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Welcome to GuitarGear.org! Established in January of 2007, we’re still going strong and growing! I want to personally thank everyone for their support! You’ve made this site what it is today, and that’s a major destination for finding out about gear. I invite you to explore the site! There are over 900 articles and discussion on gear and the number grows each day. If you want to keep up to date, please use the subscription area to your right! Cheers!

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5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!

ElectroHarmonix Soul Food Overdrive

Summary: Billed as a clone of a Klon Centaur (or “klone” as some put it), this overdrive purports to offer the same tone capabilities as that pedal but at five times less the original cost, and twenty times less than what they’re going for on eBay.

Pros: The Soul Food falls into my “ideal” category of overdrives: Pushing my front-end, but enhancing my tone. Super-usable Treble Boost; very touch-sensitive and expressive. Lots of boost on tap.

Cons: None.

Price: ~$62.00 – $65.00 Street

Features (from EHX site):

  • Transparent overdrive
  • Boosted power rails for extended headroom and definition
  • Super responsive
  • Compact, rugged design
  • Selectable true bypass or buffered bypass modes
  • 9.6DC-200 power supply included. Also runs on 9 Volt battery

Tone Bone Rating: 5.0 ~ Some people have billed this as a one-trick-pony in that it is best used to boost the front end of an amp at the edge of breakup, then add just a bit of grind. To be honest, that really is the pedal’s sweet spot. But what it does to my tone with just that makes it highly expansive with respect to sustain, overtones, and harmonics, giving me an enhanced palate of drive and nuance. That’s no one-trick-pony to me.

I’m going to just get this out of the way right now: The Soul Food is NOT a transparent overdrive, no matter how it’s touted. As an aside, I think this whole transparency thing in the gear world is a little overblown. Yeah, I know, I’ve been on the transparency wagon for a long time, but I’ve started reconsidering my whole notion of transparency. I’ve been working on an article that discusses this that I’ll release some time. But everything you add to your signal chain is going to alter your tone in some way. Granted, if you ONLY use the pedal as a boost, with neutral EQ, and zero gain, then I suppose you could call it transparent. But let’s be realistic; I don’t know of any overdrive pedal that I’d use where I didn’t adjust the EQ to fit the gear I’m playing and also add varying levels of grit. With respect to the Soul Food, it may not be transparent, but WHO CARES? :)

I’ll also say this: This pedal is the shit! I’ve never played a Klon, but if this pedal does anything near what the Klon does, then I’m not surprised why people are paying upwards of $1000 to $1500 for that pedal, but I’ll pay $62 all day! But that said, don’t mistake my enthusiasm for getting great tone for so cheap. I’m excited about the tone, period! If this pedal cost $200, I’d buy it for its wonderful sound.

I realize there are folks who say this sounds nothing like a Klon. I’ve viewed and listened to several demos head-to-head demos, and yes, there are differences; though I have to admit that the differences I observed were fairly subtle, at least recorded. But to me, based upon playing it for several hours over the last couple of days, I couldn’t care less how close or far away it is from a Klon. This pedal stands on its own as a great overdrive pedal.

EHX Is Classy

I mentioned this in my first impressions article, but EHX definitely went the extra mile with the Soul Food. Not only do you get the pedal, they include a 9V power supply as well! You might say ho-hum but to me it says a lot that a company would be willing to throw in some extra stuff for such an inexpensive pedal.

How It Sounds

In a word, awesome! I’m not excited about this pedal just because it cost me less than $70. That’s certainly something to be excited about. But to get the tone and performance that the Soul Food delivers at this price-point just blows me away. EHX has totally hit the ball out of the park with this pedal irrespective of it being a “klone.” Plain and simple, this is just a great overdrive pedal! Ancestry aside, the Soul Food stands on its own.

I’ve created some clips, but as opposed to saving the discussion till after, I’ll discuss it now. When I first hooked up the pedal, I did the usual thing I do with overdrives and set the volume to unity gain (about 10am), zeroed out the drive, and placed the treble boost at neutral (noon) – all through a totally clean amp. The first thing I noticed when I switched it on was how the Soul Food brought out subtle harmonics and overtones. My tone was also a little fatter, but with the high-frequency artifacts, also had a little more top-end sparkle. That alone was simply yummy to me and it got even sweeter when I upped the gain on my amp to the edge of breakup, then added a bit of treble boost and drive to the pedal.

