A Closer Look At The Tech 21 Fly Rig 5, Fly Rig Cali And Fly Rig Brit Effects


When the original SansAmp “speaker in a box” was released in 1989, it opened a world of rich, warm, tube amp tone that could fit in the palm of your hand. Over a quarter of a decade and dozens of products later, Tech 21 continues creating gear that delivers authentic, analog sound and powerful controls. And of all of their products, few are as intriguing as their Fly Rig series -- a combination of Tech 21 pedals in the form of a compact board. While it might look like your average multi-effects unit, that would be doing the Fly Rig a disservice, as Tech 21’s aim here is clearly quality over quantity. Read on to see what the Tech 21 Fly Rig Series is all about, specifically the Fly Rig 5, Fly Rig Cali and Fly Rig Brit.



Instead of simply cramming every effect, speaker sim and signal tool they could think of, the Fly Rig aims for a curated experience of five core effects that players can build their sound on in a pinch. Think of the Fly Rig series as a sort of Swiss Army knife of guitar, combining the most vital effects and tone tools in a portable package that is easier to lug around than a ton of pedals or an amp -- with just enough features to satisfy most situations without compromising quality.


The Fly Rig 5 -- Ready To Rock ...  Anywhere

As the name suggests, the concept of the Fly Rig series is giving users the most important core aspects of a guitar rig in a small, portable package that is meant to be taken anywhere -- from recording sessions to practice session, gigs, and tours. And at less than a foot long and weighing in at about 18 ounces, it’s definitely portable friendly.

The all metal chassis, footswitches and jacks give these units a very tough and premium feel, strong enough that they should be able to take the beatings of the road or constant gigging with ease. Adding further to the “take-anywhere” concept, the Fly Rig series also comes with a nifty little “auto-switching” 12V DC power supply that self-adjusts anywhere between 100V to 240V, meaning it can be used anywhere in the world as long as you have the correct plug or converter with you.


The Features Of The Fly Rig Series

Whether you go for the original Fly Rig 5, the Cali or Brit model, each version comes packing five core effects that any guitarist can make use of -- a tube amp emulator, reverb, delay, boost and distortion/overdrive. In fact, the only real difference between the three models is in the distortion overdrive section.

The Fly Rig 5 features a version of the Hot Rod Plexi, designed to recreate the sounds of a ‘68 Marshall Plexi amp. The Brit uses Tech 21’s British SansAmp Character Series pedal, inspired by the sounds of Celestion Greenback equipped British voiced vintage tube amps. And finally, the Cali takes its distortion/overdrive from the both the California and US Metal SansAmp Character Series pedals, giving it a cool mix of Metallica and Van Halen style distorted tones.

Other than that, all three feature the SansAmp tube emulator, Boost DLA delay (with tap tempo functionality), Boost RVB reverb, 21 dB of preamp gain and a 3-band EQ. All in all, that's a pretty good deal for less than $250, especially when you consider the distortion pedals these units come with go for $150 apiece.


Fly Rig Brit ReviewFly Rig 5, Fly Rig Cali and Fly Rig Brit available @ $249.00

With the functionality of a full pedalboard, minus the crackling patch cables, dying batteries and ground loops, the Fly Rig is a simple step to the rich, expressive combinations you can use for any session. Even when you want to use the latest digital supercomputer or a vintage tube amp, the Fly Rig covers your ass like yoga pants. It's the perfect instant backup rig when your boutique gear goes down exactly when you need it most!


The Sound Of The Fly Rigs

The heart of the Fly Rig -- be it the Fly Rig 5, Fly Rig Cali or Fly Rig Brit -- is Tech 21’s powerful SansAmp, the legendary amp emulator, speaker and mic simulator. Featuring a Drive control, adjustable Reverb and a 3-band EQ, the SansAmp section is where the core of your tone will be crafted. Whether your aim is lush, articulate clean tones, a bit of spring reverb for some added ambiance or the warm signature breakup associated with tube amps, the SansAmp section has you covered.

The distortion section on each three of these pedals might offer different tonal flavors, but their power and versatility are very similar. From a slight warm growl to thick, all out distortion, all three of these Fly Rigs deliver. Better yet, they do so without ever getting too muddy or overbearing. Combined with the tube and speaker emulation of the SansAmp, you can easily hook the Fly Rig straight to a console and get a highly convincing tube amp sound. All three also feature a dedicated boost, capable of delivering 21 dB of added gain -- for times when you need that extra signal kick.

The DLA Delay section is no slouch either.  Voiced to emulate the sound of vintage tape echo machines, it can deliver some pretty authentic textures. With controls for Level, Time, Repeats, and Tape Drift, you can dial in anything from thick slapback echoes to surreal, spacey repeats or anything in between.

All in all, impressive is the word that comes to mind when it comes to the sound of these three units. Whether you use the Fly Rig as an effects board that you connect to an amp or as a DI unit hooked straight to a console, the end results nearly always sound great. Do yourself a favor and check out the videos below for a quick taste on what these three Fly Rigs can deliver:





Final Thoughts ...

I can seriously see myself taking these to recording sessions, impromptu jams, the occasional gig -- or any other scenario where I don't want to lug around my various pedals and amp -- all without feeling as if I’m sacrificing much in terms of sound and control. Better yet, the Fly Rig seems like the perfect gift for up and coming guitarists trying to build their sound. Whether you go with the Fly Rig 5, Cali or Brit, you're essentially getting five high-quality pedals for less than $250. And not just any five pedals, but five core effects that nearly any guitarist can use.

If you have any questions regarding the purchase of a Fly Rig unit or any other piece of gear we carry, don't hesitate to chat with one of our friendly PAL pros by using the live chat feature below or by calling us toll-free at 1 877-671-2200!



Your Turn to Sound Off!

If you could add one more effect or feature to the Fly Rig, what would it be?

Let us know in the comment section below!



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