I am a huge fan of Modified / Modded pedals, and often wait a week or two on EHX releases to see if JHS doesn’t have some key updates for me for a relatively minor additional cost. I have too many times foolishly overlooked modified pedals, having bought the Xotic trifecta in its original form, as well as way too many Boss pedals initially in their original versions - where there are often as many as half a dozen alternative / tweaked versions available for relatively meagre additional outlay.
I’ve listed most of my favourites above - alphabetically by brand then product name - in various iterations, several of which I own, and many of which I’m still considering acquiring. For some strange reason I see some weird negative commentaries where some weirdo enthusiasts decry that JHS has ruined a certain EXH pedal - where JHS typically only adds on additional voicings, they don’t usually mess with the core tone too much - it’s usually a case of just more on top - which is why I always look to Alchemy Audio, Analog.Man and JHS before I consider buying any EHX, Boss or MXR pedal. There used to be more Keeley Modded pedals around, but Robert has now mostly just taken his learning from those and made his own equivalent pedals - like the Super Phat Mod ’version’ of a Boss Blues Driver type, and a Red Dirt OD, based on his Tube Screamer modifications.
Along with Robert Keeley, I would say there are 3 more key figures in the Mod scene - or the ’Mod Kings’ as I call them - these are Mike Piera of Analog.Man, Josh Scott of JHS and Brian Wampler, who famously wrote the book ’How to Modify Guitar Pedals’. Of those 4 only 2 are still properly active, with Josh the most prolific currently.
Each Mod King has their own specialism, yet all have at some stage worked on Boss Blues Driver and Ibanez Tube Screamer Mods - it’s how most pedal-makers start off - modifying existing manstream pedals and then developing their own core sound. In fact Zach Broyles of Mythos pedals is in that same mold - and pretty much all of his current pedals are versions of pre-existing mainstream ones. Much in the same way as nearly every amp is derived from a Fender Black Face, or Marshall, which itself was in fact initially derived from said Fender.
There are lots of different types of modification, which I categorise as follows:
5 Main Types of Modding
This is such a significant Mod it's pretty much a different pedal - Mike Piera takes the original MXR and revamps it considerably with additional Emphasis dial for more frequency tweaking as well as an 'Up/Down' switch per the original Mu-Tron pedal. I had considered the Analog.Man Envelope Filter, but was lucky enough to get in on the second batch release of the compact Mu-FX Micro-Tron III which enables the up/down function via second footswitch. Both pedals sound excellent, but I found the Micro-Tron just a little more versatile. In the same compact form factor I also considered the now discontinued VFE Pedals Mini Mu which would have likely been my 2nd choice had I note been able to get a Micro-Tron.
One of the most famous Modded pedals, and one which all the Mod Kings tackled at some stage. My first inroad here was bizarrely the Mooer Blues Mood, which was based on the Robert Keeley 'Phat' Mod version, and was long my 'Blues Driver' of choice. In terms of the modded ones I sometimes prefer the JHS version, and sometime the Keeley one. If you want to acuire the Keely one nowadays, you need simply buy the Keeley Super Phat Mod - which is Robert's own evolved and re-engineered version of that core sound. For me, the new Boss JB-2 Angry Driver is currently my favourite 'Modded' Blues Driver as such, as it combines that circuit with JHS's Angry Charlie - for a superbly rich and harmonically complex output where you can combine those 2 circuits in series and parallel. So my preferred Blues Driver Mod is a new official hybrid pedal!
This is the most recent pedal I foolishly bought as a stock version, where I should have acquired the JHS Synth Drive Deluxe version with its plethora of voicing options via no less than 4 additional voicing toggles per the above demo. The Analog.Man Mod significantly improves the core tone as usual, but the JHS gives you significantly more bells and whistles and would be my choice here! So the JHS is another one on the wishlist.
One of the first Modded pedals I acquired, and one for which I foolishly had already bought the standard stock version. You often see vendors mentioning MIJ or Made in Japan vs Made in Taiwan Boss pedals - where the latter versions are often made with cheaper components - yet note that their output is often wholly inaudibly different. In any case you need not worry about Origin country for pedal if you buy one of Johnny Balmer's Alchemy Audio Modded versions - which are typically of the 'Component Upgrade' type, for clearer and more noiseless tone. I can't recall if I bought the Boss or Xotic pedals first - but I thoroughly recommend you check out Alchemy Audio on Reverb.com before buying any Boss or MXR pedal.
This original Analogue Flanger was originally made in Japan, but production was soon moved to Taiwan. Never mind though - as long as you buy an Alchemy Audio version - which comes with Upgraded Component internals - for as clean and crisp a sound as is possible for that type of Mod. Mine is of the Made in Taiwan designation and sounds wonderful. In fact much like Andy Martin's demo above - where his is a MIJ version.
