Source Audio Soundblox Pro Classic Distortion Pedal Review
May 18, 2010
|Download Example 1
7 mini-clips of distortion sounds: Tube Drive, Power Stage, Big Pi, Fuzz Facade, TS9000, Bender & Metal
|Download Example 2
3 mini-clips of distortion sounds: Smooth Tube, Crunch Tube & El Raton
|Download Example 3
Rhythms with Hothand sensor
|Download Example 4
|Download Example 5
Clean Boost/Tone preset, sweeping through entire range of Tone knob
|Unless otherwise specified, all clips recorded with Gibson Slash Appetite Les Paul through Marshall JCM 900 head with Marshall Lead 1960 cab, Shure SM57 and Digidesign Pro Tools.
But choosing that one distortion pedal is crucial. It can be your identity and your voice, the key to expressing yourself. Later you might discover that the pedal isn’t as great as you initially thought, and that can negatively affect your playing (as well as your wallet)—and you may even play less because you don’t like your tone.
If you play blues one night and hard rock the next—if you need a variety of distortion, from mild overdrive to high gain—it gets more complicated. Chances are, you’ll need a variety of pedals, everything from that vintage fuzz to the latest high gain distortion, to create that diverse sound palette.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have just one distortion pedal with a wide variety of modern and vintage sounds? The people at Source Audio think so. That’s why they created the Soundblox Pro Classic Distortion. The result of a five-year listening study, this compact, easy-to-use pedal offers distorted tones that are based on (but not exact copies of) more than 40 classic pedals. It features the company’s 56-bit proprietary SA601 digital signal processor and crystal-clear 24-bit converters, which serve up four tube-amp and eight fuzz-box/ overdrive tones, a Clean Boost mode, six user presets, a seven-band graphic EQ, and a MIDI input. It also features an active analog bypass, which is fully routed around the DSP.
Taking a Closer Look
The Pro Classic Distortion’s controls are simple and straightforward. The Effect knob selects between 11 types of distortion and a Clean Boost/EQ setting. Three other knobs—two Drives, Midrange, and Output—and the seven- band EQ deliver extreme versatility when programming custom sounds. You can save six of those as presets and recall them later via the three footswitches. The back panel features a 9-volt DC power jack, mono ¼" in and out jacks, an Expression Input for morphing between presets, a MIDI input for automation and parameter control, a Sensor In jack for the most fun and innovative feature of Source Audio Soundblox pedals—the Hot Hand—and a Sensor Out jack for daisy-chaining Hot Hand-enabled pedals.
If you’re not familiar with the Hot Hand motion sensor, you wear it on your picking hand and use it to control effects with, well, your hand motions. With the Classic Distortion pedal, the Hot Hand controls the amount of Drive, so you can experiment and control effects such as tremolo, volume swells, and other wild effects just by waving your hand around.
The various distortion settings are very similar to many popular distortion pedals of the past. Source Audio captures the spirit of each distorted sound instead of copying it exactly. The Tube Drive setting is similar to a Marshall sound, offering a nice, overdriven tube-amp effect. Smooth Tube is based on Mesa/Boogie preamp distortion. Power Stage is inspired by the Fulltone Distortion Pro pedal. Crunch Tube is Source Audio’s own aggressive tube-style distortion. The TS9000 setting is similar to the Ibanez Tube Screamer and has plenty of mid boost. If you are a fan of the vintage Electro- Harmonix Big Muff Pi pedal, you will love the Big Pi setting. El Raton captures the spirit of the classic ProCo Rat. And, since Source Audio includes the El Raton, it’s only natural that they include their version of the classic Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face sound—which is what inspired the creation of the Rat. This setting is called Fuzz Facade. The Bender setting is based on the Tone Bender MKII, which is most commonly associated with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. The Metal setting is Source Audio’s scooped-mids sound for modern metal. The Octave Fuzz is a full-wave rectifier that mimics the classic Octavia effect. The last setting is Clean Boost/Tone, which bypasses the distortion but still allows the gain and tone controls to be used. It’s great for clean lead boosts or it can be used strictly as a tone control. Also, if you boost the level high enough you can get a really cool hard clipping sound, which is a unique distorted tone on its own.
