The Electro Harmonix Hot Tubes Nano is a re-creation of the original Hot Tubes from the late-1970's. As the original has gained cult status from use by Sonic Youth and others it has slowly escalated in price on the used market. Seeing the demand for the original unit, EHX developed the Hot Tubes Nano using the same CMOS circuit as the original.
Fuzzy is the best way to describe the tone of the Hot Tubes. To my ears, it sounds like speaker break up or like a small amp being pushed just beyond the breaking point. It’s an overused term, but the Hot Tubes really does sound "tweedy."
Having the option to bypass the tone stock adds a lot of versatility to the Hot Tubes. With the tone stack bypassed, the Hot Tubes Nano is a little dark, but it’s louder and gainier. Engaging the tone stack cut some of the lows, reduces volume overall, and allows for a brighter tone.
I preferred the tone stack bypassed when using the Strat and Tele. With P90s and humbuckers I liked the engaging the tone control for cutting some low frequencies and dialing in some sizzle.
If I had to use one word to describe the Hot Tubes Nano, it would be “garage.” It really nails the tone of a small combo bezerk. There’s a thickness to the low frequencies and raspiness to the highs that just makes you want to bash away.
What We Like: The Hot Tubes Nano sounds like a low-budget vintage tube amp cranked up in your parents’ basement or garage. It’s not smooth, it’s not as touch sensitive as some other overdrives, but it gets the point across in a balls out rock and roll kind of way.
Concerns: With the overdrive set below noon, there's something artificial about the attack of the note. Running the gain beyond noon is great though.
Build Quality: The build quality is solid. No complaints here.