043 | J. Rockett Audio Designs Archer: A Closer Look at this Boost/Overdrive Pedal | Transcript

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Scott Schwertly:
Hello and welcome to Episode 43 of the Sonic Renegades podcast. We're exploring renegade pedals that have changed the music landscape. Up for today's discussion, we have a pedal by J. Rockett Audio Designs. This one is the Archer. It's a favorite amongst many, and we can't wait to unpack it on the other side.

Hey, everybody. Scott Schwertly and Eric Wilson of Siren Pedals with you today. Hope you're having a great one. I know it's a beautiful day here in Nashville, Tennessee. We hope it's beautiful where you're at as well.
Today, we're excited to be talking about the JRAD Archer. Specifically, we're going to be talking about the Tour Series version. This is the silver one with red knobs. We'll get into all the other different varieties, but for today's discussion, this is the one that we're going to be focusing on. We're excited. It's a Klon pedal. We haven't covered too many Klon clones on this podcast, so we're excited to add this one to the mix.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. I think, earlier, we talked about the Soul Food, but I think that's been the only one we've covered so far.

Scott Schwertly:
That's right.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, definitely excited to talk about this one. I owned one a while back. I still have some sort of a Klon-type pedal on my board, and so it's been a big part of my rig, and I know it's been a big part of many others as well, so really excited to talk about this one.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean there's, obviously, definitely a whole community that loves anything Klon-related, and this Archer pedal fits nicely into that mix. I know a lot of people are big fans of J. Rockett Audio Designs and, specifically, this pedal. Yeah, it's going to be fun unpacking this one. If this is new to you, yeah, hopefully, you'll see why people really admire this brand and this style of pedal, so definitely lots here to love.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. Well, I know, from my research, there's a pretty interesting story that goes along with it that is kind of polarizing for many people. People either love J. Rockett or they hate J. Rockett, and the story is kind of why.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, excited to actually unpack that one as well. Yeah, definitely a lot to absorb on that front.

On that note, if you're not familiar with J. Rockett Audio Designs or... I guess, for conversation's sake, we'll just call it JRAD moving forward. This is a company that was actually founded in 2006 by two folks, Jay Rockett and his partner, Chris Van Tassel. They've been around for a while, and they've actually, since then, have introduced a number of different Archer types. Again, the one that we're talking about today is the Tour Series. Again, this is the silver with red knobs.

There's also a gold version called the Ikon, which is probably more of, I guess, what people would say online is probably the closest representation of the original Klon by Bill Finnegan, which we'll talk about here just in a bit. There's also a Jeff Beck Mod version or the Jeff Mod. Then there's also the Archer Clean, which basically plays up on the... One of the great attributes about this pedal is that, if you have it on low gain, it really makes a great boost pedal. That Archer Clean version basically focuses in on that attribute.
Lots of options. If you want to see the rest of their offerings, definitely check them out on the J. Rockett Audio Designs website.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. I own this one that we're talking about today, so it was nice to be able to get it back in my hands and be able to try it out again and see if I should go back to that, or keep what I have, or just try and figure out, for me, what's next. Yeah, this one sounds great.
I've gotten a chance to try the Ikon, and that one, as well, I love that one. I'm actually really intrigued by the Jeff Beck Mod and just seeing what that even does because, even on the website, it's a little bit cryptic. It doesn't actually say what it does.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean they just say that they have limited parts, which I guess just increased the desirability of it.

Good news is most of these are all roughly the same price. I think the Jeff Mod is like 199. I think the Ikon, which is the gold one, is 199. This one here runs at 169, so again, it's definitely on the lower level or lower tier of their product offerings but definitely will give you a great sample and taste of what the Klon world is all about.

On that note, we'll quickly cover the story behind all of this. I believe, on the Soul Food episode, we went into a little bit more context about the Klon, and the history of the Klon, and Bill Finnegan who created it. Not going to go into all those details today since we have covered that in a previous episode.
For those that are hearing about the Klon for the first time or this story for the first time, quick headline, the Klon is basically an overdrive pedal. It was created by an individual named Bill Finnegan back in the early '90s. It's now become sort of the staple, I guess, amongst overdrives. Everybody wants that Klon tone that Bill was able to capture through that circuit. He actually gooped up the circuits so nobody could actually recreate it.

