Smallsound/bigsound Pretty Years

This blog and its blogger have seen a fair amount of gear in their lives, but an outboard rack effect that deals with distortion (not just saturation or subtle “warming”) was missing from the list.

This changed today, when, while looking into PA-based pedal builder smallsound/bigsound, we realized that its latest creation is a homage to the Thermionic Culture Vulture, a two-rack British, tube-powered device that offers two separate channels of distortion/overdrive featuring three distortion types and a filter to spice things up.


ss/bs’s owner and designer Brian Hamilton became infatuated with this effect while recording his band’s Cymbals Eat Guitars’ latest album (entitled “Pretty Years“). He therefore decided to create a stompbox inspired by that unit and to name it after the newly released record.

Pretty Years (the pedal) was released in September 2016.  You’ll gather from the picture that it’s not a faithful recreation of the Vulture, although it does sport tubes under its hood. Here’s Brian’s introduction from the ss/bs’s website:

Pretty Years is a high-gain subminiature tube based distortion/fuzz with an interstage resonant lowpass filter to not only filter frequencies, but also shape the texture of the distortion. Combining switchable pentode/triode mode, low-voltage biasing, switchable feedback and active bass/treble controls – most drive textures from subtle to complete destruction are available. Voltage control over the filter frequency allows for dramatic filter sweeps with expression pedals and total weirdness with modular setups, making Pretty Years a perfect fit for not only guitars, but all other instruments as well.

The unit is sold out and currently sells for twice the original price ($600 vs. $300) on

Check out the most popular videos of Pretty Years below.