Electric Factory | RRP: $525
PRS have long been known in the guitar world for two things: producing high-end instruments of exceptional quality and for providing a much needed tonal middle ground between their two more traditional competitors.
A sonic Switzerland if you will, PRS have succeeded in creating guitars that are neither notably bright nor dark sounding, but rather exhibit a neutral hi-fi purity that has made them the go-to choice for session players and studio cats for decades.
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It therefore makes perfect sense for PRS, for their first foray into the ever expanding world of boutique pedals, to produce their version of what has come to be known as a ‘transparent’ overdrive: the Horsemeat. A pedal that aims, much like the brand’s guitars, to take away the least amount of tonal quality possible from the player’s signal whilst serving its function.
For those uninitiated, the concept of a transparent overdrive is that it adds gain/clipping to your signal without drastically altering your EQ or colouring your tone, or as Paul might put it, without subtracting from the natural sound of your guitar.
This makes it a perfect choice for players who want to enhance their signal with the gritty harmonic richness that overdrive pedals provide, without either brightening or darkening their overall sound.
PRS have brought this concept to life more effectively than perhaps ever before with the Horsemeat. The pedal simply emanates quality through its exquisite articulation and nuance, offering a full and sparkling spectrum of tonality with none of the ‘boxiness’ of other, more mids-focused overdrives.
True to the versatility that PRS has become famous for, the Horsemeat features a generous total of five parameters. Aside from the self-explanatory Level and Gain controls, the pedal boasts a three-pronged approach to tone-shaping with its Treble, Bass and Voice functions, the latter of which affecting overall frequency response, similarly to how the Presence knob on an amplifier would.
This range of control allows players to match the sonic characteristics of the pedal as precisely as they wish with their base tone, providing an unmatched transparency that maintains itself across the impressive spectrum of distortion on tap.
From a crystal-clear clean boost, to a high gain throaty growl, the Horsemeat’s Gain control offers a wide range of overdrive sounds at any volume. Players who prefer to create distortion by pushing the front end of their amp’s preamp section will find that by rolling back the Gain and turning up the Level control, they can do exactly that; whilst those of us who like to keep our amps a little cooler and get our dirt from the floor will find the Horsemeat to maintain its articulate touch-sensitivity at even very high-gain settings.
Players will also notice that even when turned up to its maximum degree of distortion, the Horsemeat remains very pleasantly uncompressed, creating a more open sound than traditional overdrives that lends itself beautifully to PRS’s aspirations of transparency. This remains true at low volumes, making the Horsemeat applicable to virtually any musical scenario.
While the Horsemeat certainly has enough headroom and is simple enough to be an effective live tool, its incredibly high fidelity sound and ultra precise controls make it a perfect choice for the studio. PRS Guitars have always shone in the hands of seasoned session players, who have long favoured them in the studio for their tonal versatility and sensitive response. The same will be true, it can be confidently said, of the brand’s new expansion into the pedal market. The Horsemeat will no doubt secure a comfortable place as a studio staple in the years to come alongside its six-stringed counterparts.
Pedal aficionados, who this product was undoubtedly made for, will be pleased to hear that this ultra-transparent overdrive features true bypass and 100 percent analog circuitry, relying on germanium diodes to achieve its vintage yet crystalline sound. Once again PRS have justified their up-market prices with a product of truly astounding quality, a quality that is also reflected in the pedal’s sleek yet characterful design.
In contrast, however, to this classically upmarket aesthetic, is the name. Horsemeat, let’s talk about it. As the nerdier amongst you are likely to already be aware, the current reigning champion of the transparent overdrive world is none other than the equine-themed Klon Centaur, so one might very well conclude that Paul Reed Smith is making a bit of a statement in regards to the superiority of his product with this seemingly unusual choice of name. Given the quality of his new offering, and the astronomical price that Centaurs have become infamous for, one would be inclined to validate his cheekiness.
However, in true PRS style, this new pedal has clearly been designed to carve its own path, rather than beat a dead horse in a market already flooded with clones of the elusive Centaur.
Much like Paul Reed Smith’s guitars, the Horsemeat is a tool that doesn’t get in its own way. Despite its extensive parameters, PRS have succeeded in making this a very usable piece of equipment that allows players to maintain a balanced, even tone whilst adding more gain to their signal.
So if you’re on the prowl for a high-end dirt box with all the bells and whistles it needs, and none of the ones it doesn’t, this may be the pedal for you. Even in a market full of stiff competition, serious players, gearheads and pedal connoisseurs alike will find the Horsemeat to be a very fine addition, or rather not a subtraction, to their arsenal.