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Haifa, Israel probably isn’t the first place you think of as a hotbed of boutique pedal production, but if Tom Kochawi and Dan Orr – Arteffect’s founders – have anything to say about it, you soon will. The Zenith is the third release in Arteffect’s product line, which also includes the Bonnie wah and the Orangen germanium Tone Boost.
After playing around with the Zenith for just a short while, one thing became apparent: the pedal is incredibly flexible, delivering everything from clean boost that leaves the timbre of your guitar and amp alone to balls-out, tons-of-bottom ka-chunk and everything in-between, all delivered with 18V operation using a single 9V battery or standard A/C adapter for convenience.
The additional headroom afforded by the higher-voltage operation works incredibly well with the Zenith. Where some ODs – particularly modded Tube Screamer and TS-derived designs – tend to sound flat and almost distant with higher-voltages, the Zenith retains your rig’s character while adding versatility.
The unit’s tonal flexibility is due to an extremely effective EQ section consisting of simple Treble and Bass knobs along the bottom row, as well as the Voice control located between the Drive and Volume controls along the top row. The true depth of the Voice control becomes apparent when leaving the EQ flat and scrolling through the control’s continuously variable ‘flat,’ ‘fat,’ and ‘focus’ settings. Flat is just that, retaining your guitar and amp’s clean timbre, only adding boost or dirt. Roll the Voice control to 11 o’ clock and you start rolling in the ‘fat’ setting’s tonality – delivering a Marshall-flavored low-mid texture with a nice, airy 800 series-era chunk with the Drive control halfway up. Rolling on past the ‘fat’ setting started adding in a more Screamer-ish mid-range honk, perfect for cutting through a busy mix.
Continuing to keep the Voice control just shy of the ‘fat’ setting and rolling the Drive up all the way with a P-90 armed axe gave up some great, thick, Southern rock-flavored sounds, and had me butchering “Whipping Post” in no time. Rolling back the guitar’s tone knob yielded a great woman tone as well. Again, the additional headroom was really appreciated with these settings, letting right hand attack dictate whether the tone was raw or uptown, even with the goodly amount of dirt piled on at this point.
Utilizing the “pull for punch” feature on the Volume control yielded a nice touch of sparkle. I couldn’t quite figure out if it was a slight 3dB boost or more of a pull for bright type of thing, but whatever it is, it works. Just for grins, I checked out the Drive control’s “pull for more” feature, with the LED changing from blue to red in the process. Busting out a few riffs offered up more than a few unexpected surprises, with the Zenith becoming an effective distortion box. Cranking the Bass knob all the way up took the Zenith into modern, high-gain metal territory.
Going to the other end of the spectrum, I switched to a Tele and rolled the Bass back to noon, the Drive control to zero and the Volume all the way up. With the Voice control at ‘flat,’ the Zenith offered up a clean, transparent boost. Turning the Voice control back up to 10:30 gave up a nice, fat boost with just a touch of compression – a nice complement to the amp’s subtle tube compression.
The Final Mojo
I have always liked guitars and effects that deliver one or two killer tones more than those offering twenty marginal sounds. In this regard, the Zenith is an anomaly, offering an incredibly broad range of tones with nearly all of them kicking ass. It’s often tough to find the right OD to sit “in” your tone rather than on top of it, but the Zenith integrated itself into my rig immediately. Add Haifa to the list of boutique pedal centers.
you need flexible, great sounding OD and don''t mind dialing it in.
all you''re looking for is a TS clone.
MSRP $225 - Arteffect - art-tone.com
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