[review] El Musico Loco Blisterlily Overdrive (by LordRiffenstein)

LordRiffenstein, all-around tone freak and purveyor of great tone.

El Musico Loco

El Musico Loco is a 1-man operation. Chris Bradford is a US ex-pat living in Spain. He is hand-building a small but expanding range of pedals.  He hand builds the pedals himself so there’s some lead time when you order. You do get great build quality in return though. El Musico Loco are expanding their range of pedals and have some cool stuff happening!


The Blisterlily comes in a nice polished enclosure with a cool etched graphic. Mine has a bright green LED. There are 4 controls at your disposal for setting up your tone: Volume, Tone, Drive and Gain. Volume and Tone are obvious, there’s plenty of boost available from the volume and although it is Tubescreamer-based, I think the Tone control is voiced a bit brighter than usual. Gain control is more or less in the range of a Tubescreamer so this is not a high gain pedal. The Drive control is what sets this pedal apart. Basically, it controls the input gain of the pedal, the amount of signal that gets fed to the circuit. This control has an impact on the Gain and Tone and allows you to really fine tune the pedal. Finally, the op-amp is socketed so you can swap the TL072 for another one and even use stacked op-amps.

The pedal in use

I bought the Blisterlily before I even heard it. But I wasn’t worried because I have heard other pedals from their range and like what Chris is building. I was very curious about his take on a Tubescreamer-style pedal. It was delivered during the Holiday Season and I immediately stuck it on my pedalboard and went off to rehearsal with it. Several weeks, rehearsals and gigs later, it’s still on the board and will be moving onto the new one I’m building.

So, are you tired of the Tubescreamer yet? Well, it’s probably one of the most used pedals in the world and for good reason; it can do a lot for your tone. So Tubescreamer-clones are a dime a dozen in the boutique pedal world and you need an edge to set yours apart. The Blisterlily has THAT edge with its Drive control. I wasn’t sure what this could do for the pedal and initially set it at full. This got me a TS-style drive/boost but I noticed that the tone control is brighter and there’s more happening than just the typical midhump. The tone gets more dynamic and crisp, low end sounds tight and it sounds great as a boost. After the 1st rehearsal and into my NYE gig, I set it up as a boost and that worked really well to get a bit of extra kick. When boosting a crunch tone, you sometimes loose detail and your tone becomes cloudy, this is definitely not the case with the Blisterlily as the added crisp puts you right back into the mix.

So then I looked into the drive control and things got even more interesting. When you dial the Drive back from max you will hear there’s not only a decrease in gain and volume but also a tonal change. Less signal gets fed into the circuit so everything changes. I must say this is a great idea and it works perfect, you can fine tune it to where you nail it. Compared to my initial settings, I dialed back the Drive just a bit, this kept the dynamics and crispiness going but made it all a touch sweeter. I turned Volume and Gain up but only marginally and that was that. Great boost and when used with a clean tone, a very nice dynamic low gain tone, light picking gets you a great clean tone and digging in a great bluesy sound.

But what about using it as a standalone OD? Well the Blisterlily also pulls that off with ease. Like I said, not high gain but a good crunch tone and I particularly like it with humbuckers. Combined with my ES335, I had a couple of hours of GOOD fun using it as an overdrive.

Bought it sight unseen, took it out of its delivery box, straight onto the pedalboard and that was the right thing to do. Sounds totally awesome!

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