Blatant Self-Promo: New Joe Gore Pedal Premieres


UPDATE: I just posted detailed pedal descriptions at

Anyone going to the big LA Amp Show this weekend? I’ve never been, though I’ve heard it’s a blast. (Literally: Unlike at NAMM, exhibitors set up in separate hotel suites, reportedly without noise restrictions.) I always like geeking out at musical instrument trade shows, but this one is special for me: It’s my pedal premiere, the public debut of my next four stompboxes. They’re not shipping quite yet (except Duh, available here), though they’ll be out in time for a crunchy-as-hell Kwanzaa.

The pedals pictured may look like my usual sketchy handmade stuff, but they’re actually slick factory-made versions, painstakingly styled to look like sketchy handmade stuff. (Michigan’s Cusack Effects is my manufacturer.) They sound like my handmade prototypes, but are less likely to break every 15 minutes.

I’ll be showing them off in the Vintage King suite. (They’re my production partners, and for now, my sole retailer, though the pedals will eventually make their way to hip guitar shops.) Magnatone, Jackson Ampworks, and Moog pedals will also share the VK suite, so my pedals will be in lofty company.

I’ve already written about Filth, Cult, and Cult Germanium Channel, though I haven’t yet finished their demo videos. (If you’ve spent any time on this site or my YouTube channel, you’ve heard them.) But I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned Gross Distortion, a twisted new take on a cool old crunch circuit. Here’s a demo I just made:

… and here’s how I describe it on the upcoming product page:

There’s never been a distortion pedal quite like Gross—so it needs an explanation.


At its heart, Gross is a simple, one-transistor distortion from the same family tree as the Electra circuit. This simple yet powerful effect was built into Electra guitars in the late ’70s, and was later adopted by many boutique stompbox builders. For good reason: It’s a lively, dynamically responsive circuit with less compression than most modern IC-based distortion pedals. The transistor boosts the level, and then the signal hits a pair of clipping diodes, which provide the signature distortion.

Every diode combination sounds slightly different. In fact, several boutique pedal companies have based their businesses on creating Electra derivatives with slightly varied diode choices. (Just Google “Electra distortion clone.”)

Gross isn’t an Electra clone. I’ve changed parts and values for a fatter sound and even greater dynamic response. I also added an active 2-band tone control—something seldom, if ever combined with primitive distortion like this. The distortion isn’t too “gainy.” It’s more about definition than sheer power—one reason it pairs well with other gain pedals. The character of your guitar and fingers always comes through.

The oddest feature is the diode section. Instead of a fixed diode pair, two 12-position rotary switches select from 24 diodes for 78 possible diode combinations! An additional switch adds a third diode for asymmetric distortion, which makes156 possible shades. My target number was 144—that’s why I called it Gross, though that may have happened the other way around.

Some combinations are as different as night and day. Others are only as different as noon and 12:05. But this network of germanium, silicon, and LED diodes provides many crunch colors.

With its labeled and detented selector knobs, you can call up favorite settings onstage. But for me, Gross’s forte is as a studio tool. It’s great for “texturizing” guitar overdubs—just spin the dials till you find a tone that sits perfectly in the track. It’s especially useful for doubling.

Gross Distortion was created in San Francisco and is built in Michigan by skilled craftspeople earning a fair wage. Available soon from Vintage King!

TO USE: Set the desired gain and level. Grab the big knobs and start spinning. Toggle the +1 switch frequently for asymmetric distortion—the changes can be dramatic! When you hear a cool tone, refine it with the bass and treble knobs. (Note: the higher the gain setting, the more dramatic the diode-tone contrast.)

I hope you find it useful.

–Joe Gore, San Francisco

If you make it to the show, stop by and say hi! 🙂

14 comments to Blatant Self-Promo: New Joe Gore Pedal Premieres

  • matt wallace

    i want ’em!!!! very interested. your description of the Gross is hella tasty and i want one!!! asap.

  • Oinkus

    I am not buying any gear until around this time next year crud. About time you got them all figured out and into production , can’t wait to see what the next batch will be too.Have to build a third board with the wonderfully , fantastic ego booster on it I am slack. Good luck at the show , stay safe and have fun !

  • Eric

    That’s almost too much for my simple mind. But WOW! Sooo many tones! Well done Joe. Looking forward to hearing about the others.

  • I keep coming back to this and the Cult Germanium Overdrive has got me hooked. I can’t wait to get this thing- when is it going to be available? I play with a real minimalist setup- esquire, into a low-wattage simple tube amp, and I have tried to get that sort of dynamic control, but I haven’t been happy yet. And another thing- your playing and demos are really inspiring- I love the way you interpret well-known (and some not-so-well known) songs, along with your own creations. Your style is so unique, that it inspires me to find my own voice, opposed to just being a guitar player. Thanks for all you do on this site.

  • Oinkus

    Just read the new issue of PG and I am very sad you are no longer there Joe. Good luck with whatever you choose to do now and in the future.

    • joe

      Hiya Oinkus. Sorry it took me so long to reply — I’ve been traveling in Europe for a few weeks (which restored my attitude and provided some cool post ideas, which you’ll see soon).

      Actually, my new arrangement with Premier Guitar is a bit more nuanced than Shawn may have made it sound. True, I’m cutting back my hours dramatically, but I’ll actually be contributing more articles than ever before.

      In my previous senior editor role, a typical month’s workload would include my Recording Guitarist column, two gear reviews, and 35 or so edits of articles by other writers (behind-the-scenes work that no one knew about beyond the staff and contributors). In my new contributing editor role, I’ll be writing my column, and three major gear pieces per month — more than before — though I will no longer be editing work by other writers. Meanwhile, I’ll be reinventing the time I’d spend on those hundreds of third-party edits making music and devoting more time to this blog and my YouTube channel.

      In other words, if you like my stuff, don’t be sad. There will be enough of it to make you sick. 🙂

  • Oinkus

    Might be nice if I could understand my native language ? Then again I usually roll through my morning internet pretty early and I am NOT morning people.Good deal ,travelling can be fun! Stay safe and have fun !

  • How much longer until Cult is available? I really need one! Been waiting for a few months already…

    • joe

      First of all, thanks for your patience, Jorge. Iplease d hoped to everything available from Vintage King before the end of 2015, but it looks now like it won’t be till sometime in January. Sorry for the delay! And thanks a zillion for your interest. 🙂

  • January sounds pretty good to me! 🙂 I already got a Duh and I’m enjoying it a lot. My Fiendmaster build (fine tuned by a pedal builder friend of mine) has now displaced a Beano Boost and another TB as my weapon of choice for solos (into Audio Kitchen’s The Big Trees, which you should own!). I’m hoping to take it one step further with the Cult…

    • joe

      I hope you dig it, Jorge! Actually, Cult is sort of a second cousin to the Beano Boost. The latter is a faithful (and great-sounding!) replica of a Dallas Rangemaster, while Cult uses the Rangemaster circuit as a jumping-off, but introduces several major departures. Thanks again for your interest! 🙂

  • Extremely interested. your description of the Gross is hella delicious and i want one!!!

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