Haunted Labs Carolina Reaper Review
Germanium overdrive and fearsome fuzz meet in a super-flexible dirt machine.
Dymanic germanium overdrive. Searing fuzz. Gigantic tones when circuits are combined.
Might be pricey for some tastes. Single-coils tend to induce feedback at extreme gain levels.
Haunted Labs Carolina Reaper
Ease of Use:
Haunted Labs is a North Carolina-based outfit with a penchant for monster gain and artwork straight out of an H.P. Lovecraft nightmare. The Carolina Reaper is the newest fuzzy spellcaster in the company’s coven and the first to be coproduced with Cusack Music. If a dual-footswitch germanium overdrive and fuzz sounds like your cup of witch’s brew, read on.
Double Doom at the Door
The Reaper’s two effects can be summoned independently with their respective footswitches, or engaged simultaneously with powerful results. The footswitch and three controls to the right of center (including the knob that serves as the Reaper’s right eye) govern the overdrive and are comprised of gain, volume, and tone. The fuzz side has its own volume, fuzz, and bias controls on the pedal’s left half. There’s also an internal bias pot for fine-tuning the fuzz section’s snarl. The Carolina Reaper can only be powered with a 9V barrel adapter.
A Visit from Beyond
Straight from the jump you’ll notice the Reaper’s overdrive offers almost staggering power. While playing the pedal through my Fender Champ, I feared turning the volume much higher than noon would blow the speaker through the grille cloth. At the right volume and gain levels, though, the germanium overdrive excels with small amps, and it’s easy to get pungent, crusty Angus Young-style gain that would sound amazing in a studio.
The germanium drive also works superbly as a near-clean boost at the lowest gain levels. It’s super sensitive to picking dynamics, too, baring teeth when you dig deep and cleaning up as you ease your attack or lower guitar volume. Factor in this dynamism with the range of in-your-face tones you can get from the Reaper and a small amp turned up loud, and you have a lot shades of gain with a very simple setup.
The silicon-fuzz side of the Reaper has suprising range, too. You can approximate overdrive that’s respectably responsive to guitar-volume adjustments at the lowest gain levels, but the real fun with a fuzz pedal is, well, fuzz. And the Reaper is nasty, full-bodied, and sizzling in the high end. By itself, the fuzz rips. But combining the two circuits unleashes a beast. Chords take on monolithic stature, possessing low-end rumble and plenty of definition and presence. Single-coils can induce feedback at the most aggressive settings, but with a big amp’s higher headroom you can make that feedback work for you—while still having the ability to ease back into tamer (but still huge sounding) fuzz/overdrive sounds.
Fuzzes typically love a touch of overdrive to add focus, and Haunted Labs’ Carolina Reaper is an example of this dictum at work in particularly satisfying action. The responsive germanium overdrive is excellent by itself, and the silicon fuzz, while not quite as dynamic, is hot, lively, and a blast to use wide-open and blazing. Single-coil users might find the two effects together a handful at extreme gain settings, but depending on your tastes, that’s about the only real limitation in an otherwise very versatile drive machine.