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best bluesbreaker style pedals

Best Bluesbreaker style pedals

With Marshall’s recent announcement to reissue their beloved Blues Breaker pedal (based on the sound of the classic amplifier), it sent the guitar pedal world into a bit of a frenzy. But if you’re looking for alternatives when it comes to the best BluesBreaker style pedals you have no shortage of options.

The news about the reissue originally surfaced about a year ago when the pedal started showing up on distributor websites. Marshall heavily denied it at the time, but it looks like it’s true.

Originally released in 1991, the pedal quickly caught on with those in the know to how smooth and full it sounds. It’s based on the 1962 amp of the same name, and it didn’t take long for it to become one of the most coveted overdrives in guitar pedal history.

There are a lot of Marshall style pedals, and it’s not impossible to find one of the original BluesBreakers on the used market, but like the Klon Centaur they go for exorbitant amounts.

So here’s to the return of a legend. Let’s take a look at some of the best Blues Breaker style pedals.

Best Bluesbreaker style pedal: Marshall BluesBreaker

Marshall BluesBreaker
Best Bluesbreaker style pedal
Marshall BluesBreaker
The original might not have as many tonal options as other models, but it achieved its acclaim fora reason.
Pros
True to the original amp circuit topology
Reissue isn’t as expensive as the used market
Cons
Limited control set
Expensive

There’s nothing like the original, and although it’s become cost-prohibitive to get one on the used market we had to include it. It’s the simple, familiar three-knob style of overdrive pedal but it’s what’s going on under the hood where the magic is.

The reissue is an authentic recreation of the 90s original even down to the aesthetic. At $250 it’s a steep price for an overdrive, and maybe Marshall is capitalizing on its acclaim. But there’s no denying the magic in its sound.

Luckily it looks like it’s being reissued in all its glory, and the official announcement might come at this year’s NAMM show in California. It’s still not cheap, but definitely more affordable than what they’re currently going for on the used market.

Best Blues Breaker style pedal with boost: Zvex Box of Rock

zvex box of rock
Best Blues Breaker style pedal with boost
Zvex Box of Rock
ZVEX makes some of the most unique pedals in the industry. This is a faithful recreation of the BluesBreaker sound with an additional boost channel.
Pros
Custom hand-painted artwork
Boost channel
Sounds great and the pedal is easy to find
Cons
Some might not like the horizontal orientation of the pedal, but a vertical version is available

If you’re looking for that timeless sound of a Blues Breaker turned up to 10, the Box of Rock is a more bespoke option. Every pedal is hand painted, so no two look exactly alike. But the circuit nails the JTM45 sound.

It’s got two channels and four control knobs, drive, tone and volume for channel one and a high-headroom boost with a single knob for setting the level. Zvex makes some very interesting pedals, hand painting aside. And the Box of Rock is a faithful recreation of the spirit of the Blues Breaker.

And if you don’t like the orientation of the original, there’s a vertical option available. The switches are closer together, but it packs all of the same tones.

Most versatile BluesBreaker style pedal: Wampler Pantheon

Wampler Pantheon
Most versatile BluesBreaker style pedal
Wampler Pantheon
This is the most “amp-like” BluesBreaker style pedal. It has a wide control set and comes in single and dual channel versions.
Pros
The most amp-like overdrive that comes in single and dual channel versions
Cons
None

The Pantheon is Wampler’s take on the classic Blues Breaker design. It takes the original design a few steps further with additional 3-band EQ and voicing controls. Wampler examined some of the best clones and used the best ideas from each to create this unique overdrive.

The 3-way voicing switches let you choose from different gain, diode combinations, and EQ structures. No matter if you’re looking for some subtle dirt or full-on gain it sounds full without ever sounding muddy.

It comes in single or dual channel stereo versions. It’s a faithful recreation of the original circuit that adds something new to the equation. Wampler put their own spin on a classic while offering something novel.

Best 1962 JTM45 BluesBreaker style pedal: J Rockett 45 Caliber

J Rockett 45 Caliber
Best 1962 JTM45 BluesBreaker style pedal
J Rockett 45 Caliber
Certain models of the JTM45 sound slightly different. This is the best take on the 1962 version in a pedal, and it’s from a respected boutique manufacturer.
Pros
Nailed the 1962 JTM45 circuit
Easy to dial in
Solderless stomp switch easy to repair if it breaks
Versatile range of the gain control
Cons
Not as many tonal options as other models

The 45 Caliber is based on a 1962 Marshall JTM45. From bluesy breakup to big British crunch the gain knob is versatile enough to handle it all. The all-analog circuitry and two-band EQ section can be dialed in to play well with your choice amp, whatever that may be.

Since stomp switches are usually the first thing to need repaired on a pedal, the 45 Caliber makes use of J Rockett’s solderless Speed Switch technology. This means that if your switch goes down you can swap it out and repair the pedal in virtually no time at all.

With a versatile gain range and true bypass switching you shouldn’t hesitate to look into throwing this on your pedalboard.

Best budget Bluesbreaker style pedal: Electro-Harmonix OD Glove MOSFET Overdrive 

Electro-Harmonix OD Glove MOSFET Overdrive 
Best budget Bluesbreaker style pedal
Electro-Harmonix OD Glove MOSFET Overdrive 
This MOSFET overdrive is designed to react like a tube amp. Electro-Harmonix quality meets EHX tone in this affordable option.
Pros
One of the most affordable options
Switch that adds additional mids
Affordable
Cons
Not the best sounding option

The OD Glove uses MOSFET semi-conductors to achieve more realistic amp-like tones. It’s designed to provide the sound of the classic Marshall Plexi amps powered by EL34 power tubes.

A Tone Shift switch boosts the mids to give more weight to the sound, something that Marshall amps are legendary for. It operates at 9v or 18v for a tighter, more focused sound or more headroom.

At a little over $80 it’s also the most affordable option on this list, but it doesn’t sound cheap. And it’s got the build quality that Electro-Harmonix pedals are known for.

FAQ

What is a Bluesbreaker pedal?

A Bluesbreaker pedal is a type of overdrive/distortion that models the famous Marshall amps in production from the early 60s to early 70s. It was one of the first “amps in a box”, originally releasing in the early 90s. 

They fetch a pretty penny on the used market, but since Marshall is reissuing it you can get one for much less spend..

Does John Mayer use a Bluesbreaker?

Yes! John Mayer is one of the most famous fans of this style of pedal. He’s actually one of the reasons they’ve achieved such popular status. They’re great for bluesier styles, but don’t think that it can’t get mean at the right settings.

What is the difference between a Tube Screamer and a Bluesbreaker?

They’re somewhat similar, but there are some key differences between the circuits. The Tube Screamer is designed to emulate the tone and harmonics of an overdriven tube amp, but Bluesbreaker pedals are designed to sound like a specific amp.

What is the Bluesbreaker sound?

“Bluesbreaker” is actually a nickname for Marshall JTM45 amps. Legend has it that it was coined by Eric Clapton as it was a popular amp in the 1960s British blues scene. It was the first combo amp Marshall released.

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