With independent overdrive, fuzz, and octave-doubling effects, the OFO Disnortion will expand your tonal palette multifold.
The Pigtronix OFO Disnortion ($249.99) is a 3-tier analog effects box with three rugged footswitches across the bottom edge of its double-wide chassis. One O stands for Overdrive, and its three knobs are Gain, Level, and Tone. The F stands for Fuzz, which also has Gain and Level knobs; instead of a variable tone knob, Fuzz has a 6-position rotary switch for Shape. The other O is for Octava, which adds an upper octave to your sound. In addition to its own Level knob, Octava also has a Filter control that rolls off the high end entering the circuit.
Each section has a uniquely colored LED above its footswitch, so you know at a glance which effects are active. On the pedal's rear panel are ¼-inch input and output jacks, a connection for the included 15V wall wart, and a ¼-inch Clean output for sending a dry signal without effects. Pigtronix pedals handle line inputs just as easily as instrument inputs, so there's no need for reamplification or a direct interface when using them on a mix.
Overdrive is the OFO's meat and potatoes; this section is sweet. At low gain levels, when I turned up the Level knob a bit, it performed like a subtle boost. With the gain cranked up, it thickened the guitar tone and gave it real teeth, but it never sounded too edgy or brittle (see Web Clips 1 and 2). Although the Tone knob is handy, I left it wide open most of the time. As the manual explains, it's really a high-frequency attenuator, unlike the treble-boosting tone control on many distortion pedals.
Fuzz is not what I'd call classic fuzz, à la '60s psychedelia, but I like it quite a bit — especially its ability to run parallel to Overdrive. Fuzz's Shape switch selects one of six EQ curves: Full Range, F.A.T. (Mid Boosted), Smooth, Treble, Mid Scoop, and Bass. Each setting sounds pretty much like what you'd expect from the descriptions. I liked the F.A.T. position best on drums, especially when I coupled the OFO with Pigtronix's EP-1 phaser pedal (see the May 2005 review, available online at www.emusician.com). For guitar, I tended to choose F.A.T., Treble, or Smooth, depending on the application (see Web Clip 3). During one session, the Treble setting was my favorite for bass guitar, because it sounded most like the particular brand of bass fuzz I wanted.
The OFO's crowning glory is its Octava circuit. Because it can be switched in series with both or either of the other effects, Octava can twist and crunch your sound in ways you've never imagined (see Web Clips 4 through 6). The Filter knob plays an important role in coaxing the perfect sound out of the Octava section, and I had fun finding that sweet spot where just the right frequencies got through.
Any Colour You Like
Pigtronix is one of the increasingly abundant small American companies making specialized stompboxes. I'm excited to see such companies thriving; their success is a barometer for the growing desire of musicians and producers to come up with new sounds. Stock, mass-produced effects processors have their place, but every now and then it's nice to get your hands on effects that only a few people are using.
If all of the OFO's features have piqued your interest, I should mention a few issues. First, for purists who demand true bypass in their pedals, the OFO doesn't have it: the pedal must be turned on to pass a signal through. The manual emphasizes that despite this fact, there is no degradation when the signal bypasses the effects, which I unscientifically confirmed for myself. Second, the OFO runs only on its external power supply and not 9V batteries. Pigtronix claims that the OFO needs all 15 of those precious volts to operate at its full potential. Third, you should thoroughly check all the controls once you get your pedal; I had issues with the Overdrive Level knob on two different units I received for review. Customer service appears to be one of Pigtronix's strong points, though, so have no fear.
Considering the OFO's price and versatility, it's a pretty solid deal. Rarely have I had a pedal in my studio that's been used on almost every session by almost every type of guitarist. After laying down their tracks, more than a couple of guitarists I've recorded have immediately gone online looking for OFOs of their own. I'd say that's a pretty good endorsement.
Value (1 through 5): 4