Mad Professor 1 Brown Sound Overdrive Pedal Review

by | Oct 11, 2016 | Best Guitar Picks, Effects Pedals, & Accessories

The Mad Professor 1 overdrive pedal convincingly dials in that vintage “brown sound” made famous by Van Halen, with the added bonus of believable reverb to complete the tonal execution.

That “brown” sound that guitar players have been seeking since 1978 can been elusive. There have been amps, pedals, processors and plug-ins that have all claimed to get it. The new Mad Professor 1 overdrive pedal really brings that “brown” sound in a small package, and at a fairly affordable price.

The idea is to plug this pedal into a clean amp, and let the pedal do all the work. The controls are simple, but slightly different than the usual stompbox: the Brown knob controls the Overdrive, but even at zero, it still has plenty of gain. Increasing it adds high-end frequencies that can cut, but don’t get harsh. The Presence knob acts like it would on an amp, adding brightness and tighter response. Part of that “Brown” sound is Reverb, and it’s not a standard spring type sound, more like a studio quality hi-fi version.

The overdrive range isn’t super expansive, but it does nail that late-’70s/early-’80s hot rodded British amp sound of that era. Players who are fans of the candy-striped guitar sound will really enjoy it, especially when playing those kinds of riffs and licks. Dialing in tasteful amounts of reverb really helps nail that tone, and it’s something a lot of other companies have overlooked. Just toss in an MXR Phase 90 and you’re complete.

Got a cool new “brown sound” pedal sent to us for review. Can’t wait to turn it up!

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Inside the pedal are two trim pots, one for adjusting the reverb’s decay time, the other for a tone that can brighten or darken the decay. Rhythms can be nice and chunky, but when backing off on the volume knob on the guitar, things can clean up easily while still retaining some bite. For leads, there’s plenty of sustain, and the “1” pedal has a nice sharp response. On the gain scale, it sits below a lot of distortion pedals, but high enough above tamer “overdrives” and blues-based pedals.

RELATED: check out more effects pedals reviews from Performer Magazine

It shouldn’t be overlooked by players who aren’t fans of the sound. It really captures a tight, and punchy British tinged drive that was favored at the time, with plenty of clarity. With humbuckers, it has plenty of push, and with single coils it still retains that character, softening up the feel, while still having plenty of power and articulation.

The only downside is the distortion is what it is, no being able to drop it to get some soft clipping, but it eliminates a variable in the equation of the “brown” sound that’s so tough to nail down. For fans of that Los Angeles rock n roll sound, or any guitarist in a tribute band should have one of these, it’ll make things easier. For the rest, it’s a great British overdrive sounding pedal with reverb that still leaves plenty of room to forge your own signature tone.


Nails that circa 1978 Sunset Strip era sound at a great price.


Distortion range isn’t that wide (but that’s kind of the point).