DigiTech Brian May Red Special Pedal

The DigiTech Brian May Red Special pedal was launched in 2005 on the back of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix artist series pedals and discontinued after only a few years on sale. Examples in good condition now command prices in the region of £300-£400 on the used market. The outfit included the following items:

  • DigiTech Red Special Pedal
  • Red Special Artist Series embroidered satin gig bag
  • PS0913B power supply
  • Owner’s Manual
  • DigiTech warranty card
  • DigiTech brochure
  • Sixpence plectrum

Brian May wrote this foreword to the user manual:

“This piece of gear is, in my opinion, a work of genius! I claim no credit! An amazing DigiTech team led by legend Eddie Kramer have created a device capable of making anybody sound like me! (If you should want to, that is!) Through an incredible new modeling technique, this pedal captures 14 of the most memorable tones I’ve achieved for Queen over the years, and places them at your fingertips.

But it does not stop there. Our hope is that you, the guitarists of the future, will use this machine as an aid to creating your own new tones, and inspire you to greater heights. To enable this to happen, each tone setting on this pedal can be adjusted in gain, level, bass, treble, and many other parameters to meet the demands of your wildest dreams!

From the searing, harmonically rich solo sound of Bohemian Rhapsody, to the churning saturated thickness of the climax of ‘We Will Rock You’, to the hitherto inimitable Deacy amp tone, which I’ve used for years to create orchestras of guitars on record, this device will shock you! The Red Special Pedal puts a new spectrum of tones at your command, whether used as a preamp for a stage set-up, or directly into the board in your studio (the pedal models the amp cabinets too).”

Using Digitech’s patented guitar modelling technology, producer Eddie Kramer digitised authentic tones directly from Queen’s original master tapes. One of the most versatile controls calibrates the input for the two most common configurations of guitar pickups (single coil equipped S-types or humbucker equipped Gibson Les Paul types) so there is no requirement to own a Red Special replica guitar which is not to everybody’s taste. There are three output modes allowing use with a single amplifier, a stereo mixer or even a pair of amplifiers for a stereo effect. An optional FS3X footswitch was available which offered hands-free access to each model. Most Brian May players and Queen enthusiasts will know that Brian uses a treble booster as the first effect in his signal chain but since this pedal has an integral hard-wired dynamic analog treble booster, a separate unit is unnecessary.

MODEL 1. Keep Yourself Alive (KYA)
MODEL 2. Bohemian Rhapsody (BoRhap)
MODEL 3. Tie Your Mother Down (TYMD)
MODEL 4. We Will Rock You (WWRY), We Are the Champions (WATC)
MODEL 5. Crazy Little Thing Called Love (CLTCL)
MODEL 6. Brighton Rock Solo from Live at Wembley ’86.
MODEL 7. Deacy Tone / A Winter’s Tale, Made in Heaven

The pedal effects are so authentic and highly regarded by Brian himself that Nigel Knight of KAT incorporated its circuit board and controls into a custom rack mounted unit for the touring, recording, back-up & guesting rig he built for Brian in spring 2019. The gallery below shows the rig and its bigger brother in Brian’s equipment storage facility being evaluated by Pete Malandrone. The pictures were taken by Nigel himself and are published here with his permission. The links below are two contemporary reviews of the pedal:

Music Radar Review
Guitar World Review

Watch Frank Campese expertly demonstrate this pedal’s capabilities with his Brian May Red Special replica in the embedded video below. Although the TYMD tone sounds a bit thin and jangly, the video showcases all the modes very effectively and concludes with a meaty and skilful rendition of one of my favourite Brian May orchestrations: the canon section in the Brighton Rock solo. This pedal is still one of the most straightforward ways of achieving this complex effect, now also possible with the AmpliTube Brian May patches. Frank also gives us a quick blast of Chinese Torture, a track not often covered in demonstration videos:

DigiTech Brian May Red Special pedal demonstration by Frank Campese

The user manuals for the DigiTech Artist’s Series Brian May, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton pedals can be downloaded from the links below:

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