J Rockett Audio Designs pedal reviews

'Made by musicians, for musicians’ may be a cliché, but it sums up the J Rockett ethos.

Founded a decade ago by Colorado’s Chris Van Tassel and Jay Rockett, JRAD was set up to address the needs of Van Tassel and Rockett themselves – and the numerous session guitarists they’d crossed paths with. The six pedals on test represent a cross-section of the company’s catalogue, which is split into three sections.

From the Pro Series comes the Alien Echo delay. Representing the Signature series are a range of overdrives designed in conjunction with sessioneers Tim Pierce and Guthrie Trapp plus jazz-fusion legend Allan Holdsworth, and a Josh Smith signature tremolo. From the Tour Series, we have JRAD’s take on the Klon Centaur – the Archer.

Tim Pierce Overdrive/Boost

TPJRREVAlbuquerque-born session guitarist Tim Pierce has worked with some of the biggest names in the music business, including Michael Jackson, Madonna and Tina Turner.

His signature Rockett pedal chases the tone of one of his favourite amps, the Naylor Super-Drive 60, and is effectively two pedals in one that can be used independently or cascaded together; the power amp boost is designed to ape the big 5881 bottles in the SD60’s power stage.

In use
The OD side of the pedal is a fat, mid-rich drive with gain levels comparable to a classic distortion stompbox in its upper reaches. Wind things back a bit and there’s a nice, tweedy middleground that can do all manner of retro rock rhythm voices including, with the tone dialled to taste, a satisfying Keef impression, and with a suitably bright bridge pickup, Southern Man-era Neil Young. Throw in that power amp boost and this is a versatile unit.

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Key features
Tim Pierce Overdrive/Boost
• Price:£209
Origin USA
• Controls Tone, bass, power amp, drive, level. Overdrive on/off, power amp on/off
Features True bypass switching. Powered by 9V DC adaptor (not supplied) or 9V battery
• Dimensions 120mm (w) x 75mm (d) x 42mm (h)
• Contact:Zoom UK Distribution 08432 080 999 www.rockettpedals.com

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 10.28.19The Archer Overdrive/Boost

TAJRREV JRAD helped Klon mastermind Bill Finnegan produce the first 1,500 KTR pedals and though their relationship didn’t last, the Archer is the affordable ‘son of Centaur’ many wish Finnegan had made.

An original design it isn’t, but then the Archer costs a tenth of the going rate for the ‘real thing’. The enclosure is tough and compact, with top-mounted connections minimising its footprint. The 18V charge pump, buffered circuit and germanium diodes are all present, sans black goop.

In use
Does the Archer nail the Centaur tone? In an A/B test it’s close, with the Archer possessing a slightly grittier midrange and the Klon a hair more bite. Setting the output high and rolling off the gain yields a stunning, high-headroom clean boost that’s widescreen, dynamic and addictive. Wind up the gain for throaty overdrive, greasy rhythm and harmonically-rich lead tones.

Key features
Archer Overdrive/Boost
• Price:£149
Origin USA
• Controls Output, gain, treble
Features Buffered bypass switching. Powered by 9V DC adaptor (not supplied) or 9V battery
• Dimensions 59mm (w) x 101mm (d) x 31mm (h)
• Contact:Zoom UK Distribution 08432 080 999 www.rockettpedals.com
Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 10.28.30

Guthrie Trapp Overdrive

GTOJRGuthrie Trapp is an in-demand name on the Nashville scene as both a session musician and a solo artist who has worked with the likes of Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss and many other stars.

Designed to work with a wide variety of amplifiers, Trapp’s chunky signature OD is a simple yet highly versatile proposition based on JRAD’s now-discontinued Chicken Soup pedal, itself modelled after the Nobels ODR-1 – a Nashville favourite.

In use
Compared to the Archer, the Trapp OD sits much closer to the Tube Screamer camp, with more compression and tonnes of sustain. It’s a little noisier, too, but certainly not unacceptably so. With the accent set around noon and the gain high, the Trapp delivers a flattering, high-quality voice for fluid lead lines. Dialling in more of a clean boost setting, it’s less transparent than the Archer, but it still does a great job of giving your signal chain a kick in the tail.

