If you refer to the demo accompanying this review, it opens with a short digital organ segment, since the Tall & Fat was designed originally for that purpose and to make a digital organ sound analog. The outcome certainly is ‘rich’ and overflowing with dynamics and harmonics, but it did an equally good job with electric guitar and the various tube preamps I placed before it. I would be curious to know what it could do for a solid-state amp, but perhaps that’s where Lounsberry’s Amp Rescue prevails. Whether working with clean or dirty amp channels there is an obvious fullness and three-dimensional quality to the tone when adding the Tall & Fat. A term regularly used on the Lounsberry site, and one I have adopted for this review is ‘richness,’ and that term very much sums it up. There is a depth to the notes I have not heard from other ‘boost’ pedals, and certainly this is due to the Drive section and the unique circuit of the Tall & Fat, and it reminds me very much of another Lounsberry Pedal I reviewed, the Nigel Touch Overdrive. Both have different characteristics, but how they affect other gear certainly share the same designer and his unique direction in circuit building. With clean amp channels I find there to be more shimmer and chime, besides fullness of the notes. With dirty amp channels the grain and warmth become more pronounced, as well as the bite behind the notes.
Straight-forward, Tall & Fat has only two controls – Level and Drive. The controls often mirror one another, so that if the Level is at 2-o’clock the Drive is at 10-o’clock… and if the Level is at 9-o’clock the Drive is at 3-o’clock. Some tweaking may be required from those ‘exact’ positions, but it allows you to dial in quickly and when getting started. I’m uncertain if the designer, Greg Lounsberry, designed the Tall & Fat in this manner or if that happens to be how the controls respond with my gear, but it makes for easy operation. Both Level and Drive interact very dynamically with a lot of headroom – consequently, have the pedal turned off or dialed back when first powering up your gear. The Drive section does add dirt to the signal, but it seems to be more ‘hairy’ with keyboard than with a guitar (I suspect since digital keyboards are far more pure in tone and output and the Drive pops in the mix more significantly). In the accompanying demo I open with a short keyboard example, and with the Drive set around 11-o’clock there is enough distortion that it sounds like the segment is clipping (which was not the case in my DAW, but it sounds as much). With clean and dirty electric guitar you can hear some subtleties in the tone’s characteristics with the Drive at 9-o’clock, an obvious ‘fat’ result at 10-o’clock and beyond, and with a modest breaking-up quality once past the 2-o’clock range.
The Tall & Fat has a well-designed circuit, consisting of three-stage FET preamp with gain staging. Greg Lounsberry knows his craft, since providing just the right amount of drive and compression in a preamp (and Tall & Fat’s emulation of such) is based on the number of discrete stages, their levels and how the stages interact. When using the Tall & Fat you can hear this relationship as the Drive adjusts from low to high levels. As well, the pedal has an all-discrete build with no integrated circuits or surface mount components. Certainly the internal qualities measure up, but so do the housing and various parts. Measuring 110mm(D) × 60mm (W) × 45mm (H with knobs) or 4.33 (D) x 2.36 (W) x 1.77 (H) inches, the Tall & Fat is hand-built in the USA. A true bypass pedal, it has an aluminum chassis powder coated a dark aqua blue with painted on steampunk themed graphics. The footswitch has a solid click when engaging and disengaging the pedal, although silent when turning on unless the Drive and Level are up relatively high (no ‘pop,’ merely signal hiss when driving the signal hard and only with dirty amp channels). The two plastic knobs (Level and Drive) are of heavy plastic quality and the pots feel very solid and smooth when turned. The footswitch is far removed from the knobs, power input or cable input/output (located in the back) with little worry of stomping damage from regular use. The Tall & Fat comes with a 9VDC battery or you can use a 9VDC standard power supply (negative tip).
Tall & Fat may be a missing link between a digital keyboard and that desired analog sound of a clonewheel organ rig, but it also is a good friend to the guitarist, vocalist, etc., due to its handling of a wide frequency range. Definitely of high standards, the Tall & Fat was beta tested by Hollywood film composer, John Van Tongeren, and adds richness to everything. What the Tall & Fat does is emulate the dynamic behavior of the tube-based A0-28 preamp, thereby providing the “compression, second order harmonics” and dynamic drive characteristics of the famous tube preamp from certain vintage Hammond organs (e.g., B-3). It has a three-stage FET preamp with gain staging, which means a warm and lush sounding drive (Note: For keyboardists, the onset of overdrive can be controlled with a swell pedal). With the guitarist in mind the Tall & Fat simply expands your tone with greater depth and a more pronounced organic quality. I have tried this through several amps and preamps, some of which are demonstrated in the accompanying video, and in every instance there is a noticeable and recognizable effect produced by the Tall & Fat. At $199 USD this is neither an inexpensive nor higher-priced pedal within the industry, and certainly is a worthy consideration for what it does and if you want a richer tone.