Cult Germanium Overdrive

AVAILABLE NOW FROM VINTAGE KING!

“The most dynamic overdrive we’ve heard.” Guitar Player magazine

“One of the most flexible fuzz units we have ever tested. The more the gain knob was turned up, the more responsive and dynamic the guitar’s volume knob became, almost serving as an extension of the pedal itself. With Cult’s gain at the three o’clock position and the guitar’s volume on 7, we got a great rhythm sound with enough clarity to allow open chords to bloom. Turning the guitar’s volume all the way up gave a very rich yet natural harmonic distortion that seemed to jump from the amp, different from other fuzz units that sort of compress the entire signal.”Vintage Guitar magazine

“Cult caught my fancy with its elegant simplicity, gutsy tones, and extreme dynamic response. Seriously, the Cult’s dynamic range is freakin’ ridiculous! It does sparkling, mostly clean sounds as well as vicious, full-throated bark and everything in between. If you have a close relationship with your guitar’s volume knob and a hankering for something new and different, Cult will prove to be a very inspiring musical companion.” Tone Report review

And here’s a performance for guitar and looper showcasing Cult’s touch response and dynamic range. The pedal is on the entire time. The tone variation comes from touch and guitar knob adjustments.

When I delved into the germanium booster designs of the 1960s, I was astonished. How the hell did these electrifying, supremely dynamic circuits—so crucial to many of the era’s greatest recordings—fall into disuse? I studied every schematic and made dozens of clones. I felt like I’d been indoctrinated into some weird germanium cult. So when I developed my own take on those circuits, I named it Cult.

Cult_crop

But Cult is no ’60s clone: It departs dramatically from the original ’60s circuits, providing fatter lows, fewer piercing highs, and more responsive dynamics. It just seems to “gush” more.

You probably know that 90% of today’s overdrives are related to a pedal whose name rhymes with Lube Reamer. These pedals employ an IC chip rather a discrete transistor. They compress your signal, making note attacks less prominent and limiting your dynamic range. The results are smooth and consistent—nothing wrong with that!

But Cult goes in the opposite direction, dramatically expanding your dynamic range. Note attacks crack like knuckles. Your phrases have an electrifying presence that seems to lunge from the speakers. When you hit the input hard, the bold, harmonically rich distortion maintains its edge, even in crowded musical contexts. Cult doesn’t go “squish.” It barks.

The dynamic response is simply astounding—you can go from crystalline to meltdown by touch and guitar knob settings alone. With your guitar volume rolled back, the tone is nearly indistinguishable from bypass, so you can literally leave Cult on all night and conjure a huge range of overdrive/distortion tones directly from your guitar.

Cult isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for an overdrive to smooth out your sound for consistent, predictable results, run away! But if you’re the sort of player who likes sculpting sounds via touch and dynamics, or if you enjoy tones that walk the tightrope between clean and distorted, Cult can be a revelation.

Cult was created in San Francisco and is built in Michigan by skilled craftspeople earning a fair wage. Available soon from Vintage King!

–Joe Gore, San Francisco

TO USE: Plug in with your guitar knobs at maximum, and use the single knob to set the maximum desired gain level. (I usually just floor it.) Then lower your guitar settings and soften your touch to explore the pedal’s extraordinary dynamic range. Try combining Cult with other drive and distortion effects—you’ll find that it layers beautifully.

CAUTIONS: One great thing about “Reamer” pedals is the way they provide solid distortion sounds even when the pedal’s output is turned down. Cult, on the other hand, works best when you whack your amp pretty hard. (That’s why it has no master volume control.) Cult probably isn’t a good choice if you want thick distortion at whisper volume.

Also, be sure to place Cult before any buffered devices in your effect chain. Placed post-buffer, the pedal can sound relatively thin and shrill. Cult almost always works best at or near the front of your chain. Fortunately, it sounds great driving downstream distortion pedals.

MORE CULT COMMENTARY:

“Every once in awhile I come across a pedal that just blows me away. The Cult pedal by Joe Gore is indeed one of those. This is the first overdrive I’ve heard in a long while that has its own voice, yet is rooted in familiarity. It pushes your amp in the perfect way. It’s more expressive than anything else I’ve encountered. It responds like a great amp. Clean to nasty just by how much attack you use. So I don’t even need to go to my volume knob. Incredibly expressive, and it’s voiced beautifully. Definitely the type of thing you can leave on all night and simply make a good amp great. Is this the perfect overdrive? No, that doesn’t exist, but it’s the closest thing I’ve found. I can see this being one of my “must bring” pedals for all scenarios for many years to come. It’s instantly become an essential part of my tone. Well done!”
—Richard Fortus (Guns N’ Roses, Crystal Method, Pink, BT, Dead Daisies)

“Sometimes you come across pedals that just work right. It’s not just how they sound – it’s also how they make you feel when playing them. To me Cult is one of those pedals. It’s got that sound I’ve been looking for for years now. To me it hits that classic late-’60s, early-’70s fuzz that I’d hear on records, but I never could find. Now I got it. So happy I plugged into this one!”
—Brent Paschke (Pharrell Williams’s longtime guitarist)

“The Cult is a great simple boost drive, like a Rangemaster but with full tone range. I love it!” —Brian Ray (Paul McCartney’s guitarist and longtime Etta James music director)

“The Cult is one of the most badass pedals I’ve recently bought. Not only does it sound freaking great, but there are some surprisingly versatile sounds you can get just using your volume knob on your guitar. With my Stratocaster, I can get a big fat distortion/fuzz tone with the volume all the way up, but if I roll the volume back just a bit, it gets that great semi-clean Hendrix rhythm tone, and if I further roll back the volume, it gets sparkly clean in a very musical way. Sometimes you buy an instrument or a piece of gear, and it just has music in it for you. That’s the case with the Cult.”
—Kenny Greenberg (Taylor Swift, Willie Nelson, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Wynona Judd)

