The Jackson Audio El Guapo is available for sale from our favorite indie pedal store The Sound Parcel – buying it there you’ll support our site as well!
The Google searches for this pedal have gone through the roof in the last week, so we’d issue a StompBuzz Alert!
Texas’ Jackson Audio is a name that’s been making waves in 2019 in the gain pedal realm, and they showed up at NAMM 2020 with three new designs with innovative features, including Midi compatibility.
The El Guapo is their first distortion pedal modeled after the sound of a JCM 800 amp coupled with a Tube Screamer inspired overdrive which can be activated through the second footswitch, and tweaked through the smaller knobs. The pedal features the “25% scaling down” volume feature also found in the Broken Arrow, which allows the player to increase the output volume by 1/4 steps by pressing both footswitches at once (the volume must be all the way up for this to work).
The Mateus Asato Signature El Guapo Overdrive/Distortion was developed over a 10+ prototype revision process. During this two year process every detail was painstakingly refined to ensure that both the distortion and overdrive channels would work together to recreate the soulful overdriven tones, as well as the liquid high gain tones that legendary guitarist Mateus Asato is known for!
Designed as a complete ‘Marshall-in-a-box’ pedal, the distortion channel of the El Guapo features a high-gain distortion circuit that perfectly recreates the detail and harmonic complexity of the legendary JCM800 amplifier, while the overdrive channel delivers the smooth overdrive and touch sensitivity of a vintage Marshall Plexi.
The distortion channel of the EL GUAPO is a high-gain, hard-clipping circuit that is based on the Marshall JCM800. Because of this, the resulting tone is very open, crisp and addictingly fun to play! Everything from 80’s hard rock to more modern high gain tones can easily be found in the EL GUAPO!
The EL GUAPO allows for 4 different presets of clipping diodes which themselves drastically alter the tone and feel of the way the distortion clips.
To select a clipping preset, press and hold the DIST footswitch for more than 1 second and the clipping program mode will become active. When in this mode, the DIST led will flash to indicate that you are in programming mode. A quick tap on the DIST footswitch will cycle the clipping presets and you’ll be able to hear these presets change as you cycle through them, assuming that the drive circuit was active when the clipping program mode was entered. Once you arrive at a distortion preset that you want to use, press and hold the DIST footswitch for more than 1 second and clipping program mode will exit.
Preset 1 – AMBER: Guv’nor Style. Two LED’s are used to symmetrically clip the top and bottom portions of your guitars waveform evenly. The LED’s allow MUCH higher headroom so your tone will stay more open and less compressed much like a vintage Marshall.
Preset 2 – GREEN: Rat Style. Two symmetrical silicon diodes give the classic drive and compression that the Rat is known for.
Preset 3 – BLUE: ASYMMETRIC HIGH GAIN. Three asymmetric diodes (two silicon and one LED) will clip the top and bottom portions of your guitars waveform differently resulting in a more complex and interesting tone. This sounds great when laying down aggressive rhythm parts!
Preset 4 – MAGENTA: SYMMETRICAL HIGH GAIN. Four symmetric silicon diodes will clip the top and bottom portions of your guitars waveform evenly which gives a more focused and direct tone.
Changing clipping diodes are a great way to radically change how a distortion pedal sounds and feels but oftentimes the change that you perceive has more to do with a change in volume than an actual change in tone….until now!
When we were designing the EL GUAPO we knew we wanted to give the distortion section a lot of tonal flexibility and most importantly make that flexibility useful on stage. So when changing clipping presets we included circuitry that level matches the output of the pedal as various clipping diodes are selected. So now you can select between all four clipping options, your volume level will remain constant. More importantly, the difference that you hear between the clipping presets will be because of the difference in how those clipping diodes sound and not because your volume is jumping all over the place as it does with other designs.
GAIN CYCLE takes the GAIN knob setting, which selects your maximum gain, and divides that level of gain into 4 equal parts. Say for instance you have your GAIN knob set at the maximum setting or in other words, 100% gain. Every time you press both footswitches simultaneously, the gain of the pedal will jump up 25% until you get to 100%. The following press after 100% will cause the gain cycle to start again at 25%.
TIP: Set the GAIN control to around 3:00+ to have 4 distinct distortion settings as you cycle through the gain!
My goal with the GAIN CYCLE feature is to allow guitarists to easily ramp their gain up without having to bend down and change it or try to adjust it with the edge of their foot while playing live. Here’s a perfect use case!
Let’s assume the GAIN control is set to 100%
Verse 1 – Gain cycle set at 25% – Lightly distorted tone.
Press GAIN CYCLE
Chorus – Gain cycle set at 50% – Distinct distorted tone.
Press GAIN CYCLE
Bridge – Gain cycle set at 75% – Heavy distorted tone.
Press GAIN CYCLE
Solo – Gain cycle set at 100% – Heavily saturated distorted tone!
TIP: Add the DRIVE to push the overdrive even harder for endless sustain!
It’s important to remember that GAIN CYCLE setting #4 (100%) will be as much gain as you have the GAIN knob set for. Think of the GAIN knob on the EL GUAPO as your maximum gain with each GAIN CYCLE setting being a percentage of that maximum value.
The brightness of the DIST led will change to let you know which percentage of gain you have selected. The higher the percentage, the brighter the DIST led. For instance:
GAIN CYCLE #1 – DIM LED – 25% of GAIN knob value.
GAIN CYCLE #2 – BRIGHTER LED – 50% of GAIN knob value.
GAIN CYCLE #3 – BRIGHT LED – 75% of GAIN knob value.
GAIN CYCLE #4 – VERY BRIGHT LED – 100% of GAIN knob value.
