I’ve been reviewing pedals long enough that I can usually place a pedal in one of a few camps. The first is pedals I’m dying to try, either because the builder has a great track record or because the pedal offers a new variation on a theme I love. Then there are the pedals that I’m just not interested in at all. For example, I’m not the guy for distortion pedals (the only distortion I’ve ever liked was the Rat and its variants), flangers, or most compressors—they aren’t sounds I need or use. Then there are the pedals that I just don’t want to review; either because I don’t trust their origins or because I just have a feeling they aren’t going to be great and then reviewing will be a struggle.
And then finally, there are the sleepers. These are the pedals that weren’t even on my radar and then blow me away. The new Bishop from Oddfellow is a sleeper. I know Oddfellow well enough; I reviewed the second coming of its Caveman back in February of 2015. I liked it a lot. But believe it or not, reviewers don’t often get to keep the pedals we review so when our time was up, I carefully packed up the Caveman and sent it home. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I received the new Bishop from Oddfellow: Clearly I should have been paying more attention.
The Bishop is Oddfellow’s first single-channel overdrive and it’s an original circuit design. For those interested in such minutiae, it’s worth noting that the circuit was designed in collaboration with Scotty Smith of ProAnalog Devices fame. Don’t worry about the gold box with three knobs, it’s not a Klone. Once you step on it, you’ll know. The inherent tone of the pedal is pretty neutral, and there is a slight cut in the low end that is offset by a subtle boost (to my ears) in the low mids. The upper mids and treble frequencies are rounded off and softened ever-so-slightly.
The Gain control starts with just a smidge of dirt and works its way up to classic rock levels of crunch. It never gets to ‘80s, ‘90s or beyond levels of saturation, but this of course is a positive in my book. This also means one can make subtle adjustments to the Gain knob without causing big changes in the tone—it’s perfect for fine tuning the sound. The Bishop can be powered with anything between nine and 18 volts. As one would expect, lower-voltage operation brings the grit on faster and creates greater compression. Higher-voltage tones are cleaner and less compressed. I preferred the 9–12 volt range, but it’s great to have the flexibility to experiment.
For added bonus, the Bishop features a switchable internal buffer. This is especially handy since the Bishop is happy to lead the congregation or follow the flock. In other words, it stacks like a pile of Sunday hymnals and delivers at the front or rear of the signal chain. I personally loved running it into a germanium Fuzz Face, where switching it to true-bypass maintained the sweetness of the fuzz and then stepping on the Bishop sent things spiraling into fuzz insanity.
As a follower, the Bishop didn’t encounter any pedals it didn’t love being slammed with. My favorite combination in this realm was to hit the Bishop with the full wallop of a Red Llama. The subdued high end of the Bishop helped to mellow the (sometimes) piercing highs of the Llama, but the low-end tightened up for heavy riffs.
The volume knob interactivity of the Bishop is more about texture than sparkle. It doesn’t clean up as well as some pedals do. It never gets sparkly clean, but it does lighten up and allow for complex chords to ring through without any weird intermodulation distortion.
Most importantly, like its sibling the Caveman, the Bishop is voiced on the warmer side. Even with the Treble knob cranked, the Bishop is never screechy. And there are useable—dare I say fantastic—timbres throughout the range of the Treble control. One of my favorite uses for the Bishop was actually sweetening up solid state and digital amps. I fell in love using it in front of my audio interface for home recording. With the Gain set low, it was perfect for warming up the sometimes cold and plain amp simulators in GarageBand and elsewhere.
What we Like
The Bishop is a fantastic and multi-faceted dirt pedal from a relative new kid on the block. And one I clearly need to start paying closer attention to. Another thing worth noting is the noise floor on the Bishop; even with the Gain cranked, there is no added noise in your signal. The pedal looks great and feels well made. The clear knobs are a great touch.