Damage Control Demonizer Dual Vacuum Tube Preamp

Price Paid: 

Pure Class A Distortion preamp with two cascading gain stages, built in compression and EQ. This is a pedal designed for the following purposes:

  • A direct recording device for recording without an amp (ala a POD)
  • A class A tube preamp to drive a separate power amp.
  • A tube distortion effect to use as boost pedal.
Ease of Use: 

Very sturdy construction, and fairly simple layout. Plenty of gain and flexible EQ controls. Two 12AX7 Tubes make it sound somewhat warmer than a POD.

Versatile.  You can use it as a direct recording device, like a POD, as a tube boost pedal, or as dedicated guitar preamp in front of a poweramp (like one might use an ADA or a Marshall JMP-1).

It's actually quite good-sounding as a two stage overdrive pedal, and the Opti-comp compressor is a welcome feature.

Unlike the POD, there are no preset sounds. It's up to you to dial in a tone you like. If you prefer tubes and flexibility, you may like this better. If not, this isn't for you.

Honestly, I bought it for a direct recording device, and the other functionalities weren't that important to me. This is a good desktop tool for direct recording scratch tracks, or getting ideas down quickly and quietly. 

I could, however, see myself using the Demonizer as a boost pedal in front of an amp to record with in the studio (particularly for lead work) to take advantage of the tonal flexibility and the compressor.

The video below is a real good demo of what the Demonizer can do, and is mostly what sold me on it.




For direct recording, micing a real amp is still always gonna sound better (to my ears). While the distortion is probably a bit warmer than a POD, it's still clearly preamp distortion. The more gain you add, the fizzier it gets. The fizzier it gets, the less it sounds like a real tube amp. The distortion, while warm, is rather characterless. That is, it doesn't sound like any particular kind of amp -- it just sounds distorted.  There's supposed to be something built into it that emulates a 4x12 cab sound. If it's there, I can't hear it.

I have not done much real testing of the Demonizer as a tube distortion pedal or a preamp.  It sounds good, but for my taste, the Demonizer has too many controls to be practical at foot-level for use as a pedal. YMMV.  What's not debatable is that its large size will take up a lot of space on a pedalboard, and it weighs a lot, too (3lbs).  I cannot presonally evision using the Demonizer as a gigging boost pedal. I think the same issues hold true for using it as a dedicated preamp. I wouldn't want the controls at my toes.  Again, YMMV.


Sound Quality: 
Customer Support: 

I never dealt dicrectly with them while they were called Damage Control, but Strymon was responsive.  I had a very hard time finding one at the time I wanted it. Every dealer in the country was out of them, and Damage Control was shining them on, telling them that "it would just be another week," before they send more, then another, etc. This was BS.  I found out later that this was the period when Damage Control was in the process of becomming Strymon.

I think I got the last, new Ddemonizer available in the U.S. at the time. Strymon doesn't make the Damage Control line anymore, but they will still support them.


With less than 2 hours of noodling-around use on it, the Demonizer crapped out on me -- dead as a doorstop -- right when I was actually planning to use it for recording scratch tracks in a band recording session. I contact Strymon and they sent me a new power supply which sorted things out.

Effect Summary: 
I never used this thing much. The times I did use it, it was to record scratch tracks that I later replaced with real, mic'd amp tracks. The unit did the job, and I tracked without latency, but I wasn't used to playing through it, so my performance suffered, and the scratch tracks I recorded sounded truly awful. I supposed I could have tweaked at the unit, and at the board until I made them sound better, but that wasn't the point. I also used it once for recording a solo as a boost pedal with a built in compressor. It worked better in that context. My guess is that if you spend enough time with it, you'd get used to it, and be able to make it sound fine. The Demonizer never worked out as well as I originally hoped. I bought it thinking I could use it to record guitars in a small apartment where I couldn't track a real amp rig. But before I ever got to do that, my situation changed, I moved to a house where I had a studio, and I DID track real amps. So I never dedicated any real time to using the Demonizer as I had originally intended. When I tried to use it for scratch tracks, I found that due to my inexperience with it, I couldn't get an inspiring tone out of it -- at least not quickly enough to be practical. Part of that is definitely my fault, but it also tells you something -- that getting good results with it will take some time and effort.
Overall Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)