3-BAND ACTIVE EQ
To top it off, the distortion circuit of the EL GUAPO has a 3 band parametric EQ. The EQ circuit features a studio grade EQ that gives tremendous tonal flexibility to the EL GUAPO. Based on the legendary Baxandall EQ that is featured in countless studio EQ’s, the EL GUAPO EQ takes this circuit and tailors it for guitarists!
Another feature of the EQ that is unique to the EL GUAPO is there are 6 internal trimmers that allow the player to adjust the Q (how narrow or wide the selected frequency is) and frequency select of each EQ band. This is an advanced feature of the EL GUAPO and care should be taken as extreme settings can make the EQ sound unmusical.
HINT: The picture below shows the factory setting. To return the Q and FREQ SEL trimmers back to the factory settings, make sure the flat portion of each circle is facing down as shown below.
The drive circuit in the EL GUAPO is a soft clipping circuit that was designed to capture the smooth overdrive and touch responsiveness of a vintage Marshall Plexi.
This circuit, which is in its own true bypass loop, can be used independently of the DIST circuit and is very useful for boosting the front end of the distortion circuit for even higher gain.
Just like the distortion circuit, the overdrive circuit on the EL GUAPO features 4 clipping presets so you can adjust the tone and feel of the overdrive.
NOTE: When using both the overdrive and distortion channels simultaneously, the volume control on the overdrive channel gives way to the volume control on the distortion channel which now becomes the master volume control. This was done because each circuit has so much output available, that if the output of the overdrive channel were pushed too hard into the input of the distortion channel, it had the potential to cause instability and unwanted noises etc.
To select a clipping preset for the overdrive channel, press and hold the DRIVE footswitch for more than 1 second and the clipping program mode will become active. When in this mode, the DRIVE led will flash to indicate that you are in programming mode. A quick tap on the DRIVE footswitch will cycle the clipping presets and you’ll be able to hear these presets change as you cycle through them, assuming that the drive circuit was active when the clipping program mode was entered. Once you arrive at a overdrive preset that you want to use, press and hold the DRIVE footswitch for more than 1 second and clipping program mode will exit.
Preset 1 – AMBER: Vintage Marshall. Two RED LED’s are used to symmetrically clip the top and bottom portions of your guitars waveform evenly. The LED’s allow MUCH higher headroom so your tone will stay more open and less compressed much like a vintage Marshall.
Preset 2 – GREEN: Classic Screamer. Two symmetrical silicon diodes give the classic drive and compression that the Tube Screamer is known for.
Preset 3 – BLUE: Asymmetric Clipping. Three asymmetric diodes (two silicon and one red LED) will clip the top and bottom portions of your guitars waveform differently resulting in a more complex and interesting tone. This sounds great when laying down aggressive rhythm parts!
Preset 4 – MAGENTA: Symmetrical Clipping. Four symmetric silicon diodes will clip the top and bottom portions of your guitars waveform evenly which gives a more focused and direct tone. Two notable pedals that uses this style of clipping are the Timmy and the King of Tone.
It’s 2020 and it’s time to expect more from an analog pedals! Since the BROKEN ARROW came out in 2019, our more advanced overdrive pedals have featured MIDI control over clipping presets, gain cycle options, drive eq options as well as ON/OFF of the overdrive and drive circuits and the EL GUAPO is no exception.
We always want to make sure that our pedals are as easy to integrate into complex rigs as they are into simple rigs and MIDI makes that happen!
CABLE INFORMATION: In order to use MIDI on the EL GUAPO, you will need a cable that converts a MIDI (DIN-5) connector to a TRS cable. This is the cable that we have used with great success and can’t recommend it enough.
For those building their own cables, the EL GUAPO receives MIDI information via the RING connection on a TRS (Tip, Ring, and Sleeve) connector.
Check out this link for more detailed wiring: https://www.midi.org/articles-old/trs-specification-adopted-and-released
By default, the EL GUAPO ships with MIDI Channel 1 being the selected channel. This can be changed by pressing and holding the DIST footswitch while applying power to the EL GUAPO. Press the DRIVE footswitch to increment the MIDI channel number.
You’ll notice that as you continue to hold the DIST footswitch, the DRIVE LED will flash to indicate which MIDI channel you have selected. IE – 7 flashes = MIDI Channel 7. After the LED flashes, we inserted a 2-second pause so you could tell when the LED was finished flashing. The LED will continue flashing as long as you are holding down the DIST footswitch. Once you have selected the MIDI channel you want and have verified it by counting the flashes, simply release the DIST footswitch and the pedal will save this MIDI Channel to the internal EEPROM on the microprocessor and reboot.
Accessing the MIDI features of the EL GUAPO is done by Control Changes. Below is a list of the features of the EL GUAPO that can be accessed via MIDI as well as how to access them.
CC #1 – DIST ON/OFF (value of 127 = ON value of 0 = OFF)
CC #2 – DRIVE ON/OFF (value of 127 = ON value of 0 = OFF)
CC #3 – DISTORTION CLIPPING PRESETS
(value of 1 = Guv’nor Style)
(value of 2 = Rat Style)
(value of 3 = Asymmetric High Gain)
(value of 4 = Symmetric High Gain)
CC #4 – GAIN CYCLE
(value of 1 = 25% GAIN)
(value of 2 = 50% GAIN)
(value of 3 = 75% GAIN)
(value of 4 = 100% GAIN)
CC #5 – OVERDRIVE CLIPPING PRESETS
(value of 1 = Vintage Marshall Style)
(value of 2 = Tube Screamer Style)
(value of 3 = Timmy Style)
(value of 4 = King of Tone Style)