Joe Gore Gross Distortion
At its heart, the Joe Gore Gross is a simple, one-transistor distortion from the same family tree as the Electra circuit. This simple yet powerful effect was built into Electra guitars in the late ’70s, and was later adopted by many boutique stompbox builders. For good reason: It’s a lively, dynamically responsive circuit with less compression than most modern IC-based distortion pedals. The transistor boosts the level, and then the signal hits a pair of clipping diodes, which provide the signature distortion.
Every diode combination sounds slightly different. In fact, several boutique pedal companies have based their businesses on creating Electra derivatives with slightly varied diode choices.
Gross isn’t an Electra clone. Changed parts and values create a fatter sound and even greater dynamic response. There is active 2-band tone control — something seldom, if ever combined with primitive distortion like this. The distortion isn’t too “gainy.” It’s more about definition than sheer power which is one reason it pairs well with other gain pedals. The character of your guitar and fingers always comes through.
The star feature of the Gross is the diode section. Instead of a fixed diode pair, two 12-position rotary switches select from 24 diodes for 78 possible diode combinations! An additional switch adds a third diode for asymmetric distortion, which makes 156 possible shades. The target number was 144 — that’s why it's called Gross, though that may have happened the other way around.
Some combinations are as different as night and day. Others are only as different as noon and 12:05. But this network of germanium, silicon, and LED diodes provides many crunch colors.
With its labeled and detented selector knobs, you can call up favorite settings onstage. But Gross’s forte is as a studio tool. It’s great for “texturizing” guitar overdubs—just spin the dials till you find a tone that sits perfectly in the track. It’s especially useful for doubling.
Gross Distortion was created in San Francisco and is built in Michigan by skilled craftspeople earning a fair wage.
How to use: Set the desired gain and level. Grab the big knobs and start spinning. Toggle the +1 switch frequently for asymmetric distortion—the changes can be dramatic! When you hear a cool tone, refine it with the bass and treble knobs. (Note: the higher the gain setting, the more dramatic the diode-tone contrast.)
NOTE: As on many primitive single-transistor distortion circuits, you’ll probably hear a slight crackling when turning the gain knob. This is not a faulty component, but an unavoidable side effect of circuits of this type. For most players, this is not a problem. But if you think you’re likely to adjust the gain control often mid-performance, this may be an issue. Proceed with care.
Gross is popular among rock producers, including:
- Joe Barresi (Soundgarden, Slipknot, Queens of the Stone Age, Melvins, Bad Religion)
- Matt Wallace (Maroon 5, Faith No More, Replacements, O.A.R., Blues Traveller)
- Michael Beinhorn (Ozzy Osbourne, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Aerosmith, Korn, Marilyn Manson, Black Label Society)
Reviews and Testimonials
"Gross invites uncomplicated, impulsive sound shaping as much as it enables surgical tone sculpture. It’s hard to make a bad sound. The distortion tones have a rich, growling, and even-tempered essence that can be re-shaped easily with guitar volume and tone attenuation. Gross is highly responsive—to modifications from its own control set, from your guitar, or from your pick attack. Gore may have aimed for 156 tone “colors” from the Gross. In fact, the real number of available tone shades is exponentially more. Now that I’ve tried it, I almost get anxious thinking about doing a recording session without it."
- Premier Guitar Magazine
"Gross is a very useful, high-quality, and musical-sounding fuzz. It's one of those fuzzes that never blats out — you can always hear all the notes in a chord through this thing of beauty. You know sometimes with other fuzzes you feel like, 'Man, what a mess'? This is the opposite of that. There 156 settings and they ALL SOUND GREAT! It's a Swiss Army tone sculptor!!! Any guitarist interested in widening their palette live or in the studio should check this puppy out."
- Teddy Kumpel, guitarist and producer (Joe Jackson, Rickie Lee Jones, Feist, Nine Inch Nails, Marshall Crenshaw, Paquito D’Rivera, solo artist)
“Gross is a freakin’ brilliant pedal. It’s insanely useful in my work as a TV/film/commercial composer, where anything I can do to streamline my process is crucial. Gross allows me to stay on the same guitar/amp set up and pretty much get all my sounds for the current track with just some tweaks of the pedal/guitar settings. I also love how it’s laid out — I just write my diode combo in the notes of ProTools in case I ever need to recall anything. Great stuff!”
- John Flannery, composer (UFC/MTV/Mattel/McDonalds) and session player (The School of Rock, Monster Magnet, Porno for Pyros)
|Input Connectors||1/4-inch TS|
|Output Connectors||1/4-inch TS|
This pedal has found a happy place on my already- full pedal board. It gives a multitude of dirt and edge. I also sit it under an MXR Super Bad- Ass OD for a screamingly good tone. Next is to plug in the Klon klone in the signal path and see what that does before the Gross Distortion. Likely all good....
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