I’m really excited to talk about the Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire Overdrive pedal. A few weeks ago, they shipped me one to review and I’ve already logged a few hours on this unit. This pedal definitely has some great things going for it, which I’ll get into in a bit.
First, I wanted to talk about the company real quick. They’re a small shop out of Tennessee, that are quite dedicated to cranking out some quality gear. Along with the Holy Fire, they also produce the MK.4.23 clean boost (love to take that for a ride as well), Redeemer Circuit (which I blogged about) and also work on some great pro audio equipment as well. Please take a moment and visit their web site!
Okay, back to the pedal.Â I was expecting a standard issue overdrive, and was pleasantly surprised when I fired it up. First things that I noticed was the look. It has a sturdy brushed metal appearance with the words “holy fire” laser cut into the chassis. I also noticed the separate power supply. This unit uses 48 volts vs. your standard 9 volts. I was curious, so I asked the source — Alex “Skip” Welti, the creator of the Holy Fire, this is what he had to say:
Our background is pro audio; we drive ourselves nuts going for “the cleanest” sound and “the quietest” noise floor… Simply put, 48V gives us the “no compromise” specs we like to see… You just can’t get there with 9V… We also wanted enough headroom to be able to really slam an amplifier’s 12AX7 input tube if you leave the “G” turned up.Â On a related note, we decided to put the “G” at the output of the pedal to act as a master volume in a sense – so you can still “O”verdrive and “D”istort the pedal like a tube, but keep the output low enough to feed a solid-state amp without clipping the amp’s solid-state input circuitry. It’s like adding a tube in-front of your amp…
Immediately after plugging my guitar in, I was loving the low end response of the pedal. After tweaking the knobs, I was also impressed with the variety of tones you can get with this unit. It has a fantastic clean boost, nice overdrive, and you can get it to totally fuzz out. There are 4 knobs on this unit: Gain, Overdrive, Distortion and a High Cut Control. The high cut allows you to cut (or add) some highs into the tone, again offering different tone options.
Along with the controls, there is a LED. Normally, I wouldn’t write about a LED, but this LED is pretty cool. When the pedal is activated a red light will appear, but as soon as I was attacking the strings I would see it turn yellow. I had to ask Skip why and what’s going actually going on.
That was divine intervention (or a happy accident ~ depending on your worldview); during the development stage we used a number of LEDs to give us an indication of how various parts of the analog processor reacted to different playing styles… It was like a mini light show and with certain settings reminded me of fire, that was the inspiration for the name “Holy Fire”.Â We liked the effect and decided to leave a few LED’s in the design to light-up the logo… As it so happens, when the signal is below the wave shaping threshold, the yellow LED’s are off, so we decided to make the main switch LED a dual colored red/yellow LED; so long as the LED is red the signal is clean, when it turns yellow, the signal is being wave shaped…
I’ve read a few Holy Fire reviews, and noticed this ‘wave shaping’, and wanted to understand this vs. standard ‘clipping’ to achieve the distortion sound. Here is what Skip had to say to this:
The inspiration came from refurbishing an old Altec 1567 tube preamp – as I was testing it with a sine wave I noticed that it saturated smoothly and did not hard clip like a solid state circuit.Â I thought “I bet that sounds good on a bass” so I hooked up my Yamaha BB450 and got one of those beautiful growls that just inspires you to keep playing.Â I wanted that in a pedal and kept it in the back of my mind for a few months until one day “a light went off” and I realized I had seen that wave shape before in an Algebra book. In the beginning the goal was to get that Altec 1567 wave shape, but the great thing about analog processing is that once you can do that, you can change a few variables andÂ go from completely clean, to nice tube saturation, to totally compressed hard clipping; and also everything in-between.
So, for me to really see what this pedal is capable of, I had to bring in my good friend and band mate Jimmy Rolle to lay down some rock riffles and run it through its paces. Jimmy played this through a Matchless DC-30 and Rivera Knucklehead 100 through a Port City 2×12 cab. He split the signal going to both amps and played a Les Paul Custom Shop Elegant guitar. What I personally like to see is a pedal that performs well in real life. When I say real life, that is obviously subjective. I don’t personally play with ‘clean’ amps with distortion pedals. I don’t play quiet either, so I like to see how pedals do with standard rock volume and with gained or slightly dirty amps.
In this clip Jimmy is playing with the ‘clean’ channel of the Matchless DC-30 or the 12ax7 channel. This is to demonstrate how the pedal cleans up with the volume roll off
In this clip Jimmy is still playing with his ‘clean’ channel, but he demonstrates the high cut control as well as adjusting the overdrive and distortion settings to get some nice fuzz tones.
Finally in this clip, Jimmy is playing through the dirty channel of the Matchless DC-30 (ef86 channel). This is to illustrate how this pedal responds to a high gain channel.
This was recorded with the mic on the Matchless DC-30 side, but the Rivera was off-mic but in the room.
After recording the videos we sat down and discussed some of the highlights of this pedal.
– Incredibly transparent pedal. It definitely preserves your natural tone.
– Great for one-channel amps that could use a different flavor
– Great to overdrive a amp for lead boost (clean boost or to dirty the signal)
– Seems to bridge the gap nicely between overdrives and fuzzes
– Cleans up nicely on volume roll off (on clean channel)
– High cut was cool to increase attack or darken for rhythm
– Capable of large volume boost
– Very versatile pedal
– Very, very quiet pedal
You can pick the Holy Fire Overdrive pedal up for $195 directly from Creation Audio Labs.
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