If you are a guitar player, I would hope that you are noticing the big play that ElectroHarmonix is making to be the king of the pedalboards. In the past year, EHX has released some significantly impressive pedals, nothing like the industry has seen in a long time.
One of the most recent releases the “Soul Food” is a Klon Centaur Clone (Aka Klon Klone). Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to play many Klon Klones and a Klon KTR, but have never touched the magic that is the original Klon. The Klon is a lower gain overdrive pedal. It is rumored that Bill Finnegan was able to wire up some sort of diode made from unicorn droppings. Whether that is true or not, the Klon is an amazing pedal and the Klones have been piling out of builders warehouses for the past few years, but nothing like they are now.
JHS Pedals is well known for their pedals and their controversy in the pedal industry. Prior to this review I had owned two different JHS pedals. The first being the Asto Mess. I purchased this locally. When I purchased it the store owner said if I didn’t like it I could return in up to 7 days no questions asked. So I played it for a few days, and returned it. When I returned it I thought of picking up a Devi fuzz and the store owner told me to save some time as the Asto was an exact copy of a certain Devi Fuzz. Whether true or not, that stuck with me for quite some time.
The second JHS pedal that I got was an Angry Charlie. Honestly, it is an okay pedal, but by that time I had already discovered Pedals By Tone. The PBT OD is a better overdrive, better tone response and on the oscilloscope shows better harmonic response. Strike two for JHS, although on a positive note, most JHS pedals resale very well.
*Editors note, the previous two paragraphs are not to dispute JHS pedals assertion that their designs are their own, it serves only to describe my personal experience with JHS pedals prior to owning the JHS modified EHX Soul Food. You may have different results than I do.
So, come to last fall when I picked up a EHX Soul Food. On it’s own it is an amazing pedal. Not that difficult to dial in, great low gain to semi-transparent overdrive. Reviewing many of the Klon Wars videos there is very little discernable difference between the EHX Soul Food and most Klon Klones. In the unmodified state, it is a killer pedal with rich harmonic saturation without the buzziness of higher gain pedals. It can easily be too bright or trebly and there is some bass response that is lost when the pedal is engaged, but it is very livable at the right setting.
In November I had the opportunity to purchase a JHS modified Soul Food new from JHS Pedals. So I did. The first concern that I had was the time to shipping. Their website quotes 1-2 weeks but it was not shipped in three, so I contacted JHS. I got a very friendly response, but the pedal was not received until a month after it was ordered.
After receiving the JHS mod Soul Food, I wanted to take a look to compare the mod to the original. I noted that one of the screws on the backside had been stripped and unless I wanted to drill out the old screw and replace it, I wasn’t going to get inside this bad boy. That was okay, because I really got this for the tone (or the mystery tone).
The first thing I tried is to A/B compare the mod with the original in original mode. Hooked up to the oscilloscope and the “Meat Mod” knob turned all the way down, it is an exact duplicate as it says it is. In all frequencies tested, harmonic response was exactly duplicated. The reason I am mentioning this is this pedal is a good A/B test against itself. The “meat mod” is a bass knob to help round out the bass lost in the original circuit. That is a great addition if nothing else is added.
Switching to the “open clipping” was a little grainy and notched clipping can be seen in the oscilloscope early in the distortion cycle. It is a very usable setting, but to me not as pleasing as the stock with a little “meat.”
Where this mythical creature shines in in the Germanium Diode setting. It is hard to believe there is that much difference, but it tonally shines. Compared with the KTR Klon, there is very little sonically different when A/B’d. This pedal which is new under $150 is pretty spot on comparable with the $400+ plus KTR with the ability to add some low end. Some things to know about the JHS modified Soul Food.
This pedal is more sensitive to input levels that other gain pedals. Switching from a guitar with single coils to humbuckers is going to give you a drastic change in gain. Do not be afraid to turn your guitar down and slowly pull up your volume till you hit the sweet spot. This pedal will most likely play the best at the start of your signal chain. Putting a buffered pedal before this pedal will also alter the gain response and is not recommended.
Don’t overdo the meat. The meat control is very helpful, but be careful not to overdo it. It is as easy to overdo the meat control as it is the treble control. Additionally, I do not place the Mod Soul Food on the right side of my board as it could be too easy to bump the meat control, I place it where there is another pedal to the right (an unbufffered tuner). Very slight changes are audible with this pedal.
The hype is true. Going through my history of overdrive pedals that I have owned (somewhere between 50 and 70 different pedals, depending on what could be considered low gain pedals), this one is the best. I would venture to say a better deal than a KTR because there is more tweakability and the ability to beef up some low end.
For the purpose of this evaluation the following guitars and amplifiers were used and were able to achieve amazing tone:
Guitars, MSP Zebra Top, Fender American Deluxe Strat, Fender CS Relic Telecaster, Gibson LP standard, Gibson Firebird VII CS, Gretch Electromatic Duo Jet, Gibson ES-137.
Amps: Vox Night Train, Orange Mini-Terror, Orange Micro Terror, Fender Super Reverb silverface early 70’s, Fender Bassman 59 RI, Ibanez TS15AH, Mesa Mini Rec.
1. Delivery and Packaging: 4 out of 5 stars. Slow build equates to slow delivery. A 5 star company would have initiated contact prior to the shipment being delayed.
2. Visual Appearance: 5 out of 5 stars. Looks cool enough, switches are not too small or too big.
3. Construction: 4 ½ out of 5 stars. The original is solid but the rebuild had a stripped screw. If anything ever did go wrong I would have to send it somewhere to have it looked at.
4. Ease of use: 4 ½ out of 5 stars. Very touchy controls on original and meat controls means a learning curve to optimize output tone consistently. Learning curve not too bad, but might be a problem for someone not familiar with how a low gain overdrive works.
5. Tone: 5 stars out of 5 stars. From the JHS website “Centaur Mystery Meat Never Tasted So Good.” I agree 100%.
6. Communication: 3 out of 5. Delay in construction and delivery should be communicated to the customer timely
7. Value: 5 out of 5 stars. Probably the best low gain overdrive I have ever owned. Better than those costing 4 times as much.
Overall Rating 4.4 out of 5 stars.
A good investment if you want a tweakable Klon Klone.
*Update November 2015 – This pedal no longer functions. Updates forthcoming.