Carl Martin is a humble audio company based in Denmark. Since their beginnings in 1990 as a hire company and their Custom Shop 50 amplifier in 2005, Carl Martin has continued to produce creative, top-tier and easy-to-use pedals. The newest incarnation of this is the 2019 series of pedals, a series with a smaller footprint than their predecessors, but by no means a smaller tonal impact.
The Purple Moon Fuzz ’N’ Vibe, a fuzz and Uni-vibe clone in one, Panama British-style Overdrive, an ‘80s style thrashy, rocky, London-style overdrive, and the aptly named Comp/Limiter can bring the last 10% of your tone, or create entirely new sounds in their own right. All three pedals are weighty, solid and unassuming, powered via 9V adapter aptly located between the in/out on top of the pedal.
Generally, a compressor would be one of the first pedals in your signal chain. The Carl Martin Comp/Limiter is a simple two knob compressor that becomes a limiter when completely dialled. Featuring only ‘Comp’ and ‘Level’ controls either side of the bright blue LED, it couldn’t be easier to use. Compressors can be a complicated one for first-timers, offering control of speed, attack and/or release as well as a threshold, but the Carl Martin Comp/Limiter is much simpler to use and responds how you want it to anyway. Usually I like effects, especially compression, to be dialled too far before reigning it back in. I just like knowing how far something can go, however the Comp/Limiter sounds great even with ‘Comp’ set to 100 (five o’clock). Even at maximum settings, the Comp/Limiter retains great tonality without masking the character of your playing and still compresses hard. Dynamics can’t get away from you, and yet there’s no massive rise in noise floor or pumping. This makes the pedal a great option for bass, as you can retain the attack of your playing while remaining a consistent anchor for your band. On guitar, clean tones sparkle a little more with spank and consistently help your amp respond more evenly. The Comp/Limiter provides album ready solo tones that pop out of a mix without being overbearingly compressed. Unless of course, that excessive tone is what you’re after.
The ‘80s were all about excess and those BIG sounds. The Panama, a British (sic) Hot Modded Overdrive, is this sound in a box. This four knob overdrive is a tone tightener and solo thickener. Fairly standard ‘Gain’, ‘Level’ and ‘Tone’ controls are self explanatory. The ‘Damping’ knob, however, is a high-pass-filter that slowly tightens the remainder of your tone as it’s dialled up. Overall, this is a Marshall-style overdrive that thickens instantly without any excess mud or mess. Mids are pushed, something else that’s inherently British, and with the gain dialled back you can nail the jangly mod guitar tone. This pedal can help you really cut through for a solo or hook and really has a lot of tonal shaping options for such a small package. When used similarly to a Tube Screamer, i.e. to push an already driven amp just a little further, the Panama hits it out of the park. Gain is more controlled, bottom end is resonant but won’t run away from you, and the tone feels more mixed and ready for your audience. Throw the Comp/Limiter before your Panama and amp and you’re laying down consistent chords, resonant riffs and controlled solos.
The Purple Moon is another gain option from Carl Martin. A tribute to Hendrix’s famed fuzz and Uni-Vibe combination, the Purple Moon is a small purple stomp box with three pots for the vibe and two mini pots to control the fuzz. With independent controls, the Purple Moon is effectively two pedals in one. Full on fuzz is thick, angry and a rounded vintage without being too dark. Roll the fuzz back and it can thicken up an existing tone, becoming the secret sauce between another overdrive and your amp. The Vibe, in combination with the fuzz, swirls, trembles and bellows as you roll up, down and through rocky pentatonic scales on your off-white Strat strung upside down. The combo is Band of Gypsys at Fillmore East, and it inspires slow, meaningful leads with articulate blues voicing and double stops. Dial back the fuzz completely, and you’ve got an interesting modulation pedal that brings the last 10% to some ear candy or swallows your playing whole depending on the Speed and Depth. Delicious.
Overall, Carl Martin’s latest line of pedals are tiny packages that all pack punches. The Comp/Limiter can be set and forgotten, but will be sorely missed if it’s ever switched out (or off). The Purple Moon is either a little extra push into another overdrive, a modulating monster, or a fat fuzz machine, and everything in-between. The Panama, the pedal you never knew you needed, is a familiar British style overdrive with some extra features to help shape your tone and integrate the pedal into your rig however you see fit. The new series of pedals are great in their own right, but even better in combination. Buy them all.
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