Under Review are the GT-1 Green Tick Screamer, BC-1 Brown Creature Distortion, BB-1 Beige Bug Booster & BF-1 Black Formica Compressor. You most likely haven’t heard of them, but Yerasov in Penza, Russia been making amps since the ’90s and guitar effects since the late 1980s. Glad they’re over here? You bet. Review by Richard Purvis
Yerasov? It might look like the first seven letters of an especially perplexing Countdown conundrum, but there’s a good reason why this new Russian name needs to be taken seriously. You’ll find it in the December 2013 issue of this very mag, on page 51 to be precise, where the Yerasov GTA-15 is crowned our sub-£1000 amp of the year. If you’d never heard of them before last year, don’t worry, neither had we; but remember, it was the Russians who put the first man, the first woman and (most importantly) the first dog in space, so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to translate some of that technical nous to the world of noisy guitars. And Russia even has some pedigree in FX pedals, as any owner of a Sovtek-made Big Muff will tell you.
So here we have four fine-looking samples from Yerasov’s ‘Insect’ series. They don’t much look like insects – and they’re not small – but they do have a picture of a creepy-crawly on the name badge. Inside, we find a vertical circuit board squeezed up at the top by the pots, with the sockets and footswitch at the bottom and a battery clip relaxing in the large space that’s left in the middle. You’ll notice that the in/out sockets are metal, while the pots are by Alpha and the signal capacitors are all WIMA – a name forever associated with early Vox amps, though these blocky red caps might not have much in common with the old gold ones. The wiring looks tidy, and you get the impression these pedals would last a lot longer in a whizzing satellite than poor Laika did.
GT-1 GREEN TICK SCREAMER
Just in case the green paint doesn’t give it away, including the word ‘Screamer’ in the name of the pedal makes it clear what sort of overdrive we’re looking at here. The one obvious divergence from the classic Tube Screamer template is the addition of a Fat switch, which should be a big plus for those who don’t like the way standard TS types carve a slice off the low frequencies. For some reason this is wired upside-down, so you engage the chubbiness by flicking it up away from the word ‘Fat’. If that really bothers you, give yourself a slap.
With the Gain control set low, we’re presented with all the ingredients of a quality Tube Screamer sound: tasteful crunch with a distinct upper-mids hump and a noticeably lightweight bottom end.
The Fat switch brings back all the lower frequencies and seems to flatten out the hump too, leaving something much closer to the EQ profile of the bypass signal. At more overdriven settings the thinness is more obvious, and here the Fat boost becomes essential. Maybe the Green Tick doesn’t quite nail the miraculous transparency of an original Ibanez/Maxon Tube Screamer, but it’s close.
BC-1 BROWN CREATURE DISTORTION
This time there’s no attempt at transparency, even with the Gain down at nine o’clock: just a smooth, thick and frothy distortion. Cranking the gain makes things agreeably metallish, with chords holding their shape and single notes yelling out with an extra layer of harmonic richness.
The Mids control gives good scoop, while everything on the Treble control seems to happen quite quickly around the two o’clock point – though it never gets too spiky. This pedal has quite a lot of background noise relative to gain but, the more you crank it, the less you’re likely to care.
BB-1 BEIGE BUG BOOSTER
Perhaps the word ‘beige’ doesn’t have the same connotations of blandness and suburban despair in Russian. Still, the concept itself is a nice idea: a clean boost with attenuation controls for both treble and bass. With both of these on full (so not cutting anything) and Boost on zero, what comes out is a perfect bypass tone. You absolutely cannot hear the effect going on or off – an impressive start.
Plug into a valve amplifier somewhere close to breaking up, however, and the Beige Bug will soon make itself heard very clearly indeed: 30dB is quite a lot of boost to have at your feet. To an extent, how good it sounds depends on the amp it’s driving, because that’s what’s really doing the work, but a clean boost is supposed to be pure and uncoloured and that’s exactly what this one is. Most players will probably end up keeping both tone controls at maximum or thereabouts, just lopping off a touch of treble if things get too shrill. With both set low you get more emphasis on honky midrange, but there are no crappy sounds available here.
BF-1 BLACK FORMICA COMPRESSOR
Forget all thoughts of plastic laminate: formica is also a genus of ant. This is just as well, as a picture of a wipe-clean table-top wouldn’t really have worked. The BF-1 is a compressor with an added tone control and, despite the name, it’s most definitely blue; more significantly it’s the least ‘plug and play’ of the four pedals on test: with all the controls at noon it sounds quite unnatural and, as with many affordable compressors, the challenge is to get nicely squeezed notes without an unnatural pop at the beginning of each one.
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It’s all about the balance between Attack and Sustain – go easy on the latter, in particular, and the BF-1 will do its job of raising up the quiet bits and flattening out the loud bits, making a dramatic difference to your playing dynamics without any obvious effect on tone. Fast attack times are handy for taming the spiky transients of single-coil pickups, and if you find that this knocks out a shade too much of your guitar’s top-end content, a nudge on the Tone control can put back just enough sweet treble to compensate.
These Yerasov effects are insects that demand to be stomped on. They’re extremely well designed and well built, offering high-quality sounds for not much cash – and they prove that, while most western manufacturers in this price bracket have long since given up and outsourced everything but the tea-round to China, our Russian friends still know how to make stuff for themselves. Tsk, who won the bloody Cold War anyway?