J. Rockett Archer Select review: Ultimate Klone or the Emperor’s New Overdrive?

J. Rockett Archer Select review: Ultimate Klone or the Emperor’s New Overdrive?

As prices for original Klon Centaur pedals have got increasingly silly and beyond the ken of your average guitarist, so the market for klones has boomed to the point where Klon-alikes are now challenging Tube Screamers for the title of Most Widely Replicated Circuit 2023. In a world where you can buy klones for anywhere from under $50 to well over $200 the JRockett Audio Designs Archer has stood apart. Why? Well, in a crowded field its a remarkably faithful take on the original Centaur circuit that has earned the stamp of approval from the likes of Jeff Beck, Adam Granduciel, Ed O’Brien and countless internet guitar guys – even Bill Finnegan himself was impressed enough with the Archer that he consulted with JRAD when developing the Klon KTR.

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The Archer Select, however, is something altogether different from what we’ve seen come out of JRockett’s California HQ. By incorporating a second footswitch to engage one of six different clipping diodes, plus a DI output with speaker simulation for monitoring and direct recording. This is in addition to the standard OA10 diode that JRAD prefers for the Archer, which is what’s in the chain without the Clipping switch engaged. With the switch engaged you can select a rotary that offers five germanium diodes – a 1N270, a 1N695, a 1N34A (the same used by Finnegan in the original Centaur) a D9B and a D9E – plus a Red LED diode. Now, if all that meant very little to you, there’s a chance this pedal isn’t for you – certainly not when it’s nearly double the price of the standard Archer, but let’s get clipping.

In use
Before we even get into discussing whether this is a wise investment for you, it’s important to consider why you’re using a klone in the first place. Despite the Centaur being ostensibly an overdrive, the reason that originals go for the price of a decent used car on Reverb is because it excels as a transparent boost – for most users, the gain knob will rarely travel past 12 o’clock, with very little actual gain being introduced from the pedal itself.
If you tend to set your Archer like this, be prepared to be extremely underwhelmed by what the Select has to offer, because if there’s no drive to clip, then the clipping diodes can’t do their job.
JRAD is pretty explicit about this in the manual, going as far as to say “You will not hear a difference if you do not have the gain up” at one point – so be fair warned. While the manual also claims that you will be able to hear “subtle” differences between the diodes in low/no gain modes, in practice we found that is more ‘wishful thinking because I just dropped $329 on a drive pedal’ than anything hand-on-heart discernible by our ears. Your mileage may vary in that regard, but again – fair warning.

It only seems fair then, to give the Select a chance and dime the gain to see just what difference those diodes make, and at this point it’s probably worth reminding you as well as ourselves that actually, a Klon sounds pretty damn great with the gain up too – retaining the clarity and note separation of its boost settings but with a chewy, punchy overdrive layered on top. Even in the vanilla OA10 mode without the Clipping switch engaged, we’re having plenty of fun.
We haven’t paid an extra 150 bucks just to enjoy the regular mode however, so it’s time to hit that Clipping switch and hope that we get more to talk about. And look… let’s not kid ourselves here… the differences we’re talking about, even with the gain all the way up, are very subtle. Hitting the switch with mode one selected and you get a slightly more swarthy version of your tone, but that might just be as much about the output jump as anything else. We definitely notice a slightly fuller sound in the lower mids with the original Klon 1N34A diode engaged, and there’s a very subtle increase in raggedness and general gnarliness as we move up through the modes to the Red LED, which offers the most significant output jump, but with a cleaner boost and more general headroom.
But again we should stress – this is with the gain turned all the way up, and even then the effects are very subtle and borderline subjective. Do not expect the sort of variety you would expect from a multi-voice dirt pedal like the JHS Bonsai – the only thing changing here is the clipping diode, and that’s just one part of a wider sonic picture.
If you exclusively use your Klon-style pedal as a transparent boost, about the only way we could recommend the Select over a regular Archer is to use the Clipping switch as a solo boost – offering various flavours of output jump that could tip a breaking up amp into full overdrive in the right hands. And if you’re someone who likes to turn your Centaur all the way up? Well, this offers more sonic options than you’ll find in any other klone, though they are effectively very similar versions of the same core tone. If that’s something you feel you’ve been missing, the Select is for you – for the rest of us, this might be a rabbithole too far.
Key features

PRICE $329/£349/€329

DESCRIPTION Boost/overdrive pedal with switchable clipping modes, made in the USA

CONTROLS Output, treble, gain, clipping, clipping footswitch, on/off footswitch, ground switch for DI

FEATURES Clipping rotary allows selection of six different clipping diodes, DI out with emulated 4×12 speaker cab for monitoring/direct recording, 9V centre-negative power only

DIMENSIONS 108mm x 70 x 32mm

CONTACT rockettpedals.com

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Source: www.guitar-bass.net