When I found the sweet spot of the Soul Food, the skies parted and a chorus of angelic host sang out in joy. Not really. But lots of great things happened. What you get is more sustain, great touch-sensitivity, incredible response to both attack and volume knob changes, wonderful grind, all while maintaining note separation. One would think that with the extra sustain the tone would be muddy and feel squished, but not so with the Soul Food. Again, if this comes close to a Klon, I can see why that pedal is so highly coveted. There’s definitely some tonal magic that’s happening with the Soul Food.

When I first get overdrive pedals, I try to be as skeptical as possible about them. They have to prove to me that they’re worth the money I’ve spent or if they live up to the hype. Within the first few minutes of getting the pedal, the Soul Food proved definitely its worth, and then some. The cool thing though was that it wasn’t EHX that was creating the hype. It was bloggers such as myself who were testing it out and writing positive reviews of the pedal. It just simply kicks ass!

I realize that there are those who pooh-pooh the Soul Food as a cheap imitation. But as I said above, this pedal can stand on its own, regardless of its supposed ancestry. For me, I’ve never had the opportunity to play a Klon, so I really don’t know for certain what it can do. If it does what the Soul Food does, but just better. That’s awesome. But I’m absolutely digging what the Soul Food is doing for my tone right now!

Okay… Time for clips!

This first clip is very short and demonstrates the sustain you get when the pedal is switch on. I’m playing my 59 Les Paul replica with the “woman tone” (volume cranked, tone to zero).


This next two clips demonstrate the clarity and definition that the Soul Food provides when switched on, making your sound just come alive. I suppose you could say that this is a demo of what the Treble Boost can do. Here I’ve got it set at 2pm. My replica is in the middle pickup position, with both volumes at about 6, and tones all the way up.



Did I mention that the Soul Food is incredibly responsive? In this clip, I’m just noodling. I start out with little blues riff in E major with the pedal off, then I switch it on and go from a light touch to greater attack. The pedal responds beautifully!


Finally, here clips from First Impressions article (I’ve just taken the whole excerpt so I don’t have to re-explain everything). All clips below were played on R8 Les Paul:

Testing the Treble Boost, from 0 to all the up


In this one, I have the drive set to noon, and the volume set to unity, so all the grit is coming from the pedal. Not really my favorite setting. But apparently, it’s the same with the Klon. It was best used with predominant boost against an amp on the edge of breakup, then add gain to taste.


This next one is with the pedal in its sweet spot for my R8: Volume at 12, gain at around 10am, and EQ at about 2pm.


Finally, I did a quick lead in the lead break of a song I wrote.


Overall Impression

Notice I didn’t do a “Fit and Finish” section as I normally do. EHX pedals are very well-constructed. I’ve never had a problem with one dying on me because of structural issues. Frankly though, the Soul Food isn’t going to win any beauty contests. It’s just a Hammond box with a sticker placed on the top. But who cares? It’s job isn’t to look good; it’s to sound good, and it does that in spades!

I always say that I’m done with overdrive pedals. And to be honest, once I got my Timmy, it was pretty much game over. The Timmy is truly what I’d consider a transparent overdrive. The Soul Food isn’t all that transparent, but it will surely be a great addition to my board, and I’m hoping a great stacker (haven’t played with that yet).

I’ll say it one last time: The Soul Food stands on its own as a great overdrive pedal. I don’t bandy about 5 Tone Bone ratings. There’s a reason this got my highest score: It sounds so good that it’s gone directly to my board and staying there!

After a short wait for a couple of weeks for stocks to be replenished, I finally got my EHX Soul Food delivered today. I just finished playing it for a couple of hours straight, and I will say this: I am NOT surprised why this pedal is so popular. It’s touch-sensitive and extremely expressive, and I simply couldn’t be happier with this pedal than I am right now.

Also, I will say this right off the bat: I know that the Soul Food is supposed to be a part-for-part clone of the Klon Centaur, but I actually don’t really care about whether it sounds like a Klon or not. I’ve never seen or played a Klon in person, so I have no reference point. In spite of that, to me the Soul Food can stand entirely on its own as a great overdrive pedal; “klone” or not. If it indeed is at least similar to a Klon, then I understand why the Klon is so coveted.

This overdrive has sent me into absolute overdrive bliss! Unlike my Timmy – which will always be on my board – the Soul Food adds a bit of color, but in such a wonderful way that I will daresay that I will probably be keeping this overdrive on my board next to my Timmy.

Within the first few minutes of plugging in the pedal, I noticed that the Soul Food performed a little magic with my tone by boosting the harmonics in my signal. Even in the neck pickup of my R8, which can sound a bit muffled at times, the sparkle was spectacular, and I felt as if the tone in my neck pickup suddenly came to life.

