Okay, if you can endure reading my reviews for too long you may get the hint I love Pink Floyd and David Gilmour which, I know, is a bias and may colour my reviews. So that said, I now want to look at some of the Hiwatt products.
So today I am going to look at the Hiwatt Tube Overdrive pedal, which arrived in a UK flag emblazoned box and opens to reveal a nice shiny black affair that would score highly on aesthetics alone. Hiwatt definitely have that distinct black with white logo that looks fantastic and usually are built quite well.
Hiwatt now has factories that produce some of their lower cost products (such as the T10/T20/T40 amp range and pedals) in China. Now psychologically this is a turn off for some, but as I have mentioned before, quite often it is a ‘mind’ obstacle as the pedal sound quality is as good as anything I have played.
In fact this sounds way better than the Butler Tube OD I used to own (although that OD pedal is very picky on what amp sounds good with it). Hiwatt are known for being concerned about their reputation and quality control.
So now to the pedal itself, besides being black n sexy, it is powered by an 18volt adapter which comes with the pedal so the tube inside is not too starved which can make them sound thin and wimpy.
It features four controls, ‘Drive’ (amount of gain) ‘Tone’ (adds more bass or treble, works similar to a Vox AC30 tone cut control), Mode (1 or 2 for type of drive) and finally a ‘Master Volume’. Now in addition to these standard controls, the pedal is driven by a 12AX7 tube inside, making the pedal similar to the Butler Tube Driver, and possibly another nod to Gilmour! The controls are fairly responsive and do make a difference when turned!
Now let’s start with the Mode switch which in Mode 1 gives a very light breakup (great for an edgy boost or a clean boost function). The Drive then relates to the mode, so in Mode 1 turning the Drive all the way up only gives a light edge of breakup, whereas on only a quarter of the way will act as more of a clean boost, and does that really well too. However, I sometimes have to turn the tone knob back a bit as Mode 1 can get a little thin.
My favorite is Mode 2 and you turn the drive up past half way, and you get a very ‘Who’ drive, which is organic, crunchy and fantastic for chord work and is not at all mushy but still defined. When dimed on Mode 2 with the Drive all the way up, you can get some very nice lead solo tones. Actually on a humbucker, some very nice Bonnamassa thick lead tones, great with delay for haunting minor blues work, Who rhythm work and yes, belt out some Gilmour. Now admittedly to get that Gilmour lead tone takes a lot of gear, but it is definitely in the ball park, but would also need to be helped along with a Rat or Muff pedal.
At first I wasn’t sure what to make of the pedal, I mean it sounded good but a tube driven pedal just felt and sounded ‘different’ to say my MI Audio Blues Pro. After a couple of weeks though, especially when I gave the pedal a rest for several days and only used the MI Audio, I was surprised at how dynamic it was when I came back to it. The harmonics are brilliant; tone felt a bit more 3D and had presence (not an ice-pick presence but a real responsive width to it).
I stacked it with my MI Audio Blues Pro with no problems at all and the pedal itself is fairly quiet when engaged. It also stacked with my Little Big Muff really well, and added some grit and depth. My only gripe is that if it could be a dual button pedal so you can engage Mode 1 and 2 with your feet, and even better combine them!
So I have come to really love this pedal, rich and organic, gritty but yet smooth in its own way.
Lastly not to mention, a sexy looking pedal for guitarists who like some eye candy too! However with so many choices out there, here is simply another variation that sounds more ‘real’ than many others out there. I would say this pedal is a ‘sweet spot’ pedal, where you experiment until you find that right tonal combination then set and forget it. Not a tweaking pedal, but a stomp n play deal, which saves mucking around I guess.
Some guitarists may not like the slightly bigger footprint it has on your pedal board, or that gigging with a tube driven pedal means it is more fragile, but with the strong steel casing, strength of construction and quality input jacks I suspect that this pedal will be quite roadworthy and like myself, will grow on you too!