It’s a timeless struggle: you plug in your favorite guitar, dial in your amp, and step on a new pedal that sounded amazing at the store…yet somehow the three don’t mesh. Ideally, your trifecta of gear—instrument, amp, and effect pedal—should produce a sound that is more than the sum of their parts. But as we all know, amps have personalities, different EQ contours, and tonal profiles, so they react and respond differently when paired up with stompboxes.
This week Dan and Mick at TPS revisit this age-old problem with a new item of gear from Wampler: the Bravado amp. Most of us will know Brian Wampler as a pioneer in hand-crafted pedals, but as of late he’s pushed into new territory by exploring the concept of a “pedal platform amp.” Enter the line of Wampler Bravado amps, which come in combo and head forms, all comped with 40 watts of hand-wired, made in the USA power.
As Mick notes at the outset of the episode, when it comes to opinions on pedals, guitarists traditionally fall into three categories. (1) The purist, who views anything more than a patch cord between axe and amp as a cardinal sin and corruption of tone. (2) The collaborator, who optimizes certain pedals to bring out the best in a favorite amp. (3) Finally, there is the stompbox aficionado, who crafts the bulk of their sound using carefully curated combinations of effects pedals. For this last player, the amp is essentially a canvas to color, with pedals delivering the art. Hence the idea behind the Bravado line-up.
The experiment Dan and Mick run is to see how this new breed of amp responds to a variety of pedals and if it is markedly different than what happens with other amps. In this case, the control variable is set with a Mesa Lonestar. The outcomes of the shootout are many, with a few horn honks for name drops along the way.
For amp-in-a-box type pedals like the Wampler Plexi Drive, the Bravado expertly captures the iconic amp sound the pedal was designed to emulate—in a sense the amp gets out of the way and lets the pedal do its destined job. As Mick points out, the platform amp plays so well with amp-in-a-box style effects because the Bravado “retained more of the character of what it [the pedal] was supposed to be,” allowing for greater clarity and note definition.
Similarly, while an amp’s high clean headroom is typically a gauge of how well it can handle pedals, the Bravado also shone with its endless amounts of presence allowing for open, clarity for overdrive pedals of various descriptions, from the Pro Analog MKIV fuzz to the TPS staple, the Analog Man King of Tone. Reflecting on this, Dan commented that the Bravado is well-equipped to handle loads of pedal gain structures across this spectrum on account of the amp’s thick and punchy mid-range “where the frequencies are just right.”
So what about other types of pedals? While a platform amp boasts a lot of space for handling overdrive pedals, the TPS demo found the Bravado was equally impressive in its response to other types of modulated effects, delays, and reverbs. After a few riffs with the MXR Reverb, Dan exclaimed, “you hear everything!”
In the end, the TPS gents concluded that, while “all amps are good pedal amps if it gives you the sound you want,” a pedal platform amp like the Bravado carves out a new space in the market since it allows you to hear the sounds that the designer built into their stompbox. From gain to delay and everything you might find in between on your pedal board, the Wampler Bravado can make your pedals sound more like themselves so you can play through your gear without fighting with it.
So that’s our TPS week in review of highlights from the episode, but don’t take our word for it: watch the episode for yourself! Don’t forget to pop by the TPS merch table and buy a t-shirt (www.thatpedalshowstore.com) and to support Dan and Mick through their creator Patreon page (www.patreon.com/thatpedalshow).
If the idea of experimenting with different pedal and amp combos is up your alley, be sure to check out Dan and Mick’s earlier episode “Get More From Your Fender Blues Junior.” (https://youtu.be/aTUOvgB3j6c). If the Wampler Plexi Drive put you in the mood for other Marshall inspired pedals, revisit the TPS shootout between the Fulltone OCD and Catalinbread Dirtly Little Secret (https://youtu.be/IgHG65ZAlME?list=PLlXYVdnj0ogel_GUsW-giRvvTvTqSVWOF). Be sure to check out all these pedals and more over at Riff City's That Pedal Show Collection page.
TPS Episode Rig Rundown:
Guitars: Dan: 1958 Gibson Custom Les Paul Standard (ca. 2002), 1963 Closet Classic Fender Telecaster (ca. 2000); Mick: 1962 American Vintage Fender Stratocaster (ca. 2000); Paul Reed Smith DGT (ca. 2008).
Amps: Wampler Bravado 40 watt head; 2x12 cabinet with Warehouse Guitar Speakers; Mesa Lonestar.Effects: Stone Deaf Tremotron; Analog Man Bi-Chorus; Analog Man King of Tone; Wampler Plexi Drive; Electro-Harmonix Memory Man 1100-TT; MXR Reverb; Fulltone OCD; Pro Analog MKIV.