Black Arts Toneworks Witch Burner

  • By David A. Evans @tonereport
  • April 23, 2015

It’s been said that one way to determine if a person is a wizard or witch involves tossing the suspect into the water, then waiting to see if they sink or swim. Unfortunately, the editor of the Tone Report declined my requests to apply the old water test to Black Arts Toneworks’s new Witch Burner. Yet fear not, dear readers, because several other methods exist to test and probe the witchiness of this new overdrive pedal.

Firstly, let us examine the devilish noises this little green box can create. Does it create cackles and howls, the sort that send shivers down an innocent person’s spine? No, but the Witch Burner will create chills nonetheless, for it produces a thick, harmonically rich overdrive that’s fantastic for those ringing perfect fifth and evil, flatted fifth intervals. Moreover, the Witch Burner will sustain notes for what seems like a magically long time. Adjusting the “Dirt” knob to the higher settings seems to subtly increase the loudness of the higher frequencies. As notes ring out and sustain, adding more “Dirt” brings out more of the detail of the sustained notes. The results are impressive, but cannot alone stand as evidence of sorcery.

Perhaps what charms the ear most—and what might be of most interest—is the Witch Burner’s ability to “clean up.” It can disguise itself, that is, but with the turn of a knob, the Witch Burner will cast a spell upon one’s tone, thereby thickening and distorting it. The Witch Burner is particularly responsive to changes in input volume. This writer favored cranking up the pedal’s volume and backing off the guitar’s volume to a very low level. Here the Witch Burner’s tone was dark like a witch’s coven and warm like the fire that heats a bubbling caldron. Evidence of the dark arts? We shall see.

Ordinarily, it is unwise to share recipes, but in this case an exception will be made. Even at the highest “Burn” levels, the Witch Burner maintained this pleasingly clean tone when the instrument volume was low. Yet behold! Spinning the instrument volume knob to higher levels was akin to tossing eye of newt on the flames. The sonic flames will arise, and the creamy overdrive that results will charm the ears. This fiendish concoction requires the Volume to be at 3 o’clock, Burn at 7 o’clock, and Dirt wherever one likes. You will immediately hear the warmth and darkness of its tone. Ramp up the instrument volume for overwhelming overdrive—but beware! The result will be loud.

But what is this? Inside, on the custom made circuit board, one espies a pentagram. Is this the real secret of the Witch Burner’s magic, the final dash of goat’s hoof to the sonic brew it boils? Alas, the Witch Burner is made of quite ordinary materials, and no magic seems to possess it. One will not find charms inside. Instead, one will find a thoughtful design: no loose wires or other potential snags that careless fingers might touch while switching out a nine-volt battery. It seems that the Witch Burner isn’t bewitched!

Good design and electricity are all that potential Tone Wizards need in order to coax howls of overdrive from this little green box. Fortunately, Black Arts Toneworks provides would-be Wizards with a good design—and plenty of overdrive.

What we like: Creamy overdrive that cleans up really well—no sorcery involved.

Concerns: Although it seemed to provide a frequency boost, the Dirt knob could have provided a wider sweep.

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