Mixdown's Pedal Special: Distortion

Here at Mixdown we wholeheartedly believe that there’s a pedal out there for every guitarist. A stompbox soul mate, if you will. That’s why we have fought tooth and nail – day in and day out – to put to together the most comprehensive, toe-tingling and tone rich pedal effects special for this month’s issue. From pummeling distortion that leaves you gasping for air, to the purest of sweet delays, our writers have sourced the cream of the crop. So go forth, find your perfect match, and head down to your local distributor.

Hartke HF44 Bass Fuzz

Effect: Fuzz/Overdrive | Expect To Pay: $139 | Distributor: Electric Factory

RECOMMENDED FOR:

A bass specific fuzz that sounds like the fires of hell with enough tone shaping to slice through any mix.

 

VERSATILITY:

The two-stroke tone controls on the honeycomb yellow faceplate of this unit are subtle ingenuity. The tone knob lets you choose which field you want to play in, from Geezer Butler lows to Pantera highs, while the mid knob lets you focus the searing heat of the FET gain stage from pushed mid dank to box-of-bees scooped sounds.

 

USABILITY:

The simplicity of stomp-box design was perfected long ago and should only really be fiddled with if completely necessary. Ins and outs on either side of the chassis and power in the top read as pure perfection. The level and gain knobs play hand in hand like cogs too, taking the guesswork out of tone shaping.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

All the rugged, die-cast design and unbreakable reliability you’ve come to expect from Hartke. Plastic battery cover is worrying, but you’re going to play it more than a dime store 9-volt will allow anyway.

 

OVERALL:

It’s nice to see a fuzz pedal so specifically engineered towards bass players for once. I tried a guitar through it for kicks and it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as when the sub 100Hz kicked in.

 

By Luke Shields

 

Klon KTR Professional Overdrive

Effect: Overdrive | Expect To Pay: $449 | Distributor: Gladesville Guitar Factory

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Those looking for the legendary sound of the Klon — one of the most iconic and sought after boost pedals ever made — without shelling out the ridiculous amount of money the original pedals go for.

 

VERSATILITY:

The Klon KTR does a fine job as a standalone overdrive pedal, but where it really comes into its own is as a boost pedal, pushing an already hot signal for rich, cascading gain. Throaty midrange for days and a choice between true bypass and buffered bypass cap it all off.

 

USABILITY:

Once you get into the habit of playing with this pedal and figuring out its sweet spot, you’ll be hard

pressed to find a reason to take it off your board.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

Solid aluminium housing coupled with the same minimal controls as the original means this pedal will keep giving for years. While it lacks the same aesthetic as the original gold and silver Centaur pedals, it’s got it’s own thing going on.

 

OVERALL:

There’s countless clones of the Klon on the market today, and many come within an inch of the original. However, purchasing the KTR is the only way to support the original builder and his concept. If that means anything to you, check this bad boy out.

 

By James Di Fabrizio

 

Lovepedal COT 50 Church of Tone

Effect: Boost | Expect to Pay:  $339 | Distributor: Gladesville Guitar Factory

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Dynamic players who want to accentuate the rollercoaster in their fingers.

 

VERSATILITY:

This is an incredibly versatile pedal, so much so that it’s voicing changes from note to note. Dial in the peak level of bluesy clip that you can reach with the solitary bias knob, and the transistor delivering said clip is so velocity sensitive that the harder you push, the harder it pushes back.

 

USABILITY:

The aforementioned note-by-note dynamism is matched by an intimidating amount of practical possibility in this unassuming cream box. At the start of a chain it offers your signal path a vital amount of colour, while at the end of your drive stage, or even after some modulated effects, there is no limit to what it could come up with. Even with the COT 50 as the only thing in your chain, ride that volume pot and try not to be gob-smacked at what it gives back.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

A simple, two-piece cast steel chassis houses one of the most bare-bones circuit diagrams out there. It’s a switch, a knob, a transistor, a battery and an in/output stage. Aside from the conspicuous absence of a DC in, what more could you ask for?

 

OVERALL:

The COT 50 is Lovepedal’s streamlined solution to the age-old problem of what to do with uncharacteristic rigs. Bring even the flattest sound to life with a vivacious, tube-like, and indisputably dynamic box of fizz.

 

By Luke Shields

 

Positive Grid BIAS Distortion Pro

Effect: Overdrive/Distortion | Expect to Pay:  $705 | Distributor: Link Audio

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Rock, metal, blues, pop, studio and live.  
 

VERSATILITY:

Positive Grid have really gone the extra mile here. You can use the Distortion Pro as a standalone dirt pedal with ability to store up to 20 presets. You also get a boost function providing extra control, which can be placed before or after the distortion. Dedicated apps and online connection then open up the world of tone matching, deep editing, sharing presets and more.   
 

USABILITY:

At first glance it looks pretty much like a normal dirt pedal, which should keep the purists happy. On/off switches for each preset and the Boost function with controls for low, mid, high, gain, level, blend andbBoost. Positive Grid have included some starting points, too, such as tube, boost, fuzz, screamer and overdrive – all handy and easy to use. If you want to get further involved, jump into the app and really start tweaking.
 

