Life sometimes presents us with two options, only one of which we can choose. Well . . . almost. Totally Wycked Audio wants us to have it both ways, and the company seems to have succeeded. Its Hot Saké pedal blends distortion and overdrive into one unit. That’s correct, it’s a pedal with distortion that responds like overdrive. And it’s flexible, too. Whether it’s just a little dirt or soul-crushing distortion, the Hot Saké will deliver.
As some readers might recall, distortion differs from overdrive in that the former is less responsive to playing dynamics or input volume. Once the distortion pedal’s clicked on, no matter how loud the instrument volume is, the output will be distorted rather evenly. Overdrive, on the other hand, tends to be more dynamic. Roll back the volume for cleaner tones, and roll it up for a dirtier, louder tone.
For cleaner tones, you’ll have to roll back the volume on the instrument. In this way, the Hot Saké behaves just like any other overdrive pedal. The clean tones were warm and only hinted at the ferocity of the pedal’s distortion at higher levels. TWA isn’t kidding around in the literature: The Hot Sake delivers a steaming hot serving of distortion even at the noon position of the Drive knob. I was really surprised by this.
The Hot Saké features a low boost toggle for adding in a hefty amount of low end. I’d say that the pedal’s default “no boost” is pretty even and transparent. But where’s the fun in that? To kick things up a notch, TWA’s low boost will add super-saturated low end for a contemporary sound. The Hot Sake delivers a curious blend of crystalline distortion, with plenty of clarity in the high end, and the harmonic richness of a fuzz or an overdrive.
But that’s not all. TWA included two tone knobs for further sonic tweaking. The miniature Tone knob, located just below Drive, will boost lows or highs. In practice, I found that when in positions above noon, Tone settings generated a fairly thin sound without much body, while positions below noon tended to darken the sound. I preferred the airy, light tones rather than the thicker ones primarily because the added low end seemed to lack the definition that I aim for.
As for the second knob, Mids, it allows for boosting or cutting the mid-range frequencies, as would be expected. However, the Tone and Mids knobs also work in conjunction. Both the Tone and Mids control bell-shaped frequency curves with the possibility of some overlap. With some fiddling, it’s possible to dial in a whole range of sounds that a single EQ knob couldn’t hope to create.
The Hot Sake features a couple of other somewhat hidden features that add to its functionality. The first is an internally-mounted switch for customizing the “cap” of the low boost frequency. Although TWA says the difference between the two settings is subtle, the difference wasn’t so subtle as to be indiscernible. In fact, I found that the 100Hz and 60Hz caps produced more restricted and fuller tones, respectively.
Secondly—and perhaps most important to a certain breed of tone hound—the Hot Sake features a proprietary form of true bypass switching. Without getting into a lot of detail, the important point to remember is that the input signal travels an incredibly short distance to the output jack. Moreover, if power cuts out, the pedal passes the input signal through rather than cutting it out. Imagine that—no unexpected signal drop!
TWA’s Hot Saké offers a great value for a whole lot of sound. I especially recommend the unit for people who cannot ever get enough distortion.
What We Like: Flexible distortion with characteristics of overdrive, fuzz, and pure distortion; generous helping of tone controls
Concerns: Eh, well, that cover art is really something.