Having a decent overdrive pedal at your feet means that you don’t have to faff around with your amp settings when you want to mix in some crunch. Although it’s true that sometimes the last thing you need is a distorted bass sound, adding a little good quality overdrive is often the difference between a good bass sound and a great one.
Plugged in and switched on, the Holy Fire looks solid and well, a bit scary. The name is punched through the industrial looking stainless steel casing, allowing the reddish-orange lights inside to show through, giving the whole thing a fiery, demonic glow. Perhaps to counter this the gain, overdrive and distortion controls controls across the top are also labelled with punched-through letters, reading G, O, D. Set below these is a ‘hi-cut’ tone control which backs off the treble frequencies when turned anticlockwise and adds them in as you turn it up. The solid on/off footswitch works silently and above it the status LED changes colour from red to yellow as the signal starts to overdrive.
The signal processing inside the Holy Fire reshapes the distortion waveform using algorithms modelled on early computer technology. In practice, this means a distinctive overdrive sound that doesn’t affect or colour the bass’s natural tone at all. In other words, none of the low frequencies of your bass are lost even at the most extreme settings: this is quite unusual in a foot pedal and very welcome. The overdrive and distortion controls interact with each other: using both, there’s a massive range of effects available from the most subtle Motown valve sound right through to a 1970s sci-fi analogue style fuzz, complete with satanic sustain and slowly decomposing signal.
Being last in the signal chain, the gain works whether or not the footswitch is on, and in this respect it’s better to think of it as a master volume. It doesn’t actually affect the amount of overdrive or distortion, just the overall output level, so it’s best to start with the gain set halfway (which seemed to correspond to the volume of the bass plugged directly into the amp) and then set your distortion and overdrive, before adjusting the output level with the gain control. This way, when you stomp on the footswitch you’ll have the right volume level.
Backing off the overdrive and working with just the distortion control to start with, the sound is surprisingly subtle. If you like your bass overdrive tasteful and natural, you’ll find what you’re looking for here. With the gain set halfway, little happens until the distortion control gets to about 10 o’clock, when a warm, natural crunch slowly develops along with a smooth increase in volume. With just the overdrive, the effect is much more striking and by the time you’ve turned it fully up, you’re listening to the sort of overdrive your dad used to boast about, like a 1960s Marshall stack or a Sunn Coliseum rig with the taps up full. This was the opposite of what I had expected, as normally the distortion would be far more aggressive than the overdrive. But both are distinctive and musical: using both controls together, and carefully adjusting each, you’ll find exactly the sound and effect you’re after.
As I said earlier, the Holy Fire has been carefully engineered so that none of your bass’s natural frequency range is lost, which means that even at extreme settings an old Precision will still sound like an old Precision, and the tone from your active Ken Smith will retain all of its quality. If you’re in the market for an overdrive, it’s worth considering that both the build and the sound of the Holy Fire are outstanding and place this pedal well above the average for a bass overdrive.
Features Gain, overdrive, distortion, hi-cut
Power 48VDC to 260VAC power supply included
What We Think
PLUS | Solid build, no unwanted noise and perfect for your next Halloween gig
MINUS | Can’t be run on batteries; powered by a hefty 48V PSU which means you can’t daisy-chain it from other effects in your pedalboard
OVERALL | Another top quality pedal from Creation Audio Labs. Well made and definitely worth an audition