December 15, 2008
Way Huge''s long awaited reissues don''t disappoint. We check out the Swollen Pickle, Pork Loin and Fat Sandwich.
Originally conceived as a small start-up operation in 1992, Way Huge was helmed by relatively unknown upstart inventor Jeorge Tripps with the intent of constructing high quality effect pedals for gigging musicians. Way Huge products helped start the golden age of gear we’re now in, but when the company closed down in 1999 the boutique pedal boom had hardly even begun. Current boutique mainstays were crafting their designs and slowly gaining ground with players at the time, and some believe that Way Huge simply missed the boat because of unpredictable timing and the unforeseeable explosion of demand that was only a couple of years away. Timing aside, the design and construction of Way Huge pedals was nothing short of perfection. They were classic effect foundations combined with modern revamps that were truly ahead of their time.
Tripps chose very high quality components with very closely matched tolerances, which provided smooth analog warmth and feel, and a much more consistent tone from pedal to pedal. On top of that, the pedals left a modest footprint on the pedalboard. Because of the very high quality parts and production, their limited availability and unique personality drove prices through the roof, with some selling for over a $1000 dollars. Way Huge (along with numerous other small companies) informed a generation of guitar players that there were many more choices available to them than they could find at major chains.
Because of the high demand, Jim Dunlop commissioned Tripps to bring back the Way Huge line, to give the average player a chance to enjoy some of these renowned pedals. Along with the reissue of the Swollen Pickle Jumbo Fuzz comes the introduction of two new products: the Fat Sandwich Harmonic Saturator and the Pork Loin Soft Clip Injection.
|Download Example 1|
|Recorded using 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom and 1982 Marshall JCM800.|
A new addition to the Way Huge effect pedal line, the Pork Loin is aimed at the more established styles of blues, country and classic rock ‘n’ roll. It is certainly the subtlest offering in the new lineup, aiming to thicken and refine the inherent tone of the instrument without excessive EQ-ing and distortion. The unit accomplishes this by taking the original signal and running it through a preamp, then layering it on top of a variable soft overdrive. This gives a three-dimensional feeling: a very cultured clean tone over a foundation of warm distortion, mimicking the technique of playing through a clean amp and an overdriven one at the same time—a method that has become a staple of the blues and rock tones achieved by such players as Stevie Ray Vaughan. Grabbing a 2007 Fender Nashville Telecaster and a 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom, I put the pedal through its paces with a 1982 Marshall JCM800 50W head.
The Pork Loin’s controls are very simple and well laid out: Volume, Overdrive and Tone, and two smaller controls labeled Curve (which allows the player to tailor the corner frequencies to round out the tone) and Clean (volume control for the clean sound in the overall tone). Unlike most of the other overdrive pedals Way Huge has introduced, the Pork Loin doesn’t have a lot of gain on tap. This was a little disappointing at first, but after figuring out how to dial in the unit, it became apparent that it doesn’t really need a lot. The pedal really shines with single coil guitars, as the Telecaster/Pork Loin combination demonstrated. The clean on this particular JCM800 is very smooth, but a little flat. After engaging the Pork Loin, dialing up the overdrive control to about 70% and mixing in the clean to taste, the tone gained a lot of bite and muscle. It’s important to note that there are internal controls for Filter, Voice and Mix, which offer even more options: they can change the frequencies used and even allow the pedal to be used as a preamp if you dial out the overdrive completely.
Pushing the volume control higher, the amp really started to cook, mixing the Pork Loin’s signal with the natural Marshall bite. It was a very pleasing tone. The Pork Loin makes a great fit for players in the “set it and forget it” category. Rolling down the volume and picking lightly proved that the Pork Loin is also highly sensitive to picking style, as it has a very natural way of cleaning up. The Les Paul definitely hit the amp harder than the Tele did, but the results were spectacular (albeit different) with great, responsive overdrive tones. Boosting the amp while it was overdriven pushed it into Alice in Chains territory, making the combination a force to be reckoned with.
your tone is lacking in punch, definition, and refinement.
more gain is necessary.
Street $170 - Way Huge - wayhuge.com
Go to Page 2 for the Fat Sandwich Harmonic Saturator Review...
|Download Example 1|
|Recorded using a 2006 Gibson Flying V|
The overabundance of distortion and overdrive pedals available today has made it awfully tough for one to stand out from the pack. Large numbers of them are copies of legendary designs with a few tweaks here and there to address some of the issues players have had with those devices. Others are based on new concepts that try to creatively stretch the boundaries of what “good” guitar tone can be, and provide tonal options that can make the instrument sound completely different altogether. Sailing through this crowded arena is the Fat Sandwich Distortion. Bearing the Way Huge name may draw some intense scrutiny, but the Fat Sandwich holds up to just about anything you can throw at it.
