California’s Beetronics have been the darlings of the last few NAMM shows with a gaggle of upsettingly good-looking pedals and a no-compromise approach to tone. The new Royal Jelly is branded as an ‘overdrive/fuzz blender’ and features two channels (labelled Queen and King from left to right) each of which offers a sonic continuum from overdrive to fuzz.
The first thing we notice when unboxing the Royal Jelly is that the quality of design and build are excellent. There is a running bee theme throughout, which may or may not endear you to the pedal depending on the strength of your passion for monophyletic hymenopterae. The look of the Royal Jelly though is more art nouveau meets Dan Dare, with a beautiful brass control panel and retro style knobs. But is it more than just another Bumble clone? Sorry…
The Royal Jelly offers two flavours of grit within each of its two channels. We decide to assign overdrive duties to the Queen and Fuzz to the King (possibly from force of habit when it comes to keeping vintage fuzz pedals at the start of the chain) although each channel is capable of all stations in between these two extremes. The channel selection footswitch is the left of the three on the pedal although that is not immediately obvious as the labels for the footswitches are miniscule. Helpfully an LED indicates either Queen (Red) or King (Green).
The initial OD sound is extremely good, taking well to single coils and humbuckers alike while bringing out a rare level of snarl in Filter’Trons. The Honey knob in the centre adjusts the gain level for the OD circuit from clean boost to medium gain and the volume, bass and treble knobs give you all the control you could wish for. There is even a Dry knob allowing you to blend in your clean tone for a sharper attack while maintaining the fundamental character of the excellent sounds on offer.
Selecting the King channel with the OD/Fuzz knob set to full fuzz gives your tone an instant saw-toothed shot in the arm with a superb classic rock fuzz. More ‘Face’ than ‘Muff’ we were particularly taken with how well the two channels worked in tandem when changing from one to the other. Rather than starkly differing pedals, the Royal Jelly’s two voices feel immediately complementary and a natural progression from one to the other.
The centre footswitch activates the ‘Buzz Off’ circuit which piles on snarling highs and detail to your sound, rather like having a quality boost pedal earlier in the chain. It’s a great sound, indeed after hours of exploration we failed to find a tone that was anything other than musical and inspiring.
Rather like a honeycomb, the Beetronics Royal Jelly is absolutely full of sweet spots, with the pedal’s ability to blend in your dry sound being perhaps the sweetest morsel of all, unlocking an almost limitless capacity for nuanced, satisfying tone-sculpting.
• PRICE £289
• DESCRIPTION Twin-channel overdrive and fuzz blender pedal. Made in the USA
• CONTROLS King/Queen channel OD/fuzz blend, dry, lo, hi, Honey, volume, knobs. Channel selection, Buzz Off added gain and effect on/off footswitch
• FEATURES 9V DC power only (not supplied)
• DIMENSIONS 155 x 129 x 70mm
• CONTACT Face Distribution +32 3844 6797 face.be beetronicsfx.com