Monday, November 9, 2009

A Champion of the Stompbox World

I'd like to introduce to you one serious effects pedal company. The name is Balkan, and they are all business and 100% great tone. In the world of stompboxes the one pedal besides the fuzz you will most certainly come across and probably own a few of in your lifetime is the ever popular overdriver. There are many new champions out there and even some classics that are holding on strong, but every once and a while comes an OD pedal that sounds so killer that it pushes us to move on. I am certainly one of those players with an open mind and on the quest to hunt down as many usable tones as possible. It is our knowhow and collection if great sounds that gives us our signature voice, and in the world of music this is everything. The Balkan team consists of the mighty Richard Gibson and Sam Thomson, together they run and build the Balkan Pedal line. With their tons of playing experience and keen ear for tone they are creating what has turned out to be some real winners. Balkan Pedals has made their mission to design and deliver unto the music playing world the best possible stompboxes man can build. I say keep them coming and let the good times roll!

Balkan Driver
(duel mode overdrive)

*Duel Drive Mode Switch: Toggles between Vintage & Modern modes.

*Gain Knob: Controls overall drive/clean boost - full overdrive.

*Volume Knob: Balkan Driver overall volume.

*High Quality Footswitch: Switches between effect and bypass. True bypass.

*Power: Balkan Driver can run off 9V center neg 2.1mm adapter or 9V battery.

*Enclosure and Finish: Built to last.

*Hand Built/Hand Wired: Point to point wiring built to order one at a time.

We come across many many overdrive pedals here at Analog War Cry, pedals we are more than happy to put through their paces. When you play and demo as many pedals as I do you get to recognize certain qualities and characteristics within each one. They are like the many barks of the dog, all of them similar but every single one of them their own thing. This is something the average player probably won't catch, but sit with your collection of pedals long enough and you'll hear what I'm talking about. Ask any seasoned player or studio rat and he will tell you the same, it becomes a passion. Well in this here Balkan Driver there lives a sound like no other, a sound that'll drive you to want to play, play, and play your guitar. The Balkan Driver was designed by the talented Rich Gibson. Rich took his experience from many years of playing guitar and dialing in amps to create a pedal that would produce a spot-on quality tone. Something you'll notice right away which is something I absolutely dig is the simplicity in it's design. A gain knob, volume knob, mode switch, and footswitch. Beautiful!!! I was stoked at just how easy it was to dial-in a great sounding tone. The Balkan Driver works in many ways but where it really stood out to me was in it's ability to take your already existing dirty tone and enhancing it into a rich, full tone explosion. Played through a completely clean setting the Balkan driver can also do some magic, everything from clean boosts, crunchy rhythms, and all-out drive settings. It was through some mild overdrive that this really shined. The quality of the overdrive in this pedal is very organic and natural sounding, by which I mean it has a great tube feel to it. It responds like tubes too, your picking dynamics bounce with the hit of your hand. Lay off on your hand and the drive will settle down, the more you dig into the strings and the higher you play on the neck the more grit it gives you. There is a small test I perform with overdrive pedals, I take the gain knob and crank it, volume set med-low. Then I will play with my fingers, two strings at a time, this is how you get those great harmonics and odd tones. Harmonics and richness is something that a overdrive pedal always needs to have in order for it to make the cut. These are the pedals we use in our gigs, sessions, and recordings. Playing the Balkan Driver through a low wattage amp is where I really heard it's character. I took an overdriven 57' Tweed Deluxe reissue, stacked the pedal in from of it, and heaven came singing through the amp. I will say straight up that my favorite tone in rock and roll history is definitely the sound Neil Young gets through his Les Paul (Old Black), and his 57' amps. I have never gotten closer to that tone than I did with the Balkan Driver, and I wasn't even using a Les Paul, I was playing a Tele with a humbucker in the neck. This is one of those pedals that works for one thing and one thing only, to enhance and push your sound further into itself. To get the best possible sound out of this pedal I say plug it in to a decent tube amp and good guitar. Good pedals always sound their best when teamed up with good gear. The final test was plugging the Balkan Driver into my modified 4x10 Deville, this is my main gigging amp and the most versatile. I started by cranking the amp into a very mild grit and set all my levels at about noon, reverb off to get the best possible dry tone. Setting the mode switch in the vintage position produced some open, punchy, and smoother overdrive tones. The kind of overdrive that is perfect for rhythm guitar tones, licks, and layering guitar tracks. This works great for you cats into classic rock, garage rock and blues. To get a hairier sound out of it I simply put a clean booster before it and used it to push the Balkan into a perfect lead vintage rock tone. Everything from Hendrix, Stevie Ray, Clapton, and Page came screaming out of my amp. Switching into the modern mode gave me some more great all out rock sounds which worked perfectly for just about every type of rock genre. The modern setting definitely had more balls to it, more bass, more highs, more mids, and more great growl. The pedal's overdrive stayed crisp and clear throughout the entire gain range, even in it's highest settings your notes stay intact and not muddy. To mellow out the amount of overdrive the pedal puts out simply roll back on your guitar's volume and that's that, this is perfect for adjusting levels on the fly. When all was said and done we were left with a great sounding, killer playing overdrive pedal. The Balkan Driver will most likely be making some appearances on my band's recording sessions, and will be used to gig with. Rich recently shot me an email letting me know there is now a fuzz pedal in his line, I am quite stoked to check it out. I am confident that everything Balkan Pedals puts out will sound great, they're part of the few really special gear companies that make it their life to build great products. If you go to their website you will find nothing fancy, when you look at their pedals it's the same thing. They let the pedals do all the talking and boy do they sound good. I said it once and I'll say it again, keep them coming!

For more info on Balkan Pedals go to or click the Balkan logo in our links. Make sure to check back for the review of the Balkan Flame fuzz pedal, we should have it shortly. So go on and support these cats, you'll be happy you did.




  1. I have a custom Flame Fuzz from Blakan pedals and I use it both with guitar and bass, it's perfect, just perfect. The almight Richard Gibson strikes again!

    Kyle, from Kapow.

  2. I myself have both of Richards pedals, I will say he is one monster of a builder. Those who haven't tried Balkan Pedals need to put away your toys and and pick these up.