For 80’s Marshall crunch, it’s hard to beat the wide range of lead and rhythm tones in the Wampler Plextortion, which offers high gain distortion in addition to preserving player dynamics, even at higher settings.
You have to hand it to Brian Wampler. Given his popularity in the close-knit effects pedal community, you figure he’d want to command premium prices for his gear. Hey, we live in a world where people pay $700 for overdrive pedals. But Wampler keeps his gear affordable, perhaps with the assumption that customer loyalty is the best asset a business can have. Wampler also excels at offering pedals that help players cop certain sounds. The Ecstasy (my personal favorite) is a poor-man’s Dumble, whereas the popular Pinnacle nails the elusive Van Halen “brown sound.” The Plextortion is for the player who’d love to use a heavily modified 80’s era Marshall with his or her current amp setup. Think of it as a “JCM800 in a Box.”
The Plextortion sports five control knobs for Volume, Gain, and a full EQ section (Treble, Mids, and Bass). A single mini-toggle chooses between Modern and Vintage voicings. Since Brian likes to test his pedals through “real-world” amp setups, I chose one of my favorite gigging amps, a Peavey Classic 50 2x12 combo, and used it with a Fender American Deluxe HSS Stratocaster.
I was immediately struck by how “crunchy” this pedal is. I’ve owned and used my share of JCM800 heads and this pedal definitely nabs that mid 1980’s modded-Marshall tone. With all the controls set to noon, I was able to get a clear yet crunch AC/DC rhythm sound. Even when I increased the gain, the definition remained clear, just like a good Marshall. My picking dynamics and left-hand technique were translated well.
The pedal lets you easily nail tones à la Jake E. Lee, Warren DeMartini, George Lynch, and other 80’s metal gods. However, if you engage the Vintage setting, you can easily nail Zeppelin and even Van Halen tones (though the Pinnacle is the pedal you want if you're chasing EVH tones). If you’re looking to play in a Korn cover band, you’d probably find another pedal, but for 80’s Marshall crunch, it’s hard to beat the wide range of lead and rhythm tones in this pedal, which offers high gain distortion in addition to preserving player dynamics, even at higher settings.