I feel that this is the ultimate 'Marmite' pedal which has as many detractors as fans, possible even more so. The original version can have quite a fizzy top-end which is nonetheless loved by most 'MetalHeads'. I still intende to get a Metal Zone at some stage, but have still to decide which version to hunt out - whether and original, or one of the now discontinued 3 Modded ones featured in the above visual. Mike Piera of Analog.Man does his typical 'Re-Voicing' Mod where he tames the fizzy top-end and gives you an overall more even sounding and more controllable pedal. While Josh Scott and Robert Keeley give you 'Voicing Additions'. Where I am right now, I am tending to favour the Keeley Mod - as its Toggle-positioning is neater on the front facia than on the side of the pedal. I may still just get the original - or any of the dozen or so other Modded Metal-Zone pedals available from smaller mod-shops - and there are plenty of those around.
I ordered the NS-2 Alchemy Audio Mod version around the same time as the GE-7 and they are both my mainstay utility pedals - super reliable and just work brilliantly all the time. I did at one stage try swapping the NS-2 for an ISP Decimator II G-String, but preferred the Boss - so that stayed on. I am also considering A/B'ing the Boss against the TCE Sentry at some stage, but that's a really low priority as the NS-2 continues to serve me so well. The TCE Sentry just has a few more features / tricks up its sleeve.
Another great JHS Mod and relatively simple really - extended sweep range on control dials, and additional side volume-dial for overcoming typical Volume Loss issues you experience with Tremolos. For my Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas I have to run it at 18V to get sufficient output volume for my setup - so note that for most Tremolo pedals - in fact on most modulation pedals which involve some degree of LFO/VFO - a decent Volume/Level dial is essential. I have found that on several pedals I have had to max the levels, and even then the levels are just about acceptable - so you need a Level dial with decent range. The above demo features the JHS TR-2 Two Speed Mod - which is one up from the Versa Trem Mod pictured (but now discontinued) - i.e. an additional speed dial on top and additional footswitch - which is an even more handy Mod!
NOTE - Alchemy Audio also does a 2-speed mod version which is regularly available on Reverb.com for circa £110.
The first of many JHS Modded EHX pedals - all of which are excellent 'Additional Voicing' Mods, but probably of which this one has my least favourite core tone. Left-side voicing toggle gives you 2 alternative flavours in addition to stock, while right-side dial allows you to control the Gate for more or less fuzz spatter.
The most versatile of the JHS EHX Fuzz Mods with twin voicing toggles - the lower one giving you two additional voicings to the stock version, and the upper one giving you more or less extreme versions of those voicings. The right-side control dial is for internal Feedback Gain. One for the wishlist.
An update of the core Smashing Pumpkins / Bill Corgan sound - in this version with additional voicing toggle on left-side, and Mids control dial on the right-side. This pedal is another one on my wishlist of course.
Essentially the same kind of Mod - in effect a duplicate Channel with a second identical set of control dials - so you can switch between two different Octave settings - via second footswitch. The first listed (Kinnatone) is only available as a send-in modification, I prefer Rick Matthews' version - work seems cleaner and more precise. The Matthews one is not currently available, but I guess you can encourage him with the right sort of price - as I will endeavour to do at some stage, not a major priority for me currently though.
A discontinued pedal which crops up every now and again - great if you're after that Rolling Stones fuzz sound - here with additional voicing toggle on left-side, and 'Saturation' control dial on the right. I use the Matthews Effects The Whaler Fuzz to achieve a similar sort of sound, so am not immediately in the market for this one - but it's certainly another cool JHS Mod.
This was the very first Modded pedal I acquired having bought the original stock version and been a little disappointed with the somewhat 'Thin' core sound of that. The additional left-side gives you 2 additional flavours of gain stage, while the right-site control dial is a much-needed Bass-Contour knob for ramping up the low-end frequencies. This pedal is somewhat back in my Klone hierarchy behind my Wampler Tumnus Deluxe and Foxpedal Kingdom Combo which offer more range and versatility, and a more pleasing core tone as far as I am concerned.
