Fred Bonte started Black Cat in 1993, and his
designs were soon popular among boutique
stompbox lovers. Fans included guys like Billy
Gibbons, Scott Henderson, and Eric Johnson.
Bonte shut down production in 2007 but the
company has since been restructured, (in full
disclosure, with the involvement of Premier
Guitar Stomp School Columnist “Analog”
Tom Hughes). Today you can get revamped
versions of Black Cat effects with a modern
makeover and eye-catching looks.
The cat graphic on Black Cat pedals is, in reality,
yellow instead of black. But let’s not get all
caught up in being Persnickety Pam. It’s the
sounds that really matter. The yellow graphics
and knobs on top of the durable powder-coat
“holographic sparkle” finish really pop. The
components are high quality, the construction
is solid, and each pedal is handwired. They’re
true-bypass and come with a 2.1 mm power
jack, though they also accept 9-volt batteries.
Each even comes wrapped in a small velvet
bag with a drawstring. Nice.
I test drove the OD-1, Super Fuzz, and
OD-Fuzz using a ’60s-era Fender Stratocaster,
a Performance Custom Super Strat, a ’65
Fender Deluxe Reverb, ’65 Fender Pro Reverb,
and my trusty Peavey JSX quarter stack. Now,
let’s get down to brass tacks.
||Download Example 1
|Recorded through a Fender '60s Stratocaster. Amp: Peavey JSX clean channel with 2X12 Vintage 30 speakers, recorded with Garage Band, Sennheiser MD 735 mic, off center. Touch of Holy Grail Reverb and room ambiance.
The Black Cat OD-1 comes with Drive and
Volume knobs, and it leaves the rest up to
you. But that’s OK, because it’s the type of
touch-sensitive tone-sculpting tool that blurs
the line between fuzz and overdrive. It can
go from quasi-clean boost to slightly crunchy
and all-out saturation and ripped-speaker
fuzz—and everything in between. It’s great
for the guitarist who likes to dial in subtle
nuances using the guitar’s volume control. In
fact, it’s outstanding at that. It responds well
to varying pick attack and fingers, too.
However, with the Drive knob backed way
off and the Volume up, I couldn’t call this a
good clean boost. It does boost your volume,
but it’s going to give you a thick and
rugged clean tone. You’re not going to cop
Nile Rodgers playing Chic’s “Le Freak,” but
why would you? The slight dirt and warmth
keeps you in the rock idiom. Look elsewhere
for a transparent, ultra-clean boost.
The OD-1’s instructions warn that it’s a loud
pedal, and they’re right. You need to start with
the Volume knob at around 11 o’clock and
work the Drive up from around nine o’clock to
avoid sonic devastation. As you crank the Drive
knob, the fun begins. Grit, grit, and more grit.
With humbuckers, you get a smooth, singing
quality. With single-coils, you get that nasty,
fuzzy breakup—but it’s pleasing. Best of all,
there’s no shrill, annoying ice-pickiness. You
get just enough edge to cut through the band.
And regardless of how much Drive you use, the
sound always retains a lush, boutique sparkle
that you can’t get from lesser fuzzes. It’s also
great for beefing up other overdrive pedals to
add thick, singing sustain.
you want to dabble in
the fuzz arena.
you need a fuzz that can give
you a clean boost.