CONSTRUCTION:

Looks hip, feels tough, and jams a heap of control and functionality into a reasonable sized pedal. The packaging is cool, the whole deal looks great – win.   
 

OVERALL:

Great tones, MIDI/USB/online connectivity, control over plenty of parameters, tone matching of your favourite pedals, and so much more. Plus it’s portable, meaning you can take it anywhere and record direct or plug into an amp. Killer.

 

By Nick Brown

 

Mad Professor Golden Cello

Effect: Overdrive and Delay | Expect To Pay: $275 | Distributor: Dunphy Imports

 

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

You want your guitar to sing, with notes sustaining for days? This is the pedal for you.

 

VERSATILITY:

The Golden Cello is essentially an overdrive and delay pedal wrapped into one, although both of these effects come with limited controls for fine tuning. That’s not a bad thing though - limitation inspires creativity. As an overdrive pedal, it’s rich and thick — the type of sound that’s full without becoming muddy or buzzy and the delay is also pleasingly warm.

 

USABILITY:

For thick, heavy distortion that’ll have your guitar blasting forth from your amp, the Golden Cello will get you there. And while it does come with built-in delay, think of this more as an extra flavour to ad into the mix as opposed to a second standalone effect.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

The Golden Cello looks fantastic, with its sparkling gold finish completed to a high quality. It’s neatly sized too, meaning it’ll fit nicely on both small and crowded pedalboards.

 

OVERALL:

Delay and overdrive go together like milk and honey, so it makes perfect sense to combine them into one single pedal. What you lose in control is made up for in convenience and ease of use.

 

By James Di Fabrizio

 

Ashdown Bass Drive Plus

Effect: Overdrive/Distortion | Expect to Pay:  $199.95 | Distributor: Pro Music Australia

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Rock, metal, punk, experimental.
 

VERSATILITY:

With a broad range of gain on top, the Bass Drive Plus should cover quite a few dirt bases. Slight breakup for some edge through to thick saturated distortion, it’s capable of handling more than a few different gigs.
 

USABILITY:

Good for some added fatness and edge, you can dial in the Drive Plus as a boost or flat out as an effect for higher gain settings. A logical control layout makes it easy to get a usable tone straight away, too.      
 

CONSTRUCTION:

Continuing with Ashdown’s mix of clean looks with a slight vintage twist (the standard Ashdown VU meter), the recessed control panel is designed to keep it away from your foot when stomping. Seems tough and up for plenty of use.
 

OVERALL:

A player in the bass market for quite some time now, Ashdown have a solid list of gear and notable users. The Bass Drive Plus offers a flexible take on the distortion box with the input, drive, distortion tone, distortion level and output all interacting nicely. This means you can blend your clean tone with the distortion, EQ it to taste, and balance the input and output to workable levels – cool.

 

By Nick Brown

 

Ashdown Lomenzo Bass HyperDrive

Effect: Overdrive/Distortion | Expect to Pay:  $299.95 | Distributor: Pro Music Australia

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Metal, rock, punk.
 

VERSATILITY:

Adding some extra controls into the mix, Ashdown have produced a bass drive pedal in collaboration with James Lomenzo of Megadeth, Zakk Wylde, and Ozzy Osbourne fame. Capable of getting pretty gnarly, it really lends itself to heavier tones and styles of playing.

 

USABILITY:

Controls for frequency, Q, drive, +10 and mix add plenty of scope to the standard and input and output knobs. These extra controls let you apply the distortion to a mid range band of frequencies, creating punch and drive whilst leaving the lows and highs unaffected.

CONSTRUCTION:

Solid construction and the Ashdown look combine for a tough, giggable pedal.  

 

OVERALL:

Ashdown have included some interesting controls with the Lomenzo Bass HyperDrive. Targeting frequencies and blending the applied distortion lets you really get into the hard rock/metal style for thick, punchy lines (especially when played with a pick). Otherwise, straight up it’s got plenty of classic edgy through to saturated distortion tones. Worth checking out if you want gain with some extra tweaking possibilities. 

 

By Nick Brown

 

Ashdown NM2 Nate Mendel Double Drive Pedal

Effect: Overdrive/Distortion | Expect to Pay:  $299.95 | Distributor: Pro Music Australia

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Rock, punk, metal.  

 

VERSATILITY:

Designed primarily for use with stereo rigs, the NM2 splits your signal for two outputs with separate drive mix levels and master controls for each out. Never fear, though, mono rig users (which is probably the majority of us) – the bridge switch lets you route both sides of the pedal through output two, meaning you can have two levels of gain at the ready if needed.

 

USABILITY:

Again, dealing mostly with the stereo domain, the NM2’s basis is quite clever, allowing two switchable levels. This really allows added drive and oomph to big rigs all in one stomp unit. Easy to navigate with foot switchable channels and a logical control layout.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

The typical Ashdown look is on show again with the NM2, this time in a silver and black casing that looks suitably rock and roll.    

 

OVERALL:

A cool concept, the double drive opens up extra options for both mono and stereo players with a tough, fat sounding drive tone that works for emphasising licks, solos, or just big tough bass sounds. The Nate Mendel signature factor is a cool appointment for those running bigger rigs and/or looking for big rock tones.

 

By Nick Brown

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