Let’s keep the Tech 21 pedal train going. So today I’m looking at the Tech 21 SansAmp British, a Marshall in a Box. Marshall has a reputation for producing amps that are renowned for their hard-hitting crunchy rock tones, and although in many cases are not as immediately recognizable as the bell-like tone of a Fender or the trebily chime of the Vox’s, they are still a vitally important rock n’ roll tone that has been the driving sound of many iconic bands.
As usual, I did some looking at other reviews before putting my own thoughts together, and I found that this pedal rates quite favorably among my peers, especially since the Marshall in a pedal is quite a competitive market, with Caitlinbread doing their ‘Dirtly Little Secret‘ and Wampler’s ‘Plexi Drive‘ to name only a few!
Unfortunately, we haven’t done any pedal demos for some time so the next best thing is to check out one of YouTube’s best pedal reviewers, the Burger Mans take on the Tech 21 SansAmp British…
As the picture above shows, the color scheme on the ‘British‘ pedal gives a gentle nod to the classic Plexi era. The controls on the British are Level, Mid, Character, Drive, Low and High, so the same as the Liverpool. Again this is version 1, which some felt was better in front of the amp. I felt that this pedal does a much better job of capturing the dirt and overdrive of the Marshall than the Liverpool does trying to emulate the chime and gritty cleans of the VOX.
Personally, I think that overdrive and distortion fit into an amp better than something trying to totally change the clean foundational tone (such as the Liverpool). Tone is subjective anyway, so someone will disagree.
So regarding the tone! As you may have heard in the clip I posted above, it goes from vintage JTM45 and Plexi type of tone through to JCMs and today’s modern Marshall. Actually I really liked some of the vintage Marshall tones up to about 12/1 o’clock for those thick saturated crunchy mids and hard rockin tones produced in the JCM era! Then dial in the gain to match that type of amp setting.
I thought the drive set fairly high with a vintage Plexi tone was very well done, with a classic mid range rock grind that it is hard not to like. Although, I did find the drive can get a bit grainy turned up too high, but that probably goes for most pedals though, with the drive set to about middway to 2pm the British produced some of the best tones no matter what character setting.
To find the sweet spot, for my liking, I had to dial in some highs and mids, and dial back the lows on this pedal as it was a bit more bass heavy and slightly darker sounding (I was going into a Valvetone handwired tube amp with both a Strat and Les Paul) than I was expecting, especially when using my P90 equipped Tokai Goldtop (okay, showing off now!). The Strat did especially well for vintage Marshally Hendrix type of grit and heavier tones, and it goes without saying that the Les Paul was just killer, elevating me with its thick, rich harmonics into power chord heaven!
So in summary I liked this pedal a lot, and in fact it’s most likely my favorite Tech 21 Character series pedal so far, as it was totally usable and sounded really good in front of the amp. It blended well with both delay and reverb and it didn’t produce any real extra hum or noise. It looks fantastic too! I haven’t played this one live but I am sure it would do just fine!
I am quite sure that there is a V2 version out there now which should make the pedal a bit more integrated with the amp hopefully, but for bedroom purposes, the old version is more than cool!!