Roundup! 5 Pedals From Providence

January 30, 2014
  • Last year, Providence sent us a box of pedals, but aside from the Provolt9 power supply, we waited until now to run these reviews because the company hadn’t secured stateside distribution at the time. Now, the full line is finally available in the U.S.

    Final Booster FBT-1 Full-Range Booster

    Not intended to “fatten” or “warm” your tone, or emphasize either lows, mids, or highs like some other boosters, the Final Booster is an extremely linear booster pedal with a single level control that adds crispness and clarity even at its lower gain settings (unity gain is found at its minimum setting), and is also great for pushing a tube amp into sweet, succulent overdrive. This is a pedal you’ll miss enormously once you click it off, though it also contains the Vitalizer buffer circuit, which, as with all Providence pedals that carry it, maintains your sonic integrity even when bypassed.

  • Flame Drive FDR-1F Overdrive

    Packing V.N.S. noiseless electronic switching, double-contact-grounding plugs, and a Vitalizer buffer circuit, this pedal excels at juicy, fat, higher-gain overdrive tones for singing leads or ballsy power-chord rhythms. There’s a slightly smooth, gently compressed edge to the attack that heightens your sense of touchy-feely playing dynamics, without ever clouding your picking speed or note detail. A microsecond of ramp-up to full throttle is noticeable when you stomp the switch (Providence says it’s working to rectify this), but you really won’t give a toss once its characterful crispness and edgy definition have sunk their teeth in.

    Heat Blaster HBL-3 Distortion

    Haling from Providence’s standard range, the Heat Blaster doesn’t have noticeably more gain than the Flame Drive, but it does deliver a slightly smoother core tone with plumper mids, while still retaining excellent picking detail, and without muddying the inherent character of your guitar and amp. Its rich, smooth overdrive-to-distortion tones have excellent detail and articulation, and I especially dug the weight and authority of the tones and their very playable feel. Excellent build quality, single-contact true-bypass switching, and a useful Bass Boost button are among the several bonuses of this eminently enjoyable pedal.

  • Phase Force PHF-1 Phaser

    The Phase Force yields vintage-toned analog phasing with quiet, contemporary performance. Speed does what you’d guess, from slow, chewy churn to choppy wobble, while the Level control, in addition to achieving unity gain between effect off/on modes, also induces an extra boost past 2 o’clock, adding delightful grind to the modulation. A handy mini Mid Shift switch shifts the phase range for more emphasis on upper mids. From classic Electro-Harmonix Small Stone-style bubble to watery MXR Phase 90-like burble, it’s all here, giving you Stonesy “Shattered” to Clashy “Lost in the Supermarket” tones at the stomp of a switch.

    Velvet Comp VLC-1 Compressor

    Though it’s a straightforward compressor with Level, Attack, and Sustain (compression) controls, the Velvet Comp nevertheless takes some getting used to. There’s round, liquid compression and blooming sustain aplenty here when you find it, but until you roll the Level control up to around 3 o’clock it all falls short of unity gain. After that, the gain boost ramps up pretty quickly. Set Attack to around 2 o’clock, though, wind Sustain up between 1 and 3 o’clock, and the pedal retains full bite and aggression in your picking, with a huge swell behind it that segues smoothly into controlled feedback.

  • Fulltone Secret Freq

    The Freq’s secret weapon is a small Freq. control that adjusts a narrow band of midrange frequencies much like a wah pedal does. Unlike a wah, though, the Secret Freq maintains the low and high frequencies no matter where the Freq. knob is set (which can boost by up to 20dB), so you can dial the mids for exactly the distortion tone you want without shearing off the bottom or losing top-end clarity. And once the mids are in the sweet spot, the passive Highs knob puts the right amount of brightness or butter on the tone. The pedal’s smooth, dynamic distortion comes in a huge gain range to suit everything from bluesy overdrive to full-metal shred, and plenty of volume boost is available regardless of the Distortion setting. —AT

    Fulltone True-Path ABY-ST and ABY-HT
    $212 each

    These switching units offer the same features, but differ in the types of footswitches they use. The ST (soft touch) version has silent, momentary types for the A or B and Both switches, whereas the HT (hard touch) features mechanical switches—the preferred type for players who want to feel a “click” when the switch is engaged instead of relying solely on an LED. Otherwise, both units feature Fulltone’s new circuit that rapidly pans between the A and B outputs in order to eliminate the “thumps” that often occur when switching between amps. I tested it, and the switching is indeed dead quiet. Other hip features include bypassable JFET buffers for the A and B outs, a ground lift for the B out, and a phase switch for the B out that lets you correct for any phase relationship issues between two amps or, in some cases, two channels of the same amp. —AT

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