Funnily enough the most Modded pedal of all time is the Ibanez Tube Screamer - particularly in it TS808 and TS9 varieties. Every pedal maker ever has pretty much made their own Mod initially, and then own Tube Screamer Type pedal - like the Wampler Clarksdale, Keeley Red Dirt etc. etc. So I could have named a dozen different mods here. In fact I have the Keeley Red Dirt Mini - which contains 4 of Robert's Tube Screamer Mods - I am still waiting for someone like Alchemy Audio to do an external toggle-switch version of that. In any case for anyone wanting a Modded Tube Screamer, Josh Scott's much delayed forthcoming pedal, now due late April - contains actually re-engineered analogue circuits of the 7 best known Tube Screamer style pedals, along with the best-loved Keeley and JHS Tube Screamer Mods - no less than 9 different voicings in one pedal. I have already ordered mine, and suggest other Tube Screamer fans do the same - this is easily going to be the most popular pedal sold this year. For Big Muff fans, I encourage you also to checkout out JHS's Muffuletta pedal - which features 6 varieties of those most popular types - I already have and love that pedal, and am still considering adding the 2 of the recent EHX JHS Big Muff Mod types.
The mass-produced version by original Klon Centaur designer Bill Finnegan, with supposedly identical key components, and scientifically sounds the same, while others still prefer to buy second-hand originals at more than 7 times the price and nearly twice the size. I obviously love my Tumnus Deluxe for this sort of sound, but were I to be after a more closely aligned original version - then I would get the JHS Shamrock Modded Klon KTR with extra upper toggle giving you additional voicings, and the lower one being a sort of boost mode.
This super rare pedal was not likely built by Brian Wampler himself, but following guidance from his book 'How to Modify Guitar Pedals' - by some uncredited pedal modder. It features and additional Tone dial, as well as 2 additional top-mounted voicing toggles which greatly extend the range of the pedal. For my own needs I have already acquired the 6-control-dial VFE Pedals Distortion 3 - which has MXR Micro Amp and Distortion+ voicings, as well as a flavour of the DOD 250. Alchemy Audio does a number of 'Component Upgrade' versions of MXR pedals if you are in the market for those. Note that above pictured pedal is so rare, no demo video currently exists for it.
An essential modification to the original which externalises the internal 2 dip-switches in the form of 2 mini toggles - for easier and more immediate control. This was my main Boost pedal for a long while, but since been bumped by the more feature-rich though larger Jackson Audio Prism.
Essentially a mini version of a Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret style pedal - for both Marshall Super Lead and Super Bass Flavours. This externalises the internal 4 dip-switches in the form of 4 mini toggles - for easier and more immediate control. The one Mini Xotic that still holds its place in my pedal-chain.
An upgraded pedal that externalises the internal 4 dip-switches in the form of 4 mini toggles - for easier and more immediate control. This pedal was ousted from its principle slot by the Wampler Mini Ego which I slightly prefer.
So I have the more essential of these already as reported above. My JHS Bonsai should be with me around the 20th of this month, but it could be May, as it was originally feted to reach distribution in March, but keeps being put back. I am still in the market for a Metal Zone at some stage, and am still mulling my different options there, and I also like the Boss DS-1 JHS Synth Drive Deluxe Mod, JHS Modded Green Russian and OpAmp Big Muffs - oh and the Matthews Effects Modded Nano POG.
My whole philosophy for pedals is getting the best possible tone, versatility and practicality from the most suitable compact enclosure - so generally I am a huge fan of Modded pedals which mostly just give you more - particularly in the JHS variations. Pedal Mods though can be reductive too - in terms of making them more noiseless, or less noisy and more 'Tame'. So while some people will appreciate Mike Piera's Re-Voicings, others may question the why? Some pedal mods can indeed make pretty much a wholly different pedal - which in the above visual, the A.Man Envelope Filter comes the closest to.
The key principal of modding started though by coming up with improvements to mass-market pedals which did not always have the very best quality of components onboard - upgrading those to better versions has significant impact of tonal clarity and 'noise-floor' / signal-to-noise ratio. Although in some instances - like for RAT style pedals, I occasionally find that those are tamed so much that it's no longer the same as the original inspiration. Fuzz pedals in particular tend to be quite fizzy by default so there are hundreds of versions of those - Fuzz Faces, Muffs, Rats, Tone Benders etc. where modders are trying to improve the core tone to their specific preferences.
I would suggest though a quick check on Reverb.com before you buy stock Boss, EHX or MXR pedals - as those tend to be the most modded and you can find some significantly improved versions out there. By the same token, a lot of 'Official' pedals are sort of Mods in and of themselves - as I have cited in various articles - their are dozens of varieties of Blues Breakers, Blues Drivers, Klones, Plexis and Tube Screamers - some of those Official ones started off as Mods and evolved. As best exemplified by Mod King Robert Keeley - who no longer supplied pedal mods, but builds his own Red Dirt and Super Phat Mod - evolving out of two of his most celebrated pedal modifications.
I have really just scratched the surface on Pedal Modification, as every small boutique pedal-maker does a myriad of Mods every month to supplement the 'Official' range. I will likely post addenda to this principal post as and when I come across further interesting Modded varieties...