In my younger days, before the unforeseen plague of responsibilities crept up on me, I was miraculously able to invest in several hobbies outside of the world of music. For several years I was an avid cyclist with a taste for finely-tuned, superlight two wheelers. As I cut across the local university campus, I would scoff at those poor souls forced to ride $100 pieces of scrap metal to class. Then, one day I was forced to park my expensive bike outside one of the university buildings and began the terribly long process of locking up my bike with several expensive locks to ensure that I had secured everything that could even remotely be removed by an allen wrench (stay with me here, there is a point to this). As I spent no less than ten minutes wrapping all manners of chains and locks around the bike rack, another student rode up on a steel frame with half-inflated tires, flicked down the kick stand and walked right into class. At that moment it occurred to me that not everyone needed – or wanted – an expensive, finely tuned racing machine, and that every level of ride had its place.
I am reminded of this experience after reviewing five new Micro Series pedals from Guyatone. That’s certainly not to say that these pedals are the equivalent of $100 hand-me-down bicycles, but rather that these pint-sized effects represent a great bargain for guitarists residing at the lower-maintenance end of the tonal spectrum, simply looking for a nice palette of sounds to change things up.
These pedals feature stamped steel chassis, LED indicators, AC adapter inputs and true bypass switching on several models (OD-2+, CB-3 and HD-3), all in a small package, making them easier to fit onto an already overcrowded pedalboard. The battery compartment can be entered through the bottom of the pedal by removing a rubber gasket that holds the bottom metal plate to the body. The gasket has a groove on the inside that you must position over the lip created by the union of the main body and the bottom plate – it’s no easy feat, but the gasket does double as an appropriate friction device to keep the pedals from slipping around.
Don’t be deceived by the compactness of these pedals, which roughly resemble the size of a deck of Uno cards, as they pack quite the punch. Let’s take a closer look to see if any of these effects have a place on your rig.
This pedal produces some classic tube-like sounds, reminiscent of the pre-hair band days when you could add a bit of distortion to your sound without completely killing the tone of that lovely Les Paul you spent a fortune on. This pedal also proves to be more versatile than its predecessor, the OD-2, with an upgraded Hi Cut/Hi Boost Tone control and 3-way Overdrive Mode switch, which essentially packs three pedals into one already compact unit.
The first setting, Shallow, serves up a versatile range of sounds, moving from a somewhat clean boost to a rough crunch. This setting will not overpower any of your gear’s tonal qualities, but rather add a bit of grit and sustain. Moving the switch to the second position, Middle, will drive the OD-2+ a little harder, resulting in a throatier bite. If that’s still not enough for you, the last setting, Deep, produces the most saturated sounds, although the distortion levels here are still a little tamer than others in its class, such as the ubiquitous Tube Screamer.
There’s no doubt that there are deeper overdrives available, but the sounds generated by the OD-2+ are respectable and definitely worth checking out.
CB-3 Cool Booster
you are looking for a reasonably smooth, rich overdrive in a compact box
you’re jonesing for a Tube Screamer
The Cool Booster does exactly what you’d expect it to do, providing up to 18 dB of boost without much coloration of the original signal. It can also be used to distort an input signal by applying gain with the Boost knob. If you turn the Level knob to its maximum while keeping the Boost knob at zero, you’ll get a clean boost with a fair amount of headroom. Setting the Boost knob at lower settings will give you even more clean volume without altering your signal; move the knob into the higher ranges and you’ll start to hear distortion creeping in at the edges. A careful coordination of the two knobs will enable you to push enough transparent gain through your amp to generate subtle, yet pleasant distortion on the clean channel or jettison you into soloing range on an already-smoking amp.
If you’re looking for a milder overdrive, something to give you a little bump in volume without changing the tone you’ve got, this is a simple solution that won’t put you in the poor house.
you need a simple boost that won’t discolor your sound
you need inordinate amounts of clean headroom