Wampler- Bad Dog Distortion Review From Tony Pasko

Tony Pasko is The Rock House Methods resident gear guru. He hosts a regular question and answer section at Rock House called GEAR411 where people can write to him about questions they may about gear, guitars, amplification, recording and pedals. Tony is one of the most knowledgeable people in the business. You can check out GEAR411 at www.rockhousemethod.com

Now onto Tonys review.
I told you that my product reviews wouldn’t be the same old stuff you have seen over and over. I am trying to shed light on companies and products that I feel get overlooked or no press at all, but have really good products and ideas. This review is a prime example of what I’m talking about. Johnny Hiland and Brian Wampler are two shinning examples of major talents joining forces and making a really good product for the sake of making good music.

Johnny Hiland is one of those guys that when you see or hear him play your mouth instantly drops to the floor. His playing ability is way beyond most guys that we call guitar gods now. Let me put it this way: If you took Danny Gatten and Joe Satriani and molded them into one guy? You would have Johnny Hiland, he’s that good.

Brian Wampler has this website where he sells custom pedals, and does mods on pedals etc… His videos are cool and the pedals seem to sound pretty good, but in the sea of everyone making their own pedals his pedals can get overlooked. I am here to tell you DO NOT OVERLOOK WAMPLER PEDALS!!!

I met him at a NAMM show and was very impressed by Brian, he is a very friendly and approachable guy, and most important he is a good guitar player. Believe it or not there are companies that make musical gear and don’t even play an instrument.

Now that you know all players involved let’s get to this pedal. The Bad Dog isn’t one dog it’s like two Pitbulls in a box. I either own or have played 95% of the distortion pedals in the market today, and I am here to tell you that this pedal is different from mostly all of those pedals at any price.

I spent the first hour of playing this pedal messing with the knobs. When I demo stuff I like to see what capabilities I’m working with: How do the knobs feel, how much sweep do I get in the frequency, if I turn the gain all the way down what does the pedal do? The reason for this is that pedals for the most part are designed to do one function, and the knobs just give you a variation of that one thing. This is not a bad thing for the most part, but again I like to see how versatile a unit is so I know what amps are going to like the pedal and what guitars are going to sound best etc…

The pedal looks and feels like a custom pedal, right out of the box you know you have something that was made by a human and not a machine. The knobs feel sturdy and they sweep with a bit of tension, letting you know this pedal is made from quality parts. The jacks and footswitch are all good quality as well. If this impresses you then you’re in for a wild ride because all the cosmetics are really just the icing on the cake.

The Bad Dog can’t sound BAD you can make it sound ugly, but not bad. Here’s what I mean. Gain“1” gives you a slight break-up like an 808 but with a slight bump in the high mid section. Gain”2” gives you a bit more distortion like a DS-1 but with a slight low mid bump. This alone would have made the pedal cool, but they didn’t stop there. Now at first I wondered why they didn’t put two footswitches on the pedal because when you see two gains, you think, “Hey I might want to toggle between those two.” But Johnny and Brian take you in another direction. The gains by themselves sound good, but the two running together sounds great and gives you a thick, rich complex tone that isn’t only crunchy, but clear and punchy at the same time.

Not to get off track here but I have to tell you that this pedal does something that I have never had a pedal do before. I tested the Bad Dog on my 18 watt Marshall. It’s a pretty simple amplifier and it doesn’t have any real bells or whistles other than it sounds like a real good vintage Marshall. The Bad Dog cleans up like no distortion pedal I’ve ever owned and I was able to make my Marshall sound bright like a Twin, or darken it slightly and get some pretty convincing Deluxe tones out of it.

This is why they put a presence knob on the pedal. You will use this knob way more than you ever would think you would. It adds so much clarity and punch without ever thinning your tone.

To go back to what I said before about turning the knobs you will find that all the knobs give you so much dynamic range, unlike most pedals the range is very small, or so extreme that you can’t ever dial in the right frequency mix, this pedal isn’t like that. The presence knob sweeps from bright to dark, and there is enough range there to adjust depending on the type of amp you are plugging into. Only guys that tour, or do sessions, or play through a lot of different amps would think of these kinds of subtleties.

In the industry today companies keep making products that only fit into a category. “We’ll make this distortion box for metal heads, or this distortion is only for the blues guitarist.” They do this because of marketing dollars and what’s the easiest sell through, how can they make the fastest buck. This is not that product. There is a sound in this pedal that I guarantee 99% of the guitars players out there will like, because we all like to sound good at the end of the day and this pedal just sounds good.

Not to over look the bass and treble knobs, they do exactly what you think they do, if you have a strat that’s a little thin? The bass knob will thicken it, and the treble is a bit sharp sounding on a strat, but on a tele or les paul it’s great. The treble also adds a hint of compression so you should have no problem getting out all your chicken picken licks out.

Finally, I saved the best for last. If I told you this in the beginning of the review? You never would have read the rest. Here’s the setting: With both gains turned all the way up, the presence on 2 o’clock, the bass at 12 o’clock, and the treble at 11 o’clock. Remember I’m plugged into an 18 watt Marshall, and with my Wolfgang guitar. I nailed Eddie Van Halen’s tone from Van Halen 1 and 2. This claim has been made before but Wampler and Hiland deliver the real deal.

I love with this pedal and it proves the point that when you go out of your way to make a good product for the right reasons; musicians will support it. Please go out of your way to give this little pedal a chance, and take a listen to Johnny Hiland he is defiantly a talent not to be overlooked.

Thank you,
Tony J. Pasko



* High grade film capacitors and resistors picked for their superior sound and response
* Completely true bypass
* Super bright LED
* Controls: volume, gain1, gain 2, presence, bass, treble
* Each gain controls a different frequency spectrum
* Very pick responsive - play light and it's clean, dig into the strings and it gets nice and dirty
* Very versatile - low gain, high gain, tons of eq options
* Smooth and tight distortion
* Sounds great with a tube OR solid state amp
* Sounds great at low OR high volumes
* Powder coated durable finish

Currently, there is a 2-3 week wait. This means that from the day of purchase, your pedal will ship in about 2-3 weeks.

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