Digitech Brian May Red Special review

I first must say this is my own and honest upinion about this pedal and otherwise it is pretty pointless for me wright this. I always say what I think no matter if some artist or pedalmaker wants to hang me. More about this later. And also as I have close to the same gear Brian used in the old days nothing can comepete with this and certainly not in a box so maby it is not fair to compare this pedal with those amp and pedlas.


Like the rest of us BM-fans I was curios about this pedal and the way they leaked this infos long before it finally arrived they of cuorse caused a big hype of it. An AC 30, or 3, in a pedal and delays, chorus, boosters etc etc included?? Can this be true?? We´ll see about that.


I found this pedal on E-Bay and got a pretty good deal on it. Here in Sweden they are around 200£. The box arrived and I was curios to try it so like a child on Christmas I opened the box and I was pretty impressed about what I found. A nice softcase or kind of condom for the pedal with Brian´s star on it. Looked great. And the pedal itself had a similar colour and veneerlooking beautiful red look. Also pretty heavy that meens this piece stands still on the floor and doesn´t come like an airplane after you on stage. So far so good. I almost missed the coin that was hard to find. An old genuine brittish 6-pence. Great. Hard to find these days.


So now I wanted to try this in a box 3 AC30 digital amp. I found that the powersupply should be a 9V AC and no one of these here at home. The one inthe box was the US 110V/9V. Had to wait to the next day to find one. A very kind guy in the guitarstore close to were I live let me have the one he had for the Hendrix-pedal. Back home again and NOW!!!!!!!!! Yes it was a led flashing but I couldn´t understand what was wrong now. Finally I pressed the toepossition and the green light came and everything seemed to work now. Plugged in my Adeson fitted KZ and….is this true?? No dynamic? I started to read the manual and everything seemed to be ok. I was supprised the gain was relativly low and it sounded like the guitarvolume was rolled back to 7 or 8. I tried all presets and found they all sounded the same. All the knobs were set to recomended settings but still no dynamic and too little gain. To be sure there was no problem with the guitar I plugged it in to my other amps and pedlas but everything was ok here. I ad also some days earlier read on the BrianMayWorld a guy in Japan had the same experience.

Like this guy in Japan did I connected a EQ-pedal got boost in line before the Digitech and now it strated to rock better. Now the amount of gain was acceptable. I added approx 3dB and a flat curve. But still I felt the sound was a little bit dead and I then also played it via my Mac and Logic software were I edited some ambience just to make it more sound like an amp you have maby 2-3 meters away. So my first impression was that this was not a 100% Brian in box. I also here played over my Alesis Monitor
2 semi pro system and firewire soundcard. Of cuorse monitors can play a trick with you but not this way.

Back to the just play with the pedal and just listening to the FX. They were to my ears pretty impressive and I think they really cought the phaser sound, Deacy-amp very good, delays very good, harmonizer also very good. Kind of Chinees Torture. Here it seems the long history of Digitech making fx-pedals was as close to spot on as you can ask for of a Brian-in-a-box


I played some BM-riffs and felt it was not that much inspiering to play them but somehow listening to these clipsover my inbuilt Mac-speakers was pretty ok. This has actually happened before with other stuff I tried but normally I never had any problem to tune in a sound that sounded good in the end. Here it wasn´t that simple.
I started to mess a lot with all settings and found that turning the pu selector towards “singel coil” helped and alsoadding some middle mabe it sound a lot better. But still gain was too low for certain sounds. Recorded some clips to backingtracks and listened and still felt it wasn´t that convincing I was hoping for.Anyway I did some clips and sent to some trustworthy friends with huge knollage about the BM-sound. They were not that impressed either. SO I felt pretty bored about the pedal and let it be in the box for a few days. Then I gave it a try again. Now using the EQ-pedal as pre-boost and also connected a chorus on the right output and then I had a pretty goodsound.

With these pedals in line I started to replace some guitartracks on a BM-style song I´m working on and…..it never did what I wanted it to do. Again sound was acceptable over Mac inbuilt speakers but playing was not enough inspiering so I felt I had to struggle with every chord to make it right. So… I gave up. Anyway I did some recordings again to some backingtracks to let people hear what it sounded like. Then I didn´t use any FX or pedals in line. Some liked it ans some thought exactly like me. But I must admit that the sound was sounding much better listening to them than how they felt to play with.


If I should rate the presets it will be like this:

1 KYA: Very nice phasing sound for the rythm part but lack of dynamic made the riff too distorted rolling back the volume so I had to lower the gain(?)

2 Bohemian: Here I think they nailed the ambience sound from the solo pretty good. I used the out of phase settings on my KZ even they said in the manual this should be done this way. Maby they ment other guitars like LP´s and Strat´s etc etc.

3 TYMD: Rythmsound not as I recall it from any CD´s with my KZ anyway.Leadsound is a lot brighter and closer to as I hear it from the original

4 WWRY AND CHAMPIONS: I think the phasing fx was pretty good here and I think this one of the sounds I like the most. Funny I never liked the sound from the original recordings on WWRY

5 CRAZY LITTE THINK CALLED LOVE: A pretty pointless preset really that sounds ….crap

6 BRIGHTON ROCK: This is the preset that makes me keep this pedal. When I feel to just dream away with some delays I use this. The Harmoniser is pretty good too. BUT I feel it is far better to add some ambience like reverb to make it sound a little bit more “live”. Try this if you can and pretend there are 60-70.000 in the audience. It helps:-)

7 DEACY/WINTERS TALE: Also a very good preset. I have never heard a better clone of the Deacy. Winters Tale also is very nice but maby not a sound you will use in too many songs. But still great.


I had much higher expectations from this pedal. Like a BM-Pod. I know people who like this pedal much more than I do so this is of cuorse only my pesonal upinion. Maby to some people this is a great pedal and for these whom not will ever try or own the real stuff. And of cuorse it is very much in your fingers and hart. I just think they could have done better. Maby they should have some update chip for it like Pod had from version 1 to 2. To me Brian´s sound is pretty simple in one way. An RS-guitar, TB and AC 30 and then maby have a focus more on the FX side. I don´t know really but somehow this would be like how I run my AC´s and as I hear Brian do it live. But the concept is the same on the other signature pedals from Digitech. I do miss the CE-1 sound in stereo. Again a pedal that do all this to 100% is naive to think they can do I do think these guys are clever enough to take it far clooser thou.

This BM hype is very interesting. Some years ago there were just the Guild BHM´s. You could occasionally see a Guild TB on Ebay. Then suddenly the Fryer era came with crap that made hardly no one happy and silly overpriced products we don´t even know Brian ever used but with his signature on them. I use my freedom of speach for you young guys that maby have to work a whole summer or wait for Santa to come with these sought after products. I wright this for you to get the best for your hard earned money as I see this. Things were tough for Brian we can read and he had to make his guitar from crap and his father helped him with a booster after loosing the first. Well things are pretty much the same today and people have to struggle to pay the rent etc etc and most likely one or more of you reading this are the future guitarists on the world stages.Remeber there will always be people out there to take your money and clain they captured this or that. Always be scpetic about things like this. Read trustworthy reviews from magazines but maby the most important: Try before buy. If you like it then it´s the right thing for you no matter what other people say and don´t forget to create your own style.

Keep on rocking

Peter Michalowski