All Overdrive Pedals Are Not Created Equal (& HBE Big D Review)

I was going through this thing a couple weeks ago where I was just done with boutique pedals. Especially drive pedals. I mean, how complicated is a drive circuit, really? And how many variations can there possible be? So I found one for way cheap, that had two channels, and a ton of options for different sounds at different times for studio stuff. And I picked up this:

Do not pick up this.

I can see this pedal sounding great going direct into recording gear, or into a solid state amp where an extra preamp stage is needed. But into a tube amp, the best possible drive sound will be your amps actual drive. If you don’t like the sound of your amp’s natural breakup, no overdrive pedal is ever going to change that. If you do like the sound of your amp’s natural breakup, then try to get overdrive pedals that are moreso pushing your amp, rather than trying to be all the gain stages in and of themselves. The amp in a box pedals, like this one, are fine if that’s the sound you like and you never want a clean sound. But this one completely overtakes your tone, and you can’t dial out the compression or the fizz. Again, it might be right up some folks’ respective tone alleys, just not for me. It seems like I’m always re-learning that drive pedals are a necessary evil; so make them as close to driving your amp’s actual tubes as possible.

So…now I’ve either got to find a use for this pedal, or do the passive lie thing on gear-selling forums…’didn’t bond with it’, ‘thinning the herd’, ‘saw something I want more’…well, actually that last one could be true. I saw something I want more…it’s called a pedal that actually sounds good. ;) Kidding, kidding. There are some great clips of this pedal floating around…it just doesn’t seem you can use it and your clean tone without changing an exorbitant amount of knobs; it’s its own sound, and trying to be its own amp. I need boost drive pedals that work with my amp.

I did find this today…maybe I could throw it in for free to sweeten the selling deal:

And that’s the module only. Why do I have the things that I do?


P.S. Working hard on writing new music…that’s why the posts have been few and far between. I’m having more fun playing music than writing about it. It’s an odd feeling. Going through flavor of the month pedal purchase withdrawals I think. :)

39 thoughts on “All Overdrive Pedals Are Not Created Equal (& HBE Big D Review)

  1. Hey Karl:
    Creating music is where it is at. All these gadgets are tools to use. You go bro and we’ll wait for sounds to flow from your heart.

  2. Don’t disown me …. but try the Voodoolab Sparkle Drive for a clean boost. I haven’t found a more transparent boost yet. Dont really care for the drive portion of it but if used strictly as a clean boost, well my ears say yes. Or at least it works with my amps.

  3. I’ve probably been through 50 drive pedals in the last 3 years – seriously, I have a problem. NOTHING has been able to knock the Timmy or KoT off my board.

    Klons are nice but not transparent. Tube-based drive pedals are overrated.

    The Xotic BB Preamp has a strong Marshall flavor but it probably my 3rd favorite drive pedal followed by the JHS Charlie Brown (same idea as the BB).

  4. I can’t say it enough: The Pearl.

    I just got a nice webcam so I can do some nice reviews of mine (which isn’t stock, but you’ll get the idea). I haven’t played a Klon or… The Alpha Drive… So I won’t say I have a definitive answer for everyone. But I CAN say I won’t be looking to sell this baby. Which… Is weird.


  5. Last time I played I really liked the sound of my #2 PA channel. That’s the one that is basically Strat to RC Booster to Barber Small Fry to DD7 to miked tube amp. That day I didn’t try to use any of the drive in the Small Fry, just rolled that back and cranked the volume. Even with the guitar volume all the way up I wasn’t getting much if any amp breakup. On the Carvin Vintage 16 I had the master volume all the way up and the pre-amp gain only at 3 or so.
    Oh and I do plan to check out the Ceriatone amps. I built a color TV from a kit back in the 80s and I doubt this can be any harder than that. Maybe look for a complete one 2nd hand first though — shipping from Malaysia is a factor.
    Something around 20-50 watts into a 2×12 cabinet would be perfect. I may be retiring to Washington State in 2 years so I have to start thinking about gear for jam sessions or even club gigs. If there’s a needy worship team up that way, that’s cool too.

  6. So what would be 3 decent choices of OD pedals to try going into my blues junior that would enhance the BJ’s natural breakup? Maybe in order from expensive to inexpensive?

  7. Nate, you should try an Xotic EP-Boost. That thing has worked well with my blues junior. Gives it a nice push of the amp. I think they’re about $115 on ebay.