The other thing I noticed right away was the usable EQ. One complaint I have about a lot of overdrive pedals is that the EQ’s are weak. There’s just not that much difference when you move the EQ knobs around. But the single EQ – which is really a treble boost/cut – on the Soul Food is incredibly useful. Set at noon, it’s neutral, then you boost or cut treble by turning the knob right or left respectively. The sweet spot for my R8 was between 1pm and 2pm. That just made the tone of my guitar, no matter what pickup I was using – just jump out. Quite lovely!

Here’s a thing to consider if you’re not sure about an overdrive pedal: Play around with the EQ settings before you get rid of the pedal. You might be pleasantly surprised. Personally, I’ve never liked an overdrive where the EQ’s were set at neutral. I’ve found you have to set them for each different guitar that you use. With my R8, just adding a bit of treble boost really helped the naturally deep tone of that guitar. I imagine I’ll do a little cut with my 59 replica.

Anyway, here are some clips I recorded while tooling around (the first three are with my R8′s neck pickup, the last is played with the bridge pickup)…

Testing the EQ


In this one, I have the drive set to noon, and the volume set to unity, so all the grit is coming from the pedal. Not really my favorite setting. But apparently, it’s the same with the Klon. It was best used with predominant boost against an amp on the edge of breakup, then add gain to taste.


This next one is with the pedal in its sweet spot for my R8: Volume at 12, gain at around 10am, and EQ at about 2pm.


Finally, I did a quick lead in the lead break of a song I wrote.


As I said, I’m in overdrive bliss. I love how this pedal sounds!

ROCK ON!

Update

Totally forgot to mention that for a pedal that costs less than $70, EHX could’ve just packaged up the pedal in a box and leave it at that, letting the pedal speak for itself. But not only do you get the pedal, EHX included a 9V power supply as well! That’s just so cool to me, and so very classy of EHX to go the extra mile for its customers.

I love the anticipation of getting new gear delivered; when I check the shipper’s site and the delivery status says, “Out for Delivery.” Puts a smile on my face every single time. :)

Today I will be receiving a much-anticipated pedal: The EHX Soul Food. After seeing videos and hearing sound clips of the pedal, this is a pedal that I knew I had to try; even if I ultimately didn’t like it. But at the price I paid ($66 +shipping), I wouldn’t be cryin’ a river if it didn’t work out. But something tells me that it will, especially as mostly a booster, which is something I’ve been wanting to add to my chain to stack with my Timmy.

Yes, I have a booster pedal: The incredible Creation Audio Labs Mk.4.23. But I use that AFTER my pre-amp to boost my power tubes. It doesn’t provide a big boost of volume, but it certainly gets them saturated. It’s a VERY cool effect that I learned from Mean Gene Baker.

In any case, I’ve been searching for a soft- to medium-overdrive with lots of volume, and after listening to the Soul Food clips and videos, I’m sincerely hoping it’ll do the job. Only time will tell. :)

But for now, I’m waiting with bated breath!

My choice of strings has evolved over time. I’ve played with everything from pure nickel to nickel-plated steel to pure steel, to most recently cobalt-wound steel. I loved the warmth of pure nickel for clean to mildly gritty tunes, but they just didn’t seem to cut it when I started getting into more straight-up rock. I wanted more bite and aggressive attack that nickel strings just couldn’t give me.

So within the past year, I moved to Ernie Ball Cobalt and RPS Super Slinky strings. Talk about an awakening! The “pop” and “snap” that I had envisioned in my head was suddenly… there. I’ve been an Ernie Ball convert since!

Recently, Ernie Ball came out with a new line of strings, the “M-Steel” line which they claimed to be their highest-output strings to date. I of course had to try them, so I contacted the company – which is something I don’t do very often – to see if I could get a review set. They sent me set of .11-.48 which is a heavier gauge than the 10′s I normally play. But no matter, I strung up my guitar, made mild adjustments to my neck and intonation, and played for a little while to break them in.

I didn’t actually play with them for very long because I wanted the strings to settle for a day, but I gave them some earnest time this evening. I was a little nervous about the heavier gauge of the strings; they certainly had a heavier feel to them. But as I played, I realized that I wasn’t really pressing any harder than I normally press, and then just went about the business of playing. After about two hours straight of noodling, jamming, and riffing (I’ll have some clips later), I have to say that I’m pretty impressed with these strings! I’m looking forward to using them this weekend!

How they feel…

When I first strung up my guitar, the strings felt coated with some sort of powder, much like Wyres strings have that plastic polymer coating on them. But that feeling goes away after playing for awhile. In any case, once that coating wears into the strings, they’re certainly slinky. Moving around the fretboard with these strings is like butter. Even for 11′s, they bend nicely – really nicely. I could’ve played all night, but I had to be conscientious of my neighbors. :) I love how they feel!

