This fine Harmonic Percolator derivative leaves you wondering why the circuit remains a relative secret.
Recorded with Fender Stratocaster and '68 silverface Bassman.
HP-2 volume at noon. Gain control variously at full, noon, and 3 o'clock. Bridge and neck pickups used at various guitar volume levels.
In an age when absolutely nothing is a secret, it’s really weird that a circuit like the old InterFax Harmonic Percolator remains as under the radar as it does. It doesn’t dwell in total anonymity, of course. It is a favorite among deep-diving circuit heads and we’ve seen excellent clones that deliver the essence of the original. Maybe it’s the fact that the Percolator’s greatest champion is Steve Albini—whose often acerbic, confrontational guitar sounds aren’t exactly David Gilmour’s mellifluous cello fuzz tones.
Land Devices HP-2, which uses the Harmonic Percolator circuit as its foundation, might compound confusion about the original’s underappreciated status. It’s a superb distortion device on all fronts. It veers from complex and rich to searing. It’s sensitive and responsive to picking dynamics and volume attenuation. It’s unique sounding. It’s everything a player that’s seen and heard everything could want—or at least wants to experience—in a distortion or fuzz. Maybe the Land Devices HP-2 is the Harmonic Percolator that, at last, reaches the many. It’s certainly got the sonic goods it takes to break through in a big way.
Circuits to the Unknown
Some of the mystery around Harmonic Percolator-derived circuits is attributable to the fact that folks can’t even agree on what it sounds like. Some call its even-order distortion—derived in part from pairing PNP germanium transistors and NPN silicon transistors—tube-amp-like. But it is much too fizzy and fractured around the edges of its complex overtone spectrum to be that. Some call it harsh, but the smooth grunt in its fundamental distortion tones definitely possesses a pleasing luxuriousness. The HP-2 very authentically, and remarkably, retains all of those qualities. And it all comes from a simple circuit that fits on a hand-wired rectangular circuit board about the size of four postage stamps arranged laterally. The hand-wired circuit isn’t the tidiest I’ve seen—at least as far as the soldering is concerned. But there’s no evidence that the solders are anything other than robust. (I’ve seen glorious sounding vintage fuzzes that look much uglier.) And in general, the pedal’s insides are carefully and thoughtfully laid out, with neat, well-ordered wire runs and enclosure-mounted jacks and pots. The simple control set is mysteriously labeled, but the functions are easy to discern through trial and error. The “circle” knob is essentially an input level control. The “triangle” knob is the master output. The orange rocker switch moves between germanium diode clipping and the no-diode “lift” mode.
Because the circuit board is flipped, it’s impossible to tell exactly what components make up the HP-2’s circuit. Some Percolator aficionados insist that original 2N404a and 2N3565 transistors are essential to a complete Percolator experience. I’m with my colleague Joe Gore on this topic: Different transistor types may impart small differences, but a well chosen equivalent set will still deliver the essence of a pedal. As we’ll hear, the HP-2 definitely delivers the sonic qualities you would expect from an original. And while the flipped circuit board makes it impossible to discern specific transistor and diode types, they sure look a lot like a compliment of germanium and silicon transistors and diodes.
HP Sauce (Sonically Speaking)
The HP-2’s tones often dwell in a mystery zone between richness, complexity, and hairiness. And I can understand why otherwise sane and civilized players would argue whether it sounds smooth and amp-like or harsh. I hear aspects of both qualities. It sustains beautifully. But it also fractures and fizzes in nebulous high-harmonic zones as it sings. It’s complex, to say the least. And the near ideal balance between these worlds at many settings makes the HP-2 feel special, unique, expressive, and rewarding and satisfying to interact with.
In tribute to the Harmonic Percolator’s most famous advocate, I played the HP-2 though my Fender Bassman (the backbone for many of Albini’s classic tones). And while I got Albini-worthy ear-fry with a single-coil or a hot bridge humbucker and amp treble at advanced levels, the tone recipes I liked—no, loved, most—were on the more rotund end of the spectrum: a Jazzmaster neck pickup, Fender Wide Range pickups with a little tone attenuation, a Rickenbacker with a two-pickup blend favoring the neck setting. All these round, bass- and low-mid heavy tones were a perfect fit for the HP-2s unique mix of density, definition, and sizzle at the harmonic fringes. The dynamism that comes through careful guitar volume manipulation is magnified via these recipes. Roll things back just a bit and the HP-2’s delicious, almost silky, even-order overdrive characteristics become apparent. Open the guitar volume wide and a layer of grinding overtones and compression kicks in. Love the dark-star-collapsing-on-itself gravity of Neil Young’s tones on the Eldorado EP? An HP-2 and a Fender amp might be the fix you need.
Bear in mind that most of the testing reported here has been about tones generated without the HP-2’s diode lift switch—a mechanism that justifiably gives the unit its “doomsday device” handle. The diode lift switch is a seismic-scale kick in the pants. And if you have a 4x12, a big amp, and a desire to level whole city blocks, the diode lift setting is an able partner in destruction. I liked the greater complexity and overtones of the quieter (a relative term here) diode-clipped setting. But the diode lift setting is not without character and charms. It just may leave you deaf if you dare explore it without ear protection.
If you’re a pedal obsessive that feels like you’ve exhausted the possibilities of the distortion and fuzz standard bearers, the edgy, rowdy, but still complex and creamy distortion from the HP-2 is a wonderland to explore. Is the HP-2 the Harmonic Percolator derivative that spreads the gospel to the masses? No matter what its destiny, it deserves to be heard.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.