So my good friends Andy and Hania of Sitek Guitar Electronics have collaborated with well-loved YouTube Personality and demon metal shredder Joss Allen (GAK, Andertons, Guitar Bros Demos) on his first signature pedal. And just like for its muse and figurehead Nordic Goddess Freya - there are two distinct softer and harder sides to this pedal - which manifest Freya’s extremes of Love and War. Meaning that there are two quite different applications here - as a softer lower-gain glorious bluesy overdrive or harder tight-focused driven-amp tone-conditioner.
Harder Rock and Metal players have for the longest time deployed mid-humped overdrive pedals to tighten up the frequency response of their cranked amps. Misha Mansoor’s Horizon Devices and Fortin Amplification in particular have made ranges of pedals in part for this very specific purpose - while for many still their weapons of choice are typically the original Ibanez TS808 or TS9 overdrive varieties.
So at its core the Freya is a Tube-Screamer adjacent soft-clipping mid-hump Opamp powered pedal - with a slightly darker precision focused profile - which really suits single-coil pickups in particular. The right-hand side of the pedal is the Drive side - with Level, Tone and Drive controls, while the clean boost left-side gives you up to +12dB of extra push.
The Drive side further has 3 different clipping options - I : Orange LEDs | Off | II : Red LEDs - where the symmetrical Orange LED clipping gives you a more pronounced mid-range character while the symmetrical Red LED clipping is your typical liquid saturating and sustaining lead voicing that most have become well familiar with by now courtesy of numerous mainstream pedals which utilise Red LEDs (e.g. Turbo Rat mode).
Furthermore you can switch the order of Boost and Drive - where blues players will certainly prefer Boost first as it softens and adds sustain to the core voicing. While the harder players will likely prefer the order with Drive first as Joss does.
The pedal has an internal 18V charge pump which gives it a much higher headroom response - this is felt in particular through the Drive knob - as the taper is very gradual for the first half of the sweep - and for me most of the usable sweet-spots are in the right-hemisphere of said knob-sweep.
At this juncture I feel compelled to touch on the superb build quality of this pedal - which can be felt in its every key operation - from those ever reassuring even-sweeping potentiometers, new soft-click footswitches and overall superior component selection. It’s always a joy to receive a Sitek pedal as you see all the effort Andy and Hania put into every aspect of its creation - the graphics, enclosure, packaging and consistent branding theme throughout the range. That sort of Tiffany / duck-egg blue style paintjob here just oozes class.
So knowing that it's a High Headroom soft-clipping overdrive should predispose you to how it might best be configured. As mentioned - Joss currently uses it mostly for amp-tone / frequency tightening and conditioning - while I'm really at the total opposite side of the spectrum with a dual stereo clean amp pedal platform setup.
If you are more like Joss - you are likely to use it mostly as just a focusing drive pushing into your already highly driven amp. 90% of the time Joss uses just the Drive side - although he does enjoy switching around the different clipping options - which he of course personally selected from an original choice of 6 different possibilities. Andy and Joss also trialled 3 different Opamps and different versions of the tone-stack to reach this final evolution.
If you are more like me, and mostly play humbucker style guitars into clean pedal-platform amps - you will want to play with both the Boost and Drive engaged - with the Boost coming first. I tend to find most of my favourite tones with the Drive between 1 and 3 o'c, tone significantly into the right-hemisphere, and Boost at around noon. In terms of clipping I've still to decide which of the Orange or Red LEDs I prefer - I really like both actually and each gives a different flavour that I enjoy. The 'Clipping Off' mode is a touch too subtle for me really. It's important to keep mindful of the High Headroom character and that this is most definitely a low-to-mid-gain Overdrive for normal primary application.
The use of the pedal is largely determined by what sort of player you are - while some of the modes of operation are possible too subtle to be properly felt or appreciated by all players. Alberto Barrero's above superb demo ably shows just how fantastic a single-coil guitar can sound with this pedal - a Strat in Alberto's example. You get a great understanding for the tonality and dynamics of the pedal by viewing the above video.
I feel that there are broadly speaking 2 categories of best-fit user here - while you will have the occasional broader-based eclecticists who deploy all the different modes. For most players though the decision will be whether you use the pedal for primary or secondary purposes. As mentioned, I'm very much in the former category - I'm a clean pedal platform amp champ - and while I have a whole series of metal high-gain pedals too - everything goes into a 2 x clean amps stereo setup. This means I really enjoy the unadulterated nature of raw overdrive and fuzz. While there are a whole load of players out there that only deploy and utilise overdrives as booster style secondary tools / accessories - and really only actually like fuzz if it's tempered by a driven amp.
The Dual nature of the Freya is such that it has been honed for both these purposes and you can argue amongst yourselves which half you think is the more successfully realised here. For me though the Freya has a sufficiently distinct and interesting character all of its own to make it fully independently viable. It does have that slightly darker character lean which I mentioned - which makes me recall in part the core tonality of Sitek's Cocoa Distortion - while that is of course much crunchier and higher gain. I would say by and large that as an overdrive, the Freya is particularly well-suited to single-coil pickups - with Ablerto Barrero's Strat sounding particularly stellar in his above demo.
But while the Freya is Tube Screamer adjacent it's not your typical Tube Screamer by voicing or overall character - there are obviously vastly different degrees and flavours of soft-clipping - beyond that notable mid-frequency-hump. There are actually various factors and parameters I use to analyse and benchmark my drive pedals - focusing on signal density, texture, openness and overall timbral and harmonic breakup character in particular. And the character and timbre of the Freya is sufficiently distinct to make it an intriguing proposition in this heavily saturated marketplace - it certainly has a degree of density and darkness to it - but still within that rather more lower gain drive category - and where the use of a pre-gain boost greatly softens and improves its character and adds an elegant and even sustain very much to my liking.
I would be very interested to conduct a straw pole on all who have acquired the Freya to-date and for what purposes - I'm aware of significant numbers of both bluesy overdrive and metal players - while I'm not clear what the exact split is or where the more significant appeal resonates. The video demos to date have been polar-opposites from either end of the usage spectrum - which nicely rounds up things with another circle-back to the Goddess Freya duality metaphor.
This is the first Sitek dual-pedal as such - and the final execution has been top-notch quality from every perspective. I feel it treads the 'Signature Pedal' line / route very carefully as this is very much an all-rounder pedal with a broad scope of abilities and appeal - unlike many artist pedals which end up being all too limited and narrow in their scope.
There's an interesting juxtaposition in the two core natures of this pedal as they are so far apart - Lower-Gain to Blistering Metal applications, and part of me fears that because of that duality the pedal might not reach the level of success it fully deserves. That said - right now Sitek cannot make these fast enough - every batch has been sold out within moments - so thankfully things are off to a great start. If you're interested in getting your own - check in with the Sitek Store - and you can email Andy for updates on when the next batch is coming through.