Inside Marshall's The Guv'nor with Analog Mike

The original Marshall "The Guv'nor" pedal was introduced in late 1988, and discontinued in late 1991. The pedal achieved something that everyone wanted but had not previously been achieved: an "amp in a box." This pedal replicated the sound of a classic Marshall stack cranked up with simple solid state circuitry. These pedals have a great sound and feel, with plenty of detailed control coming from the separate bass, middle and treble knobs in addition to the normal gain (drive) and level (volume). The Guv'nor can be seen on the sleeve of Gary Moore’s Still Got The Blues and has been used by many other guitarists such as Kevin Shields and Josh Klinghoffer.

Check out this ad from 1989:

I bought one of these pedals after reading about it in the Angela Instruments catalog (remember those funky catalogs?) in about 1990. It was one of the first pedals I ever owned. The Guv'nor delivers great compression and a smooth feel, but the best part is how it helps chords fade out. It's just like the end of "Dazed and Confused" when you can hear the tubes glowing, pulsing, fuzzing out as the E power chord fades. I sold mine for a small profit when I got into dealing vintage effects in the mid-'90s and saw that Japanese players were buying all the Guv'nors they could find.

Later models look the same but were made in Korea or Taiwan. The serial number plate on the battery cover should say where each pedal originated. Keep in mind that the decals often come off when removing velcro so the sticker may not always be there.

All of these original Guv'nor pedals are about the same, though the made-in-England examples will usually go for more money. There are DIY kits to replicate the circuit, which should be relatively easy to build, though the added knobs may make it a bit more involved than most dirt pedals. All the parts are all readily available and cheap, making for a worthwhile DIY build. There are later Marshall-built Guv'nor models in different enclosures, but most people don't think they sound as good as the originals.

The Guv'nor circuitry is fairly simple but well tuned. One dual op-amp is used to boost the signal, with the gain knob cleverly controlling the gain of both op-amp sections. This approach was used in the later "Blues Breaker" pedal (as well as our own Prince of Tone and King of Tone models). The Guv'nor uses hard clipping to ground after the op-amp, as used in early OD pedals like the MXR Distortion+, but relies on red LEDS instead of diodes, allowing for a stronger signal than the MXR. This boosted, clipped signal then goes through the passive tone controls, and then to one of the most unique features - a stereo 1/4" effects loop just before the pedal's output. Stomping the switch on The Guv'nor engages any pedal in the loop. From the manual:

"LOOP JACK - The FX loop output allows linking to other pedals using an optional "Y" cable, with the Guv'nor acting as the master switch for the whole effects chain. The "Y" cable needed is a TRS (tip-ring-sleeve) 1/4" type at one end, splitting into a pair of mono 1/4" cables at the other. (This is known as an INSERT cable, and Analog Man sells them for use in the similar effects loop in our ARDX20 analog delay)."

As good as these pedals sound, like many great sounding mass-produced pedals, the construction is (as they say in the UK) a bit rubbish. They are built with very inferior jacks, which tend to break both internally and externally. The Guv'nor we're selling right now has a slightly damaged input jack but it still works fine. Unlike most vintage and boutique pedals, they are not easy to replace. The jacks are a proprietary part and attached to the circuit board, as are the pots and everything but the switch. You can, however, use a Fender-made stereo phone jack, 6.5mm (Part #0059922000).

The pots on these pedals are also small and proprietary. They have a nice silky feel but often get scratchy. A little spray cleaner/lubricant will usually fix that, though you may lose that silkiness if you spray them too often. The small DPDT switches are also quite flimsy and not true bypass. They are what is known as "Hard Bypass." The input jack is always connected to a few resistors, which may suck a bit of tone if your signal is not well-buffered. A normal, rugged 3PDT switch can be installed, then you can wire it up as true bypass by using the third pole to switch the input.

These are fun pedals that deliver a unique yet totally classic sound. I recommend trying one if you get a chance and seeing what fun you can unleash.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Analog Mike is the founder of the Analog Man pedals as well as a world leading authority on vintage pedals and mods. Stay tuned for more posts from Analog Mike soon, and be sure to check Analog Man effects on Reverb.

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