There’s something special about things that come in threes, and we’ve featured a number of trifectas / Stryfecta etc. on this blog before, and now it’s the turn of Athens, Georgia Amps and Pedals outfit Greer Amps - led by the venerable and eponymous founder Nick Greer. These guys have been picking up a very solid reputation for their lower gain pedals of late - the Overdrives part of the range.
In introducing his latest pedal - the ’Supa Cobra’, Nick explains it as a High Gain Overdrive - i.e. one which has soft clipping characteristics (soft knee as he describes), and no matter how much you ride the gain, it won’t break up into actual distortion, but still maintains a core smooth tone and texture of course with still plenty of harmonic content. This pedal reminds me to a degree of the Fulltone Plimsoul - in how Lee at Andertons uses it - i.e. a mid-saturated voicing which is smooth yet expressive, but moderate in saturation.
I’ve touched on a number of Greer Amps pedals before - including the Lamplighter Optical Compressor and Super Hornet Fuzz. But the one that’s been getting all the plaudits is the Translucent / Transparent Lightspeed Organic Overdrive. Not a Klone, but very much in that Klone type of territory and much loved and famously so by Peter Honoré of Andertons. This has been on my wishlist for the longest time, and I typically include it in my Klone roundup, even though Nick tries to distance himself from that category.
In between the Supa Cobra and Lightspeed - both literally here and figuratively, we have the Southland Harmonic Overdrive. I’ve actually really been getting into Harmonic Overdrives of late - and have recently acquired a Spaceman Aphelion, and plan to get a ThorpyFX Gunshot too which is very much in that wonderfully textured and harmonically rich territory. The Southland is next on said category list after that.
As you’ve probably read several times, I evovled my ’12 Degrees of Saturation’ scale to figure out where different Overdrives, Fuzzes and Distortions sat on the scale - so I could more objectively compare like with like, and know what sort of results I might get out of a particular pedal - i.e. a Boss DS-1 distortion is far from what I considered proper distortion when I set down this path, but it just tends to occupy the lower end of that range - i.e. hard-clipping vs soft-clipping - low relative saturation. Meaning much of the DS-1 saturation curve is really within Overdrive territory.
In terms of relevant markers - where the scale sort of goes from Clean Boost (I), to Mild Overdrive / Klone (II), Screamer (III), Smooth Medium Overdrive / Dumble-esque (IV), Breakup / Blues Driver-style (V), Crunch / OCD-style (VI) - So I have indicated that as far as I’m concerned the 3 Greer Amps Overdrives occupy a territory which roughly approximates up to half the range of an OCD style pedal - which can itself break up into proper distortion, while the Supa Cobra never gets to that level. These are of course approximate best-fit values, but good enough really for comparison purposes. A lot of pedals don’t neatly fit in the boxes you assign them to, they rather straddle a few. Yet here you can go from lovely cleanish boost to fairly saturated and textured smooth overdrive which never breaks over the line into distortion.
More individual details as follows:
A super dynamic and touch sensitive Overdrive Pedal with 4 pots and a 2-way diode clipping option. The Volume, Gain, Treble and Body dials all interact quite dynamically with each other and can alter the voicing pretty radically. Yet, as mentioned several times, no matter how much you crank it, it never goes beyond the bound of Overdrive into fully distortion breakup - it very much navigates between the lines and covers that classic British crunch but does not take it further. This is the first Greer pedal that I'm aware of with top-mounted jacks, so more innovation there. It's no doubt an interesting proposition and I hear some degree of overlap with the Fulltone Plimsoul, yet it does not range into distortion like that one easily can. Where my thinking is currently is that I am slightly keener on acquiring the Greer Lighstpeed and Southland first, and then I will come back and review this one again - it's certainly been popular on early pre-sales. I've still not got around to acquiring the Plimsoul which has also been on the wishlist for a while. Right now I would take the Lightspeed over the other overdrives, and probably the Plimsoul over the Supa Cobra - just to get that one out of my system. I'm a really sucker for versatility and I really like Proper richly textured distortion pedals that I can dampen down to Overdrive level, so the Supa Cobra is a little bit of an odd-one-out for me at the moment - it probably needs some more consideration.
It's kind of interesting that some people talk of this pedal being a Tubescreamer type clone, while for me Harmonic Overdrives occupy slightly different territory. The above demo expresses perfectly what I think constitutes 'Harmonic Overdrive' all those lovely ringing textural overtones which give a real richness of tone. I was first made aware of this when I encountered the Spaceman Effects Aphelion pedal, and I encountered similar characteristics with the ThorpyFX Gunshot Overdrive. It's something that Germanium Transistor overdrives do really well - you get such a distinct tonal texture. So I've recently acquired a Spaceman Aphelion, and have decided that I will definitely by getting the full ThorpyFX trifecta, which means I still need to get the Gunshot Overdrive and Warthog Distortion. After that, the Southland could very well be my next drive pedal acquisition, even though we are still in my 'Year of Fuzz'.
Yup - Pete Honoré of Andertons kind of sold me on this one, so it's fitting I include the major moment in the above review / demo where both Pete and Rabea get blown away by this pedal. I've intended to get this one for a while, and I was on the point of pulling the trigger this past weekend when something else came up which took me in a slightly different direction. I have fully made my mind up though that come Saturday I will grab one from Regent Sounds on Denmark Street when I do my usual weekend Covent Garden sweep-through. I have this pegged in Klone territory, and while it's not quite the same exact tone, there are several matching tonal characteristics. I now have a number of Klone type pedals vying for attention for the same pedal-chain slot - they'll each just have to wait for their time in the rotation. I currently have the equally superb Decibelics Golden Horse in this slot, and I'm really loving that these days. I find it fascinating how you can love so many pedals within a certain category that do things just fractionally different to your other favourites, yet all totally justify their place in the chain. Some days I break out of my usual 12 Degrees Methodology sequence, and just load up a number of very similar profile pedals in a row. You always discover something new - and like with fuzzes, find your playing style and inspiration heading down surprising and different avenues.
The title of this piece is obviously a compressed compound version of Greer Amps Overdrive Trifecta (=Overdrivefecta) a fairly suitable abbreviation I thought in these circumstances. Each of these pedals occupies a slightly different slot on my Degrees of Saturation Scale - even though and as ever there are some overlaps. There are several videos around showing how beautifully the Lightspeed and Southland in particular stack / combine together for an even richer and more harmonic experience, and I've no doubt each of these combines well in tandem with the others. I rarely go beyond dual stacking, but it may be interesting to load all these three up in a line and see what the output is. There's no doubt Greer Amps builds quality effects and does have some interesting overlaps with Spaceman Effects even in how they use an etched / engraved facia plate.
As it stands, I am totally convinced about 2 of the three, and am sort of warming up to the newest addition. I would not quite know where yet to slot the Cobra in my chain though versus my existing favourites in those sort of slots. The Lightspeed can be rotated with my Wampler Tumni, Foxpedal Kingdom Combo and Decibelics Golden Horse, while The Southland can be rotated with the JHS Bonsai, Foxepdal the City V2, and now Spaceman Athelion and soon to be ThorphyFX Gunshot. All great pedals, and all worthy of a place.
So for this particular trifecta, I definitely want two, and as Meatloaf is fond of saying - 2 out of 3 ain't bad!