The Overdrive Effect Pedal that Respects Your Straight-Amp Tone; Gear Review: Pigtronix FAT Drive
Ever scorned at a relatively normal-looking obese small kid under the block, only to find out that he packed a deadly punch like a Ru Lai Fuo Zhang (Buddha's Palm; Martial art move) which subsequently knocked the wind out of you, leaving your bottoms kissing on the floor? Yep, that's definitely the Pigtronix FAT Drive in the effect pedals' realm.
When the FAT drive was first handed over to me to test and review, the initial train of thought chugging through my head was: "It says Gain, it says Tone, it must be an Overdrive. Oh, and its Green. Must be some kind of Tubescreamer variant lah." *frowns upon examining the artwork* "What the heck it says.... FAT also?!" Why would anyone want to name a pedal that!?!
Little did I know I was about to get my share of Ru Lai Fuo Zhang....
Obesity Is NOT An Issue In Tones
The Pigtronix FAT drive is an all analog tube sounding overdrive effect that delivers nice, thick and crunchy tones whilst preserving the au natural tone of your electric guitar.
According to the Pigtronix website, “The FAT Drive’s multiple cascaded gain stages enable you to nail sounds ranging from bluesy overdrive to rich saturation, all while retaining musical dynamics and the original character of your instrument.”
I could not have worded a description more spot-on than Pigtronix themselves.
Apart from the usual Volume, Gain and Tone knobs, the FAT Drive features a Hi/Lo toggle switch that simply gives you more saturation, more thickness in your tone, allowing you to comfortably punch your way through the mix. Heck, they even aptly named this toggle switch 'More' which gives you exactly that.
The CMOS clipping and a variable low pass filter present in the pedal allows you to shape the tonal qualities of your sound however you like it. This means that the tone control on the FAT Drive isn't just another blend of treble or bass frequencies that you would find on many other overdrives. Turning the Tone knob fully clockwise negates the low pass filter, allowing your guitar's natural frequencies to ring through. Turning the Tone knob counterclockwise allows you to retain more of the mids and lows, giving the low "oompf" characteristic of the FAT Drive.
Featuring true bypass, the FAT Drive is able to accommodate 9V or 18V power supply (no battery option). At 18V, you get more headroom, smoother sweep of the gain and a bigger sound, which takes you closer to unleashing the goodness of the FAT Drive.
Messing Around With The FAT Kid
The moment I plugged into the FAT Drive, I immediately found out why it was called FAT.
Well... there is really no better way to describe the sounds and tones that this pedal pumps out other than its name itself. This is the very definition of a fat guitar tone.
You know those gym-crazy friends that you have who are all about those "Gainz, Muscles, Protein"? That's the FAT Drive for you, a pedal with GAINZ.
With the toggle switch set to "Lo", Volume to 2 o'clock and Gain at 0, I got a sound that was thick, slightly more boosted at the low and mid-lows, pretty useful if you need to fatten up those single coils (I use Gretsch Broadtron Humbuckers).
Cranking up the Gain to 12 o'clock gave me a great thick crunch that was suited for slightly heavier blues stuff. I had to experiment quite a bit with the Tone knob to hit that pleasant sweet spot.
Due to the inherent "darker" sounding tonal qualities of humbuckers, I found that setting the Tone knob any lesser than 12 o'clock yielded a pretty muddy swashing sound, especially when playing with chords.
Soloing however, was another story; This pedal can really sing! With the 'Gain' cranked to about 3 o'clock, note bending, vibratos and harmonics accentuate every little detail of your playing, giving you that "oopmf" which so you much desire whenever you kick on a pedal to grind out those guitar solos.
Flicking the toggle switch to "More" gave me more gain, and more thickness, kinda like roaring aeroplane jet engines being engaged, ready to take off. And boy did I mention that the FAT Drive can really sing?!?! With the added gain, you could easily transit from those crooning blues into a screaming, wailing rock solo (Check out Frank Marino shredding to the FAT drive here!) ready to make you the Number One Neighbour's Enemy.
Rolling down the 'Gain' to 9 o'clock and upwards features an incredible setting to deliver punchy solos whilst retaining the original tone of your guitar. Think of it as your guitar's voice expanding to Sumo-size,but not forgetting how he looked like when he was lean.
Seriously that's what makes this overdrive pedal so magical! -- Remaining so reminiscent of your original natural straight-amp tone even when the 'Gain' is cranked up for boost, or cranked down for tonal enhancements.
Judging The FAT Kid
The FAT Drive is what it describes itself to be, granting additional lower mids and lows to your guitar. It serves those with single coils well, especially if you are looking to fatten or "up-size" your tone, to give it more body.
It requires slightly more patience and twiddling around if you are on humbuckers, due to the "darker" sound of HBs. But with the huuuge range of gain available on the FAT drive from 9v-18v, from 'lo' switch to 'hi' switch, from 8 o'çlock gain to 4 oçlock gain, I'm convinced ANYBODY can find his desired amount of gain and crunch in this simple-to-use regular-sized pedal.
While it may not be everyone's cup of tea for rhythm playing (depending on your music genre preferences), it serves as one of the BEST lead boost, when you are looking to kick on the pedal to literally give your sound an extra "OOMPF" (yes that's my favorite word, deal with it).
Being Fat, never felt so good.