Metal shredders look away now: this stompbox is described by the makers as “a very dynamic box for the serious blues player”. Of course that’s not to say it’s only worth checking out if your history books stop at 1963; but the Big Joe philosophy is all about capturing the classic tones of the past rather than creating zany new ones – and while the Saturated Tube impressed us with its surprisingly high-gain garage rock tones, we’ve been warned to expect something a little more restrained this time.
What the Vintage Tube 2 does have is an intriguing extra control beneath the presence, drive and output knobs. This is a four-way rotary switch offering a choice of voicings based on different amp types... and it turns out to be the twist that turns this purple powerhouse from a solid analogue crunch-machine into something a bit more special.
The differences between settings are quite extreme – going through them clockwise the basic tones could be summed up as pure (1), snarly (2), dark (3) and honky (4) – but they’re all pretty cool, as long as you watch what you’re doing with the presence control, and this feels like a more useful feature than a standard mids pot; it’s actually reminiscent of the Vari-tone filter on a Gibson ES-345. (Note that the sound samples below were all played with the same guitar and amp settings.)
As with the Saturated Tube, European players who want a slice of the Big Joe mojo will probably have to buy direct from the USA, so there’ll be substantial shipping charges and taxes to add to the street price of around $200.
Early-’60s Harmony Meteor, mid-’60s Fender Princeton Reverb
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