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Big Joe B-401 Saturated Tube: Looks Like Blues, Sounds Like Rock

Decorated in memory of a Mississippi bluesman, this American boutique stompbox is packing a lot more distortion than you might expect

Friday, 16. November 2012  -  by  Richard Purvis

Hey, isn’t that Big Joe Williams, uncompromising exponent of raw and percussive Delta blues? You may be surprised to see his face on an FX pedal, particularly bearing in mind his lack of formal electronics training (not to mention the fact that he’s been dead since 1982). But while all the products in the Big Joe line bear the image of the late bluesman, it’s really just a matter of inspiration. This is a new company whose stated aim is to “capture the tonal history of blues/rock guitar” with a range of US-made, all-analogue stompboxes. So the emphasis is on vintage-style overdrive, but there’s more to it than that – and the Saturated Tube proves it.

A heavy and well-engineered chunk of metal, this bright orange beast offers two different flavours of distortion in one box, courtesy of a toggle switch below the tone knob. It can do fairly gentle stuff with the gain set low in either mode, but turn it up a bit and you’ll soon realise this is anything but a bluesy driver at heart. With the switch up you get lashings of snarly grit; with it down you get something a little more focused… and now the tone control suddenly becomes a whole lot more sensitive, producing an array of wild and potentially inspiring ‘junkshop amp’ sounds. It’s pretty extreme, maybe too extreme for some, but Big Joe would surely approve.

The street price of a little under $200 translates to around £120 or €150 – not bad at all for a proper boutique pedal – but there’s no European distributor so bear in mind that, if you’re buying from a US dealer, there will be import taxes as well as shipping charges to add.

Bypass then toggle switch up, gain low

Switch up, gain high

Switch down, gain low, adjusting tone control

Switch down, gain high, adjusting tone control


Gibson ’67 Flying V, Mango Duo 18, 2x12 with Celestion Blues


$229.95 US


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