Video: The J. Rockett Archer Series, 3 Variations on an Overdrive Theme

There are a lot of pedals out there based on the circuit of the highly coveted Klon Centaur. Over the past several years, these ubiquitous “Klones” have evolved from replications of a single design into a genre of pedals all their own.

Like the Tube Screamer or Big Muff before it, the Klon has become a benchmark used to size up new entries into an ever–widening class of overdrives. The Keeley Oxblood, for example, is decidedly not an exact take on the Klon but is clearly intended to satisfy the same pedalboard position and sonic need.

In the wide sea of Klones and Klon–influenced pedals, no company's works have earned quite as much acclaim as J. Rockett with its Archer series. Though the $50 Soul Food from EHX is the most popular Klone by total sales, the Archer tops more best–of lists and earns more shoutouts as the go–to replication in YouTube comment threads and forums.

With the release of the new J. Rockett Rockaway Archer this year, we thought we'd take a closer look at the set and explain the differences between the Archer trio and where each iteration stands out.

The Original J. Rockett Archer

According to many, the original J. Rockett Archer is about as close to a one–to–one recreation of the Klon as you're likely to find.

When Bill Finnegan, the man behind the original Centaur, first brought his design back in the form of the KTR reissue, it was J. Rockett who built it. This means that the same techs who worked with Finnegan's own schematics — and thus are as intimate with the specifics of that design as anyone — are the people who designed and built the Archer.

The result is a pedal that, like the original Klon, offers a mythical blend of clean boost and breakup, with a massive range of different drive tones on tap. With the gain at low settings, the Archer functions as a best–in–class clean boost and pairs exceptionally well with other pedals and amps. With the gain knob cranked, the defined, harmonically rich overdrive is nothing short of inspiring.

As Glenn R. on Reverb put it,

"I've played professionally for 38 years, and this is the first pedal I've ever owned that inspires me to be not just a better guitarist, but a better person. It's that good."

Read more reviews of the original Archer here.

Rockaway Archer

The Rockaway Archer is J. Rockett’s newest spin on the Archer design and was originally designed as a custom pedal for prolific guitarist, Steve Stevens. Stevens is someone who's played in a lot of different bands and genres, and the idea here was to offer the sound of the Klon with more detailed controls in the form of a 6–band EQ to replace the single treble control.

Each of the six sliders controls 18dB of cut or boost at each frequency, so there's a wide range of contouring potential here.

Looking again to user reviews on Reverb:

"Compared to the silver 3 knob Archer OD, the Rockaway Archer with 6–band EQ adds a level of tonal flexibility which makes it sound great in every situation. I use it to boost the treble and level of my base clean tone. The tone stays clean and clear with all the cut you need." — Sam C.

Read more reviews of the Rockaway Archer here.

Archer IKON

As a follow–up to the original Archer, J. Rockett released the Archer IKON a few years back as an even closer recreation of the Klon, and the more sought–after gold case version.

The IKON is very similar to the normal Archer but uses a rarer type of diode that was found in many of the original Klon pedals. According to many players, the IKON’s sound is a bit smoother and more compressed at high–gain settings, with a slightly different tone when the gain is turned all of the way down.

As Eric Van Tassel of J. Rockett explained it:

The best way to sum up the difference between the original Archer and the IKON is that the IKON is a bit more mid–based in the frequency spectrum and the overdrive tone is creamier. The Archer is more open and transparent."

Ultimately, the differences between the IKON and the original Archer are less pronounced than their similarities. And of course, as "transparent overdrives," each pedal will respond differently to whatever rig your placing it in, so as always, your milage may vary.

The beautiful thing about pedals as widely acclaimed as these J. Rockets, however, is that you can always try out all three and keep whichever one your prefer. The used demand for these pedals is high enough that you'll have no problem selling them on Reverb and passing them onto the next tone seeker.

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