Friday January 13, 2012
 

DigiTech Bad Monkey Review


The DigiTech Bad Monkey, is it a giant killer or just Internet hype? Based around the classic TS-808 and TS-9 design, this modern effects pedal is a Tube Screamer costing half the price. The Bad Monkey has not one but two tone knobs for sonic shaping, just fine tune your EQ and your away. The is priced at just $49.95. In comparison a Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer Effects Pedal Original Reissue is $99.99 and a Ibanez TS808 Vintage Tube Screamer Reissue is $179.99.

Ease of Use

There are four dials on the DigiTech Bad Monkey. They’re self explanatory and it’s pretty much a set and forget scenario. The Level and Gain knobs need no introduction. The Low and High knobs are one of the reasons why this pedal is getting all this Web hype. The two knobs give you a lot more control and tone shaping possibilities than the original TS could. Also used in conjunction with the Gain knob and you have quite a few tone options and boost you can dial in.

DigiTech Bad Monkey

DigiTech Bad Monkey


Another interesting feature that seems not to get that much tout is that there are two output jacks. Output 1 is straight to the amp, no surprise here. But Output 2 is a Mixer as the DigiTech website states “The Mixer output features Cabinet Emulation circuitry for connecting directly to a mixing board or recording device”. You can actually plug in a pair of headphones to either jack and get some output although the sound is only in mono to one ear. Not all pedals can do this.

Sound

The clearly suits bluesy or classic rock stuff. Tweaking the tone the Low knob makes the tone darker rather than bassier. The High knob makes it lighter rather than brighter or trebly. So it’s really a mid boost that you’re getting. The stompbox is also transparent enough to allow your tone to get through which could be either good or bad.

Putting up the Gain allows for a little bit of fuzz with overdrive. Soloing gives the notes a creamy fat singing voice with the right amount of attack and gain. Dialling it to 5 o’clock is rather tame compared to many other pedals. Don’t expect to do anything by Pantera. However the sweet spot on this pedal is that near tube breakup just before the point of distorting.

With humbuckers you’re pretty much in Robben Ford territory. I mainly stick to the neck pickup using a DiMarzio PAF Pro. You can hear the vintage PAF voicing work its way through with ease on the Bad Monkey.

DigiTech Bad Monkey

DigiTech Bad Monkey


Single coils will put you on target for a good Stevie Ray Vaughan fat chunky distortion thing. When cranked it’s close to his live stuff on the Monterey recordings where his attack was off the charts. Think the live version of Couldn’t Stand the Weather and you’ll know where I’m coming from. I couldn’t get some of the more delicate SRV tones such as his version of Little Wing, where the tone was bright and yet bassy with some acoustic type chug, but that’s probably more likely due to not having a Fender Bassman or Super Reverb. However the Little Wing Hendrix tone is a doodle with the Bad Monkey. This pedal was made to do the Clapton, Eric Johnson, SRV and Hendrix thing.
Just be aware that if you’re buying this to use on a solid state amp, this pedal favours tubes to get the best results. As the name “Tube Overdrive” implies. However it does sound good enough with a solid state that you won’t be disappointed.

I’ve not had the pleasure of trying a DigiTech Screamin’ Blues to put side by side against the Bad Monkey. From what I’ve read the Screamin' Blues is similar with less mid range. Reviews are less impressed with it so take this into consideration if you are trying to decide between the two.

I’ve have compared this to a boutique stompbox, the much adored Lovepedal Kanji Eternity ($179.00). The Kanji has a certain complex “tubular” characteristic which especially enhances the out of phase tones on single coils. The Bad Monkey is more in your face and has a flatter EQ with a more standard sounding dirty overdrive. But it’s amazing how close these pedals are. I do prefer the Kanji but for the price the Bad Monkey is unbeatable value for money. The Kanji has the added attribute of being true bypass.

As a boost the Bad Monkey is great for stacking behind another pedal.  It can enhance metal pedals to saturation too. If you want to get that cheap Boss DS-1 to sound more rounded throw the Bad Monkey behind it.

Construction

DigiTech Bad Monkey

DigiTech Bad Monkey and a Ben 10 Omnimatrix Lost at Birth

As you’d expect from mass produced pedals the construction is near indestructible. The case is a thick metal with a rubber padding footswitch. The battery compartment is a little more complicated than the Boss type ones where you need to push in a side spring clip (your cables jack is good for this) to open the metal flap to the enclosure. The Boss just uses a screw at the front. The color scheme though seems to be inspired by the Cartoon Network. But thumbs up to DigiTech for giving their products some memorable branding - Bad Monkey, Screamin’ Blues and Hot Head are far more persuasive than DS-1, FZ-5 or OD-1.

False Bypass

The DigiTech Bad Monkey is not true bypass and will tone suck somewhat. It uses the same type of FET switching found in most Boss pedals. However it’s not as bad as a lot of Boss pedals. Nevertheless it still does suck tone. In fact it also seems to boost the volume of the other pedals when off as well and not in a good way. There are a few mods and modders floating around the Internet to give the Bad Monkey true bypass but to be honest purists are better off buying a boutique Tube Screamer variant with true bypass built in such as a Fulltone Fulldrive2 or OCD. The other way around this is to get a Loop Master Loop Effect Switcher or Keeley Looper which will set you back about $85-$135. Quite expensive but allows you to use any combo of pedals without major tone suckage. By comparison the original Ibanez Tube Screamers TS-808 and TS-9’s were also not true bypass.

Conclusion

DigiTech Bad Monkey Battery Compartment

DigiTech Bad Monkey Battery Compartment

Kudos to DigiTech for creating a Tube Screamer clone that takes the original design in an affordable package. Tweak the tone knobs and it’ll put a big stupid grin on your face. Try this as a boost and it will inject more life into those weak pedals you threw in the cupboard. It can go head to head with some more expensive boutique pedals and not sound like a Buzz Lightyear toy. The only downfall is that it’s not true bypass and somewhat sucks tone. The DigiTech Bad Monkey turns in a very good performance for those looking for the legendary Ibanez Tube Screamer or Maxon type pedal without the staggering price tag.

Pros

  • Affordable Tube Screamer
  • Two EQ knobs
  • Dual output modes
  • Price

Cons

  • Not True Bypass

 

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