In a way, I feel the tide turning. It used to be that no matter what overdrive pedal I plugged into, I couldn’t find that magical Goldilocksian “just right” tone that I wanted to hear in my head. There was that one mythical time on tour when I had to borrow a tourmate’s Keeley TS-9 Deluxe and, paired with my Hot Rod Deluxe, it was the best overdriven tone I’d ever had in my entire life. That’s been my ideal ever since—and for years, nothing matched up to it. However, with the explosion of boutique pedal makers, it seems the market is being flooded with an abundance of quality stuff—you just have to be diligent in keeping up with what’s coming out.
Steve over at Buffalo says, “The roots of the evolution lie in the 70’s big muff which was used as the basis of the overdrive pedal made by a world renowned UK builder in the early nineties.” I can only assume this is in reference to one Pete Cornish, who ought to need no introduction. Confession: I consider myself a gear nerd, but no way am I a big enough gear nerd to hang in a Pete Cornish conversation, so I’m going to bypass (no pun intended) any discussion of the Evolution in comparison to Cornish’s work and just stick to the facts: this thing is amazing whether or not you’re a Gilmour devotee!
The Evolution might be the most amp-like overdrive pedal I’ve ever played. I’ve always sacrificed a great dirty tone in order to have great clean tone; I normally play Fenders with plenty of headroom—my clean, jangly tone is my sound and I hate messing with it. That has always meant using overdrive pedals that sounded manufactured. Using the Evolution felt like I was using an amp switcher to go between my trademarked clean tone and this amazing, rich overdrive that felt vibrant and alive.
The pedal has your garden variety drive, tone, and volume controls plus a contour control, that allows you to tweak the midrange, meaning you can bump the mids up for a full on rock tone or drop them down and somewhat flatten out the tone. The contour knob has a million useable spots on the dial—I was surprised to find that there was not a “sweet spot” in it, but rather the entire tonal range sounded phenomenal, whether mildly scooped or crammed full of mids.
With the drive cranked, The Evolution is a full-on rock machine that can just scratch the surface of fuzz while retaining amazing clarity. With the drive backed off, it has a crisp but rich tone that is mega responsive to picking dynamics. Surprisingly, the Evolution doesn’t need to be run loud to get amazing tone—I played it both in a band setting and at home at bedroom levels and it smoked at all levels on the dial. 275 dollars is not out of line for a handbuilt boutique pedal, though it is a tad steep for overdrive in general, but personally, I’d pay almost any price to have my perfect tone because finding what’s “just right” is practically priceless.
What we like: It’s ALIVE! Amazingly rich tone that runs the gamut from light overdrive to fuzz and countless points between
Concerns: A more serious financial investment than some OD pedals, but probably worth it.