Guitar Player (January 2007)
by Art Thompson and Darrin Fox
Distortion. Merriam Webster describes it as “falsified reproduction of an audio or video signal caused by a change in waveform of the original signal,” and it’s certainly one of the most important words in a guitarist’s vocabulary. We take it for granted these days that distortion circuitry is built into just about every amplifier and the modeling device we plug into. Distortion pedals were originally developed to mimic the warm overdrive that tube amps were famous for, and were a refreshing change from the fuzzboes and treble boosters that preceded them. But guitarists always go back to the roots of tone to find “new” ways of expressing themselves, and that’s why any respectable pedalboard these days finds distortion pedals, fuzzes, boosters, Octavias, and just about anything else that can alter a waveform to produce interesting distorted harmonics.
So in respect to all things that mangle guitar signals, we have focused this Roundup on a dozen boxes that cover the entire gamut of waveform clippers, from caveman treble boosters to tube-sounding overdrives to analog and digital fuzztones. We tested all of these pedals through several tube amps, a vintage Fender Super Reverb, a Mesa/Boogie Express 5:25, and a Savage Rohr 15, and used a variety of guitars to do our dirty work: A Gibson Les Paul Standard and Elliot Easton SG, a Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster, an EMG-equipped Music Man “Family Reserve” Luke, and a Schecter Blackjack ATX equipped with new Seymour Duncan Blackout active pickups.
Demeter FOD-1 Fat Overdrive
By combining its venerable Midboost and new Overdrive circuits, Demeter has created the Fat Overdrive or FOD-1. Featuring a sweet looking candy red paint job courtesy of Wilkin’s Guitar Finishes, the FOD-1 packs Fat, Gain, Volume, and Tone controls; a Loose/Tight switch, a side-mounted trimpot for adjusting the amount of volume boost, a 1/8″ jack for an AC adapter (not included), and two metal footswitches, one for bypass and the other for engaging the Fat circuit, which allows you to go from flat buffer (i.e. no boost) to a full 12dB of lard-ass boost. Using the Loose/Tight mini toggle, you can configure the overdrive circuit for either silicon (Tight) or germanium (Loose). The response is punchier and brighter in Tight mode, while the Loose position provides a noticeably softer distortion sound that’s more dynamically responsive and cleans up very nicely when you turn down your guitar.
The FOD-1 has lots of output and can deliver it even at very low Gain settings. This pedal provides everything from the vintagy fuzz-type sounds to furious distortion textures that are vaguely reminiscent of the high-gain channel on Demeter’s own TGA-3 amplifier. The Tone control is the key to getting the most out of the FOD-1, as it has abundant range and can move the tones from densely round and womanly to supermodel skinny (thankfully without losing the bottom) in a quick twist. The dual footswitches make it easy to configure a grinding rhythm tone and then click into Fat mode for a scorching overdrive sound. The pedal responds well to changes in guitar volume, making both modes very useable for cleaner textures when you turn down.
Kudos: Tons of gain and output. Excellent dynamic response. Like having two pedals in one.
Concerns: Mini-jack for AC adapter is inconvenient.