We had heard some rumblings about a cool new pedal company, KHDK, founded by Kirk Hammett and David Karon, and the release of their Ghoul Screamer, a super-flexible take on Hammett’s go-to overdrive. When the company’s next offering, the No. 1 Overdrive ($200 street), showed up at the office we were intrigued, although perhaps a little blasé. I mean, it’s an overdrive pedal, right? We get it.
Well, it’s fun to be surprised, because the No. 1 definitely has more going on than meets the eye. The original circuit features a combination of op-amp and MOSFET technology, and an interesting cascading gain structure that gives it a wide range of drive levels.
The four knobs and Hi/Lo switch seem simple enough, and in many ways they are. With the switch set to Lo and all the knobs at noon, the No. 1 produced a nice bump and gave the tone a pleasing fullness—like a warm boost. Inching up the Gain brought out more distortion, but it remained very transparent and natural. Switching over to Hi did what you would think—adding more grind and sustain. It’s a very forgiving sound, and I didn’t feel the need to mess with the Bass or Treble knobs much at all whether I plugged a Strat or a Les Paul into the No. 1, which was running into the clean channel of a Blackstar Artist 30 combo. Cool!
Here’s where things get interesting. The Bass knob does more than just govern low end. It also controls the gain of the second stage, for that cascading thing mentioned above. This might sound crazy, but it really works, and gives rise to a bunch of great sounds, contributing warm saturation and harmonics as you turn it up. How you set the Bass knob in conjunction with the Gain knob and Hi/Lo switch opens up a ton of possibilities, but it doesn’t get muddy or woofy even when you crank the Bass all the way. The inherent EQ of this box is just really usable, and although it’s certainly flexible, there aren’t really any bad sounds.
So far all these tones were created through the clean channel of the Blackstar. When we switched over to the amp’s dirty channel, however, we were really blown away. The No. 1 plays magnificently with a distorted amp—something not all overdrives can do. It was able to take the Blackstar from a slightly broken-up blues tone into singing lead tone territory with ease. It turned a high-gain amp tone into infinite sustain. It effectively made this two-channel amp into a fourchannel workhorse, and it did it without getting hissy or squealy. My favorite setup was the No. 1 about 3/4 of the way up and on the Hi switch, and then the Blackstar’s first channel squeaky clean and the second channel set to a raunchy hard rock crunch. This way I could seamlessly go through the entire clean/dirty spectrum, to say nothing about what I could do by adjusting my guitar’s Volume, to which the No. 1 reacted beautifully.
This is a very cool take on the OD pedal concept, and it’s done with top-quality construction. Kudos to KHDK for bringing a hip new overdrive flavor to the tonal banquette.
Kudos Superb tone. Unique gain structure. Great flexibility.