There's a mythical beast that roams the land of overdrive. It's the four letter word that starts with a "K." While it originally sold for $225, it now costs the price of a used car (if you can even find one).
Many a hobbyist, and a few companies, have "kloned" this infamous beast - some to greater effect than others. But now, Electro Harmonix, long the champion of the working gu itarist, brings us the Soul Food. According to EHX, “The Soul Food is a fantastic overdrive that can be used to boost, fatten, sweeten, and add punch and definition to your tone.”
With treble at noon, drive at 7:00 (i.e. turned down all of the way), and volume at around 10:00, the Soul Food is entirely transparent. You strum a chord, step on and off the foot switch, and don’t hear the effect engage and disengage. At this point, you have a really nice clean boost.
From here, start to dial up the drive and play. You can go from clean, to a little hairy, to pretty crunchy. The tone of the Soul Food gets noticeably brighter as you crank the gain, but you can use the treble control to remove some of the high end content.
Opening up the Soul Food you will find an internal switch for selecting either a high-quality buffer or true bypass switching. Placing the switch in the “up” position puts the Soul Food in true-bypass mode. Down is buffered bypass. There’s no discernible difference in the sound of the pedal between the two options, but the buffer will help your guitar signal pass through long cable runs.
Many people like KLONs and klones as clean boosts, and the Soul Food certainly does this well. But I found myself preferring the mid-gain tones. With the drive between 11:00 and 2:00 you get a natural-sounding overdrive that lets any combination of guitar and amp shine through – just bigger and bolder.
While many overdrives lose definition and dynamics as you crank them up, the Soul Food just gets richer. The higher gain tones retain the character of the guitars played through it but slather on a dense/fuzzy distortion. But one that is still sensitive to how hard you hit the strings.
The Soul Food is also a great stacker, both before and after other pedals. It sounds great in the mid-gain settings being pushed by a Fulltone ’69 fuzz, a Timmy, or EHX’s new East River Drive. Switching the order around, it was a blast hitting the front end of an EHX Glove or a Wampler Ace Thirty with the Soul Food in clean boost mode.
Really the only downside to the Soul Food is that it can’t be a clean boost and a mid-to-high gain pedal simultaneously. I guess what we really need is a dual Soul Food with two circuits cascaded into each other and with individual on/off switches. Such a beast could cover most of my gain needs (aside from a good fuzz pedal).
What We Like
The Soul Food does the tricks of a highly sought after and hard to find overdrive pedal at a fraction of the cost.
The Soul Food doesn’t feel as substantial and the paint job isn’t as fancy as some of the high end boutique overdrives out there, but the build quality seems good. The internal switch for buffer/true bypass feels a little dainty, so you probably want to choose your preference and “set it and forget it.”
It’s $62. No really, it’s $62. I’m not sure there’s ever been a better value guitar product.
Tone (out of 5 stars): 5
Build Quality (out of 5 stars): 4
Value (out of 5 stars): 5
Overall Rating (out of 5 stars): 4.5