Celmo Pimento Sardine Overdrive Review
A unique-sounding overdrive designed to emulate tube amp sag.
Celmo is a relatively small company with just a few effects pedals under its belt: the Sardine Can Compressor and the new Pimento Sardine Overdrive. Hand-crafted in France, the Pimento uses an enhanced analog sag emulation technology (predictably called EASE), as well as a color toggle switch that, in certain setups, provides more colors to work with than your run-of-the-mill OD—especially if you’re favor a less-is-more approach to effects.
Built for the Long Haul
The Celmo website is in French, and a Google translation only goes so far. Thankfully, Pimento’s layout is fairly streamlined. The effect is housed in a medium-sized, brushed-metal box with two red chicken-head knobs and a three-position switch—a design that evokes late ‘50s/early ’60s automotive and electronic designs. A roll bar-style guard between the knobs and the true-bypass footswitch guards against loose- cannon toe-kicks.
The knobs control drive and volume. In place of a standard EQ section, the Pimento has a three-position color switch located between the knobs. The “fat melon” position carves away some the highs and boost lows. “Lime” accentuates the upper frequencies, while “pimento” adds midrange focus.
The Sardine Speaks The bright single-coils of a Fender Stratocaster had a rough time with the lime setting. Amp choice wasn’t the issue—a Fender Twin Reverb RI, an Orange OR50, and a Vox Pathfinder all felt the sting of those excessive highs. But the fat melon setting delivered nice, saturated output. Single-coil lovers will find lots of room to roam at this setting.
Switching to a Les Paul, I dialed up the pimento setting. Playing through the Twin Reverb, I discerned sounds more in line with a TS-9’s midrangy output, but with notably enhanced control via the guitar’s volume knob.Raising the drive knob to 3 o’clock offered a healthy, heavy crunch that was easily tamed by rolling off the LP’s volume. There are plenty of possible tones here, all with full-bodied output. Lime also works well for humbuckers. Rolling down the drive and setting the volume to 2 or 3 o’clock provides enough boost for leads, but with less crunchy coloration.
The Sardine definitely has its own voice. Apart from some of its TS-9-like tones, I can’t really compare it to any specific pedal or amplifier. The EASE technology seems to deliver true amplifier grit, and it imparts a distinctly vintage flavor. There’s buttery smooth breathing room and great note-to-note clarity. Dirtier tones aren’t masked by caterwauling cascades of gain.
My only real gripe is the lack of an EQ. The Color toggle does accentuate and flatten the output as intended, but even a simple treble/bass knob would greatly improve performance and expand the pedal’s capabilities. Without one, I found myself tweaking my amp EQ more than I would have liked.
The Verdict If you’re the kind of player who only uses a handful of effects, the Pimento Sardine is a nice option for tapping into several shades of tasty, saturated gain. Humbuckers, a Twin Reverb, and this pedal are a great recipe for classic rock minimalism, although I had to be more attentive with both the Sardine and the amplifier when using single-coils. Throwing more effects into the mix can be a tricky cocktail that may be better suited for an OD with more EQ options. But if you keep it simple, this is a unique-sounding and cool-looking OD to have at your toes.