Electro-Harmonix Crayon Full-Range Overdrive

  • By Eric Tischler @tonereport
  • January 28, 2016

I’ve long been a fan of Electro-Harmonix’ fuzzes, phasers, flangers, octave generators, and tremolos. Well, now I can add overdrives to the list.  The new Crayon overdrive, EHX’s full-range OD, is a winner.

I’m assuming the Crayon is so named because, like a big box of crayons, it can handle a variety of chores. However, unlike a crayon (at least in my hands), this pedal is capable of some very refined work.  EHX says the Crayon has an “Open frequency range that provides players with a musical alternative to customary mid-focused overdrive pedals.” That statement is true, but, with its powerful EQ, the Crayon is capable of more common “pushed mids” too—it can just about do it all.

The Treble and Bass controls can boost or cut their respective frequencies, and the Drive adds some mids and high end while cutting some of the low end.  Given that, I found it more useful to use the EQ to compensate for the Drive and, with that approach, I was able to coax some great tones from the Crayon.

The Bass control goes deep into the low end, and at times it felt like the center frequency was below my low E string.  Despite that, I was repeatedly able to dial in rich, meaty overdrive, albeit more by feel than by ear. The Treble knob is this pedal’s secret weapon: it does a great job of bringing out top end definition, and you really have to abuse it before it becomes shrill.

The Crayon was a dream to use with both humbuckers and p90s; something about the mids in these pickups made them well suited for the pedal’s two-band EQ. Classic rock, alt-rock, and blues tones were easily dialed in. I also had great luck with the single coils, but I had to work a little harder to dial in the low end. Nevertheless, I was able to set a rich, articulate rhythm tone on my neck pickup, and add some nice bite on the lead pickup. I really liked the Crayon as a low-gain OD, too. I could add a little hair without clogging the mid-range, and I could bring out the stringiness of the top end without having to cut the low end.

That said, the Gain control itself is a little unruly, quickly moving from low-gain to high-gain, but that just means you’ll want to move carefully if you’re setting it for low-gain use. The only other stumbling block I had was that the gain itself felt weirdly artificial if the Bass wasn’t dialed in properly, as if a compressor had been applied and the release setting was way too long. Indeed, this was the sole similarity I found between The Crayon and a boutique, four-knob, “transparent” overdrive, about which there’s been a fair amount of speculation online. However, once dialed in, The Crayon’s distortion sounded very natural, like, yes, an overdriven amp, saturating as I turned up the gain, bringing up the mids ever so slightly (at which point I’d just tweak the Treble and Bass until I had the right balance).

So, admittedly, this pedal is right in my wheelhouse: I don’t want more mids in my signal, so any OD that lets me maintain the tonal balance of my rig is one I’m going to like.  The fact that the Crayon maintains note definition so well and is available for under $65 makes it an absolute home run for me. That price point is amazing, and for those who think there’s a catch, I’ll say this: The Crayon is not the most touch-sensitive pedal I’ve ever played (although it cleans up quite nicely with the volume knob), and that’s all I’ve got. Yeah, the low end and bass require some patience, but I think any pedal with more than two knobs likely will need some patience. If you’re in the market for an OD, you should get your hands on The Crayon.

What we like: Great tonal flexibility and articulation for an astonishing price.

Concerns: None.

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  1. Buck Steele

    I’m a proficient harmonica player and want to know if your product works wel with this instrument amplified through a mic?

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  3. jane