DEFCON4 is not your typical EQ pedal. First, it’s a preamp that offers up some compression and push in tone, and so you get some energy behind those crafted changes. Second, the choices behind each EQ setting (Bass, Midrange and Treble) are very well honed, so that each selection (adding or taking away bass, mids or treble) is obvious, thus making it easy to dial in a better (different) sound than what your pickups are producing. Third, the 10dB MOSFET boost is just the right amount to thicken up your tone and make it more three-dimensional. The YouTube video with this review goes through the various settings with a humbucker-equipped guitar and through all the various bass, midrange and treble settings. You can hear how the DEFCON4 can enhance both clean and higher-gain settings. However, what is even more impressive is how you can take a single-coil Strat and make it sound like you’re playing with higher output humbuckers.
To repeat, each EQ has settings that were very well-crafted, although you can get under the Chassis and change each bandwidth if so desired. The Bass adds bass without sound muddy, or takes it away without sounding too thin. The same is true of the Midrange and Treble, in that you can tweak a bit here and there and nothing is out of whack, and yet is obvious to the ear. DEFCON4 likely is one of the best tools to reshape your tone so that you can get rid of that weak jangly sound, clear up muddy pickups, etc. And when on stage you can switch from humbuckers to single-coils and not miss a beat, all at the push of a footswitch.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: DEFCON4 is the signature pedal of composer and performer Ryan Adams, DEFCON4’s original intent was to allow Mr. Adams the ability to switch from a humbucker guitar to a Strat, and still be able to produce an equal amount of output and fullness in tone. Along with Walrus Audio, DEFCON4’s claim to fame has become a super fast tone-shaper, possible with only a few clicks of a 3-band equalizer and along with a 10dB MOSFET boost, if necessary. Some of the pedal is bells and whistles, such as the name, the little Defcon 1 through 4 lights, and certainly a world map that lights up with missile launching schematics – but who cares? It looks friggin’ cool and it is fun to use. If looking cool isn’t an issue, then I suggest all guitar manufacturers stop with the fancy paint jobs, graphics, and body designs. Not likely, right? And for those old enough to remember, the overall artwork and pedal design concept comes from the 1983 movie WarGames and Ryan Adams’ “love for all things 80’s nostalgia.”
The tone-shaping capabilities of this pedal are exceptional, and the gang at Walrus Audio pulled this one off very well. Each click of each EQ bandwidth seems to change a guitar’s tone noticeably and in a very usable manner. Perhaps you don’t want full-out treble, but even when cranked to the limits it still sounds good, particularly with darker pickups. The point is that you can achieve a multitude of different tones very easily so that the same guitar can become a very different guitar.
EASE OF USE: Do note that there can be no change in tone if you keep all the EQ settings pointing to 12-noon (zero). From there you have four choices on each… two steps down (-1 or -2) or two steps up (+1 or +2). For example, if you consider the Bass knob you can decrease bass a bit by clicking one step counter-clockwise, or remove even more bass with two steps counter-clockwise. Conversely, if you want more bass than click one step past 12-noon for more bass, and even more bass with one more click. The same works for the Midrange and Treble knobs. This makes operation of DEFCON4 easy since the degree of change from one position to the next is noticeable, but not extreme, so that you can add or take away just a little or a moderate amount (but not so much in either direction that the tone doesn’t sound usable). This is not like many other EQs that seem to offer an almost infinite amount of fine-tuning, which actually makes it challenging to zero-in on that ideal tone. As a result, DEFCON4 makes it very easy to remember past settings, or at least easy to achieve them again in a matter of seconds. The 10dB MOSFET boost can be used on its own or in conjunction with the EQ (and vice versa) and has a number of potential uses in different situations. For example, you could use the EQ to shape your tone and then add the 10dB for lead solos, regardless of the guitar. Or you could use the 10dB with EQ to thicken up your single-coil guitar. In regard to the latter, there are some musicians that likely enjoy jamming on a Strat for some hard rock or even metal, but those single-coils just don’t have the output and thickness of tone desired. That can be rectified with one pedal… DEFCON4.
RELIABILITY & DURABILITY: DEFCON4 measures about 3.5 x 4.5 inches (8.9 x 11.4 cm), with a solidly built aluminum chassis. The feel of the pots when turning the knobs are of good quality as they ‘click’ from one position to the next. The plastic knobs are of good quality, while the small switches (to engage or disengage each EQ knob) are both solid in feel and located in a protective location… just beneath and between the larger EQ knobs. The input/output for cables are located along the sides, as well as the power supply (standard 9v 2.1 mm @ 100mA) insert is on the side. This places the inserts in a more precarious position (as compared to rear chassis inserts), but being a slightly larger pedal it’s unlikely one’s foot would step on any cables while stomping. Likely the only ‘fragile’ part of DEFCON4 would be the LED screen showing the graphics, although you do not need the screen to operate the pedal (it’s simply a ‘cool’ factor). Regardless, I cannot fathom actual damage from normal and regular use, as opposed to abuse and dropping something on it. For more information you can check out the pedal at: