U.K.-based amp designer Denis Cornell has been churning out a line of boutique amps for a few years now, but the dude knows stompboxes too. As well he should, as Cornell worked for Arbiter in the ’60s on the circuit for the original Fuzz Face. Cornell’s Overdrive Special ($430 retail/ $320 street) is a dual-channel pedal that offers separate Gain controls for each channel, a global Output control and EQ mini-switch, and an adjustable, footswitchable Boost function that can be used on either channel for up to +15dB of juicy boost .
With my Telecaster running through a Fender Deluxe Reverb, Channel One pounded the amp’s front-end with a merciless amount of output. With the Gain control halfway up, and the Output barely halfway, my normally twangy setup was singing like a bird with a musical distortion that sounded more like a cranked amplifier than an overdrive pedal. With humbuckers, the intense, cranked-amp-like crunch got bolder and more badass, whether I was running through a small Fender combo or through a 4x12 Marshall setup. I could even turn the Gain all the way down, crank the Output for a brutal clean boost, and then use the Boost control to kick the festivities up to a whole new level of touch-sensitive grind and sustain. Very, very nice—a slew of different tones from a buttsimple control set.
Channel Two sports a smoother midrange response and a tad more gain. This channel in cahoots with The Boost feature is where I encountered Fripp-like cartoonish sustain and more severe overthe- top distortion. However, like Channel One, all of the tones are über-dynamic, cleaning up beautifully when you roll back your guitar’s volume. The EQ toggle is rather subtle as it shaves off some high end when flipped to the right. For the most part I never messed with it. If you dig the tone of your guitar and amp, the Overdrive Special will only enhance them. That, my friends, is the sign of a killer pedal.
KUDOS Ultra-Dynamic tones from subtle grind to over-the-top sustain and a versatile feature set.
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