Community Shootout…Overdrives

As in, a shootout of pedals donated by various people…not like, the community is shooting each other. Like in The Mist. Which was on the other day. And afterwards, I wished it wasn’t. What a terrible movie! And the conjured attempt at tragic irony in the end? Shameful. And Tom Jane is…uh…not good. (‘I’m Tom Jane.’ Name it, and you get one million points…towards the imaginary tally I keep up in my head for something that I don’t know.) I’m hoping this shootout will be much better.

Well, as is my custom (and it was definitely kept up in that last paragraph), I start every pedal shootout with the worst intro you’ve ever read. Don’t blame me. Blame The Mist. Hey, if they didn’t keep making these movies, I wouldn’t have anything to talk about, right? Except more U2, delay, and anti-solos…so maybe you should be glad they keep making movies with Tom Jane in them. Anyway, shootout time. And community shootout time. Three very gracious blog readers here have donated overdrive pedals to this endeavor, making this Guitar for Worship’s first ever, community shootout. And I keep saying ‘donated’ to hopefully trick them into letting me keep the pedals forever instead of shipping them back. I don’t think it’s working, though. So, we have five low gain, transparent overdrive pedals, from four different folks, myself included. And everyone has been very open and gracious, and donated (hehe) these pedals in the hopes of hearing how they compare to other drives; meaning, this wasn’t like, a contest where you submit you’re top fighter and hope to beat all the other drives. It’s just to hear how they compare. Hmm…that sounds anti-climactic. Okay! It’s a fight! Give me your top fighter, and gather around the school yard, folks! Three o’clock high!! Shootout!!

(What is it with apocalyptic thrillers and grocery stores? Tremors, Zombieland, Jumanji….yep…I said Jumanji.)

If you’re still reading, I thank you…dearly. This ended up being one of the coolest shootouts I’ve done, at least for me, because of the quality of pedals involved, and for the chance to hear some pedals that I otherwise may never have gotten around to trying out. And they all ended up excelling in their own ways, which was really cool. And I want them all.

The Players

–Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire

–Tone Monk Seed of Life

–Paul Cochrane Tim (running at 12 volts)

–Analogman King of Tone (side 1 on clean boost most of the time, side 2 on overdrive most of the time, and running at 12 volts)

–Lovepedal Eternity (1 of the 18,050 versions of this pedal…it is a PCB version, but beyond that, it just sounds good. :) )

The Gracious Community Benefactors

–Larry Plaxco
–Donator of the Seed of Life and King of Tone. You can check out his site here: Les Paul Player Doctor.

–Brian Keith
–Donator of the Eternity.

–Jeff White
–Donator of the Holy Fire. (Pedal, that is.)

The Clean Tone and Signal Path

Prairiewood Les Paul (Wolfetone Dr. V pickups at various times, bridge, neck, both, and both with the back coil-tapped)–>

(the five overdrives)–>

Matchless HC30 (EF86 channel)–>

65 Amps birch cab (Celestion Blue and G12H30; in second video, the Blue is the one mic’d)

The Format

The first video is laid out much like most of my demo and shootout videos. The second is a little different, with no talking, and the sound recorded through a dedicated mic and into a tube pre, and then my computer. I did it this way because I wanted to be sure that I did the best videos possible (well, with my current equipment), as everyone was so kind to lend their pedals.

Possible Biases

–I’ve owned the Tim for a long time, and have it set right where I like it with my amp.

–I did not get a definitive answer as to whether the Eternity or Seed of Life could be run at above 9 volts by the time I shot this video, so I played it safe and ran them at the listed 9 volts; which may have put them at a disadvantage if in fact, they can be run at higher voltages and hence, higher headroom.

Possible Personal Biases

–The Holy Fire’s led changes color according to the gain input!! Splendid.

–The Seed of Life’s blue led literally attacks your face. I haven’t decided whether this is good or bad yet.

–I’ve tried two other Lovepedal models that I really didn’t like.

–I love the Tim.

The Shootout:

The Results:

–Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire

Easily my new favorite pedal. There really sounded like there was a second parallel path of my clean tone under the drive sounds. Hate to say it, but transparent as all get-out. Also loved the extra knob to add distortion in to the sound. Just wish it could be controlled by a second switch or an expression pedal. That would be awesome! Also, best led ever. Not sure if I’m too hot on the name, and it does need its own adapter. But whoa…killer sound with this thing!

–Tone Monk Seed of Life

This one seemed to get a bad rap in the videos, because even though the website describes it as being able to do transparent low gain sounds, I think it really shines at higher gain sounds. And at higher gains, it still seems to maintain the sound of the clean tone, which is rare. It had a different flavor than most overdrives, which was refreshing. The tone-shaping switch was really useful as well. The top setting, giving it that vintage-y growl, was really cool. Again, I do wish that switch was two separate footswitches. But it did have an led that was brighter than the sun, so it’s got that going for it.

