Subdecay has been on my radar for quite some time, for a couple reasons: One—they’re headquartered about forty minutes away from me; two—they make one of my favorite spring reverb pedals (the Spring Theory!) and a ton of fun noisemakers (like the Octasynth, for one) and three—I like their overall aesthetic, something that in the newly crowded world of boutique effects has really helped them stand out to me personally.
The Supernova Drive is one of Subdecay’s more shall we say subdued effects; here you won’t find crazy phasing, filters, or synth tones, just some straight ahead overdrive. The Supernova is designed and advertised as providing “Class-A Overdrive.” Chasing class-A tone might be kind of hip at the moment, as this is the third class-A style overdrive that has come across my desk in the last few months—and the previous pedals were exemplary. With that in mind, let’s plug this little fella in and see how he does.
The SuperNova Drive has controls for level and drive and also has what is becoming for me in this day and age a necessary feature on my overdrive pedals: a three-band EQ. It takes a pretty special pedal design for me to accept a simple one-knob tone control after having played so many pedals with two- and three-band EQs. Subdecay claims to have spent some time tweaking the EQ on this pedal and it really shows; the bass is full, the mids are rich, the treble is bright but not piercing—and each pot has a useful sweep. The Mids control acts as more of a contour control that is interactive with the drive control. As with most drives with two- or three-band EQs, you can obviously dial in a world of different tones using the EQ—but none of that matters if the overdrive itself isn’t exactly what you want. So how IS the overdrive on the SuperNova?
To be fair to Subdecay, if I had heard this “class-A” Overdrive before some of the others I’ve played this year, it might have wowed me. The gain in the SuperNova has a crazy wide sweep—it sounds great with the drive dialed down for just a smidge of grit and you can crank it to get a nice, thick wall of dirt—but it just doesn’t have the lively, interactive amp-like character that I was hoping for from a “Class A Overdrive.” Subdecay makes quality gear and this pedal is well designed, well built, and well executed; for $159, it’s as great an overdrive pedal as anyone could have and would be at home on nearly any pedalboard. This might not be the Cristal of “class-A amp tone in a pedal” but like a glass of more modest champagne—still gets the job done.
Aesthetic details: The LED is to the right of the footswitch, which means your foot will cover it up when depressing the switch or hovering over it. Most likely, you’ll know if it’s on or not, but since the LED is an “indicator,” I always like it when it’s above the footswitch so I have a better chance of seeing it with my eyes.
What we like: Solid tone, solid design, solid quality.
Concerns: None—it’s a great pedal on its own merit, though if you want to get as close to class-A amp tone as possible, you might want to explore some of the alternatives.