Developing products that sound is above all having a "musical ear". Yes, it may seem surprising to talk about musicality when talking about musical instruments, but it's a fact. The ear and what our English-speaking friends call "sound design" are essential to obtain something of quality. Well that's what Jesse Davey has. A great ear for tweaking existing material into something huge. This is the case of this The Duellist which stands out as a small masterpiece of modifications with the result, a small lethal weapon as we will see.
Level finish, it's pretty. We match the great high-end "boutique" standards of the genre. Quality case, firm knobs with the face of hell, very thick PCB with a very well done assembly. What are the guitar people asking for? Nothing more everything is there! It's top quality and will last for years without flinching.
So what do we see on this pedal? Of course, the huge knobs that control the gain of the two channels on board this pedal. Respectively A and B. Each channel also benefits from Tone and Volume buttons (a great classic) as well as a mini toggle switch allowing you to act on the EQ of the pedal. Here, 3 positions: Stock (standard, neutral), Glass (top of the spectrum and brilliance highlighted) and Fat (bottom of the spectrum and low mids pushed). Use this small switch in parallel with the Tone knob and you have maximum versatility to tune your sound as you see fit.
New in the 2022 version, we also benefit from DIP-switches on the right side of the pedal.
In the program:
- Channel A>B or B>A
- Vintage TS / SRV mode (+ attack and dynamics)
- Classic / Amp like mode
- Clipping Symmetric / Asymmetric for each channel
- Distortion / Overdrive mode
- Remote switching per channel with the two independent circuits
After this little presentation, we grab a Stratocaster and we put ourselves on a nice clean base. At random, a Two-Rock Studio Classic Reverb, just to do it right. And there, my children, is the drama! This thing works perfectly! We have a modified Tube Screamer on the right channel (A) and a modified Bluesbreaker on the left channel (B). Best of all? They can be stacked to use them in isolation or on top of each other. Yum!
On the program, big big dynamics, the pedal is transparent, natural and makes perfect use of the massive headroom produced by the head. With "low gain" settings, we obtain a very natural drive on both channels, with of course a nice bump in the upper midrange, a soft OD on channel A and a more muscular drive on channel B. The strength of the Duelist is not only its extremely musical voicing but also the way you can interact with the effect. The EQ section is really monstrous. There are so many possibilities by tweaking frequencies and accumulating drives at different levels, with different adjustments, that it makes the Duellist an ultra versatile pedal, able to cover many styles and many uses. From simple mid boost to heavy vintage/old school distortion à la Philip Sayce (who uses it by the way and he's not the only one!), it covers everything. We really appreciated its very dense, very rich grain, and the fact that it doesn't crash when the two channels are stacked. Every note is perfectly clear, even with a high rate of gain. You will be amazed by the sustain it brings, its fluid side and overall very "amp like".
The Duellist is a pedal that will be found, for sure, in many pedalboards. The list of artists using it is only increasing and they are not the least (Philip Sayce, Josh Smith, Ariel Posen 'n more...) To try it is to adopt it, you will have been warned . It alone will replace 2 or 3 overdrives on your board and bring you the mythical SRV sound under your feet.