Lateral Phonics comprises a pair of annoyingly young Muscovite pedal makers who look set to put Russia on the boutique effects map. Embracing the hand-painted design language of more established effects brands such as Z.Vex, JAM and Fuzzrocious, Lateral Phonics augments custom paintwork with weird, mis-matched knobs, scratches, and seemingly random holes.
Arguably no boutique pedal brand’s catalogue is complete without at least one “everything box” and, depending on its place in your chain, the Marrakesh Preamp Drive can play a wide number of roles from EQ, booster, buffer and preamp to saturator, overdrive and even console-style fuzz.
The Marrakesh features a four-knob control panel, the most important of these being the Threshold knob in the middle, which is twice the size of its bass, treble and volume siblings. The lower the value of this girthsome knob the more punchy and eventually distorted your sound becomes.
There is also a side-mounted headroom switch which offers a low 9V setting for increased harmonic distortion and a high 24V setting for more ‘air’, dynamic range and volume. Fun!
Lateral Phonics have clearly taken inspiration from vintage studio kit when creating the Marrakesh. The pedal is built around DOA-990 discrete operational amplifiers, a powerful, low-noise op-amp design first developed by sonic overlord Dean Jensen in the 1970s and released for public use in the February 1980 issue of the AES Journal before its subsequent induction into the NAMM Hall of Fame in 2018. But you knew that already.
We begin our listening session with the Marrakesh running between a Gretsch White Falcon and a Cornford Hurricane before experimenting with a basic pedalboard both before and after the preamp.
In the first instance we press the pedal into service as a clean boost/EQ where the Marrakesh works well, adding sheen and detail where needed and pushing the amp nicely. The headroom switch works as advertised with a noticeably more open feel in 24V compared to the hairier grunt of the 9V option.
The EQ section is certainly capable with 15dB of cut or boost in both bass and treble directions. The overall character is warm and organic with the vibe of a vintage studio desk. There are some high-quality, silky textures to be found but ramping the threshold hard left gives us a taste of the unusual with a chewy, Revolution-style fuzz. It’s unruly and aggressive, and an entertaining departure from the more genteel clean boost voice.
Moving the Marrakesh to the other end of our chain we find it to be a capable pre-boost/buffer adding personality to our pedals. The EQ is flexible but without careful gain staging it can also bump up the noise floor. That said, no true texturenaut worries about a small helping of buzz now and then. All in all, it’s an engaging take on the floor-mounted Swiss Army Knife theme.
- PRICE €245
- DESCRIPTION Handwired preamp pedal, made in Russia CONTROLS Threshold, bass, treble, volume knobs, switchable low 24v and high 9v voicing
- FEATURES Side-mounted in and out jacks, on/off LED, True Bypass, mains power only
- DIMENSIONS 118mm x 94mm x 64mm
- CONTACT lateralphonics.com