How they sound…

As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and once these strings got broken in a bit, they sounded freakin’ awesome! The higher gauge really brings out the low end, but you don’t lose that top-end sparkle. One thing I immediately noticed with these strings was the SUSTAIN!!! It’s insane. I did the “woman tone” thing on my neck pickup (crank the volume, turn the tone all the way down), and my guitar seemed to howl with this haunting, hollow tone. Quite lovely!

As I mentioned above, I’ll have some clips pretty soon. They’re actually finished, but I was too tired to bounce them.

Anyway, here’s the product description from the Ernie Ball site:

The loudest, most expressive strings ever created. Provides increased output, frequency response, and strength.

M-Steel, short for Maraging Steel, is a superalloy used in high stress applications for the aerospace and defense industries.  The wound strings are comprised of a patented Super Cobalt alloy wrapped around a Maraging steel hex core wire, producing a richer and fuller tone with powerful low end response.  M-Steel plain strings are comprised of a specially tempered steel for maximum fatigue resistance.  A patented winding of steel around the ball end of the plain strings reduces slippage, breakage and stays in tune better than conventional plain strings.

Check ‘em out!

Update

I played my R8 once again this morning before going to work, trying to find a better description of how the strings sound with my guitar. After a bit of playing, I realized that my guitar didn’t sound different, but the tone was markedly more beefy; not to be mistaken with warmer. There just seemed to be MORE of it. My R8 naturally has a deeper, more woody tone than my 59 Replica, so hearing it sing like that in sort of a lower register is pretty awesome. :) And funny thing, I’m going to stick with 11′s on that guitar from now on. I love the feel of ‘em.

Based upon my playing this morning, I’m going to get a set of 10′s for my 59 Replica. These are simply awesome strings.

So I got this email from the Fender PR department telling me about their new guitar configurator called “Design Your Own.” So I went down to the Fender site and designed my dream Strat. Pretty cool stuff! I guess Fender figured if car manufacturers could do this (I designed my 2014 C7 Corvette), they could do it too. And why not? It’s totally cool to be able to spec out and also see what you’re going to buy (or at least plan or dream about buying).

You know me, I’m not too much into gimmicks, and on the surface, this might seem like one, but it’s actually pretty cool. Check it out!

sean_connery_goldfinger_3It’s funny how my song writing has taken lots of twists and turns in the recent past. For years, I did nothing but religious music (I’m still writing those kinds of songs). Then I went through a phase where I was exploring my emotions and relationships in my life. But lately, I’ve taken to writing stories; letting the music dictate the subject matter to me.

This latest song actually started out as a rework of another I wrote several years ago about a young hottie I happened to dance with at a bar. Musically, the song was pretty good, but structurally, it just didn’t work. But as I worked on this song, even though there was a sense of “sexy” in it, it just didn’t feel like a “hottie” song. In fact, I started thinking about “007″ films.

Then suddenly I found myself writing about a Bond on a “hit” and what he actually felt about it; what he felt about his job in general. The lyrics sort of took on a life of their own. Admittedly, the lyrics you’ll see below aren’t the original lyrics. The first set of lyrics didn’t seem to hold together well, so I swapped out some stuff and re-ordered a couple of the verses.

Anyway, give it a listen…


Note that this is the completed song after I tracked the instruments a couple of days ago. Didn’t change anything with respect to gear:

  • Amp: DV Mark Little 40 Head into an open-back Avatar 1 X 12 with a Jensen P12N speaker
  • Rhythm Guitar: Slash L Katie May into a Voodoo Labs Micro Vibe
  • Lead Guitar: ’59 Les Paul Replica into a Vox Big Bad Wah
  • Bass: Squier “P” Bass

I have to admit that I’m particularly pleased with the lead I played. I’ve never used a wah in any of my recordings up to now, and frankly, I was a bit nervous using it. But once I started playing, I forgot about my trepidation and just let my fingers do the talking. And to be completely honest, that was my first take of the lead after practicing over that section of the music trying different things for a few minutes. I figured I’d just throw the dice and see where the lead took me.

That was one of the few times that I felt truly “connected” when I was playing. Connection is a totally different state then concentration. It’s hard to explain. Let’s just say I was hyper-aware of everything around me when I was playing, and inherently “knew” what I needed to play when I played it. Normally when I’m recording a lead break, I’m pretty focused and admittedly I’ve got my solo worked out ahead of time. But this time, I only knew where I wanted to start with that double-stop bend; after that, all bets were off. I just felt my way through the solo. I guess that comes with trusting myself and my ability. It was very refreshing!

