tracks were recorded direct off a Blackstar HT-1R’s speaker emulated output. The song contains the following guitar tracks:
• Rhythm guitars – Fender Stratocaster (left) & Gibson Melody Maker SG (right)
• Lead guitar – Hamer USA Studio Custom
In my view, the clean, business-like look of the new Bluetone-pedals is a clear bonus, especially on stage. Sure, the Fried Eye and Bugaboo don’t sport any flashy paint jobs that scream ”Hey, man, I’m a weird boutique pedal”, but at least you can tell instantly what type of pedal you’re dealing with, and which knob (or switch) does what.
In terms of their sounds both units are winners, each offering a wide array of different shades of distortion, with the Fried Eye being a bit more ”Rock” and the Bugaboo a tad more ”Metal” in character. These are professional grade, handmade effect pedals at a fair price.