A super-simple overdrive/distortion with impressive range.
SynapticGroove launched in August 2013 with a single, simple overdrive/distortion pedal dubbed the Snapperhead. In virtually no time that pedal found fans from Guns N’ Roses’ Richard Fortus to Sheryl Crow’s Peter Stroud. Its streamlined design has a lot to do with its appeal, but it’s the Snapperhead’s ability to generate rich overdrive and grittier textures without excessively coloring an amp’s natural tone that may give this wider appeal and staying power.
The Snapperhead’s analog circuit is housed in a Hammond 1590B-sized enclosure adorned with a weathered metallic blue finish. The internal wiring is clean as a whistle, and the team at SynapticGroove took a little extra time to decorate the interior with a few doodles. The Snapperhead will accept either a 9-volt battery or Boss-style power supply, and its incredibly bright green LED flashes when the battery is on its last legs.
The pedal has just two controls, volume and drive. Synaptic Groove says a tone control omitted to better highlight the voices of the amp and guitar and enhance playing dynamics. The straightforward design works as advertised and pays real sonic dividends.
Snap, Crackle, Rock
Despite its spare features, the Snapperhead covers a lot of ground. Depending on where you set the drive, the pedal ranges from wild-eyed and biting to almost treble booster-like tones that are perfect for crisp, British-style leads. It can have a sharp and trebly edge depending on pickup choice, though I was able to tame its knife-like attack by lowering the tone controls on my Les Paul and Stratocaster.
With a Stratocaster, a Twin Reverb, and the pedal’s drive control set close to 9 o’clock, the Snapperhead produces a muscular but defined crunch. The Twin’s characteristic sparkling highs and deep, punchy lows become more pronounced without burying the midrange. Raising the gain doesn’t adversely affect articulation either. And as fierce as the Twin became at high-gain pedal settings, its scooped midrange and strong top and bottom end—the qualities many players love in a Twin—remained a strong, clear foundation for the extra dirt.
The Snapperhead can also expand the palette of British-voiced amps. My Marshall JCM-800 is naturally brash, and the Snapperhead highlighted those qualities. But the Snapperhead’s excellent sensitivity and dynamic range make it easy to transform the roaring overdrive to a smooth purr via the guitar’s volume knob.
Setting the Marshall up for medium gain and juicing the front end with the pedal pushed tones into heavy territory, but with little background hiss and negligible loss of detail. Using the Snapperhead this way coaxed fuller midrange and less compressed highs than running direct into the Marshall with its gain control cranked. I was also able to transition from ripping Slayer-like gain to throaty Leslie West growl with guitar volume knob adjustments.
The Snapperhead can tighten flubby low end in modern high gain amps, though you have to be careful. With a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier’s orange channel in vintage mode, the Snapperhead added low-end focus while boosting gain, yielding a thicker overdrive with an upper midrange spike. It also brightened the amp’s dark voice. In the orange channel’s modern mode, however, the pedal’s edgy highs made the output more brittle, and I really needed to mind amp’s presence control.
SynapticGroove’s Snapperhead does a great job boosting your signal while allowing your amp’s distinctive characteristics to shine through. The pedal’s detailed and transparent character is great for clean and treble boosting. Despite the lack of a tone control might turn off folks for whom simple suggests limitations, but you can do a lot with your guitar’s tone controls. With all the dimension and glorious detail the Snapperhead helps deliver, you may never want to turn it off—or put anything else in its way.