Amp-in-a-box pedals have been a regular siting on pedal boards for many years now. Recent champions of the genre such as Wampler, Menatone, Catalinbread, Carl Martin and others all offer the user a viable way to turn their amp’s humble clean channel into a vintage Fender, Marshall, Mesa, Soldano or just about any other classic amp you can name for a couple of hundred dollars or less. Some succeed better than others and the quest for the ‘most authentic’ flag is often fierce.
Germany’s Eike Hintzen launched Weehbo Effects in 2008. In the six years since Weehbo have released a dozen or so well received pedals covering nearly every flavor of Marshall as well as Dumble and generic high-gain amps. Many of them feature a ‘Dynamic’ rocker switch that facilitates internal voltage doubling for greater headroom and dynamics and nearly all offer comprehensive tone controls not found on much of the competition.
Eike has now turned his attention to Fender amps but he’s made the very welcome decision to bundle them with some classic Marshall tones as well. Enter the Plexface, a pedal that gives you two classic Fender amp tones (Blackface ’65 and Tweed ’57) on one side and two vintage Marshall tones (JTM ’59 and JMP ’87) on the other. Sensibly, each side is dubbed Blackface and Plexi respectively.
The Plexface is a four-amps-in-a-box pedal. This raises the bar significantly. You can stack the Plexi side into the Blackface side for still more combinations and it doesn’t stop there. Eike has added a ‘Pushed Mids’ mini-toggle that lets the user choose between flat mids or pushed mids, the latter driving all amp tones considerably harder in the gain, midrange and compression departments.
Further tone-shaping tools can be found inside the box. There are a number of trim pots and jumper switches which allow the user to fine tune gain and/or preset the mids for each side of the pedal. If that's not enough for you, you’ll also find the now standard Weehbo ‘Dynamic’ rocker switch (see above) for even more flexibility.
All of these features would be meaningless if the pedal didn’t deliver the required goods sonically. I’m pleased to say that it does in most regards. As a basis for my tests I used a Laney VH-100R’s clean channel along with a Strat, Tele and SG.
Beginning with the Blackface ’65 setting I found a classic Twin tone that just nudged the breakup point with all of that side’s controls (Volume, Treble and Bass) set around the noon mark. Players who have experienced classic Fender amps should recognize this sound immediately. It’s the clean singing voice of a mid 60’s Twin in full flight. The tone controls work much the same way as they would on the real thing with the sweet spot being mid-way, similar to the often-used ‘straight-six’ setting (all tone controls set at 6 as a starting point) on the actual amp itself. Reducing or increasing the Volume results not just in a change in loudness but in saturation as well.
Switch the Blackface side into ’57 mode and you’ll be rewarded with the great low-level crunch and accentuated mids that that particular breed of Tweed is renowned for. Keef rhythm tones abound or use it for dirty barroom blues heaven. Switch the pushed-mids toggle in and enjoy mid-rich classic rock tones. This mode just wants to rock and is hard to switch off.
The Plexi side offers two flavors of the classic British sound: ‘59’ (JTM) and ‘87’ (JMP). Both modes do a great impersonation of the amps they pay homage to although in a limited way. The JTM mode delivers a great cranked Bluesbreaker or similar Marshall of that vintage and does it very well. It’s both rich and dynamic and even more so if the ‘Dynamic’ rocker is in its 18V position. The JTM mode excels at medium-gain sounds in my opinion, as does the JMP flavored ‘87’ mode. The ‘87’ possesses less of a vintage vibe and more of a hotter 80’s crunch. Perfect for hair metal musings and classic rock crunch.
I did find that the Plexi side, no matter what guitar I tried it with, was not great at clean tones (as, for instance, a real JTM can be and even the dedicated Weehbo JTM pedal) and both went into a little too much compression when the Drive control was cranked. To be frank, I think both of the Plexi modes excel in their respective medium-gain settings (about noon for the Drive control) but may leave some a little cold when searching for clean or higher gain tones. In other words, I feel that the Blackface side is slightly more convincing in the authenticity department.
There is no doubt that the Plexface offers outstanding value for money when sized up against much of the competition. It’s feature set and range of amps on offer is indisputable. However, if you’re after broad ranged (read: Gain) Marshall tones, you may find some of their dedicated pedals more to your liking. The Fender tones, however, are killers.
What we like: Four classic amp tones; inner adjustment options; abundant outer adjustment options; Dynamic switch; ability to stack Plexi side into Blackface side.