Overdrive pedals are never in short supply. Guitarists love them, and they are used—either alone or stacked up together—to drive an amp into sweet distortion. But underdrive pedals? That’s a little different. Mad Professor’s Evolution Orange Underdrive is one such pedal, and it’s designed to work with a distorted amplifier or dirt pedals to achieve clarity and response. It performs the opposite role of an overdrive pedal. While the overdrive seeks to dirty up a clean amp, the underdrive seeks to clean up a dirty one.
A guitar plugged straight into a cranked amp is an exciting experience; it is raw, it is powerful, it is visceral. It’s as if you can feel the electricity coursing through your veins. Subtle adjustments in pick attack or volume yield a variety of tones, but sometimes certain frequencies and nuances are lost when you lower your guitar volume. If you like to control your tone by working your volume control, the Evolution Orange will be of interest to you. It dampens the midrange frequencies where overdrive is most apparent, providing you with a cleaner, clearer signal. The juicy high end that you love won’t disappear when you kick in the Evolution Orange, you’ll just get less gain.
The Volume knob controls the overall output of the pedal, while Midrange, Treble, and Bass knobs tailor the clean sound. With the Volume and Midrange knobs on higher settings, it is capable of boost, but it remains clean—remember, this is an underdrive. Used in conjunction with a high-gain pedal, the Evolution Orange imparted pleasing clean-ish tones when engaged. It doesn’t make the signal squeaky clean, which would seem contrived and unnatural. It sounds like a rolled-back volume knob but without any annoying frequency loss. One thing to note when using the Evolution Orange: the Volume control must be matched with your original signal. Because it is aimed at cleaning things up, this pedal doesn’t provide tons of output, and if you keep the volume low, you’ll get lost in the mix when you turn it on. Generous volume settings ensure you’ll still be heard, and the Midrange knob can enhance your signal even more, while still retaining that clean tone.
Just for kicks, I tried the Evolution Orange running before a cranked overdrive pedal as well as a silicon Fuzz Face. Living up to its name, it cut through all the wild saturation and provided a great clean sound alive with harmonic content. In front of a cranked Vox AC15, it tamed the raspy distortion and added depth to chimey cleans, even with the humbuckers in my Gibson SG.
In some ways, the Evolution Orange can be considered an anti-pedal, as it operates under the premise of addition by subtraction. Its EQ and underdrive capabilities make it a great tool for players that play dirty a majority of the time but need clarity and sparkle with the hit of a switch. It would be a great companion to a vintage amp being run hot, as the amp would be allowed to stay in its sweet spot and the Evolution Orange could perform cleanup duty. If you’re in the market for something a little different, this pedal is for you. If you’re not in the market for something different, give it a try anyway, and see what it’s all about.
What We Like: Underdrives your dirty signal by adding clarity and sparkle. Built to last. Unique.
Concerns: This isn’t an instant gratification pedal. It requires some time to become familiar with. That being said, when the effect is understood, it will be a welcome addition to rigs of all stripes.