Hiwatt Tube Overdrive Pedal

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.

The Hiwatt Tube Overdrive Pedal

The Hiwatt Tube Overdrive Pedal

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.

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The Hiwatt Tube Overdrive Pedal Inputs

The Hiwatt Tube Overdrive Pedal Inputs

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!

The Hiwatt Tube Overdrive Pedal Controls

The Hiwatt Tube Overdrive Pedal Controls

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.

The Hiwatt Tube Overdrive Pedal Side

The Hiwatt Tube Overdrive Pedal Side

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!

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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!

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About strataminor

Born in Brisbane I am a bedroom guitar player, although having played in front of churches (tough crowd!!) for quite a few years so some understanding of band dynamics, timing, gear (private use compared to public use) and melodic structure, instrumental breaks (okay leather pants solos....) and of course amps! Besides from my love of guitar and the G.A.S that goes with it (hey email me I am always offloading gear!! lol) I love languages, and can converse in basic Japanese, and study biblical Greek. I live in Logan with my young family (so not heaps of time at the moment) and will be contributing gear reviews based on a lot of gear I have or still currently have.

2 thoughts on “Hiwatt Tube Overdrive Pedal

  1. i don’t think it is fair to compare this to the butler tubedriver, as that one uses the tube as a clipping diode. this one seems to run at a higher plate voltage. if you compare it to the epicenter audio valve boy, that is a better comparison. the valve boy uses 2 12ax7′s and has bass, mid and treble controls, dark/bright switch, and can switch between the 2 modes with your feet (they call it phat and aggressive). it is still the best od/distortion pedal i have found. the phat channel takes you from clean boost to slight breakup and bluesy lead to ac/dc crunch. the aggressive channel goes all the way to boogie triple rectifier territory. it never gets thin, if anything you have to roll back the bass. this hiwatt pedal sounds pretty darn good though. the valveboy is difficult to get, and expensive, so for the budget conscious player, this pedal is a good choice.

    • Hi Louis
      Your comments show an obvious understanding of the finer points of tube overdrives and some understanding of basic electronics! I think though, and part of my reason to compare it to the Butler (or Chandler Tube Overdrive for that matter) was because Butler is probably one of the most famed OD pedals that uses a 12AX7 tube in it, as does the Hiwatt pedal. Therefore in guitarists’ minds, (except in say real officiandos such as yourself) the obvious choice for a benchmark or comparision would be what is most well known. Yes you may be right in actual technical specs or internal workings, but since the Hiwatt pedal is indirectly giving a nod to Gilmour, and the Butler is also used by Gilmour it seemed fair to compare 2 products that had Gilmour as the common link! I used to own a Butler tube drive (gee I wish I kept it) and the Hiwatt pedal sounded better, but that comes down to the amp, how loud you play and that sort of thing!
      I like your comments and wish you all the best! I see a Butler Tube OD on Ebay now for starting bid (gulp..) at $380….gee I had want to sound like Gilmour (even slightly) for that type of dough…!

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