Every pro guitarist who has laid eyes on the Pirate Guitar Effects Plank has initially thought they recognized the logo and taken a second look. The Plank is something other than a clone, though: it’s a take on a classic overdrive circuit – with added bonus points.
Germanium this, true-bypass that – all of the Plank’s boutique bells and whistles reside inside a heavy-duty red casing with that eye-catching graphic. The Plank uses a 9-volt battery (now considered old-school) or a standard center-ring 9-volt power supply. With Gain, Treble, and Output dove-head knobs and a stomp switch labeled “On/Off,” it’s all self-explanatory territory familiar to OD pedal users.
The left stomp switch, however, puts the Plank in unique territory, kicking in an Echoplex EP-3 preamp. And there are secrets to be explored by simply removing the back cover. For the musician who needs to compensate for differing outputs and sounds of humbuckers versus single-coils, there’s a Dark/Bright switch and the internal volume trim pot.
An OD pedal needs to hit a tube amp to work properly, so a Tele-parts guitar was plugged into a late-model tube combo set flat with reverb on 4 for a classic rock/blues jam session. With all knobs turned straight up, the guitar and amp performed together with smooth added boost exhibiting little breakup or squashed compression. Finding a place in an unrehearsed band mix was easy with the Plank. It simply made a good-sounding amp and guitar sound better without the crunch that can overwhelm an onstage mix. A strong single-note solo voice was characterized by good note separation, and double stops with bent notes sustained and sang with clarity and attitude. It was still possible to color chords without damning dissonance, yet a bent B string could hang on seemingly forever with a little finger wiggle.
Kicking in the Echoplex preamp circuit via the left stomp switch redefined the Plank, adding a hi-fi gloss with noticeable gain. Selecting the preamp before the right-switch circuitry produced different colors, and a few moments of tailoring the sound through the internal adjustments compensated for the impact of humbuckers in a hollowbody. Though these adjustments couldn’t be done on the fly, they maximize the usefulness of the Pirate Plank.
Smooth, sustaining overdrive, not too gritty, is what characterizes the Pirate Plank. You want fuzz or ragged breakup? Check your pedal stash – you already got that. Maybe it’s time to walk the Plank.
This article originally appeared in VG October 2017 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.