Which is entirely the point. Anyone can sound good. But can you look like Keith Urban while doing it? (Sorry to go country right there, but you gotta admit that Keith Urban’s got it going on. So does his gear. Wow. So many poorly chosen phrases in such a small portion of writing thus far.)  And the answer is yes. You can. With this pedal:

Matchless Hotbox

The Matchless Hotbox allows you to have an amp on your pedalboard. And not in a tone way. In a, ‘This pedal lights up like an amp’ way. Fabulous. This is only the second piece of gear in a long history of buying pieces of gear that I have bought because of how it looks. And it did not disappoint.

And I seriously thought about ending the review there. But then I realized that perhaps everyone is not as superficial and vain as I am. So, the tone of the Matchless Hotbox. It’s very, very good. But it is its own pedal. It doesn’t react to your rig. It’s a very trebly and chimey preamp that you cannot switch off. You plug it in, and it’s on. And it does do a surprisingly good job of transforming whatever you’re playing out of into a Matchless DC30 or Vox AC30. However, just a little false sounding to me. And that’s not the pedal’s fault…I just like more of a pure tone, and I feel like if you want to sound like an AC30, get an AC30. A pedal emulating it is not my thing. That being said, though, this pedal does do a fantastic job of it. It works as a great preamp if that’s your thing, due to its dual 12AX7 tubes.

This also allows it to be run direct, which can be nice if for whatever reason the venue says they’ll shoot you if you use an amp. This can be a great pseudo-amp, even though the term ‘pseudo-amp’ is just evil to begin with. And then the switch on the pedal. This, in essence, changes channels, like you have a two channel amp. And it has just a crazy amount of gain ‘on tap.’ (Sorry, it seems like these days it’s not a real pedal review without the cliche ‘on tap’ reference.) It gives you an extremely saturated, very compressed, distortion. And that’s really cool if that’s your thing. For me…not so much. Still too trebly for me, and too compressed, and changes your tone too much. It does work better if you’re already using it as a preamp, and then you switch channels. The change in tone there is much more smooth. But I’ve been trying it in a bypass loop and using it just for my ‘solo’ switch. And for that, it changes the tone from your amp a good deal.

All that being said, though, the sound that comes from this pedal is absolutely stunning. Great sound. Just not for me. So here’s the video, and you can hear what it’s capable of, and if you like it or not.

Clean Tone

Prairiewood Les Paul (Wolfetone Dr. V pickups)–>

Loop-Master bypass looper–>
(–>Matchless Hotbox

Loop-Master bypass looper (master bypass on)–>

Divided by 13 RSA23–>

65 Amps birch cab (Celestion Blue & Celestion G12H-30

1994 (Mark Sampson-built) Matchless Hotbox:

So that’s the video. You can hear that it is just a great sounding pedal. But it definitely does not immerse itself in your rig, which is what I tend to like for pedals. And I cannot stress enough that there is no tone control on the preamp side of the pedal. Just a volume. So, you either like the sound of the clean boost or you don’t. The odd thing about this whole review is that I am leaning towards keeping this pedal. Not for any other uses than 1) for those terrible times when the worship leader or singer or whomever you’re playing with wants to do a Kutless or Nickelback song, and 2) just in case any even terribler (?) times come up where the sound guy is a large man (or, I guess could be a woman, too), with whom I value my life to much to argue the point of using an amp. However, the first situation comes up about once every 4 months, and the second…well…let’s just say I carry an arsenal of information in my head behind which I can form a bunker and fire fact after fact (some of them true, some of them…eh…we’ll just say ‘yet to be proven’) on why I should be allowed to use an amp. And I have never lost. So, this is kind of an expensive pedal to keep on the board to use so sparingly. I’m currently looking for a Big Muff clone that can actually be heard in a band mix to do the compressed heavy sound deal. In which case, I could sell the Matchless. But the Matchless is the only pedal I’ve heard that can do the compressed heavy drive sound without getting lost in the mix. So for now…

…Wait a second. It looks like this:

Matchless Hotbox 2

I’m so keeping it.

Oh, and just for the record, I dare you to listen to Keith Urban’s tone in this and not desire it.

Amazing tone. Both clean and dirty. Desire it. Desire it a lot. And if you don’t, you can’t tell me you don’t at least desire those pants. Or legs that can make those pants look that good. I mean, desiring your own legs to look that good. Not desiring Urban’s legs per se. Hmm, I wonder if that’s going too far. Nah, I’m secure enough in my tone to say things like that. And by ‘tone’, I mean, ‘masculinity’. Although tone definitely needs some femininity in it as well. Okay, now we’re at a place that I don’t want to be. Everyone cool with changing the subject from Keith Urban’s legs blurring the lines between masculinity and femininity? Yes? Good. Okay, the hair…eh. And the actual song…decent. But the tone and the pants……desire was invented for these things.

Splendid.
Karl.