This is a Guest Review by Guitarist, Stephen Rose.
Recently, I purchased the Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret MKIII and I must say, I am very impressed with the versatility of this pedal. Using my Gibson Les Paul Standard through a Fender Humboldt Hot Rod Blues Jr., the amp is set up for a basic clean tone, which really allows this pedal to shine. This pedal is designed to sound like a Marshall Super Lead or Super Bass depending on which mode is engaged. Each mode offers many tonal benefits and this is the first pedal that I have played that is so responsive to the volume and tone controls of my guitar. The layout of the pedal is a very straightforward with a 5 knob layout: Treble, Middle, Bass, Master, and Pre-amp. The Pre-amp knob essentially functions as the pedal’s gain setting. The Treble, Middle, and Bass knobs are tonally sensitive and can drastically influence the overall sound, depending on the setting. There is also an internal Presence knob that can be customized when the backplate is removed, but I chose to leave it as it came. In both the Super Lead and Super Bass settings, I was able to conjure up some very familiar Page, Hendrix and Young sounds that were spot on to the original recordings.
The pedal comes shipped set to Super Lead and has the Plexi to JCM800 range of sounds covered. With the knobs set to 12 o’clock, I found this setting to be a bright sound, rich with Treble and Mids. I dialed back the Treble and Mids a little and increased the Bass for a sound that was more pleasing for my tastes. To get more break up and a distorted JCM800 type of tone, increase the Pre-amp and this pedal will truly achieve that hot-rodded type of sound.
Switching the pedal to the Super Bass mode is very easy to do. Unscrew the backplate and with a flat head screwdriver or similar tool, move the slider switch over to the Super Bass section. This setting is my favorite of the two and is very reminiscent of the Marshall JTM series of amps and it can easily bring you into the Clapton Bluesbreaker era of sounds. Then with the Bass off, Pre-amp around 2 o’clock, and the Treble and Mids all the way up, you can get a highly accurate AC/DC type of sound. My preferred setting had the Treble at 1 o’clock, Mids around 12 o’clock, and Bass at 11 o’clock. The Master should be set in accordance to the volume of your amp and I like the Pre-amp around 2 o’clock. This allows a clean tone with the guitar’s volume turned down a little and some nice break up when the volume is turned all the way up.
This pedal shines with its transparency and improvement rather than replacement, of tone. Even when I used the coil taps on my guitar, the pedal did not suffer any sort of output loss or negative tonal change. This pedal is worth checking out if you are looking for that British type of overdrive that will also improve your tone’s flexibility. It does not matter if you use humbuckers or single coils, this pedal can do it all.