Key features
Guthrie Trapp Overdrive
• Price:£189
Origin USA
Controls Level, accent, gain
• Features True bypass switching. Powered by 9V DC adaptor (not supplied) or 9V battery
• Dimensions 75mm (w) x 120mm (d) x 42mm (h)
• Contact:Zoom UK Distribution 08432 080 999 www.rockettpedals.com

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Josh Smith Dual Trem

JSJRThe Josh Smith Dual Trem is a collaboration between US blues guitarist Smith, Rockett pedals and another stateside boutique pedal maker, Tim Jauernig.

Designed with the bewitching pulse of early Fender amp tremolo in mind, the clever feature is the way the L/R footswitch can be used to toggle between separate settings governed by the left- and right-hand controls. There’s also a level boost to stop you disappearing in the mix.

In use

The Dual Trem was a little noisy and temperamental with our 9V PSU, but much better-behaved with an alternative, seemingly identical supply. This hiccup can be excused, as there’s a spellbinding, vintage amp-like depth here that’s rarely available from a stompbox tremolo. The ability to switch between two different speeds is eminently useful, as is the option to set both sides to the same speed with two distinct depths and vary the intensity.

Key features
Josh Smith Dual Trem
Price:£209
Origin USA
• Controls 2x rate, 2x depth, boost. L/R footswitch toggles between left- and right-hand controls
Features True bypass switching. Powered by 9V DC adaptor (not supplied) or 9V battery
Dimensions 120mm (w) x 75mm (d) x 42mm (h)
• Contact:Zoom UK Distribution 08432 080 999 www.rockettpedals.com

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 10.28.55

Alien Echo

tajrThere is no shortage of delay pedals designed to recreate the sounds of analogue stompboxes and vintage tape echos.

Combining an analogue dry signal with digital processing, JRAD’s two-button Alien Echo covers plenty of ground, from vintage-style slapback echo to warped soundscapes, courtesy of the warble control, which twists and detunes the repeats in the manner of worn-out tape.

In use

Versatile and highly musical, with conservative settings, the Alien Echo delivers a retro slapback, blossoming into Eric Johnson-style washes and post-rock trails as you wind up the delay time and repeats. With the warble footswitch, you can create detuned rhythmic effects and switch them in and out in time with a backing track, or leave it engaged for a grainy tape echo vibe. The tone control is useful, but be wary: the more treble you introduce, the more hiss you get.

Key features
Alien Echo
• Price:£229
Origin USA
• Controls Delay time, warble, mix, repeats, tone. Warble on/off, effect on/off
• Features True bypass switching. Powered by 9V DC adaptor (not supplied) or 9V battery
• Dimensions 120mm (w) x 75mm (d) x 42mm (h)
• Contact:Zoom UK Distribution 08432 080 999 www.rockettpedals.com

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Allan Holdsworth Overdrive/Boost

ahjrLegendary jazz-fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth needs little introduction, and this signature pedal was designed with flexibility in mind. It can be used as two discrete units or cascaded for more fluid tones.

On the drive side, you get volume, gain, bass and treble controls. The boost functions – which affect only the drive side if both footswitches are engaged – comprise a rotary boost level and two toggle switches. The left-hand switch emphasises highs or lows, while the right-hand toggle flips between full, clean and treble boost.

In use

The controls are highly interactive and require experimentation. It’s no high-gain animal; a combination of both sides heats up proceedings, but the emphasis is on articulate transparency and tone shaping. There’s a smoothness that suits modern fusion when a suitable amp sound or drive pedals are used as the foundation – don’t expect Allan Holdsworth in a box.

Key features
Allan Holdsworth Overdrive/Boost
Price:£209
Origin USA
• Controls Drive: gain, volume, bass, treble. Boost: boost level, L/H toggle, F/C/T toggle
• Features True bypass switching. Powered by 9V DC adaptor (not supplied) or 9V battery
• Dimensions 120mm (w) x 75mm (d) x 42mm (h)
• Contact:Zoom UK Distribution 08432 080 999 www.rockettpedals.com
Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 10.29.22
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