The anticipation I felt to try this pedal is all in the name. I mean, what would you expect from a pedal called “PAL 800 JCM Emulator?” It painted a mental picture of a classic, standard sound that shaped a genre of music. Can that be fit into a little metal box, though? Let’s find out.
The PAL 800 JCM Emulator (Emulator for short) comes in a no-fuss box in a natural metallic color. There are two rows of knobs, three in each, for controlling EQ. The knobs appear to be a nod to a certain British-built titan of tone. The controls are labeled Treble, Middle, Bass, Volume, Gain and Presence. Starting to get the picture?
The Emulator can be powered by a nine-volt battery in addition to DC adapter. The DC jack is on the left side of the pedal next to the output jack, so you may find that your power cable and your signal cable are in close proximity depending on how your pedals and power supply(s) are situated. The input jack is in the typical position on the right side of the pedal.
And, then, there is the “secret weapon.” If you open the pedal, you'll find a hand-assembled electronics board with trimpots that have been carefully set at the factory and locked into position. There is one, however, that remains adjustable for the user, called Master Tone. While that adjustment is set to a factory specification, it can be altered to add or remove some of high end.
Plugging this pedal directly into a power amp and using the pedal as the preamp revealed a deep, spongy tone, reminiscent of classic tube amp sound. It offered some furry gain, and what felt like a long slew rate found in early British tube amp designs. The preamp controls allowed for vintage tones up through high-gain sounds.
Once in front of an amp and run through a clean channel, the traits of the pedal were similar. It offered the long slew rate response and heavy fur on the higher gain settings. Dialing the Gain back to about 9 o'clock offered some truly convincing vintage sounds. Using what is normally my clean tone EQ on the amp channel, I was able to do some additional shaping, but the EQ section on the pedal is quite responsive. I found no need to access the aforementioned Master Tone to allow for the maximum high end, as the Treble and Presence controls were more than adequate.
What we like
The PAL 800 JCM Emulator is a rugged, no nonsense, well-constructed pedal. It is assembled with care and achieves a wide array of sounds from the early tube amp attempts to internally overdrive a preamp section, to some of the higher gain amps of the ‘80s and ‘90s. The Master Tone control as a user-adjustable setting within the pedal is a nice feature.
The PAL 800 JCM Emulator requires unscrewing the bottom cover to access the battery and the Master Tone control. The DC power supply jack is near the signal output, so careful cable routing may be required.