From one of the most popular amp makers of the 21st century comes a versatile and genre-bending gain stage.
It’s almost impossible to exist in online guitar circles without being hyper aware of the excellent work that Chris Benson of Benson Amps has been doing. Amps like the Monarch and Vincent are staples of tone icons and gigging musicians alike. On the pedal side, his Germanium Fuzz and Germanium Boost were received with equally impressive responses from the guitar playing community. I thought it was pretty obvious I’d have to check out some of his work at some point in time, but thankfully my entrance into Gear Fever’s fundraiser for the Testicular Cancer Society (go donate btw) resulted in me winning the Benson Preamp Pedal in a giveaway!
So while it might not be a review and demo I was commissioned to do, I thought it would be cool to put the Guitars For Idiots take on the Preamp Pedal out into the world. This wonderfully rectangular stomp box is the preamp section of the Benson Chimera amp, with the tubes being replaced by FET transistors. Master volume, treble, bass, and gain provide all the sculpting tools you need for the surprisingly wide range of sounds within the Preamp Pedal.
Review & Opinion:
What has really impressed me about this pedal is how unlike other drive pedals it is. First of all, the range of gain in this pedal is huge, from subtle boost to sweet distortion and fuzz. But what makes it so different is how it doesn’t just color your sound with a fizzy, harsh gain coating. It is the most amp-like gain pedal I have ever tried, hands down. It reacts to touch, pick attack, and remains hypersensitive through both my tube amp and amp/cab sim modeling pedals.
The trick to the Preamp seems to be in the treble and bass controls, which have a lot more of an impact on the type of gain you’re creating than other pedals’ EQ section typically does. For example, you can coax out a fuzz tone with the bass cranked and some treble rolled off. But reverse the EQ positions I just mentioned and it is distinctly NOT fuzzy but rather this tube amp breakup distortion. Each control knob is playing a big role in the sound creation, at least it feels like they are doing more than several high end gain stages I’ve reviewed to date.
Conclusion & Final Rating: 9 out of 10
Benson’s Preamp Pedal actually lives up to the hype in my mind, with a ton of cool amplifier gain sounds keep me very entertained. I love how easy it is to dial in this wide a variety of sounds using only four knobs, none of which are hard to figure out. And it really gets bonus points for not sounding like other gain pedals, it isn’t a Tube Screamer, a Klon, a Rat, or anything like that. If you want amp-like drive, why not take the gain section out of an actual amplifier? It’s so obvious, but so genius in execution. It’s the exact type of gain pedal so many of us are clamoring to find, without any of the fancy buzz words, magic diodes, or marketing BS that can drive us mad.