Review: Palmer PDI 03 Joe Bonamassa

Subscribe to Mixdown Magazine


Review: Palmer PDI 03 Joe Bonamassa

PDI 03 Joe Bonamassa
Words by John Tucker

Palmer PDI 03 Joe Bonamassa | Link Audio | RRP: $399

Palmer, a renowned name in the realm of guitar gear, stands as a testament to innovation, quality, and a commitment to enhancing the musical experience for guitarists worldwide. With a rich history that spans several decades, Palmer has carved a niche for itself as a leading brand in the production of high-performance guitar equipment.

Founded on the principle of merging cutting-edge technology with a profound understanding of musicians’ needs, Palmer has consistently delivered a diverse range of products, from amplifiers and pedalboards to DI boxes and speaker simulators. The brand’s dedication to crafting gear that not only meets but exceeds the expectations of musicians has earned Palmer a stellar reputation in the music industry.

Read more gear reviews here.

Palmer’s product lineup reflects a perfect harmony of craftsmanship and functionality, appealing to both seasoned professionals and aspiring musicians alike. The brand’s commitment to quality is evident in the meticulous design, rigorous testing, and use of top-tier components that define each piece of Palmer equipment.

Whether you’re a guitarist seeking a powerful amplifier for the stage, a versatile pedalboard for creative expression, or reliable DI solutions for studio recordings, Palmer has consistently proven itself as a go-to choice. As technology advances and musical landscapes evolve, Palmer remains at the forefront, continuously pushing boundaries to provide guitarists with the tools they need to unleash their creativity.

The PDI 03 Joe Bonamassa (JB) Speaker Simulator is a professional, passive DI box designed for guitar amplifiers. It offers a frequency-compensated, transformer-balanced direct feed to mixing consoles, soundcards and convertors and connects between the amplifier output and the speaker or an equivalent dummy load. Created for live performances, studio recordings, and home studio applications, it eliminates the challenges associated with mic placement and related issues, including completely eliminating the need to have any sound ‘in the room’ which is a blessing for those of us with thin walls or more noise-averse neighbours.

Crafted to meet Joe Bonamassa’s exacting standards, the exclusive ‘JB’ switch enhances the output signal, providing a pronounced and immediate ‘right in your face’ clean mid boost, with two settings, medium and heavy. The PDI 03 JB incorporates dual speaker simulation filters meticulously tuned to authentically replicate the frequency response of both classic and modern loudspeakers and cabinets.

The unit features adjustable input sensitivity for amplifiers up to 200 watts or for use with line and instrument level equipment, thanks to a selectable pad that ranges from 0 to -24dB. Ensuring a consistent guitar tone across different venues and recording environments, the PDI-03 JB can also be utilised to infuse realistic speaker characteristics into preamps and distortion pedals during direct recording.

Joe BonamassaHoused in a rugged powder-coated steel enclosure, it includes high-quality Amphenol connectors and a ground lift function to eliminate hum resulting from earth loops (‘ground lift’ is just a 1:1 transformer what essentially allows signal to travel while interrupting the direct connection. Note: this will prevent the use of phantom power being transmitted but that doesn’t apply in this scenario).

For amp DI without speakers, a dummy load with matching impedance must be connected. Palmer recommends using the Palmer Power Attenuator PDI06 and the Palmer Dual Load Box PLB2X8 for this purpose which are both good options in my opinion as well.

The ‘JB’ switch which is the feature that sets the unit apart from other non-JB infused pedals, and places it a rung above the PDI 03 rack mount unit that this speaker simulator + more is designed to replace. The JB has a notably warmer tone that has really mellowed out when compared to the rack mounted classic, and it is a far more versatile and cohesive tone even without the ‘JB’ switch engaged. It is especially noticeable in the ‘Deep’ setting where the rack mounted PDI felt like it had too much going on in the 100-200Hz range that created a murky boomy effect that is much better represented on the PDI 03 Joe Bonamassa, while still simulating a really convincing 4×12 cabinet’s punch in the low frequencies.

Getting to the meat of it, the ‘JB’ switch itself, has two distinct flavours that are both excellent, enhancing and boosting the midrange in a classic bluesy style, exactly what you would expect from something named after the great Joe Bonamassa. The Medium JB switch adds a nice amount of mids in a relatively clean style, while the Heavy mode adds a lot of clean mids with a slight whiff of bluesy breakup if you push the input, and seem to have a bit of higher frequency presence as well, which gives it a nice sheen.

The Deep EQ brings in more of the low end in a noticeable way, with a sort of pronounced tone around 100Hz but it isn’t boomy in any way which is a nice change, and you don’t feel like you’re losing any of the top end. The Flat EQ is interesting as well as it almost neutralises the pedal a bit, in my opinion, the Flat EQ offering an un-coloured, aptly named flat sounding response.

PDI 03 Joe Bonamassa 2

The Bright EQ is exactly what it says on the box, adding lots of high end that really pronounces the overtones and harmonics introduced in the signal chain, and while it is a great tone for solos etc, it is notably less versatile than the normal switch. The ‘Mellow’ setting is my definite favourite, as it brings out this sort of low passed vintage crunch and really feels in a way like it has glued the boost together a lot better. The Mellow I found was especially useful as the lessened impact of the high end prevents it from getting in the way of the other instruments in the mix, and let the vocals and the cymbals breath a bit more, while still retaining a lot of benefits. It definitely wasn’t lost in the mix, in fact I was able to turn it way up before it started getting painful in that 2-5k range.

For any musician who is touring without an amp (via plane etc) the Palmer PDI 03 Joe Bonamassa is a great option as it allows for not only consistent, but great sounding tone at a very small footprint. It also has a great use case for home studios where either due to noise restrictions or a lack of mics/amps it isn’t feasible to record in the traditional mic + amp sense. Overall I found that the PDI 03 JB has great performance and oozes Joe Bonamassa ‘bluesy-ness’ which is exactly what it says on the tin, and you cant ask for more than that.

For local enquiries, visit Link Audio.