Jack of All Trades | Master of Whatever You Like
Overdrive pedals are an interesting, and more often than not, touchy subject for a lot of guitarists. Some folk swear by the classic TS-808 circuit as they put on their cowboy hat and brush the cobwebs off their finest bolo tie. Others claim transparency is key in achieving the elusive ‘perfect tone’, a pursuit that has driven the price of some single overdrive units into the thousands. It’s pretty rare to see an overdrive that genuinely feels like a new idea, that’s where Caroline Guitar Company come in…
In the Mix
After gigging the Haymaker for a few nights and really putting it through its paces at stage volumes, it became apparent to me that I was happier with my live tone than I had been in a really long time. My main live project is a garage rock duo (Trapped Admirals) that puts a lot of emphasis on pretending to sound a lot bigger than we are. I generally prefer a bass-heavy tone that really has a solid thump on the bottom three strings.
The Haymaker has three distinct modes simply labelled ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’. Each of these modes give a passing nod to classic overdrive flavours. Mode ‘A’ is compressed and pushes midrange forward like a famous green box we all know and love. It’s fantastic for pushing an already hot amp into a compressed lead. Mode 'B’ is open, transparent and capable of a lot of jangle that can be pushed into quite nasty treble boosted sounds. I’ve found that you really need to appreciate the amp you’re playing with to get along with this particular mode, acting as a kind of more switch, pushing the tone you already have. Finally, mode ‘C’ reminds me distinctly of Caroline’s other highly successful dirt box, the Wave Cannon. This mode can deliver heavy, fuzzy grind that is beautifully satisfying through a lower wattage amp.
I found myself using mode ‘B’ the most often. Playing through an EL84 driven Hiwatt T40, I really just wanted to add a touch of grit for when I couldn’t crank the 40 watt combo up to get some natural power tube distortion. With a little patience, I found that I could dial in just what I was after and it really felt like just turning the amp up a couple of notches. Playing with my trusty “Frankenstein” monster-of-spare-parts Telecaster, the tone cleaned up perfectly and stacked great with the couple of fuzz pedals I use. It really sounded like part of the amp.
We have a couple of songs that I play slide on in our sets and I use a Tokai SG that I have tuned to open G for these. I’ve found myself switching mode ‘B’ over to ‘C’, with the SG and really slamming the front end of my amp with its humbuckers. The tone changes from quite a low gain, dynamic overdrive to a snarling fuzz that just begged for some ripping slide riffs.
The Bottom Line
For people who play in multiple bands or need to cover a lot of bases without the cash to lash out and buy half a dozen overdrive and distortion pedals, the Haymaker makes the perfect Jack-of-all-trades. The only thing I found that irked me was the control scheme. Without clear labels on the pedal itself, it can be a little intimidating to dial in a sound that can be pleasing, especially in live conditions. After a while I adjusted to this and it’s been on my board since.
Written by Aiden Bradley for Signal Chain
Guitar gear connoisseur