With so many overdrives out there, you’d think guitarists would just feel blessed to have a wealth of options. But almost nothing incites web forum warfare and near fisticuffs like the micro-minutiae of the common OD circuit. Will Stomp Under Foot’s Serenity fan the flames, or put an end to the madness?
See, Serenity has the potential to please a lot of players. It sounds great as a clean boost, a treble boost, a low-to medium-gain overdrive, and even a near fuzz. Even the threat of a pitchfork- and torch-toting overdrive faction arriving at my doorstep by day’s end can’t stop me from loving this pedal. It’s without question one of the more versatile overdrives I’ve played in the past few years.
Vive la Diode Différence!
Kneejerk critics will claim the Serenity is just another TS clone. The control set is the same as a TS-808 or TS-9, save for the reverses placement of the gain and level knobs. When you crack it open to inspect its innards, you’ll see a cleanly ordered circuit board hosting the same Texas Instruments RC4558P op amp that powers many better TS-808 clones.
But sharp-eyed circuit spotters will also notice the presence of LED clipping diodes. This deviation from TS convention makes the Serenity a very different sonic animal.
The problem with many overdrives (and perhaps the root of much overdrive-related discontent) is that at the end of the day, they don’t do a lot. Unlike cool delays or modulation units, they aren’t tickets to a million sonic worlds. A good OD might drive your preamp section in a natural way, or be super-transparent, or deliver distortion pedal-style grind at more aggressive settings. The Serenity does some of each of these things—and some of them very, very well.
Transparency may be the pedal’s least strong suit. That’s not to say it doesn’t communicate your guitar’s voice gracefully, but even at modest gain settings it adds bassy thickness that’s hard to get around. While the tone control gives you tons of high end to stack on top, there’s always a “wide load” quality to the overdrive. For low-output single-coils this is great. For humbuckers—well, just make sure your amp tone is fairly bright and not too compressed.
Room to Roam
If your amp can handle thick overdrive tones, you’ll find Serenity’s range impressive. Set the gain to nil and dial up volume and tone to suit your rig, and you’ll encounter a fat, singing, near-clean boost. Add a little more gain, and Serenity walks the tightrope between clarity and Crazy Horse grind. The more you favor the latter, the more you appreciate the string-to-string clarity Serenity delivers even when heavily overdriven. Medium-gain and clean-boost settings also showcase the pedal’s headroom. The ability to get these sounds at high volume is one of the things that separate Serenity from many TS-808 clones.
High-gain settings are among Serenity’s biggest surprises. At extremes, tones are distorted, even fuzzy. Yet even here Serenity feels very much in its element—a claim few ODs can make.
Okay, maybe Serenity won’t bring peace to stompbox land. For some, it won’t be compressed enough. Others may have little use for its fuzzier tones. But if you need to be heard in a big rock context and don’t want to sacrifice overdrive clarity, Serenity is a great place to start.
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