Barber Electronics Dirty Bomb pedal

Barber Electronics Dirty Bomb
Price: $99.95

The Barber Dirty Bomb was introduced to the market late last year, and has really taken off apparently, likely due to its low cost relative to its competition. It’s hand-made and features high-quality components and a cleverly designed circuit (no goop here), but Barber’s philosophy seems to be that he can make pedals that compete well with anything else in the boutique world, but for a reasonable price, so it really is a great bargain for someone seeking a high-gain sound given the current economic situation.

It is a cascaded JFET design (seems like there are a lot of them lately, which is fine by me, they sound great and behave responsively – well-loved old Randalls were among the first solid state amps to have the level of responsiveness and dynamics of their tube counterparts, and they were cascaded JFETs as well), very clean work inside, very well built all around. There is an internal low-bass potentiometer (a big one, too, not a tiny trim pot) which is used to dial in the pedal’s low end relative to the amplifier and cabinet you’re using. I spoke to Mr. Barber and he said the idea is to adjust the low-bass to zero, dial in the front controls, and then adjust the internal low-bass; however, I did it the other way around, first matching the low-bass to my amp and cabinet (a THD Univalve and a Trace Elliot oversized 4×12 with V30s and Vet30s in an X-pattern) and then dialing in the face controls. Worked just fine, but you should probably do it the way he suggested.

The face controls are, as you can see, Level, Treble, Bass and Gain, along with a three-position midrange switch. “Oh no!” you might lament, “There’s no mids control! How will I ever dial in metal tones with no mids control?!” Worry not, the EQ is very cleverly designed. The midrange switch changes the voicing of the mids between three settings (sounds like flat, boost, scoop to me), but the real magic is that when you turn the Treble and Bass all the way down, the midrange is all the way up. Then as you add in Treble and Bass, the midrange reacts to them. When the Treble and Bass controls are at their mid-point, the midrange is at its flattest (depending of course on where you’ve got the switch set). Treble and Bass above noon, the midrange goes lower; below noon, the midrange is more forward. It’s a very effective but easy to use setup that avoids some common problems with ordinary three-band EQ circuits, and you’ll figure it out quite quickly.

The most impressive thing about an all-around impressive pedal is how responsive it is to what’s going on at the guitar. You can dial in a massive, brutal sound but roll back the volume on the guitar and it cleans up to a more restrained distortion, then a dynamic crunch, and even to a clean with just a hint of grit around the edges.

Here’s a clip of it. I probably should have lowered the internal low-bass a little bit for the recording, as a mike an inch away picks up flub that the ear ten feet away doesn’t hear, but this sounds so incredibly huge in the room that I’d just be adjusting it right back anyway. Hopefully you’ll dig its sound, I certainly do

Settings were:

Volume at roughly unity gain
Treble at 11 o’clock-noonish
Bass at noon or a little after it
Gain at 3/4
Low-bass at 7ish

Bonus clip: as you might expect from my description of it, it has a naturally amp-like sound and response. To demonstrate this I have recorded a clip of just the Dirty Bomb into my audio interface, then into a 4×12 cabinet IR. The settings are identical to the ones used above. Most pedals used in this way would sound like junk because most pedals rely on the amplifier’s voicing in order to end up with a good tone. This one has a strong character of its own, which coincidentally pretty much ensures that it will sound good with any clean amp you use it with (in conjunction with the flexible tone controls).

Side note: It turns out there are FOURTY EIGHT pedals across the various modelers I use, so hopefully you’ll forgive me for being a bit late on getting that done. I worked late last night but did not get it finished, so it’ll have to wait until Sunday when I get back from Mid-South Philosophy Conference in Memphis.


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