TC Electronic is particularly known for their amazing reverbs and delays, but the company has quite a handle on gain-based effects as well. Case in point: their brilliant Nova Drive, a programmable, digitally-controllable analog drive unit. But not everybody wants to sift through digital presets and learn parameters and memory banks and the like. Some players just want to turn some knobs, dial in a killer tone and play. That’s where the Röttweiler Distortion comes in.

The Röttweiler Distortion is built using the same basic ‘hammerhead’ rugged die-cast aluminium chassis as TC’s excellent TonePrint pedals and the revolutionary PolyTune tuner, and purely from an aesthetic perspective it looks really cool. I like TC’s design sense. There are four control pots, Gain, Level, Bass and Treble, along with a two-way Voice switch which governs the midrange profile. There’s an input, an output, a True Bypass switch, a really quite bright red LED to indicate that the effect is on, and a 9v DC supply jack. Battery access is through a handy little turn screw on the bottom.

I plugged the Röttweiler into a single-channel low-watt tube amp and a 50-watt Marshall stack for testing, using a Line 6 Tyler Variax in magnetic pickup mode and a PRS SE Bernie Marsden signature model. TC says the Röttweiler is designed to cut through any mix and they’re not kidding: it feels loud even when the volume is restrained. Even at the lowest level on the Gain control, the Röttweiler is punchy and gritty. Turn the Gain up and things get quite hairy indeed, but after about 1 o’clock the distortion doesn’t seem to increase any further: the sound just gets a bit more saturated. The Bass and Treble controls are great for fine-tuning the pedal’s response, with higher Treble levels bringing out a killer metal rhythm tone, especially in conjunction with the scooped-mid position on the Voice switch. Flip the Voice switch to the middier setting, smooth out the Treble and crank the Gain and you’ll get an insanely killer lead tone, with plenty of harmonic overtones jumping out at you. In fact, the frequencies of this pedal seemed to hit a sweet spot with the Variax where feedback came in at around an octave and a fifth above the fretted note – a very cool effect which, when combined with the natural sustain of the Variax, almost gave the effect of a Fernandes Sustainer pickup. The Röttweiler cleans up quite nicely from the guitar’s volume knob too, and it’s great for Randy Rhoads Tribute-style hard rock/metal rhythm tones when you set everything around 12 o’clock-ish and use the midrange-heavy Voice setting.

The Röttweiler is a great way of imparting some real metal attitude to a clean amp, and it has a dual personality: it has plenty of grit and grind for scooped metal rhythm work, but it’s equally adept at smooth, midrangey solo tones too. It’s rare to find a pedal that can do both equally well, yet TC seems to build such flexibility into quite a lot of its pedals.