Those of you who have been doing their thing in the boutique pedal world for sure have come across the HAO name. On many guitar players pedalboards have seen these pedals mounted and ready for war. In fact I myself have had much experience with these pedals, at one time the HAO Rust Driver was the main OD pedal on my pedalboard. After this I went and tried more of the HAO pedal line. Not once was I disappointed. This of course led me to the new HAO "Premium Workshop" models, and if you think the first HAO run was killer wait till you plug into these. The first of the HAO Premium Workshop offerings is the Omega Drive Sixteen. A no-frills, well rounded, cream of the crop overdrive pedal. From the get-go I was stunned at how freakin' great it sounded. I stacked t up with everything from p90's and humbuckers, to Tele and Strat single coils. The OD-16 is easily one of the top overdrivers to come out of 2010, and definitely one of the best dirt boxes of all time. Plug in and see for yourself.
Omega Drive Sixteen
* 3PDT True Bypass Switch
* Internal Voltage Doubling Circuitry
* Compact Cast Aluminum Enclosure
* Built with High Quality Components
* Ultra Bright Status LED
* 9V Battery or AC Adapter Operation
* 3 Year Limited Warranty
* Direct Tone Bypass Switch
Where to start? I was able to get so many great sounding natural/earthy overdrive tones that I was dizzy with excitement. The amount of overdrive on tap from this pedal goes anywhere from low to medium, but crank the Level control into full force or blend it with an overdriven amp and you'll be sure to pull some sopping wet distortion tones as well. The OD-16 works great with other pedals, sounds great through many different amps, and works nicely with any guitar. Like many of my favorite overdrive pedals the Omega Drive Sixteen also comes equipped with the mighty trio of controls, being the Tone, Gain, and Level layout. It doesn't quite end there though, there is one more little trick that this pedal has up it's sleeve. The OD-16 also sports a Direct Tone Bypass mini-toggle switch which lets your guitar and amps natural, untainted tone blend with the pedal's overdrive sound. This is great for those of you who really don't need a bit more highs or lows thrown into the mix. It also lets you shape all of the pedal's overdrive sound with your amp's tone controls or guitar's tone pot. A simple but very helpful idea, you can imagine how much fun this must be. Some of the stunning tone quality this pedal is capable of comes from it's ability to convert your 9 volts into 16. This creates a wider headroom and helps with attack, response, and dynamics. The pedal can be run on a single 9V battery or with a AC adapter. Finally everything is tucked away in a small footprint, heavy duty enclosure which is sure to save room and sure to last you a lifetime.
We started our Omega Drive 16 dance with a couple of high quality cables, a fat/clean amp tone, and a freshly stringed guitar. The amp was our buddy's 65' Princeton Reverb, and guitar my custom tricked-out Tele. Now, I don't know what it was about these three pieces of gear that worked so well with this pedal, and I don't care. All I do know is that once the OD-16 was engaged things went from great to greater. I had the Princeton Reverb set like so; volume set at around 8, the treble and bass at 6, the reverb at 2-3, and no vibe/tremolo effect. The Omega Drive 16 was set with it's level just hair past unity, gain just under noon, and it's direct tone bypass switch engaged. This was able to give me all of the amp's sweet smooth tone, and gave me the ability to shape and mold the tone's character with the guitar's tone pot. With the neck bucker I got pure fat'n'creamy crunch. The overdrive was stunning! The 15 watts sounded 3-4 times it's size, a perfect tone for mic'ing up and recording. I was able to control the OD-16's overdrive beautifully with just a flick of my hand. The amount of drive wasn't too extreme but somehow I could still dig and hold a note with the aggression of my picking. The only way to describe the tone would be to call it the child of Eric Clapton's woman tone. With the Tele's lead pickup the overall tone became brighter and stung much harder. Imagine those hot country rock overdrive tones from the 60's and you got the sound I dialed in. Now here is where I discovered how cool this pedal really is. Switching in the OD-16's tone circuit was able to give me a whole new collection of dark and lovely rock tones. Next I was able to dial in a brutal Hendrix type vibe lead tone. I did this by kicking in some of the pedal highs, turning the gain to 75%, and pushing the level way past unity. The pedal's output was able to cook the Princeton's tubes a bit hotter, sending them into a howling wall of soul and tone. Blended in the amp's vibe circuit and breaking out the Strat was the finishing touch. The sound breathed in and out, rose and fell perfectly, and the crunch worked it's magic with every chord and lick I threw at it. Something really cool about this pedal that you'll notice once you start plugging it into different guitars is how well it compliments the pickups at hand. Before putting the Princeton back in the closet I went ahead and cranked the Omega Drive's gain to full blast. The tone is tuff to explain. It definitely had that distortion nature but with the response and projection of a natural tube overdrive.Rolling down the Strat's volume brought me down to a mellow medium overdrive, and rolling it down even further got me a subtle, organic overdrive that worked great with just about every style of music. Next we paired the OD-16 with something a bit stronger, something I was blessed to have in the studio that day. An 80 watt, EL34 based, 1x12 combo, Bogner Shiva. Talk about pairing up two awesome pieces of gear. The Omega Drive Sixteen again worked it's mojo and somehow was able to compliment and pull even more tones from the Shiva. Having the option of being able to cut the pedal's tone circuit was again an absolute dream. I mean I am really really impressed with this simple and versatile feature. For this setup I took out Erica, my 335 style Hagstrom Viking. I started with amp's first channel dialing in some big'n'bright clean tones, and letting the pedal do all the work as far as grit went. First without the OD-16's tone circuit, then with it engaged. The first run was breathtaking! I took the pedal, rolled up as little gain as possible, used the pedal level control to push the amp just a tad, and started with the Viking's neck bucker. The result was a semi-clean, edgy, somewhat hairy blues/country/and jazz tone. Actually that would be cheating the tone. Everything I played sounded killer, from funk to classic rock, alternative rock and slide guitar. I was actually having so much fin with the slide that I went ahead and rolled up some more gain, shaved off the guitar's tone, and switched into the bridge pickup. The difference between both pickups was really something special. This pedal's ability to hit you with one thing then another the next second is mind blowing. Then I jammed in some lead monster slide tones by cranking up more gain, switching the amp into some overdrive of it's own, and turning on the pedal's tone circuit. I'm talking razor sharp baby. Every little detail, accent, and flicker was shot out with aggression and soul. There was going to be no way to get a bad sound out of this pedal. I went into the night playing around with the Omega Drive Sixteen and jotting down amp and pedal settings as I did so. I did in fact plug it into a few of my own amps and just like I expected got super results. I did some blending with clean boosters, delay pedals, and trems, chorus's, and vibes. It was all lovely. HAO has hit beyond a home run with this little demon. I am very very excited to see what the HAO Premium Workshop line has for us in the near future. For now this is a sweet place to start and a kickas look into what's to come.