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  • Carl Martin Panama

    By Phil O'Keefe |


    What's that sound?






    There's very few things in life that can match the experience of running a hot-rodded Plexi full-blast, but those old beasts are not only becoming rarer and harder to find (and afford) but they're also not known for delivering their sought-after tone at anything less than ear-splitting levels. And there's another issue that often raises its head when you're going for high-gain amp-like grind - when you crank up the gain on many overdrive pedals (and more than a few amps too), the low end gets flabby and looser as the gain levels increase, leading to a muddier and less defined sound. Well that mysterious Carl Martin dude from Denmark says he's got a solution to both of these problems, and it comes in the form of a new overdrive pedal called the Panama. Cue the vintage VH riffs…






    What You Need To Know

    • If the name hasn't already given you a hint, the Panama is an all-analog overdrive pedal that's designed to give you that vintage '80's overdrive sound that you've almost assuredly heard on countless rock records and that was originally created using modified Marshall amps. While Carl Martin has labeled it an overdrive pedal, it's capable of distortion-type sounds too.


    • Housed in Carl Martin's stylish new Vintage series compact pedal format with a two-toned gray and black anodized metal housing, the Panama measures 2.36" W x 4.52" L x 1.97" H and weighs about .75 lb.


    • The lettering is white, while the knobs are all white with black indicators, making everything easy to see. The sides of the pedal also feature the Carl Martin logo.


    • The input and output jacks are mounted on the top end of the pedal, which keeps them out of the way and allows for more compact pedalboard setups. You'll also find the power jack located here too.




    • The Carl Martin Panama comes equipped with a charge pump internally that increases the incoming 9V DC power to 12V. It's important to use only a 9V DC power adapter and not one that outputs more than 9V or that outputs AC instead of DC - doing so will void your warranty and possibly fry the pedal.


    • A regulated 9V DC 100mA (minimum) power adapter with an industry-standard 5.5mm x 2.1mm connecter, wired center-negative, is required to power the pedal. No power supply is included with the pedal, so you'll need to provide one yourself. Maximum current draw for the pedal is rated at 65 mA.


    • There are a total of four controls on the Carl Martin Panama. Gain sets the amount of overdrive or distortion, and there's a surprising amount of range here; the Panama is capable of more distortion-like tones, despite what the OD label on the pedal may lead you to believe. It can certainly do overdrive tones too, but I suspect many users will seek this pedal out for its mid to higher-gain tones.




    • Level controls the overall output volume of the pedal, with enough oomph on tap to give significant boosts over unity gain when desired. It also allows you to hit the front end of a tube amp a bit harder - the combination of the Panama's overdrive goosing an overdriven tube amp can result in some very satisfying high-gain distortion tones.


    • The Panama's Tone control is a treble-rolloff type that is designed to help set the voicing and color of the overdrive sound; for a darker overdrive, dial it back below noon a bit, and for more sizzle, turn it up. It's simple and effective.


    • The fourth control on the Panama is labeled Damping, and it has a significant effect on the low end (bass frequency) feel, responsiveness and level. Ever notice how when you turn up your garden-variety overdrive the bass often gets fuller, but also more flabby and loose? The Damping control on the Panama is designed to address this issue, and it allows the user to crank the gain up and control what the low frequency range is doing. Turn up the Damping for a tighter, more controlled low end, and turn it down for a fuller, looser bottom.


    • The Carl Martin Panama uses a high-quality buffered bypass switching system, and a blue LED up by the controls illuminates whenever the pedal is active.


    • The Panama carries a one year limited warranty from the manufacturer.




    • Yes, there's a spelling error on the pedal's label. If you suffer from OCD it might bother you, but it's not going to make any difference in how the pedal sounds.


    • Battery powering the Carl Martin Panama Brittish (sic) Hot Modded OD is not an option.




    What's that sound? It sounds like we have another winner from the folks at Carl Martin! The overall overdrive / distortion sound is very Plexi-like, and similar to other Carl Martin pedals that have been based on the classic hot-rodded Plexi amplifier tone. As such it's a natural for the sorts of '80's rock and metal tones its name likely brings to mind, but don't underestimate its usefulness for lower to mid-gain tones too. The Carl Martin Panama offers a lot of now-vintage overdrive and distortion tones in a classy looking, well-built modern box that won't take up much room on your pedalboard.

    The Damping control is no gimmick - it really does change the feel and tightness of the low end, and is especially useful for dialing the bass back and tightening it up on crunchy rhythm parts, while still giving you the ability to put some of that low end back in whenever you want to thicken up solos or for beefier lines. The Carl Martin Panama is just as good at driving a dirty or slightly-dirty amp as it is at running as a stand-alone overdrive plugged into a clean amp. No matter which way you want to use it, it will make a great addition to your dirt pedal collection.   -HC-



    Want to discuss the Carl Martin Panama or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Effects forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!




    Carl Martin Panama Brittish Hot Modded OD ($199.00 MSRP)


    Carl Martin's product web page     














    Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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