I know, I’m being a little long-winded, but I suddenly got on a philosophical bent somehow – maybe it’s the great wine that I’m drinking (Picchetti Winery Red Pavone Table Wine – 50% Cab Franc/50% Merlot). In any case, circling back to what I’m writing nowadays, for the first time in a long time I’ve been enjoying what I’ve been writing. I think it comes from not really caring where my music takes me. Like playing, I got better once I got over trying to play to a specific style. Once I realized that I liked to play and sing all sorts of stuff from rock to opera, my musical abilities progressed at a fast clip.

So it is with my music writing. I used to think that certain subjects were off-limits, or rather, I would limit myself to writing about just certain things. Then when I told myself to just be a storyteller, I just started writing about what came into my head. It didn’t matter what it was about. With this latest song, it’s actually pretty dark. Though the focus of the 007 movies is on the action, the guy’s a killer. He’s given various assignments, and they usually involve knocking someone off; and at times with a fairly glib attitude. And that’s what I wanted to portray in the song. In the end, his targets are just names on a list. Yeah, kind of dark…

Anyway, here are the lyrics to the song:

The Hit: James Bond’s Lament

Searching for the right moment
to cross the room
I’m drawn to the heat
of your smile
like a moth flying
into its doom.

I feel the weight of this metal
it’s smooth and it’s warm
a dark legacy that I leave
and I know that
I’ll never be mourned

No warning it’s the end of the line.
Your world is shattered in the blink of an eye.
no words of comfort that I think I could say.
it’s just another day…

You may not think you deserve this
but you know very well
there aren’t any angels in this game
and it’s likely
we’ll end up in hell.

It’s not a question of duty
to some majesty
The next name on the list
is all that matters to me

sunburstLike many Les Paul vintage and vintage-style “Burst” owners, I’ve acquired a fascination not only with the guitar itself, but with the history of the Les Paul; from the various guitars’ provenance to the stories of how people have gained ownership of them. Could be new, could be old, doesn’t much matter to me. There’s a magic about a Burst that seems to force owners to search beyond the wonderful tone they produce.

So when “Sunburst…” by Tony Bacon was released, I knew that I had to get a copy to review it. I was intrigued by the sub-title because it seemed to be the first book that I can recall that dared broach this subject. Oh, people have documented some interesting historical tidbits about various Les Pauls, and I’ve read and heard many accounts.

Admittedly, I was expecting sort of a scholarly treatise on the subject of how the Les Paul gained legendary status. In that fashion, the author/researcher will “put a stake in the ground” then build his or her argument around it to prove their point. In this case though, Tony Bacon doesn’t do that. Instead he uses a chronology of events – specifically the acquisition of Les Pauls by famous and influential guitarists from the early 60′s to the present day – to infer that the guitar gained legendary status because of these events. In other words, instead of directly answering the “why” he describes the “how,” all the while assuming the Les Paul is a legendary instrument.

That’s actually a clever approach as it allows him to avoid the inevitable debates and challenges that invariably accompany a “why” argument. Here, Tony Bacon assumes the reader already knows the Les Paul is legendary and he uses historical and allegorical commentary to enforce the guitar’s legendary status. Frankly, it’s great storytelling, going back to the 60′s, starting with Clapton’s first Les Paul, and closing out with today’s Les Paul giants such as Joe Bonamassa.

But intermixed with the storytelling is also a bit of analysis from a collector’s point of view. Again, Mr. Bacon doesn’t necessarily take a stand, but it’s clear he sharing tidbits he has gleaned from conversations with collectors. Let’s face it, Bursts are highly coveted guitars, so having a discussion not just from the point of view of great players but also collectors is valuable as it lends further insight into the Les Paul’s legendary status.

A thing that I noticed is that the author doesn’t really go into monetary value of the various guitars all that much. For goodness’ sake, we know how much some of these guitars – especially the ’59′s – have gone for at auction. Instead, his focus is on what has turned players on to the Les Paul all these years. The end result for me is that in reading this book, I feel a whole lot better about owning a couple of Les Pauls. I even got some ammunition on justifying to my wife my expenditures to get mine. It’s all good! :)

So… do I recommend the book? Absolutely! It’s a quick read, but I daresay I spent a lot of time salivating over the pictures.

You can find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sunburst-Gibson-Standard-Became-Legendary/dp/161713466X

There are also a number of listings on EBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/310911669126?lpid=82

5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! The writing style is familiar but also knowledgeable, and I’ve actually been carrying in my backpack since I got it to pull it out when I’ve got free time.

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