In our ever-increasing digital world, even the analog purist guitar players who spend thousands of dollars perfecting rigs full of analog stompboxes, tube amps, and the like, will be using digital technology in one way or another. Whether it be late night practicing or recording with something like a Line 6 POD, capturing their tones to a digital interface, or even using a digital pedal, those ever-powerful ones and zeroes will find a way into their rigs one way or another.
Many an enterprising builder and engineer have tried to come up with a way to warm up those digital tones. Zoom began including 12AX7 tubes in its G5 digital multi-FX unit when they first introduced it a number of years back, and many companies who put out digital interfaces for recording take great care to emulate the preamps to sound like the ones within the large format analog consoles of yore. My fellow Tone Reporter Jamie Wolfert also uses a germanium booster before his digital interfaces to warm up his tone with that sweet analog juice.
Paul Sanchez of Red Iron Amps is known for his tube amp prowess. Having played his Mil Spec amplifier, I can personally attest to his knowledge and skill when it comes to creating glass-powered tone monsters. When Mr. Sanchez approached me with the concept of his Pedal Push-R, I was decidedly interested in taking it for a test run. The Pedal Push-R is designed around a subminiature vacuum tube running at full voltage, to provide a sort of extra tube stage to your pedalboard. It is designed to both warm up your digital pedals, and give your solid-state ones have more tube character. Does it deliver on these promises? Let’s find out.
The Pedal Push-R is an incredibly simple design to wrap your head around. It’s got a footswitch on the front to engage the effect, and on the left side it’s got a pot for increasing the volume, and a switch for engaging the ground lift, which can be very helpful with those pesky noise gremlins. On the other side it’s got a voicing switch, labeled "F, M, C," standing for Fender, Marshall, and Clean/Compression. These are not clones of the tonestacks, rather they sort of mimic the response of these amps. The Fender mode is brighter with a slight high-end gain boost, the Marshall has more pronounced mids, and Clean/Compression gives a very slight boost with uncolored compression. Being a full-powered design, it is powered by a standard IEC cord, which plugs directly into a wall socket or power strip.
Sound-wise, the Pedal Push-R works as a great clean boost, providing that wonderfully warm full-range boost. The sound is unmistakably tube, with a full-bodied natural compression that only tubes can provide. It’s got bright and glassy highs (no pun intended), a naturally large midrange, and thumpy lows that are compressed right to the point of not being overbearing. Running it in front of the chain as a “pedal enhancer” as Mr. Sanchez suggested, yielded some interesting results. Solid-state drive pedals got a little sheen of that tube character, and the midrange and highs of said solid-state pedals were slightly boosted and enhanced. Some pedals reacted better than others to this boosting (Tube Screamer style pedals seemed to enjoy it most), but I found the Pedal Push-R really shined when boosting other tube pedals. In front of a BK Butler Tube Driver, the dynamics and compression of the Pedal Push-R—as well as the midrange boost—helped make the Tube Driver sing with more sustain and midrange fatness.
Unfortunately, there is one glaring issue with the Pedal Push-R: It may have been just my rig, but the unit added a good bit of hum to my existing setup when disengaged. Even with trying different guitars, using the ground lift switch, removing certain pedals from my chain and even powering the unit on its own spot on the wall, the hum still didn’t go away completely. However, when it was engaged, the hum almost disappeared. It is truly an “on all the time” pedal, and it kind of forces you to leave it on in regards to noise.
However, if you need a good tube booster, pedal enhancer and all-around tube character machine, you are definitely in for a good buy with this one.
WHAT WE LIKE:
Warm dynamics, natural compression, and plenty of options for tube enhancing and boosting. Voicing switch and ground lift add a good bit of versatility.
The noise can be difficult to deal with, and it is incredibly sensitive to other pedals with noise issues, power supplies, and power use.