If you’ve ever had to swap guitars with differing outputs mid-set, you’ll know it can lead to headaches. And that’s what this pedal – a collaboration between Ryan Adams and Walrus Audio – aims to resolve. The Defcon4 is designed to make tone sculpting and gain staging a breeze with impressive boosting and cutting capabilities coupled with superlative sound quality.
There’s no escaping the looks – Adams’ love of 80s pop culture was evident on his collaboration with JHS, the VCR, but this Wargames-inspired aesthetic is another level. Upon applying power, the pedal blinks four times, and it is then up to the user to figure out which switches turn on which lights, and what that means…
To test out the Defcon4 as intended, we gather a Fender Stratocaster, a humbucker-loaded Les Paul and a Gretsch White Falcon. Dialling in an ‘on the edge’ sound with the Les Paul we then plug in the Stratocaster and launch the Defcon4 to begin dealing with the resulting drop in power. Matching the gain levels is very quick indeed with the 10db Mosfet boost switch, but we are particularly impressed with the way the Defcon4’s EQ section allows us to smooth out the Stratocaster’s bridge pickup response while cutting the mids to make the most of the guitar’s in-between sounds.
The White Falcon’s Filter’Trons spring to life with the Defcon4 unleashing even more hollow snarl than usual. The Defcon4 comes with the internal trim pots that govern the parametric mid-range controls set to Adams’ own preferences but they do serve to add even more versatility to the pedal should you need it. Going back to the Les Paul we find that the Defcon4 makes for a pleasing ‘always on’ boost with the treble boost adding a silky quality to the top end that is particularly inspiring on the bridge humbucker.
While the sound quality is high there is sadly a bit of a Sewers At The Bottom Of The Wishing Well feel about the Defcon4 when one considers the asking price. Yes, the pedal is well made and sounds very good but the functionality offered is matched and often exceeded by a wide variety of EQ pedals currently on the market. In some cases, these retail for around half the suggested price of the Defcon4.
We electric guitarists have long been afflicted with a moth-like attraction to the glow of shiny objects and there will doubtless be a market for the Defcon4 based on its aesthetic alone – not to mention the allure of its much-loved signature artist. It sounds great, too, but given the price tag, the Defcon4 is something of a niche proposition unless you are a particularly well-heeled stopbox junkie or Ryan Adams completist. But then again, English reviewers can be so mean…
• PRICE £289
• DESCRIPTION Preamp, EQ and boost pedal. Made in USA
• CONTROLS Low cut and boost, mid cut and boost with parametric EQ, hi band cut and boost, Launch switch 10db Mosfet boost, internal mid EQ trim pots
• FEATURES 9VDC, center-negative PSU (100mA minimum, not supplied)
• DIMENSIONS 118 x 93 x 39mm
• CONTACT Face Distribution +32 3844 6797 face.be, walrusaudio.com