Joe Gore Gross Distortion
At its heart, the Joe Gore Gross is a simple, one-transistor distortion from the same family tree as the Electra circuit. This simple yet powerful effect was built into Electra guitars in the late ’70s, and was later adopted by many boutique stompbox builders. For good reason: It’s a lively, dynamically responsive circuit with less compression than most modern IC-based distortion pedals. The transistor boosts the level, and then the signal hits a pair of clipping diodes, which provide the signature distortion.
Every diode combination sounds slightly different. In fact, several boutique pedal companies have based their businesses on creating Electra derivatives with slightly varied diode choices.
Gross isn’t an Electra clone. Changed parts and values create a fatter sound and even greater dynamic response. There is active 2-band tone control — something seldom, if ever combined with primitive distortion like this. The distortion isn’t too “gainy.” It’s more about definition than sheer power which is one reason it pairs well with other gain pedals. The character of your guitar and fingers always comes through.
The star feature of the Gross is the diode section. Instead of a fixed diode pair, two 12-position rotary switches select from 24 diodes for 78 possible diode combinations! An additional switch adds a third diode for asymmetric distortion, which makes 156 possible shades. The target number was 144 — that’s why it's called Gross, though that may have happened the other way around.
Some combinations are as different as night and day. Others are only as different as noon and 12:05. But this network of germanium, silicon, and LED diodes provides many crunch colors.
With its labeled and detented selector knobs, you can call up favorite settings onstage. But Gross’s forte is as a studio tool. It’s great for “texturizing” guitar overdubs—just spin the dials till you find a tone that sits perfectly in the track. It’s especially useful for doubling.
Gross Distortion was created in San Francisco and is built in Michigan by skilled craftspeople earning a fair wage.
How to use: Set the desired gain and level. Grab the big knobs and start spinning. Toggle the +1 switch frequently for asymmetric distortion—the changes can be dramatic! When you hear a cool tone, refine it with the bass and treble knobs. (Note: the higher the gain setting, the more dramatic the diode-tone contrast.)
NOTE: As on many primitive single-transistor distortion circuits, you’ll probably hear a slight crackling when turning the gain knob. This is not a faulty component, but an unavoidable side effect of circuits of this type. For most players, this is not a problem. But if you think you’re likely to adjust the gain control often mid-performance, this may be an issue. Proceed with care.
- Guitar Pedal
- Active / Passive