Louis Electric

December 2014
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Providence Effects Sonic Drive, Heat Blaster, Stampede Overdrive, Velvet Comp, Final Boost, Phase Force, and Anadime Chorus Pedal Reviews

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Providence Effects Sonic Drive, Heat Blaster, Stampede Overdrive, Velvet Comp, Final Boost, Phase Force, and Anadime Chorus Pedal Reviews


Made in Japan and boutique are terms not normally associated with each other, yet that is exactly what stompbox manufacturer Providence combines in their broad line of stompboxes: boutique research, craftsmanship, and tone from an Asian-Pacific manufacturer. The line has just made it to US shores through distributor Godlyke.

All of the Providence pedals found in this review—Sonic Drive SDR-4 (an updated SDR-5 is coming out soon), Heat Blaster HBL-2, Stampede OD SOV-2, Velvet Comp VLC-1, Final Booster FBT-1, Phase Force PHF-1, and Anadime Chorus ADC-3—are rugged and simple to use. They are on the small side (think classic MXR), about 4.5" long and 2.5" wide, with 1-3 black pointer knobs and packed with tone sweet tone. Most are wired for true bypass, which has become a must-have feature, and all run fine on 9-volt batteries. The battery compartment is accessible by unscrewing the bottom plate with four tiny screws, making changing batteries a bit of a headache, but a 9V DC jack is also included on the left side of the pedal. Most of Providence's pedals are priced above $200, which is not cheap for a single function, small form factor pedal. Clearly, what you are paying for is what happens when you stomp the footswitch.

Sonic Drive

Download Example 1
Drive 3 o'clock
Download Example 2
Drive 3 o'clock lead tones
Download Example 3
Drive 9 o'clock
Clips recorded with 1988 Ibanez S540 with Seymour Duncan SH5 pickup in humbucker mode into a Blackstar HT Club 40 head on the clean channel. Speaker emulated line out to E-MU USB0404 interface into Cubase 5.
The Providence Sonic Drive is a three-knob stomper—Level, Tone, and Drive. It also has a Fat switch which focuses gain on the bottom end. With the Fat switch engaged, it was easy to dial back in any perceived loss of treble using the tone knob.

Imagine the fat crunch of a distortion pedal with the clarity of an overdrive—that's where Providence's Sonic Drive sits, tonally speaking. It also has an interesting approach for an overdrive/distortion pedal in that it gives you plenty of effect while mixing in the original guitar tone. While technically an overdrive pedal, it brings some pretty crunchy distortion at levels above 3 o'clock. Even then I could hear my guitar's natural tone, almost as if I was playing through clean and dirty channels simultaneously, though the emphasis was definitely on the dirty side. The Sonic Overdrive is a very musical pedal in this regard. With the Drive knob cranked, the pedal had a nice aggressive distortion shy of a creamy metal distortion, and again, heavy on the crunch while keeping my guitar's dry tone in the mix.

With the Drive knob set low, say 7 to 9 o'clock, the pedal sounded like a classic overdrive stompbox a la an original Boss Overdrive or vintage Tube Screamer. This makes it a solid candidate for rigs where a single pedal needs to handle all overdrive and distortion chores. The Sonic Drive employs a true-bypass circuitry with only a single switch point in the bypass signal path. As with most, if not all, of Providence's pedals, the bright blue LED also acts as a battery indicator. If battery power drops below 7 volts, the LED turns off, though the pedal still functions.
Buy if...
you're in the market for a single pedal that gives both overdrive and distortion tones of very good quality.
Skip if...
you need metal or grunge style distortion, or don't want the mix of clean and overdriven tones.
Rating...


Street $249 - Providence Effects - godlyke.com


Heat Blaster

Download Example 1
Drive 4 o'clock
Download Example 2
Drive 4 o'clock lead tones
Download Example 3
Drive 10 o'clock
Clips recorded with 1988 Ibanez S540 with Seymour Duncan SH5 pickup in humbucker mode into a Blackstar HT Club 40 head on the clean channel. Speaker emulated line out to E-MU USB0404 interface into Cubase 5.
The Heat Blaster is Providence's modern distortion stompbox, and therefore more aggressive in attack and tone than their Sonic Drive and Stampede OD. Like the Sonic Drive, the Heat Blaster has three knobs: Level, Drive, and Tone, and is a single contact true bypass pedal, meaning there is only one switch point in the true bypass circuit. This was my favorite of Providence's three distortion/overdrive pedals covered in this review, and I liked them all. Surprisingly tube-like and warm, the Heat Blaster distortion at settings of three o'clock or higher fell somewhere between a classic Marshall JCM series and a Mesa Boogie Studio 22. At drive settings around 9 or 10 o'clock, the pedal offered me very useful, Hiwatt-esque tube distortion sound.

Unlike many heavy distortion stompers, the Heat Blaster does not overly compress the signal. It has plenty of bite and presence when the distortion is cranked. There are plenty of heavy distortion boxes out there that sound great on their own, but wash out in band situations due to too much compression in the distortion circuit. The Heat Blaster does not suffer from this in the least. There is plenty of definition at all distortion knob settings.

There is also a Low Cut switch that appears to shelve low-end frequencies. The Heat Blaster manual states the switch can be used to manage the bottom end on seven string or drop-tuned guitars. On standard six string guitars, the Low Cut reduction was a bit too much for me, making my wound strings and power chords slightly crispy.

Harmonically rich and very responsive to picking and fretboard techniques, Providence's Heat Blaster is one of the best distortion pedals I've played all year. Again, another pedal by Providence that sounds good at a lot of different settings.
Buy if...
you need a damn good distortion pedal that is versatile within the distortion framework.
Skip if...
you need overdrive, not distortion, or you get what you need from your amp.
Rating...


Street $249 - Providence Effects - godlyke.com

Hit page 2 for the Stampede Overdrive and Velvet Comp...

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