  8. Bret–thanks, bro! Awesome!!

    Rhoy–thanks, my friend! I’ll try to throw a little country in there too for good measure, a la facebook. ;)

    Sal–I may just do that…I’ve heard nothing but good things from that pedal. :)

    Jeff–both killer pedals! Although the v1 Fulltone Fatboost’s knocked the Tim off my board a couple months ago. Heresy…but, it happened. haha

    Naal–interesting! A friend of mine had one for a while…can’t say I remember how it sounded though. Might check it out!

    Randy–that sounds awesome, actually! Both the Ceriatone and Washington plans. :)

    And I’ve been looking to try out some Barber stuff. :)

    Nate–well, my od choices as of late have been the v1 Fulltone Fatboost, and the ZVex Super Duper. The Fatboost’s are like 60-70 bucks. On the more expensive route, you can’t really go wrong with a Tim or Timmy, or any of the Hermida stuff.

    And then the Xotic AC and RC are somewhere in the middle of the road as far as expensive-ness.

    Matt P–I agree on Xotic. The RC Booster is still one of my favorite od’s! :)

    • OK, Karl, so here’s maybe a really dumb question. The BJ has a fat switch that can be routed directly to its own footpedal. What will these “boost” pedals do that the fat switch won’t do in terms of pushing the BJ’s own overdrive?

  9. Name (required):

    Don’t disown me …. but try the Voodoolab Sparkle Drive for a clean boost. I haven’t found a more transparent boost yet. Dont really care for the drive portion of it but if used strictly as a clean boost, well my ears say yes. Or at least it works with my amps.

    I agree with SD for a Clean Boost and then a Crowther Hotcake for pushing your amp even more

  10. For what it’s worth folks, I just picked up an Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 boost at Guitar Center, as I was in a pinch need for another boost tonight, and surprise, surprise…that thing sounds great! Fat, weighty, transparent, and simple.

    And Guitar Center has them on sale for 40 bucks now.

    Ya, I know that sounds like an ad for Guitar Center, but I’m actually pretty stoked right now. :)

  11. Thats the thing, you still get bad and good pedals but price is now turning into a random number associated with the pedals. For example you still need to research into what you’re buying but you could easily get most sounds from mass produced cheap pedals – if you know what you’re buying!

  12. James–great point! Research will always beat blindly buying by price point. The more I play, the more I learn that sometimes a $500 pedal will sound better…and sometimes a $20 pedal will sound better. haha

    Brandon–right on, bro!! Worn cherry gives the best tone. ;) ;)

  13. nice score on the LPB1 … i was looking at that at one point but then I got the EP Booster. I totally forgot about this pedal until you mentioned it again ;)

  14. Karl, are you using the LPB-1 as a clean boost or to drive your amp? I looked at those for a clean boost but hadn’t thought of it for a gain stage. Every time I’ve tried using volume to drive my amp it doesn’t work so well. The boost in actual volume instead of over drive or breakup is always too much.

  15. @Brandon That’s my favorite Phil Wickham song. Good choice. :-D What’s that tiny little amp guy you’re playing through? It looks so cute!

    • Oh thanks! It is a really cheap Easteban 12w that came with an acoustic guitar package I got! haha.

      That is why I’m getting a tube amp soon…it’s not that bad though!

  16. Help with pedal decision. Ok just got a $100 gift certificate from my employer so time to shop. Not sure what might be of any help at that price. Maybe a reverb pedal? I have an odd, dual-channel setup which I won’t bore you with. I’m quite happy with the channel that goes compressor>RCBooster>Barber Small Fry>DD7>miked tube amp. There is a seldom used Boss looper pedal in that chain that could be removed and replaced with something. I don’t know what it would be other than drive or “ambient” — no use for chorus/flange etc on that channel. For some reason using the RC Booster and Small Fry as simultaneous boosts with virtually no Drive dialed in is really sounding good out of the tube amp.

    • To be honest I would probably hold on to it until you figure out something that will help you, or that you even want. I try not to buy things just because I have the money. If there is something I want, and I have the money then I’m very quick to spend it. Find a pedal that you really think you want and then either spend it on that or use it as your base for saving for it.

    • get a portable recorder … it’s something that you probably don’t really plan on buying but since you have the extra cash and you don’t know what to do with it, it’s probably the best time to buy it ;)

  17. I saw this on a guitarists blog. (talking about a 90′s Danelectro U2 guitar) “These are great guitars. Plus, I’m a huge U2 fan. They are total garbage, but they sound really cool.” And later, “It sounds really broken and trashy and nice.”

    Such a guitarist.

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