Death By Audio Germanium Filter: tasty overdrive to total destruction
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Death by Audio Germanium Filter: tasty overdrive, total destruction, and everything in between

The Germanium Filter from pedal lords Death By Audio is a perfect marriage of simplicity and style. Let’s take a closer look.

Ever since distortion became recognised as a “thing” rather than a faulty sound to be avoided, guitarists and producers have been looking for ways to put their own twist on it. Sure, cranking up a tube-driven amp and hearing those throaty, warm barks has driven many to ecstasy, but what if you want some with a little more edge, or something a bit nastier, or just plain destroyed (in the most glorious way possible, of course)?

If there’s a company that knows all about pushing tone to the extreme, it’s Death By Audio. Its latest model, Germanium Filter, is DBA’s “love letter to sticking a pencil through your speaker.” Dishing up fuzz that fizzles and crunch that sputters and reacts to the dynamics of your playing is no mean feat, but this is exactly what Germanium Filter delivers.

Death by Audio Germanium Fliter

First impressions

Death By Audio’s aesthetic has always gone hand in hand with each pedal’s tonal signature. Fuzz War, for example, does look like a piece of military-grade gear that you’d be happy to take to the trenches; Echo Dream is an ’80s-inspired technicolour fantasy. You get the picture. Similarly, Germanium Filter’s lightning bolt speaks to the straight-into-the-console aggression that’s on offer here.

Operation couldn’t be any easier. You’ve got two knobs — the top one controlling the Filter: turn left for bassy, turn right for bright. The bottom one controls the Germanium (at the heart of the stompbox are two low gain Soviet MP10B NPN germanium transistors): turn left for a sweet, pushed console tone, turn right for all-out destruction!

Sound

Germanium transistors are a niche component, but still played a significant role in audio history. They were in vogue in the 1960s and contributed greatly to the aesthetic of distortion before the more stable silicon became favoured in preamps and pedals from the ’70s onwards. But owing to its unique flavour, it’s definitely on the rise again and highly sought after by Link Wray/Dave Davies lovin’ guitarists.

And if you pay close attention to that tone, you’ll realise that it’s no ordinary distortion. It hisses and spits, is perfectly imperfect, and nothing like the uniform, hi-gain colour of modern crunch. And on the DBA Germanium Filter, there ain’t no “clean” setting, in spite of the knob indicating otherwise. It’s colourful from the get-go, producing creamy overdrive, while pushing into “dirty” territory offers up a fuzz beyond repair.

The “filter” knob adds greatly to the versatility of the pedal. And though it’s only one control, players will get many hours of experimental enjoyment from tweaking this knob. In “heavy” territory, it tends toward a doomy sound with big bass and mid-range boosts. “High” is perfect for cutting through the mix, with a sub-300 Hz roll-off and a 2 kHz boost.

Germanium Filter is also super-responsive to incoming audio (which can also be adjusted via the internal trim pot inside the chassis). There’s so much fun to be had mixing and matching single-coil and humbucking pickups with this pedal, as well as tweaking the volume and tone pots on the guitar itself to create completely unique combinations. While its two knobs might indicate a guided experience, you only need to bring a little bit of imagination to open up a world of possibilities.

Head over to Death By Audio for all the details.