While there's no denying that a hand-wired pedal offers a certain unmistakeable quality that's extremely hard to reproduce by mass-production means, they don't come cheap, making them an expensive purchase for players on a budget. In fact, this was the main complaint against Mad Professor's own hand-wired effects, at least until the release of their PCB (printed circuit board) models. Their aim with the PCB line was to significantly reduce the cost while retaining as much of the quality and tone as possible. Today, we're taking a look at the PCB model of one of their more popular offerings, the Sweet Honey Overdrive. While the cost of the pedal has been significantly reduced, did the tone and overall quality go down with it?
The Sweet Honey Overdrive is designed to offer tube amp-style overdrive that is meant to react to the dynamics of your playing. The original hand-wired Sweet Honey delivered on that front and this PCB model looks similar enough (identical, actually). The build itself is just as strong and tight as you would expect thanks to its tough aluminum chassis. While it certainly feels like what you'd find in a pro grade pedal, it's very alluring paint job certainly helps it stand out from the crowd, consisting of a translucent amber finish that looks almost like violin varnish. In fact, it actually looks like it could have been painted by hand, with a few lumps and inconsistencies. While that certainly doesn't take anything away from its charm, you can argue that it bolsters its roots as a hand-crafted pedal.
It consists of three controls; Volume, Drive and Focus. The first two controls are pretty much standard fare on an overdrive pedal and self-explanatory: Volume controls the signal level, aka, volume, while the Drive handles how much overdrive effect you’d like on your tone. The Focus control meanwhile is an overall EQ of sorts that also affects the amount of overdrive. When switched all the way down, the Focus control gives a mellower, bass driven tone while cutting the overdrive level a bit. When you max it out, it acts like a slight treble booster while bolstering the overdrive. Although these controls might seem simple and to the point, there is actually a great deal of versatility packed inside the pedal.
Mad Professor seems to have achieved what they were aiming for as the PCB equipped Sweet Honey Overdrive is certainly an outstanding pedal. The sheer amount of dynamics afforded by the pedal lives up to Mad Professor’s claims that you have to "own it before you die" – or at the very least hear it in action! Like a great tube amp, this pedal settles down when you ease off your attack on the guitar’s strings but can just as quickly unleash harmonically rich overdrive as soon as you call for it. The pedal sounds great in almost any of its settings with no discernable background noise and a tight overall sound. And like most today’s top overdrives, it doesn’t mask the original sound of your guitar meaning your signature tone is never compromised – only refined.
Although it can generally work well with most modern rock situations, the Sweet Honey sounds like it was tailor-made for blues and classic rock. It can also get a bit heavier when combined with an overdriven amp channel. And you’ll be glad to know it works just as well with both humbuckers and single-coils (although it did sound slightly richer and warmer at the bottom end with a humbucker-equipped Strat).
With the growing level of outstanding lesser-priced overdrives in the market today, it makes sense that Mad Professor decided to offer these PCB based models. Players that prefer the quality of hand-wired models still have that option, but those on a budget will find that the Sweet Honey Overdrive PCB model is a great pedal despite its different build. By the time you add pickups, amp settings and other effects into the equation, you'll be hard-pressed to notice the difference between the original and this less expensive variant – they both sound amazing! From the way it seamlessly reacts to the little touches in your playing dynamics to its versatile yet straightforward settings, the Sweet Honey Overdrive is a pedal worth every penny and then some!
Enter for a chance to win the Sweet Honey Overdrive or the equally great Forrest Green Compressor! Simply head on over to our Mad Professor Contest page to sign up. Winners will be announced on 4/1/16 so don't delay. Good Luck!
Your Turn to Sound Off!
Aside from tone, what else do you look for in an overdrive pedal?
Sound off in the comment section below!