–Paul Cochrane Tim

What can I say that I haven’t said already? Not only does it keep your clean tone intact, and sound like it’s just driving the sound you already love, but it also has a great saggy feel and sound to the drive, as well as a great decay. Very touch-sensitive too…it’ll do the sound you want depending on how you play. Gotta love the Tim. Thus far, in years, no pedal has surpassed it in my rig. I always go back to it. The Holy Fire is giving it a run for its money, but in a different way. I think I will always have a Tim.

–Analogman King of Tone

Definitely a great sound. A really nice controlled drive sound that really lends itself to rhythmic tones. Not sure if it lived up to the massive amount of hype it has gotten, but really…no pedal ever has. It was very transparent, and the drive sound was focused and had a great shape to it; as in, very few errant and random frequencies, even when stacking notes. The best thing about this pedal though, is the versatility and tweakability. Both sides can be used together, or independent of each other. And each side can be switched to clean boost, overdrive, or distortion. I really didn’t even really scratch the surface in the two short videos of how many options are available with this pedal. And I don’t have any royal purple pedals yet. It’s a wonderful color.

–Lovepedal Eternity

Score! Finally a Lovepedal I like. Honestly, I really thought this pedal’s ‘happy place’ was at higher gain sounds. But yet, it still did a really good low drive sound. Very, very saturated. Seemed like it was just oozing harmonics. As a lead pedal, I think this thing is fantastic. Has that saturated, glassy lead sound that would probably glide right on top of the other frequencies in a band situation. And how do you not adore the brown sunburst…on a pedal?! Great touch.


Yikes, I wish I didn’t have to give these back. And I might be getting a Holy Fire. Huge, huge thanks to Jeff, Brian, and Larry for the contributions to this. It’s incredible how many great overdrive pedals there are these days. I had resolved to be completely honest, and hate a pedal if I hated it, but they were honestly all fantastic in their own ways. If I could keep them all, I would. But that would constitute stealing.

First community shootout…over. No casualties. Just fabulous pedals. Go buy all of these.

(‘We’re going to need a bigger stick.’)


28 thoughts on “Community Shootout…Overdrives

  1. pure awesome on all of it. i hate trying to squeeze my top 4 drives on my board every sunday….. when i have a top 10 drives i love!

    And, I personally have a bias because i think the name ‘Tonemonk” is just completely cool and random.
    “What are you playing?”
    “Oh, just a Tonemonk…. y’know, the Seed of Life…”

  2. haha I never thought about that name…ya, that would be a cool one to tell someone you’re playing!

    Thanks again for the drives you sent over! You made all this possible. (I sound like a telethon phone answerer.) And I’m gonna put the NuValve in a high gain shootout, because it just didn’t fit with the low drives. :) Sounds really good, though! So…what are your top 4?

  3. Hmm I’m out camping with the family for a week, and all these ODs sound the same through my Droid phone with Apple ear buds. Still, having a having a Holy Fire and the Seed of Life on your pedalboard HAS to be a good thing, right?


  4. nice! don’t you love community!

    didn’t like the Tone Monk as much either … love the KOT. before you give them back, can you try playing these in a context of a song? if you think I’m asking to much, just think of it as an excuse to keep them longer 😉

  5. JayDub–lol That’s right! And ya…I was hearing differences, but I thought they all sounded great!

    Ben G–I’ll try to get that done soon!

    Rhoy–what song? 😀

    JayDub–thanks a lot, brother! Really, really dug that Holy Fire.

  6. Having everything to do with The Mist and nothing to do with the shootout, I loved The Mist. Mostly because I watched it with some friends this one night in college, and at the end, we were all dead-silent for like 2 minutes. Then we started laughing. Good times.

  7. my tops are generally: 1) Zendrive (my base), 2) Fulltone OCD, 3) NuValve, 4) Either a BigMuff for volume swells (just love the way it compresses!) or the KOT for a different rhythms depending on what I need. (guess that’s actually 5?)
    Then I trade in and out at random among the others I keep.

    Yeah, Karl, see what you can do for Rhoy there. Not gonna use the KOT/NV for a little while yet :) How about you try “Waiting on the World to Change?” :)

    As for the Seed of Life…
    I found it had a great ‘jangle’ for bluesy leads, but didn’t love the chording. However, It did stand out more in your second video vs the first one.

    Very cool experiment here.

  8. Ben–haha Now that is awesome. That’s exactly what happened to me. I just couldn’t help it…the ending was so contrived, I just had to laugh!! :)

    Larry–oh wow, the NuValve is in your top 4! Way cool. And I felt the same way playing your King of Tone, that it might really excel on certain rhythmic passages.

    And thanks for the extension on the pedals. :) Waiting on the World to Change? Now there’s a chance for my guitar playing to do some serious injustice to an otherwise amazing song. hehehe

    And I definitely agree on that vintage jangle with the Tone Monk, on that top tone setting. Thanks again, bro!