Well, obviously, through the passing of time, people were able to basically figure out how he built it, so there are a number of different Klon clones that exist out there, everything from Wampler's Tumnus to what we're talking about today, the JRAD Archer, to what we have... yeah, a whole bunch. Some of the names are slipping me at the moment.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. There really is just so many different Klon clones. I was reading online that, I think it was by 2009, freestompboxes.org got ahold of an actual Klon. They de-gooped and actually drew out the schematic and stuff, but by that time, it's like there was already so many. Then you fast-forward to when Bill re-released the KTR, and there's so many more, so it really is one of those where it's like everybody and their brother has their take. Everybody and their brother thinks that their version sounds like the actual one.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. The story, essentially, is Bill Finnegan, who obviously created the Klon here, he was looking for a way to mass-produce this really great circuit that... loved and adored by many, and started the search to find a company, ended up contracting with J. Rockett Audio Designs. They had great conversations, apparently. A lot of headway was made on creating this mass-produced circuit.
Now, where things get really hazy or foggy is, apparently, those conversations fell apart. I don't know what happened there, but basically, Bill decided to part ways. J. Rockett went their own way. Long story short, Bill decided to do his own thing. J. Rockett decided to do their own thing, and their own thing eventually became the Archer for what it is today and, obviously, the multiple different versions of it that we have out on the market today.
It's up to you where you want to draw the line for yourself as a consumer, whether you want to buy J. Rockett products knowing that story or if you are loyal to individuals like Bill and you just want to buy Bill Finnegan stuff. Obviously, that's a very subjective choice. Again, I don't think anybody here is privy to all the discussions and internal backstories there, but at least on the surface level, that's what the community has at least deciphered from what went on there. That's the reality. We'll just leave it at that.

Eric Wilson:
Well, and the reality is, if you're going to talk about carbon-copying designs, you're looking at an industry that has been built on carbon-copying designs, so-

Scott Schwertly:
Exactly.

Eric Wilson:
It's one of those things where it's like you can only get so mad about it before it just gets ridiculous because it's the whole thing's built off some sort of copying each circuit, so that's kind of... because I was reading online and I'm like, "Man, people are getting really mad about this." I'm like, "There's a certain extent where it's like, 'Yeah, I guess I see where you're going,'" but on the other hand, industry built on copying things for the most part.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, you're exactly right. I mean this whole guitar pedal industry is based on that. It's par for the course in the pedal world, for sure.
Well, good deal. Well, enough about history. We've talked about the Klon and, obviously, that being the foundation of what's inspired the Archer. Archer, obviously, exists today.

Let's talk about folks that are actually using this. I couldn't find anybody that's actually using this Tour Series one that we're talking about today, which is, again, the silver version with the red knobs, but there are a few folks that actually like the Ikon, which is just the gold version of the Archer, Billie Joe Armstrong being one of those names, Lindsay Ell being another name.
Again, the Ikon probably captures that Klon tone in its most accurate form. If you're, again, new to the Klon space, again, this is a circuit loved and adored by many, many being folks like John Mayer, even James Hetfield, Joe Bonamassa, Jeff Beck, Ed O'Brien, Joe Perry. I mean all the good names.

Eric Wilson:
I found a few people that are using this one. I mean, obviously, before Jeff Beck had his own signature mod, he was using this one, and then, as well, James Bay who's a singer-songwriter, and then [Bryan Laurelson 00:10:03] who's a guitar player for a band called Copeland. He's actually also a pedal builder. He runs a company called Quiet Theory that makes a reverb delay that's really cool. Cool to see those guys using it. Yeah, I also found Billie Joe Armstrong when looking up the Ikon and seeing where different people landed. Yeah, like you said, when you get into the world of Klons and Klon clones, everybody is using a different one, but everybody's using the same circuit.

Scott Schwertly:
Exactly. Well, let's talk about that. Well, for those, again, that are just new to this world of Klons, the big reason why so many people use this is this pedal really just... It just makes everything sound better, I guess is probably the best way to define it. It makes not only just a great boost pedal when you have that low gain happening, but when you get into the mid gain or even high gain, you can capture everything from boost to blues and rock sounds to even some of the crunchier stuff as well. It's a pretty versatile pedal, but it's definitely known for being more at the front end of someone's board, again, to serve as that boost just because it does make everything sound better.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. The Klon, as a overdrive pedal, is a very mid-forward pedal. As a boost, it's a little bit leveling, so there's this buffer leveling compression that happens to it that, I guess, is that magic. As you start to get into more of the gain and things like that, it starts to push your mids a little bit more forward, which is why... I mean that's why it's my favorite drive is because I like it. As it cuts through the mix, it's able to just push really nicely but not obnoxiously. I find that it helps me sit really well in the context of a mix.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean it's solid. It's really hard to knock a Klon. Granted, there are folks out there where it just doesn't resonate with them, but I think, for a majority of folks, they can find value in the tone that something like the Archer, in this case, produces. Like you said, it captures all those things that you just highlighted.
On that note, one thing that I really love about this pedal and really any Klon, for that matter, is that you get so much headroom. I mean, definitely, if you look on any forum, if you read any review, everybody praises the Klon for having a ton of headroom, which again, just speaks to the versatility of it.

