china-made farida guitars
WHEN Ibanez released the (original) TK999 Tube King more than a dozen years ago, it was an instant hit. Sure, the design wasn’t original and the Japanese manufacturer got in trouble with one BK Butler, but what the Tube King did was pique the interest of guitar players everywhere.
Since then, the market has slowly bought into the concept of tube-driven pedals, for overdrive/distortion or other applications.
Heck, it seems like anything without a tube these days won’t even get a second look. The Digitech HardWire SC-2 Valve Distortion pedal is built to raise a few eyebrows, though.
There’s nothing particularly mind-bending about this Digitech. It’s built like a tank and comes with some of the most straightforward controls – Level, Low, High and Gain. A toggle switch (right above a blue LED ... sexy!) allows users to cycle between Crunch and Saturated (lead) settings. Best of all, this baby runs on any (well, almost ... don’t try those cheap DIY store ones, please) normal 9V wall wart or 9V battery. How cool is that? Even the in/outs are so precisely engineered.
The old Godin SP90 dual P90 pickup axe was hauled out for this review, along with SG (Chinese) and ES-335 (Korean) copies, and a Fender Cyclone II. A couple of heads and combos were used for amplification – Marshall JMP 1986, Ceriatone 18w, Silvertone 1482 and Gibson GA-20 Minuteman.
Unlike a few of the other tube-driven boxes I’ve fiddled with, the HardWire Valve Distortion has some tasty break-up tones at the lower end of its throw. Plenty of room for expression combined with your guitar’s volume.
This, of course, in Crunch mode, but on its nether settings, the best in the pedal comes out. This is what chunky 1970s rock is made of.
The lead setting predictably does what you’d expect it to do. Clean, smooth overdrive ... okay, distortion. Heavier forms of rock would appreciate this with the HardWire Valve Distortion but I wouldn’t go as far as to call it an outright metal pedal.
It seemed difficult to tame the drive settings musically from the guitar’s volume, too, but that’s if only to nitpick. Within the pedal itself, it provides loads of room for distorted expression.
Shame that the two settings on the pedal can’t be accessed via a footswitch in any way. Well maybe you can’t have your cake and eat it too, after all. But it certainly would’ve made this the most value-formoney tube-based distortion pedal in the market here now. And that says a lot.
Rock in a box: The Digitech HardWire SC-2 Valve Distortion pedal is a no-nonsense distortion stomp box.