  9. Karl:

    Rhoy–what song?

    lol … I didn’t mean to play a cover. what I meant was to play the pedal in a context of a song to highlight what you think they can be used better. like you said, KOT seems to be good for a rhythmic use and Seed of Life is better sounding with a higher gain setting. as an example, play the KOT as the rhythm back-track and play short passages with the Seed of Life on top of it. 15-secs with a drum track would suffice … but if you’re up to the task, you can feel free to make it longer 😉

  10. Rhoy–ah, gotcha. I’ll see what I can do. I’m not sure a synthesized drum track would show the pedals’ sounds the best, although it might sound really cool and Postal Service-ish…hmm…we’ll see what happens. :) Maybe five layers, one with each pedal or something.

    Marcelo–I haven’t played one yet. I have played the T-Rex Alberta, and didn’t like it much, and that kind of put my off to trying their other drives. But is it really good? Maybe I’ll check it out. :)

  11. Karl – I’ve bought one, but I’m still waiting for it to arrive here in Brazil…
    I heard a guitarrist play a show with an Alberta and loved the tone. Asked him about it, he was from Dennmark and recommended the Moller. It’s an expensive pedal, I’m only keeping it if it sounds better than my Ibanez STL Super Tube (that I bought extra cheap here in BRA). I’ll record a clip or two and send it to you, so you can check it out – after all you’re my tone guru. (even if I like something, if you trash it I’ll sell it in no time – aaaahhh. it feels so good not to have an opinion of my own). To be honest I’m a little concerned now. You reeeaally hate the alberta? 😀

  12. Dude…if I knew you were going to do this, I have an extra Klon that I could have sent you to try. The Klon is my last pedal before my delays (Notice the plural.). I use it to boost and slightly over drive a cookin’ el34 Frenzel that’s being tamed by a Ultimate attenuator. Then the Klon gets hit with an OCD for some more gain (Nothing too intense). For a lead or BIG power chords, I stack a Blackstone Appliance on the red channel into the mix. Believe it or not, with Strat pickups, the setup never looses control. I can leave everything running in a song with a lot of dynamics and control it all with the volume pot on my guitar. Had this setup now for over 5 years. I don’t think I’ll ever buy another OD. I know….I know….never say never. You’ll NEVER hear me say that when delay is being discussed. 😉

  13. I play in a band with someone who has a t-rex moller. I don’t see how they could have designed such a bad pedal… Maybe his is broken? IMO get a sparkle drive if you like your ibanez but fancy the clean blend.

    My favorite overdrives: Timmy (base), Ts-808 (sg), Hotcake (strat), cusack screamer fuzz (for hillsong like stuff).

  14. Andrew–you have no idea how much respect I have for you at this moment. One million points to you, sir. Well done. :)

    Marcelo–no, it might be great! It just wasn’t too impressive with my rig at the time. But it could have been my rig. If you want, there’s a video I did of it next to a bunch of other overdrives. It should here on this blog, under the Gear Demos category, and I believe it was called Overdrive Shootout the Second, or something like that. Who knows? Maybe it’ll sound rad in your rig!

    Mark–haha Yep, not with delay. 😉 But your setup is fantastic. And I would’ve loved to put the Klon in this! Ah well…maybe there’ll be a community shootout part 2 someday. 😀

    James–very interesting. Ya, that was kind of my experience with the Alberta. Maybe they’re just way better with delay and mod effects. And hooray for the Timmy! :)

  15. Karl, thought I should let you know that after I emailed you I actually ran into a Tim for cheap and ended up going with that.. so now I’m trying to figure out how my rig’ll fit together. The Tim came today and I was able to play through it at practice tonight at 9V. already, it’s wow. just wow. definitely a keeper and an automatic main OD to build around!

  16. Right on! Isn’t it just amazing? I just can never seem to kick it off my board…exactly what you said about building around it! :) Congrats, my friend!

  17. Guess you can make good music with all 5 pedals. For transparent overdrive I stick with my Dano CTO, though I’m sometimes itching for something boutique like the Timmy (is it still boutique? (feels like there are more Tims than Danos out there ;D)). The cure for me is to listen to some Seasick Steve. Helps me to see that it’s not about the gear and that I should write a new song instead of thinking about the green grass on the other side …

  18. Mark–thanks a ton, brother! I totally will, as I definitely would love to a do a shootout with a Klon. 😀

    Ben–ya, that’s a good point. I mean, there’s a balance between trying your best to find a good tone, but then also not getting so obsessed that you never sit down with what you’ve got and make music.

    And you’re so right…the Tim is so everywhere now! lol Ah, my work here is done. 😉

  19. Pingback: Anti-Solo Construct, Layering, & Overdrive Shootout Addendum

  20. anything that runs at 48v has got to be good, right? That has to be the biggest current draw I’ve ever heard of for a pedal. I quite like the holy fire’s look and you can just pretend that when you press it, it instantly boosts the congregations ability to worship. I saw a distortion pedal once that had the label “smite” on it (there was a far side comic with the same joke) but I thought that was pretty funny too.

  21. haha That’s awesome!! I’d love to hit the ‘smite’ switch. And ya, 48v is pretty crazy. It sounds great though, but that’s higher than I’ve ever heard for a pedal.

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