I finally got a chance to take the Soul Food out of my home studio and use it at a gig. I had been playing with it practically every evening in my studio for a couple of weeks to cozy up to it. So before I went to the gig I learned a few things about the pedal:
- While it could be used as a standalone pedal for producing grind, it’s best used to interact with the front-end of the amp, and push an amp at the edge of break-up into overdrive.
- The treble boost adds a nice, VOX-like top-end shimmer to your tone.
- The treble boost to me is central to this pedal. There’s a different sweet spot for each amp/guitar combination you use with it.
- Switched on, you get very nice sustain, but the signal is only mildly compressed.
In my studio, I was playing at very low volumes so as not to piss off my family and the neighbors. So all the tone that I had been experiencing up that point was through my studio cans. It was more than acceptable – in fact, it was quite spectacular – and enough for me to give it a 5 Tone Bones rating based upon my studio tests alone. But nothing could have prepared me for the heavenly tones that issued from my amp when at gig volume. The guitar/amp/pedal interaction was fantastic, but add the speaker into the mix, and what I thought was awesome to start out with, turned into something otherworldly.
I believe this is what Klon owners talk about when they play through it. But from what I’ve read, no one has been able to discretely describe what it’s like, so a lot of people tended to poo-poo their enthusiasm as justification for having paid so damn much for it. And after experiencing what the Soul Food did at my gig last weekend, I’m beginning to suspect it’s not hype.
From a functional perspective, I’ve learned that a major key to its magic the Treble knob. That was evident at my gig, as I was playing with my Aracom VRX22 which has a much more muscular tone than my other amps, but at the same time, it has some wonderful highs that, if left untamed, can make the amp sound really harsh. Whereas with my DV Mark Little 40 that has a much more even EQ profile, and the pedal works best boosting the treble a bit, I cut the treble for my VRX22. Obviously, it’s not just the treble control that brings the magic to the table. But setting the treble allows the magic to flow. And once you have that set, and play the amp at volume, to me, it’s rock and roll time!
Now does all this compel me to save my pennies to get a real Klon? No. I’ve never played a Klon, and as I’ve said in past articles, the Soul Food stands on its own as a great overdrive pedal, so I’m happy to stick with it. If I ever get a chance to play a Klon though, it’ll be interesting to do a head-to-head comparison.
But that said, as I mentioned above, it’s difficult to quantify the tone quality of the Soul Food. I could use all the familiar terms such as “sustain,” “shimmer,” “bite,” etc., but none of those really help because lots of overdrive pedals do those things. What I can say is this: Up to this point, I haven’t played with an overdrive that interacted so well with my amps. Even my beloved Timmy can be a bit finicky with a couple of my amps, but the Soul Food just seems to work with all my amps.
And yes, that too sounds like a familiar description, but to my ears, there is certainly some sort of “X” factor that’s going on when that pedal has some room to breathe that I haven’t ever experienced with an overdrive pedal. Over the life of this blog, I’ve played bunches of overdrives, but this is the first overdrive pedal I’ve played besides my Timmy – or perhaps even more so than the Timmy – that has had such a profound effect on my tone. To me, the Soul Food – and by extension, the Klon – fit my archetype of an overdrive pedal. I don’t say this lightly. I really thought my Timmy was do-all, end-all overdrive for me. But that all changed with the Soul Food. I’ll always have my Timmy on my board, but it has a new brother: The Soul Food.