I recently had the pleasure of flying out to California to visit a couple of friends and trade in my regular rat race bullshit for a stress-free stay in the mountainous seclusion of some place known only as Loma Rica.
Somewhere between eating delicious food and drinking our weight in Absinthe, my friends and I made reservations to secure a community center for an all day jam session. Upon arrival, my buddy Jordan insisted that I try out a couple of his pedals that he was wanting to sell… you see where this is going, right?
The pedal was the Basic Audio Scarab Deluxe. And from the moment I plugged into it, I knew I had to have it.
The Scarab Deluxe is a Tonebender clone…but it goes above and beyond the features you’d normally find in a similar boutique offering in both tonal quality and control. Whereas your run-of-the-mill Tonebender clones offer up controls for volume and gain (or tone, if you’re lucky), the Scarab Deluxe gives you access to an additional Bias control that allows you to really nail-down any classic bender tone you can imagine (from gated sputter to smooth, almost overdrive type tones) as well as a Fat control that can thicken single coil pickups just as easily as it can send humbuckers into a saggy, thundering boom.
I plugged in a PRS McCarty loaded with a Whole Lotta Humbucker set (tuned to drop C) and ran straight into my buddy’s vintage Bassman. He cranked the volume and shortly thereafter (much to the chagrin of neighboring denizens), we were in fuzz-city.
When playing through a Scarab Deluxe for the first time, you’ll immediately be taken aback by the amount of clarity underneath the wall of fuzz being forced down your amp’s throat. The amount of gain and low end on tap is monstrous. Sinister, even. Yet just beneath the destruction’s surface lies beauty.
Every note in every chord you play rings out with harmonious sustain while adding body and girth to rhythm passages. Individual notes, riffs, and lead passages all seem to sing with bold character while never getting lost in a band mix or becoming muddy. This level of clarity lends itself expertly to muted passages and “chugging” – making every downstroke feel like a sandbag being dropped on your abdomen.
High gain doom tones aren’t your thing? Ok (ya pussy). The Scarab Deluxe excels at vintage almost-on-the-verge of breakup and smooth singing tones alike. All the classic Tonebender tones that you know and love are easily channeled thanks to the external bias control.
The Basic Audio Scarab Deluxe is my pound-for-pound winner as far as Tonebender clones go. Sure, some higher-priced offerings may get closer to “the original sound”, but with the excellent construction and added tweakability of the Scarab Deluxe – you can’t go wrong.
Needless to say, my bags were a little heavier on my flight home.