Distortion and reverb – it's a tried and tested combination that's as old as rock itself. For most guitarists, it's the bread and butter starting point for any strong tone. Mad Professor's 1 pedal offers up an easy way to get close to Van Halen's legendary 'Brown Sound' the was born from a modified '60s-era Marshall stack that became a hallmark of the group's sound. Brash, full of mid-range grunt and power; it's undeniably one of the most iconic sounds of the classic rock era. However, unless you're keen on carting around a 100-watt head and cab to your next gig – logistics might get in the way of you coming close to a full-throttle Halen sound. And even if you did, how on Earth are you going to get your amp loud enough to start hitting the sweet spot? That, my friends, is where the 1 pedal comes in. Inspired by the group’s legendary first album, you’ll be shredding up a storm in no time.
With only four controls, the emphasis here is on keeping it simple while still recreating iconic hard rock tones with minimal knob-twiddling. Think of the ‘Brown’ control as gain essentially. Even at its lowest settings, this pedal still packs an absolute punch. From the chunky rhythm that runs through ‘Runnin’ With The Devil’, two the gain-stacked lead tone of ‘Eruption’ — you’ve essentially got the entire gamut of tones from Van Halen’s early career in one handy pedal.
Although the pedal is wired with Van Halen heads in mind, you’ll be able to use this for relatively decent selection of other genres and styles too. It’ll work well for any hard rock or early metal attempts, or even some heavy blues in a pinch. Moreover, even if you don’t want to sound like Eddie Van Halen — the 1 pedal is still a useful tool for adding a touch of the Marshall sound into your rig without actually owning one. I’m running it through a clean Fender amp, and the both the grunt, responsiveness and EQ are worlds apart from the amp’s original signal. For gigs where you need to switch to an entirely different sound for a song or two, this is well worth a look in. Moreover, even if you’ve wanted to dabble in harder hitting tones without owning the gear, a pedal like this will let you dip your toes into the water to find out if it’s something worth exploring further.
The reverb circuit is based off the old plate reverbs that became characteristic of not only Van Halen, but many hard rocking bands of the era. It’s a different flavour to the classic splash of a spring reverb, and works exceptionally well with the pedal’s overdrive to add another layer of depth and size into the mix. If you unscrew the lower plate, you’ll also find some useful trimmer pots for both time and decay to refine the sound to your liking. While this a handy option, it sounds perfectly fine out of the box. If reverb’s not your bag, you can turn it off completely and just use the pedal for its distortion. This also comes in handy if you’d like to use another reverb pedal of your own choosing, while retaining the overdrive of the 1. Crank the reverb up as high as it goes for an instant stadium-sized sound and you’ll be living some rockstar fantasies within the confines of your own home.
For instant Van Halen in a box, you’ve come to the right place. While it’s not going to be the right pedal for everyone, this is a pedal that does one thing exceptionally well and not much else. Perhaps that’s why they call it the 1? Regardless, if you’re looking for a hard hitting Brown sound that’ll have the house rumbling, the 1 is well worth considering.
Hits and Misses
The reverb circuit alone is worth experiencing
Huge amount of gain on tap
Not very versatile