Wampler Pedals dips its toe in the bass overdrive waters with its new Low Blow, but, boy howdy, does it make a splash. Armed with three EQ bands, a Blend knob, a toggle to control Gain characteristics and a toggle to control Midrange functionality (as well as Volume and Gain controls), there’s very little the Low Blow doesn’t do, and everything it does, it does exceptionally well.
Of course, the three bands of EQ are Treble, Bass and Mids. When activated, it seems as if the Low Blow is already cutting some low end, but both Gain settings add a fair amount of compression, which ensure note fundamentals are prominent, so you’re never shy of low end. However, if you disagree. the EQ controls are active, so adding meat isn’t an issue. The Treble is voiced well, adding presence and attack as needed, and complementing the Clean blend control, as the latter tends to bring back more of the note attack.
The Mids control tends toward the upper mids until the Notch Filter is activated, at which point the character of the pedal changes dramatically. When activated, the true midrange comes to the fore, adding muscle while cutting some of the top and low end. The Treble and Bass controls still work, but the playing field has changed dramatically. This option is tremendously cool, particularly when paired with the gain options.
There are two Gain options: Smooth and Jagged. “Smooth” is a misnomer: this setting offers wonderful crunch and sustain, but it is—as described by Wampler—the more amp-like of the two. With the Notch Filter setting in bypass, you get a nice, full signal with some real hair around the note, perfect for the seemingly trad tones that Wilco’s John Stirratt gets. The Blend knob is particularly useful with this setting, as it can really help fine tune the right amount of attack and grit.
The Jagged setting isn’t really “jagged” either, but it’s aggressive and more compressed. When used with the Notch Filter, it was very easy to dial in the driving, punchy distorted tones used by My Bloody Valentine’s Deb Googe and Ride’s Steve Queralt. Playing with this combo in general just screams “DI-overdriving-the-desk-input” tones, although the modern compression characteristics of the gain means any attempts to nail, say, classic Beatles tones will be inexact. However, those looking for something in the vein of Monster Magnet, or something that’s just plain cool, will be richly rewarded.
There’s something else the Low Blow excels at: high-gain guitar overdrive. I’ve always found Wampler’s guitar pedals to be very hi-fi, open and present, and the Low Blow is no exception, but the EQ voicing—while designed for bass—is a natural for guitars. Because the Low Blow isn’t built to accentuate the strident tones of a guitar, the Gain and Treble can be used together without fear of generating screeching high end content. Similarly, the Mids tend to reach lower, so cutting here reduces mud and leaves vital fundamentals intact. Meanwhile, the Bass control fully encompasses the low E, so you won’t suffer from the low-end loss that’s typical of many guitar overdrives. Finally, the Smooth gain, when combined with the Blend, offers incredibly articulate, natural sounding overdrive and gobs of sustain. Again, the Low Blow imparts a real modern sensibility via the Gain’s compression, but does so without imposing the extreme EQ voicings found in many modern amps. Due to the independent Gain and Blend controls, the Low Blow isn’t as dynamic as some overdrives, but for plain ol’ articulate guitar crunch, it is very difficult to beat.
What we like: Everything. The Low Blow offers “natural” bass overdrive, nails familiar studio-like bass distortion tones and is an amazing guitar overdrive. Further, its form factor (top jacks and a vertical rather than horizontal layout) gracefully offers a lot of control while demanding a minimum of real estate.
Concerns: None, but the one thing the Low Blow doesn’t do is cop the most classic of bass tones. The compression character of the overdrive precludes the loose, fuzzy feel you’d associate with, say, Motown or Muscle Shoals. For everything else bass, the Low Blow has you covered.