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There's never been a distortion pedal quite like Gross. So it requires some explanation!
At its heart, Gross is a simple, one-transistor distortion from the same family tree as the Electra circuit. This simple yet powerful effect was built into Electra guitars in the late '70s, and was later adopted by many boutique stompbox builders. And with good reason: It's a lively, dynamically responsive circuit with less compression than most modern IC-based distortion pedals. The transistor boosts the level, and then the signal hits a pair of clipping diodes, which provide the signature distortion.

Every diode combination sounds slightly different. In fact, several boutique pedal companies have based their businesses on creating endless Electra derivatives with slightly varied diode choices. (Just Google "Electra distortion clone.")

Gross isn't an Electra clone. He has changed parts and values for a fatter sound and even greater dynamic response. Joe also added an active 2-band tone control. (He spent a long time dialing in the right ranges and tapers for cool and usable sounds throughout the range of the controls.) The distortion isn't too "gainy." It's more about nuance than sheer power, which is one reason it pairs well with other gain pedals. The character of your guitar—and fingers—always comes through.

But the star feature is the diode section. Instead of a fixed diode pair, Gross has a 12-position rotary switch for each diode position, with each position activating a different diode. That's 78 combinations! Plus there's a switch to add a third diode for asymmetric distortion for 156 possible shades. (My target number was 144—hence the name "Gross.")

Some combinations are as different as night and day. Others are only as different as noon and 12:05. But with its jumbo collection of germanium, silicon, and LED diodes, Gross provides a vast collection of distortion colors.

Thanks to the labeled and detented diode-selector knobs, it's easy to call up favorite settings onstage. But for me, Gross's true forte is as a studio tool. Joe finds it indispensable when tracking guitar overdubs—just spin the dual dials till you find a tone that sits perfectly in the track. It's especially useful when layering guitars.

Gross is popular among rock producers. Users include Joe Barresi (Soundgarden, Slipknot, Queens of the Stone Age, Melvins, Bad Religion), Matt Wallace (Maroon 5, Faith No More, Replacements, O.A.R., Blues Traveller),

and Michael Beinhorn (Ozzy Osbourne, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Aerosmith, Korn, Marilyn Manson, Black Label Society).

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