“One germanium transistor and one knob add up to make the Cult a surprisingly versatile pedal. It sounds surprisingly beefy throughout the range of its gain control. The Cult is super responsive to picking and guitar volume-knob sweeps, and it feels less compressed than typical ‘Screamer-based pedals. Distortion is always present once you kick it on, and I like how the tone stays firm and non-frazzy even when cranked up to max for a healthy boost of volume and sustain. This pedal did a great job of expanding the clean-to-mean range of a Fender Deluxe Reverb (and without overwhelming its core sound) and it really roared when driving into the gainer modes of a Mesa/Boogie TC50. People join cults for all sorts of reasons, and it’s easy to get sucked in once you experience this charismatic overdriver.”  Guitar Player magazine

“I’m always searching for interesting sounds, and I hit the bullseye. I love Cult, which I used on ‘Earthquake Driver’ and ‘Elvis Goes to Hollywood’ from the latest Counting Crows album, Somewhere Under Wonderland. I love Joe’s ethos of simplicity. That’s the way I like it too.”
—Dan Vickrey (Counting Crows)

“If it can be said that ‘tone is really in the hands,”‘ then what better for the hands-on guitarist than a pedal that channels your every volume knob roll, pick adjustment, and sudden right-hand ‘thwack’ into suitably dynamic peals of vivid, punchy and clarion-clear vintage germanium overdrive. The exact opposite of those ultra-smooth “beer commercial” tone clones, Cult’s colors are both edgy and musical, but like some psychic reader, the results are all about what’s lurking in your own subconscious, not what some corporate pedal designer thinks you should sound like. I believe I shall ruffle some feathers with this Cult; and I couldn’t be more pleased at being initiated. Thank you, Joe!”James Rotondi (Air, Mr. Bungle, Hundred Hounds)

“Playing guitar through Joe Gore’s Cult fuzz pedal is like being inside Billy Gibbons’ lucid dream. I’d describe the sounds as “impossibly hot.” Ever left a cast-iron skillet on the stove too long? It’s like that. With my gear—an 1964 Gibson ES-335 and a ’63 brownface Fender Deluxe amp—Cult brought danger to the sonics. My amp has never caught fire. However, with the Cult engaged, it sounds as I imagine it would sound just before spontaneous combustion. The entire frequency range feels juiced up, yet the tone is still very true to what my guitar sounds and feels like with no effects at all. Miraculous! In the upper register (above the 7th fret on the high E string), I started to hear hints of sub-octaves below the notes I was fretting. Super cool! I’m drinking this Kool-Aid.” —Adam Levy (Norah Jones, Ani DeFranco, Amos Lee, Allan Toussaint, Tracy Chapman, solo artist, and Chair of the Guitar Department at Los Angeles College of Music)

“Damn,this thing packs a wallop! Once you turn it on, you basically want to keep it on. I you turn it off and after having it on for a while, you’ll hear how starved and shriveled your original tone is. It’s extra responsive to volume adjustments too.”
Avi Bortnik (John Scofield band, solo artist)

“I don’t think I could describe the Cult pedal in one word (other than, you know, bitchin’), but if I had two words, I’d pick ‘huge’ and ‘musical.’ It doesn’t alter the sonic personalities of my guitars. My Strat still sounds like a Strat. My PRS still sounds like God. Cult provides what so many of us are looking for: the ability to go from full-toned clean sounds to harmonically rich distortion with a simple nudge of the guitar’s volume knob. My first reaction: Why would you turn it off?”
Tom Wheeler, former Editor-in-Chief of Guitar Player magazine and author of The Soul of Tone: Celebrating 60 Years of Fender Amps and American Guitars: An Illustrated History

“As you might expect with a former Guitar Player editor, current Premier Guitar editor, and guitarist with Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, and Tracy Chapman, Gore has an educated ear when it comes to tone. Duh’s gain is on the lower end of the fuzz range, but it still offers plenty of sustain and gorgeous harmonic overtones. Even at full guitar volume Duh is more articulate than its name might suggest. Manipulation of the instrument’s volume and tone controls, and/or switching the pickup selector brought out a surprising variety of sounds. It is always a good sign when you don’t want to stop playing when exploring a new piece of gear, and I found the Duh hard to shut off – the term ‘inspiring’ kept coming to mind.”
Guitar Moderne magazine

“Joe Gore has made a pedal that is exactly like he is: unassuming, self-effacing, and quietly virtuosic. You plug this thing in and the qualities you look for in a stompbox—uniqueness of tone, responsiveness to your own playing, robustness of build—are immediately felt. There is nuance to its breadth of tone, and you will be seduced.”
Tony Berg, producer and session guitarist (Peter Gabriel, Weezer, Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, X, Squeeze, P.I.L., Wendy & Lisa, Lisa Loeb, Cracker)

“This pedal has changed my life and given me a whole new tone that I have been looking for. I can get a nice fat tone with plenty of bite and no mud. I can’t even think of plugging in my guitar without the Cult pedal.”
Greg Ingraham, Avengers guitarist and O.G. punk-rock god (Joe’s description, not Greg’s. He’s way too modest to talk like that.)

“The Cult pedal is an incredible addition to my tonal arsenal. I have a vintage Ampeg Jet, and this pedal turned my rig into a screamer. It also has a great tonal roll-off that changes character in a very musical way. Level boost and tone madness—love it!”
Dave LeBolt, composer and session musician (David Bowie, Billy Joel, Foreigner, Julian Lennon), and former general manager of Avid/Digidesign