A blog post on the Jim Dunlop site from November 2014—Dunlop acquired the MXR brand in 1987—indicated that the MXR Custom Shop had opened the doors of international collaboration on its “quest for sonic discovery.” The company put out a call for accomplished independent pedal designers from all over the world to put their unique perspectives and design styles to work in exploring “the furthest reaches of tone.”
The first such exploration, a partnership with Carlo Sorasio—Italy’s “premier boutique amp and pedal builder”—produced what I’ll be reviewing here: the aptly named Il Tornio Overdrive.
Who exactly is Carlo Sorasio? Yeah, I didn’t know either. Apparently he’s the man behind LAA-CUSTOM, a brand of amplifiers and effects based out of Turin, Italy.
From what I’ve gleaned from translated interviews, Carlo is dead set against cloning, so it’s easy to understand why he was an ideal choice to partner with MXR on an original Custom Shop overdrive design.
Carlo says that every project starts with a dual focus—the player and the tone. So by elevating both through the outright refusal to compromise on components or costs, sonic barriers are removed and innovatively dynamic circuit designs become the result.
Tutto e Bene
The Il Torino is a highly versatile MOSFET-based drive that features both a low gain overdrive and a clean boost, selectable at the push of a button. The pedal sports a 3-band boost/cut EQ section and independent controls for volume and gain.
With the OD/Boost switch engaged running into a clean amp, you’ll hear an added tube-like compression that’s natural sounding and pretty darn tasty. With my single-coil and P90-equipped guitars, I was able to get a touch of grind going around 10 o’clock on the gain knob, but the Il Torino really is a low-gainer. Even with the Gain knob cranked, it isn’t likely to overwhelm you from a saturation standpoint. But there is a decent amount of range through the Gain knob—from clean or just a hint of drive to fairly hairy—so I’m sure this could work for stackers, tweakers or players looking for a low-gain drive option with lots of tonal control.
On the boost side, well—I can’t think of many options out there that give you a full range of EQ controls on top of enough decibels to push your amp into sweet sounding overdrive or full-on bedlam if it’s already cranked up. Disengaging the OD mode increases the volume a touch, but significantly elevates the headroom and provides a cleaner palette to work with. And that’s the main focus here—lots of volume and plenty of control.
The overall sonic footprint is somewhat Marshall-inspired to my ears and, as I said earlier, more suited for low gain or boost. This makes it a great stacker in front other gain pedals or a killer tone-shaper behind them, thanks to the useful EQ section.
What we like: Admittedly, I’m a bit of an overdrive snob. But honestly, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Il Torino. As a three-knob amp owner, I’ve really fallen in love with drive pedals that give me a full range of EQ options—so the 3-band boost/cut feature is right up my alley.
Concerns: With the Il Torino you’re getting a great overdrive and a nice boost. It probably won’t satisfy the Tube Screamer lovers, but for players looking for a powerful drive/boost combo, it’s definitely worth a look. Especially at its sub-$120 price point. So c’mon. Concerns? Non dire sciocchezze!