Brian May Red Special review by DigiTech

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  • Sound: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Ease of Use: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.4 (67 votes)
DigiTech: Brian May Red Special

Price paid: $ 150

Purchased from: Guitar Center

Sound — 8
I'm using a 2007 Red Special from Brian May Guitars (formerly manufactured by Burns). I use a Vox AD15VT Valvetronix amplifier, set to 'AC30', since that's what Brian May uses. The Valvetronix amp can also be set to Clean or to AC15, both have interesting tonal possibilities to play with. I actually feel like if you set it to AC15 or Clean, the noise of the pedal, which I will cover next, is decreased a bit. The pedal is loud. There's a pretty constant 'hiss'. It's unfortunate, but as Pete Malandrome once said referring to treble boosters, 'That's the nature of the beast.' It's got a treble booster in the circuitry, which is great for that Brian May tone, but this thing is loud. There isn't always a major difference between the toe/heel settings. Keep Yourself Alive's settings (Model 1) hardly make a difference, the heel setting is just a tad louder. Things like that. The acoustic simulator for Crazy Little Thing Called Love is hard to set up to sound good. It's either very mellow, or very piercing and bright, and it's hard to find a happy medium. The acoustic simulator also crackles a bit. I like the Deacy tone. I know a lot of people don't really like the deacy tone this pedal delivers, but if you don't want to spend 150 bucks on JUST a Vox deacy practice amp, then this pedal will do the trick. The Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions, and especially the Brighton Rock settings are amazing. The pitch harmonizer is fun to play with, and the expression pedal rocked forward makes a major third chord, rocked backward to the heel makes a minor third. Brighton Rock's delay is amazing, you could solo for hours and hours with it.

Overall Impression — 8
I play a few artists more heavily than others. I love the Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, The Beatles, and of course, Queen. This is certainly a great match for Queen, but you could use it for other things. You'd have a Brian May-type sound, but if you wanted to apply this sound to another song, there's nothing stopping you. I've been playing for about a year now, and I must say that this effect pedal is probably the most interesting concept, and it's well executed, except for the few problems I mentioned above. It's really great, overall. If it was stolen, I don't know if I'd buy another one. It's 200 dollars, normally. I happened to recieve a 25% discount from my sister's boyfriend, an assistant manager at guitar center. I don't have another 150 dollars to shell out for the pedal again. If you want more customizable features, go find a Vox AC30, a Red Special replica of your choice, set the amp to max volume, and throw a germanium treble booster on. If you don't want your windows to shatter, throw a hotplate in the mix to dumb down the volume without losing tone. Or, if you want to be realistic and still get that Brian May tone, get this pedal.

Reliability & Durability — 8
I believe it's reliable. The thing's built like a rock. No problems yet! I would use it in a gig without a backup, but I don't know if I would want to use it in a gig, too much of a pain to switch between models. I suppose it's doable, but it's not always practical.

Ease of Use — 8
It's very simple to use, except for a few things. It's a little bit tough to press down the heel setting on the pedal. It's not easily usable in a Live situation, either. You either have to bend down to switch the tone model (and in doing so, you will probably want to change the gain or bass/treble setting) or you use a footswitch. The footswitch is great, but it becomes a pain to keep track of which model you're currently using. However, once you get used to the little quirks of the pedal, and know which setting is which, it becomes rather simple to use.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Thanks for all the reviews and comments, but two questions: 1/Does it have an on/off button? That is, can you bypass the effects without physically taking it out of the signal chain, and if so 2/Is it true bypass, or not?
    Please, What are the right settings for the pedal and the VT30 to work well with each other? I've been working on that for long but still not satisfied. thanks
    I'd much rather have Brian May's fingers and creativity, but I'll take the pedal. Looking at a used one tomorrow.