I suppose the downside of ubiquity is being taken for granted. I’m assuming that’s why—prior to this review—I was unaware of Seymour Duncan’s Dirty Deed, the famously ubiquitous pick-up builder’s excellent entry in the oft-discussed Marshall-in-a-box (MIAB) category of guitar pedals.
The Dirty Deed offers two active tone controls—Treble and Bass—and controls for Volume and Drive. The manual doesn’t make it clear if the tone controls comprise a Baxandall tone stack or if they just affect the mids by virtue of reducing the adjacent bass and treble frequencies, but both controls do affect mids content, albeit subtly.
Speaking of frequencies, the first thing the Dirty Deed does right in my book: It dispenses with trying to duplicate a Marshall tone stack. This means the user has more leeway than might be found in a typical, more literal-minded MIAB, but it also means those looking for the glassy high end of a clean or low-gain Plexi will need to look elsewhere.
The Marshall voicing comes into play with the Drive control, as that’s where the throaty upper mids reside. Between the Drive and tone controls, it’s fairly easy to dial in balanced lows, mids and highs and then replicate the classic tones that the pedal’s name alludes to. And there are a lot of tones in here, as there is a lot of gain on tap: You move from early ‘70s Page at 10 o’clock to Kossoff and Angus at nine and 10 o’clock back to late ‘70s Page and Ronson at 11 o’clock and then Van Halen by noon. And I was able to dial in these tones using single coils and a Fender-voiced amp with 10-inch speakers. The drive control also affects compression, so sometimes adding a hair more drive was required to nail that cranked stack feeling that the EQ didn’t quite deliver—no biggie. Perhaps ironically, without the glassy treble of a Marshall tone stack, it was harder (but not impossible) to dial in more vintage tones when pairing the Dirty Deed with a Les Paul, but nailing post-Eddie tones was a breeze.
Running at nine volts, the Dirty Deed is a rock solid performer that covered more ground than many pedals that cost a lot more, and covered it well. Because the EQ isn’t limited to the typical Marshall voice, I was able to dial in a high gain OD setting that complemented my amp rather than converted it. And at 12 volts, the Dirty Deed really starts to come alive, becoming more responsive and, yes, more amp-like.
What we like: The Dirty Deed is a versatile pedal that absolutely delivers Marshall-like distortion and a whole lot more at a price that is, indeed, dirt cheap. I’ve played many (but by no means all) of the Marshalls-in-boxes that are out there and, at 12 volts, this is my favorite thus far.
Concerns: Oh, those tiny tone control knobs were not fun to turn, but you’ll want to turn them, because they’re very effective. Also, the design leaves something to be desired—maybe a facelift would encourage people to pay more attention to this fantastic pedal?