Bennett Music Labs BROWN SOUND

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Review from

After a several year hiatus, Bruce Bennett, of Bennett Music Labs, is back to building the Brown Sound distortion pedal [$159.00]. Brown SoundHis aim was to capture the essence of Hendrix’s Foxy Lady sound and other classic tones of the era that were based around a touch of fuzz and a ton of power amp distortion. In it’s attractive and appropriately painted box, the Brown Sound features a simple hand-wired circuit, true-bypass switching w/LED, solid Switchcraft jacks and a Boss style DC-in. Controls are side mounted and basic: Drive and Volume.

The drive knob rotates from a nice grind with some added presence to an almost thrashed speaker tone; and, with the absence of a tone control in the signal path, the sound is kept very pure. The volume knob is really better described as a cut, since it’s more or less at unity full up. I’m assuming that this was necessary to retain the integrity of the tone, so as to not punch the input of the amp too hard and thus overtake the sound. I liked this pedal on all the time or as a gain boost/contour. It doesn’t really increase the volume much so it isn’t one of those pedals that I would associate solely with leads. I also found that both of the pots have a sweet spot that is entirely dependent on the guitar/amp combination and the loudness of the overall rig. While it sounded fine at low amp volumes, it really came alive as the amp was turned up.

The sound it produces is a combination of crunch and grind. In other words, it has a nice cranked Marshall brownness that partially lacks those glorious midrange peaks—not by much though and I’ve never heard a pedal that could truly do it all. What it does have in abundance is warmth, smooth sustain, and terrific note–to-note definition that is very sensitive to the right hand and other input factors—I like that! The common denominator and secret ingredient is a spoon full of dirt [The Isle of Wight being a shovel full]; this holds true for single notes and chords.

It’s not terribly tight in the bottom or punchy on top; it’s really just right and it cleans up fairly well with the guitar’s volume. It is, however, not the Van Halen I sound—perhaps one of the most evolved forms of the tone. This Brown Sound harkens back about ten years when acid rock and heavy metal started falling from the heavens.

I also definitely heard some of my favorite filthy slide guitar qualities. This pedal might be perfect for slide players who require a more melancholy beauty to their distortion. As for color, if a Marshall Jubilee is a true brown with shades of orange and red, then Bennett’s pedal is dark chocolate with a more dilute brilliance. I’m just glad to see that the most often referred to guitar sound is still alive and finding new incarnations. This one’s definitely a winner and warmly welcomed into the fold. Thanks Bruce!

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