If I had to point maybe one thing I don't like about this pedal, that being the Archer, is probably the small size. Again, for some folks, that's probably a huge pro. I know people like smaller pedals, and I know pedal boards tend to be shrinking. I know, obviously, with Pedaltrain's Nano and other things, those are definitely growing in popularity. For someone like me who actually runs more of a full-size pedal board, I typically have a lot of the standard one 125B enclosure-type pedals. I'm thinking like a Wampler pedal, an EarthQuaker pedal, a JHS pedal, even a Siren pedal. I've got a lot in that size, and this one is just super, super tiny. It's not even the same length as a typical mini pedal. I don't even know what the exact size of it is, but it's just a... It's an awkward footprint on my board. It stands out like a sore thumb.

I actually had my Fuzz Face on my board for a long time, but I... Maybe I'm just being overly picky, but I simply removed it because I just didn't like the way it blended in with the look and feel.

Eric Wilson:
Is it because it's round?

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, because it's round. I put this one in the same vein. It's so tiny and it's such a awkward width and height that... I don't know. It's-

Eric Wilson:
It's like if you took the 1590A enclosure like the mini enclosures, such as a Tumnus or a JHS Mini Foot Fuzz or something like that, and you gave it top-mount jacks.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah.

Eric Wilson:
That's basically what you have. Yeah, I definitely get what you're saying. It lives in a weird space in that regard.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean I guess I'm assuming. I mean I know I'm probably going to get a hard time about it, but yeah, it's just such an awkward size. It's not my cup of tea, but at the end day, it's got great tone, so I can't complain, but if I had one little beef, that would be it.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. One of the critiques I had to this one that I think they fixed when they released the Ikon, because I owned this Archer prior to them creating the Ikon, was the treble, the high end, was a little unpleasant. It wasn't as pleasant as some other Klon clones that I had tried. Initially, that was my reasoning for selling it and trying out something else. Yeah, I'm excited to try it out again for the demo today and see if I still think that or if I was just being crazy.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. On that note, if you're also looking for a significant difference between the Ikon or the gold version versus this silver version that we have is this one, the silver, tends to have... I guess it has the treble thing but also just a little bit more of an aggressive gain as well. I wish we had the Ikon in our possession so we could compare both, but-

Eric Wilson:
Do an A/B?

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, but for now, just something to note before we jump into that.
Before we get into the demo, real quick, pretty straightforward, just going to go over the controls. You're dealing with three very simple knobs: output, treble, gain. Pretty straight forward, but anything else on that, Eric, that you wanted to highlight?

Eric Wilson:
No. They do what they say. I mean other than the fact that the treble knob is more of just a tone knob than just controlling the treble, but that's just a weird labeling thing.

Scott Schwertly:
We'll go and get this thing plugged in, give you guys a sample of what it's all about. Well, yeah, we'll plan to see you on the other side. Eric, what guitar are you going to go with today?

Eric Wilson:
I'm going to go ahead and use the Strat for this one.

Scott Schwertly:
Perfect. Awesome. We're going to get this all connected, guys. Enjoy this sample of the JRAD Archer.

Eric Wilson:
All right. That was the J. Rockett Archer. It's a great variant on the Klon circuit or, more accurately, just a Klon clone. It sounds great, really affordable. Yeah, you should check it out.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean definitely packs a great punch for a small size. I love, at the end of the day, that this is really a two-in-one pedal. You get the great boost, but then you also get that great mid-gain tone from it, so definitely does a lot for its small size and is worth keeping if you love that Klon thing, which a lot of people do.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. My favorite way to actually use the Klon is not to use it as a boost at all but to just straight up use it as a drive, so gain at noon or higher and just let it rip.

Scott Schwertly:
Nice, nice. Yeah, that's the way to go. I mean it definitely does that part well, so hard to complain about anything Klon-related, for sure. Well, good deal, guys. Well, that's what we wanted to cover today with the JRAD Archer.

Join us next time for Episode 44 where we're going to be talking about the GFI Synesthesia, which is basically a dual-channel modulation pedal. If you love the world of modulation, you're going to love that discussion, definitely a fantastic pedal. We're excited to talk about that one in our next episode.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, I'm really excited about this one. I just got this pedal, and it's like a piece of '80s rack gear in a very small box. It's super hi-fi. I love the sounds I'm getting out of it, especially a lot of the Stereo Chorus stuff, and really excited to talk about that one.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, I'm excited as well. I actually have not used this pedal before, so it's going to be fun to see what it's all about, so excited to share that with you guys. Until then, have a great day. Have a great week, and we will catch you in the next episode.

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