On the Open Road
I tested the Classic Distortion using many guitars, including those with single-coil, soapbar, and humbucking pickups. I routing everything through a Marshall JCM900 half-stack, and I also went direct into Pro Tools to test through several amp models. I started out by cranking the pedal’s Drive control and putting the tone about 3/4 up. With those parameters set, I scrolled through the effects. With every guitar, pickup, or amp I used, the distortion was rich, thick, and clear on each setting. Everything from a milder overdrive to aggressive tube-style distortion can be found in this pedal. I could play with a bluesy rock tone and instantly switch to a high-gain metal tone. I didn’t find any distortion setting that I thought was too thin, too fuzzy, or unusable. And not once during my tests did I ever detect any sort of digital harshness or fizziness. Each distortion had its own unique sound, and guitarists will be happy to have that many different varieties of distortion at their fingertips. Source Audio definitely captured the spirit of the pedals that these sounds are based on, and even if they’re not exact copies, they’re pretty darn close. If you’re not familiar with a lot of the original distortion pedals that the Soundblox Pro Classic Distortion was inspired by, this pedal serves as a good introduction.
I spent quite some time jamming with each setting, and the variety of tones you can get within just one distortion setting was impressive. And that’s largely because the Tone and Drive parameters have such a wide range. For example, you can start off with Drive up pretty high and Tone up about halfway for a nice, saturated sound. Bring the tone up all the way while lowering Drive, and you get a completely different sound. You can then adjust the parameters and your pickup selections for tons of sounds. Multiply that by the 11 available distortion varieties, and you have an amazing distortion palette to choose from.
Selecting the Fuzz Facade setting, boosting the highs in the graphic EQ, rolling off Drive 1, and setting Drive 2 at about 11 o’clock resulted in a smooth, Brian May-kind of tone. Source Audio’s own Metal setting has plenty of highs and lows, and I was able to get a sound similar to the late Dimebag Darrell, who had one of my favorite high-gain tones. I also had fun playing around with the Octave Fuzz, which mimics the classic Octavia. I found that this effect works really well with my pickup in the neck position. Playing lead lines, you immediately get higher overtones and octaves that pop out on top of your melodies. Usually when you play sustained notes at a high volume through an amp, they feed back and morph into the higher octave. Unfortunately, to achieve that effect you have to crank your amp and stand in front of it. With the Octave Fuzz, you can get the same sound playing at a very low volume!
As if all of that tonal variety isn’t enough, you have additional effect options with the Hot Hand motion sensor. This wireless system consists of a lightweight, wireless motion-sensor ring and a small RF receiver that plugs directly into the Sensor In jack. The Hot Hand is a lot of fun to play with. I placed the sensor on the ring finger of my strumming hand, hit a chord, and waved my hand up and down. It controlled the amount of drive as if my hand was a volume pedal—it was a really cool tremolo effect. This is particularly useful if you want the ability to control tempo, from fast pulsing to longer volume swells. The Drive knob controls the maximum amount of drive you get when moving the sensor. In addition, the Pro Classic Distortion offers controls—including calibration, sensitivity, and axis selection—to help fine-tune Hot Hand functionality. Hot Hand control can even be turned on or off in a programmed preset using the HH Enable button.
Another unique feature of Soundblox Pro series pedals is their ability to morph between presets using an expression pedal. The six presets are arranged in two banks of three, and the expression pedal allows you to morph between adjacent presets (1 to 4, 2 to 5, and 3 to 6). That way you can, for instance, go from low- to high-gain sounds on the fly or smoothly blend one distortion type into another. For example, you could transition from a Big PI setting to an Octave Fuzz without a bunch of toe tapping.
The Final Mojo
Source Audio’s Soundblox Pro Classic Distortion puts a wide variety of distortion at your fingertips, and it’s great to have them all in one place to call up instantly. It’s like having 12 different pedals for the price of one. Guitarist Adrian Belew has called the Soundblox Pro Classic Distortion and Soundblox Pro Multiwave Distortion “the best distortion boxes ever made.” So if you’re looking for a little fuzz in your future, check out the Classic Distortion and see what other artists have been raving about.
you’d like a single distortion pedal with tons of modern and vintage sounds.
you don’t need a wide variety of distortion sounds.
Street $219 - Source Audio - sourceaudio.net