The faceplate has the same basic layout as the other two pedals in the line: Volume, Tone, Distortion, and two mini controls that adjust specific frequencies. In addition, there are two internal controls to adjust the corner frequencies of the overdrive (similar to the controls inside the Pork Loin), and a Sustain control to add even more distortion to the sound. Plugging in a Gibson Flying V into an early eighties Marshall JCM 800 50W head, the Fat Sandwich was fired up with everything set at 12 o’clock, volume to taste.
One of the surprising qualities of the unit was the very focused tonality of the drive, not harsh in the least. The feel of the distortion is modern, but with more give in the lows and mids, yielding a very spongy tone. Certainly one of the best features of the original JCM 800 line was how great they sounded cranked. After dialing up a mild drive from the preamp and pushing the master up, engaging the pedal caused the amp to open up and surrender an incredible rhythm tone, with wonderful note separation and control. It simply rocked—that made it really difficult to take a break, even after two hours of playing.
The two controls on the face of the device, Presence and Resonance, control the response of the high and low-end frequencies. Pushing up the presence and maxing the gain gave up a killer eighties metal and hard rock tones, and with the volume knob rolled down it was very responsive to pick attack—really responsive. A higher setting of the Resonance control with the gain turned down was perfect for vintage rock tones in the vein of Kossoff and Red-era Robert Fripp. The sound and feel was tight but giving, and a blast to play. This is definitely the sleeper in the new Way Huge line, and could easily hold it its own against most boutique distortion pedals.
a versatile, dynamic distortion is just the ticket.
the idea of such extensive control scares you.
Street $180 - Way Huge - wayhuge.com
Go to Page 3 for the Swollen Pickle Jumbo Fuzz MKII Review...
|Download Example 1|
|Download Example 2|
This is it, the one we’ve been waiting for with bated breath. Out of the original Way Huge product line, the Swollen Pickle Jumbo Fuzz certainly garners the most attention. Obviously inspired by the Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi, the Swollen Pickle has been a trade secret among gearhounds for years. While it’s definitely in the same vein as the EH fuzz, the voicing of this device and the reaction of the Tone knob set it apart. The reissue, dutifully designated by a “MKII” label, continues the tradition of the famed fuzz, while adding a few other features under the hood.
One thing that made the original Swollen Pickle so unique was the heft that that sound had. The best way to describe it would be that the sound pushes a lot of air, but is quite aggressive. Most Muff-esque pedals have a huge, thick sound, but are often plagued with a farty low end and a displeasing upper frequency range (icepick highs when the tone control is cranked). The Swollen Pickle MKII has all of the punch of the original, and a massive tonal range. With a stock setting (Tone: 12 o’clock, Sustain: 1 o’clock, Volume: 11 o’clock) the pedal immediately sounded fantastic, with great note separation, clarity, and a nice even frequency range. There is a very hi-fi quality to this pedal, but in a surprisingly musical way.
With an opportunity to improve upon the original idea, Way Huge has included four more controls in the circuit: Scoop, Crunch, two internal controls for adjusting the intensity of the Scoop control, and one to change the style of clipping. These additional options seemed a little overboard at first, but provided hours of fun.
The Scoop control allows the player to scoop or boost the midrange frequencies of the unit, which is highly useful on its own. Crunch controls how compressed the fuzz is, which resulted in highly squeezed square wave-esque sounds to all-out sonic annihilation. Using these in tandem with the Scoop intensity control yielded very smooth vintage tones to razor-sharp modern distortion, and the clipping type control provided a sucker punch intensity that just took it completely over the top. It was actually strange to turn off the pedal after an hour and play clean; the tone felt wimpy after being hit in the chest by this little beast for so long. The pedal can dish out fantastic, less extravagant traditional fuzz tones if need be, but it excels at aggressive, huge sounds.
Construction-wise, the Swollen Pickle is no slouch either. The enclosure is identical to the originals: thick, brushed aluminum. The jacks were solid and the pedal was very quiet with the Scoop intensity knob at lower settings (which was very nice). Even the battery compartment, which is usually an afterthought in so many pedal designs, is clever—it’s situated on the front edge of the device and requires no tools to get to. Why doesn’t every pedal out there have this as an option? The Way Huge Swollen Pickle MKII is an extraordinary fuzz pedal, and certainly lives up to its name.
huge fuzz tones are your thing, and you want to craft a unique voice with lots of punch and clarity.
you need more subdued, low-key fuzz.
Street $160 - Way Huge - wayhuge.com