Bjorn Juhl can’t be stopped. He’s the effect pedal designer behind all the Mad Professor designs, Bearfoot FX and his own legendary (and costly) BJFE pedals. Now he’s combined forces with One Control to bring his designs to market in a much smaller (and less costly) package. The Strawberry Red Overdrive is the partnership’s entry in the amp-like (not to say amp-in-a-box) category. How do they fare? It’s a long story, but one with a happy ending.
The first thing that struck me about the Strawberry (after its size) was that it’s dark. The top end is attenuated (not dull), the low end is firm and it sounds like its employing symmetrical clipping, so its tone is rounded and the distortion characteristic is spongey. Although One Control has a Tube Screamer variant in its line up, I assumed this was a derivative. Fortunately, in addition to controls for Volume and Gain, there are Treble and Low-Cut controls (the latter being a trim pot on the side). That should be enough to easily dial in any tone, right? Well, define “easy.”
According to One Control (and attribute to Bjorn), the Treble control “can control mid-treble . . . if you turn down the treble, it can adjust the range between 70Hz and 7KHz and if you set the treble to high, you can boost it to between 700Hz and 7KHz easily.” The Low Cut control has the “ability to cut the range from 19Hz to 170Hz.” Does that make sense to you? If so, allow me to say, Bjorn that I’m a huge admirer of your work.
To my ears, these tone controls manifested as two adjustable midrange humps, one low, one higher. Cranking Treble did increase presence, but I was astonished to read that it’s boosting at 7KHz anywhere in its sweep. Further complicating matters is the fact that the Gain seems to add more low mids. Meanwhile, adjusting the Low-Cut required I stop playing to use a screwdriver (I found a larger jeweler’s flathead screwdriver more useful than a Phillips), and with a low end of 19Hz (this I do find believable), I had a large range to cover and no easy way to analyze where I was in the pot’s sweep.
Finally, I gave up on trying to dial in a tone I liked with single coils. However, I was struck by the excellent string-to-string articulation, and fantastic dynamics, and figured that, even if the Strawberry was a Tube Screamer, it was an impressive one.
I moved to humbuckers and was hit with a weirdly articulate wall of midrange. However, my attempts to tweak the Low Cut control were immediately successful. While I never liked the Strawberry at high gain with humbuckers, I was able to dial in some fantastic mid- and low-gain tones, very ‘70s-rawk, where the balance of low to high strings was exactly what you’d expect. Moving to P90s was surprisingly rewarding, as the thick midrange character of the drive wound up creating a wonderfully syrupy tone.
I was still using the humbucker settings when I switched back to single coils and there it was: the balanced voicing I had been looking for initially. The low end was muscular, the top end--while still dark—held its own and the midrange was thick and articulate. With the gain up, the Strawberry roared while still allowing each string to speak, and the response to picking attach remained outstanding. I also was able to dial in some nice low-gain tones, and a dark clean boost that still respected the balance of low end to midrange to top. I wish I could tell you how I did it, but the bottom line is, after putting in the time, I found the Strawberry Red Overdriver to be quite sweet.
What We Like
Fantastic articulation and astonishing dynamics, even at high gain.
The Strawberry can be difficult to dial in. Also, it draws 60 milliamps, which is unusually high for an analog dirt pedal, so users will want to make sure they’re providing it with enough juice.