Like Galileo Galilei, the famous scientist of yore, Queen’s Brian May is a genuine astrophysicist. Yet May has also taken to exploring the universe of sound. His now-famous set-up, a paring of a Rangemaster treble boost circuit and Vox AC30 amplifiers, is the telescope through which he first spotted the famous riffs of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” planetoid. Unfortunately it sometimes seems that one must be an astrophysicist or Galileo to achieve that famous tone. Well, good news is in store for sonic explorers, and it comes in the form of Catalinbread’s new Galileo MkII pedal.
The pedal incorporates the same sort of treble boost and Vox pre-amp circuitry through which May plays, so the pedal essentially re-creates the basic tools with which the man himself first spotted his infamous riffs. Yet it would be a shame to think the pedal merely replicates one sound. In reality, the Galileo will produce a surprisingly wide range of overdrive effects that range from May’s signature lead tone to addictively chimey, Hendrix-like sounds. Better still is that for the Galileo’s second edition, Catalinbread has shrunken the footprint of the original and pared down the controls in the name of simplicity.
What was perhaps most addicting about the pedal was its ability to enhance a regular clean tone in surprisingly natural and unobtrusive ways. Especially when the Gain knob is set below the noon position, (and at noon as well), the Galileo adds chime and shimmer to the clean tone. But there’s something more to the tone, so it’s got depth for that reason. The shimmer accompanies a subtle and wholly natural sounding breakup, an overdriven sound at the edges. This isn’t the sort of overdrive that announces itself as might a sloppy drunk upon arriving late to the party. The Galileo’s overdrive at this lower setting is subtle and organic, and for that reason one of the more exciting sounds this writer has encountered in some time.
Even in the mid-range Gain settings, the Galileo responds with grace to changes in dynamics. More of that overdriven edge comes through at this higher Gain setting, but it’s easy enough to back off say, pick attack, to achieve that same shimmering, chimey clarity that characterizes the lower Gain settings. Imagine Hendrix’s semi-clean tone, or the imitation of that tone on Pearl Jam’s “Yellow Ledbetter.” Imagine the shimmering, apparently clean tone during the final measures of Smashing Pumpkin’s “Hummer.” It’s fascinating that the Galileo can replicate this clarity even while it’s on. Yet simply plucking or picking harder will drive the pedal into a harmonically rich overdrive that’s never so loose that it will obscure more complex interval work. The Galileo MkII is addicting precisely because it’s able to offer this “enhancement” of semi-clean tone.
It could very well become routine for a player to leave the pedal on even during clean passages. Because of the subtlety of the signal’s break-up, the overdrive effect never sounded distractingly “up front.” Clearly Brian May was up to something when he paired that Rangemaster and those AC30s. Catalinbread’s Galileo MkII will likely win over the non-scientists of sound, and those musicians whose sensitive ears recoil at the slightest hint of poor tone.
What we like: In its cleaner settings, the shimmery, chimey edge that it adds. But with more dynamic playing, the sound breaks up naturally. Smooth, sizzling overdrive at the higher levels.
Concerns: Musicians might become too dependent on the semi-clean tones the Galileo produces.