hammertone overdrive

Review: Fender Hammertone Overdrive – Mixdown Magazine

Words from Adam Buttigieg

Fender Australia | Price: $199

Fender’s foray into the effects pedals market over the years has been exciting, not just for fans of the brand, but for guitarists as a whole. Fender’s first release of effects pedals was introduced in 2018 and achieved great success with the launch. However, these pedals tend to be at the top of the money scale. They had a myriad of controls that can leave beginners and those new to effects pedals overwhelmed.

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To counter this, Fender introduced: the Hammertone line of effects pedals which is a slightly more budget-friendly option and has a simpler tone control system for players of all skill levels. The Hammertone Overdrive is part of this new range of Fender effects pedals capable of creating a wide range of tones that compete with other pedals within its price range. Overdrive pedals are very diverse, despite all being labeled as such, and are typically built with five different types of overdrive circuitry, each with their own unique tonal and amplification characteristics. The tried and true overdrive circuit is known as soft clipping and has been used in abundance in hundreds if not thousands of overdrive pedals since the 1970s. Based on the sound and controls implemented in this pedal, Fender have used this for their Hammertone Overdrive.

The Hammertone Overdrive comes in a sturdy hammered aluminum housing (hence the name Hammertone) and its power is apparent when you take the pedal out of the box. Featuring easy-to-read metal dials with colored Fender pots, the Hammertone is designed to be used reliably, gig after gig. The input jack, output jack and power input are all top mounted on this and all other Hammertone series pedals, something atypical compared to the vast majority of pedal constructions where the input and output jacks are on the right and left faces respectively. This can make the top surfaces of your pedals look crowded on your board, but it does offer several mounting and cable management options.

The pedal can be opened at the back with a coin, a handy feature that can save your performance in a live environment where you may need to quickly replace a battery if you go that route to power your pedals. Interestingly enough, the Hammertone Overdrive has a hidden adjustable trim pot once the cover is removed. This control can only be adjusted with a screwdriver and makes the tone even darker and makes the pedal sound as if it is going through some kind of attenuation filter. While it’s an interesting little feature, it’s not something I’d say can be used practically. But who knows what can be discovered with some experimentation!

The Fender Hammertone certainly seems to complement single-coil guitars. This is to be expected on most popular Fender models with single coil pickups. The overdrive seems to respond best when placed in front of an amp that is about to fall apart, to compliment the amp’s natural drive sound rather than alter it. The pedal’s tone is generally rather dark and bass-heavy when set below six, and sounds best when pushed to 10, where it really breaks through with its clarity and great response.

The pre-mid boost control certainly pushes this pedal up a notch compared to its competitors in the same price range. This addition of the pre-mid boost control can do what other overdrives of this price could do without. It’s a rather subtle tone control on this overdrive. When it’s above seven, it gives the pedal a more old school ’80s overdrive sound, similar to that of a Tube Screamer. With the pre-mid boost dialed down, the overdrive has a more open feel. The pre-mid boost control can also shape tones based on the type of guitar you play, whether it has humbuckers or single coils.

The level control works exactly as it should, has no volume jump when set halfway and transitions naturally to this setting without an unwanted volume boost. With the level up from this, the pedal really comes alive and can push the amp to greater tonal possibilities. Overall, the gain profile of the Hammertone Overdrive is relatively high compared to other overdrives on the market. Even at low settings of three or lower, the pedal sounds like it really wants to go.

The pedal seems to have an underlying compression that comes through as the gain control is tweaked higher. Even if you play lightly or strum heavily, the output is balanced. Despite starting with a relatively high gain profile, the gain control still has a noticeable gentle swing from rocky overdrive to tip-toeing the line of distortion. There’s a sweet spot within the gain control that can accommodate everything you need from an overdrive. If you’re the type of player who likes to keep their guitar volume at 10, don’t expect smooth, clean, or transparent tones from this pedal. With some experimentation between your guitar volume control and the gain and level controls on the pedal, you can achieve clean overdrive, but it’s by no means what the pedal does naturally.

The Fender Hammertone Overdrive can be an exciting addition to your pedalboard. This pedal punches through with its extra midrange and wants to be heard. If you’re looking for an overdrive that sculpts your tone with some gritty richness and mid punch, this overdrive will fit your board beautifully.

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