A bluesy overdrive with excellent clarity and touch sensitivity

Download Example 1
Bias set at 8 o'clock, gain, treble, and bass at noon. JCM800 combo.
Download Example 2
Drive at 3 o'clock, bass at 3 o'clock, treble at 9 o'clock, bias at 2 o'clock. Vox AC30 reissue.
Clips recorded with a 2008 Fender American Stratocaster.
It seems that these days, boutique overdrives are a dime a dozen, yet as much as we all wish they literally cost that much, they also usually run a pretty penny. Among guitarists they’re easily the most traded in-and-out pedal on pedalboards, simply because a good overdrive tone is such a personal thing to a player. Personality often goes hand in hand with uniqueness, which is something that Gizmoaudio’s Sawmill Overdrive has in several areas.

Speaking My Language
Anybody familiar with most boutique overdrives will be very comfortable with the control layout of the Sawmill. The standard controls for Drive and Volume are there, along with a two-band EQ that cuts or boosts the treble and bass by eight decibels. Between Treble and Drive is a Bias control, which is designed to adjust the amount of edge present on the distorted high frequencies The control kicks in with a stomp of the OD footswitch and dials in the flavor of overdrive and distortion. GizmoAudio also built in a tiny DIP switch to boost the midrange between 500 Hz and 750 Hz, which are crucial frequencies to shape the all-important mid frequencies to the type of pickups being used. The Sawmill requires a 9-volt power supply to operate, and while most professional musicians have this covered, I would have liked to the option to use a battery.

Clear As Heaven
GizmoAudio has been touting the Sawmill as having a true “clean” overdrive and distortion, meaning that the overall tones have chime and extreme clarity all over the fretboard. They are certainly correct in that assessment, because the Sawmill is one of the clearest-sounding overdrive pedals that I’ve come across in years.

With a 2009 Fender American Stratocaster into a reissue Fender Twin Reverb combo, the clarity in chord work was astounding. Equally impressive was the Sawmill’s ability to clean up with a lighter picking touch, even at higher settings of the Drive knob. To push the pedal further, I plugged in a 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom, equipped with super-hot Tom Anderson humbuckers. Not only did each note in every chord ring with authority, but single note lines had a fantastic, three-dimensional vibe with great bounce in the lows. However, the tones I achieved with varied pick attacks on the Strat confirmed that this pedal loves single-coils.

The Final Mojo
While the Sawmill is capable of some really raunchy tones with the distortion mode engaged, it definitely leans more towards the blues side of the musical spectrum. However, the Sawmill’s incredible clarity and definition could easily win over players of any style of music, and the Bias control and internal midrange shift switch make it a powerful tool for the set-and-forget guitarist. If the Sawmill is GizmoAudio’s first attempt at a professional pedal, I can’t wait to see—and hear—what they come up with next.
Buy if...
you’re a blues or worship guitarist looking for a clean, crisp overdrive with superb touch sensitivity.
Skip if...
you need more of a modern edge to your distortion.

Street $220 - GizmoAudio -

Tone Games 2010, Bonus Levels: 10 More Stompboxes Reviewed
Next up: HardWire TR-7 Tremolo/Rotary