Monday, February 7, 2011

Lay Down Your Soul

Sometime in the middle of last year while surfing the web for new and exciting gear outfits, I came across this keen little pedal company by the name of Penfar FX. Instantly I was drawn in by the magnificent looking stompboxes that flooded the Penfar website. To top it off not only were the pedals all lookers, but they were all also reasonably priced. I was instantly hooked, and even more so curious beyond belief. After a little research I'd discover a handful of great write-ups and video demos - this would only fuel my interest even further of course. This led me to contact Penfar FX's builder and creator Chad Leavitt. Chad was more than happy to work with me in having AWC feature some of his creations. The outcome? Read on.


Soul Taker

  • Invoke = Volume
  • Body = Presence
  • Agony = Tone
  • Pain = Gain
  • 22AWG Handwired
  • 1/4" Neutrik Jacks
  • True Bypass Switching
  • 16mm Alpha Potentiometers 
  • 2.1mm (-) DC Power Jack
  • Heavy-Duty Steel Knobs
  • Hand Built in the USA


This was by far one of THE coolest finds I made last year. From it's build quality to it's guts, and versatility to it's stunning tone - the Soul Taker is there to impress. Across the board you will find controls for volume (Invoke), presence (Body), tone (Agony), and gain (Gain). Together these four knobs along with it's brilliant circuit, make the Soul Taker capable of a handful of killer overdrive and distorted tones. As an overdrive pedal the Soul Taker is an honest to goodness no-frills grit pushing machine. You can land anywhere from splatty crunchy overdrives - to grime soaked woman tones. Entering it's distortion capabilities the Soul Taker can do everything from smooth big'n'bold rhythm tones - to sustain heavy lead tones. And it does this through any guitar or pickup you stack it up against. I'm sure many of you have had dirt boxes that sound great through one guitar, then you go and switch that axe out for something different only to find it's all down hill from there. You won't have that issue here, read on.

I began my demo of this pedal through my semi-hollow Hagstrom Viking. I figured the humbuckers would be a perfect place to start for pushing the pedal through it's paces. Amp of choice was a AC15 based head, first hooked up through a 1x12 cab, then through a 2x12. I started by setting up the 15 watter as clean as possible with it's tone at noon and bright switch to the off position. The Soul Taker I started also with it's tone (Agony) and presence (Body) controls at noon, it's gain (Pain) up to about 15%, and the volume (Invoke) matched to get along with the amp's output. Once engaged the pedal kicked out a mellow gritty overdrive tone which worked beautifully for all types of rhythm guitar tones. Something that stood out about the Soul Takers tone, which was quite nice, was it's ability to cut through without sounding harsh or honky. With the treble pickup the pedal's tone had a very forgiving brightness to it which made each string sparkle with attitude. In the rhythm pickup things got smoother and warmer. Getting back to the amp's clean tone was a cinch - just a bit of tapering from the guitar's volume control and I was good to go. In both pickup positions the pedal let the amp and guitar's natural tone shine through beautifully. Something I always look out for when playing a dirt box for the first time is the change in my amp's tone. I begin by setting the pedal to a low grit amount, move up from there, and listen listen listen. If a pedal can't pass the test at low dirt settings forget about them doing your root tone justice at high gain settings. The Soul Taker didn't add any extreme coloration or dullness. Leaving my amp the push fourth it's rockin' good tone. Next I began playing with the pedal's medium overdrive/low distortion settings. From really low to mid gain settings the Soul Taker holds it's own dishing out sweet sounding overdrive tones. Once you hit past the medium gain settings and on into the high settings - the Soul Taker begins it's venture into it's distortion tones. Set just right you can get these splendid overdrive/distortion hybrid dirt tones. Depending on where you have the pedal's tone control set the Soul Taker is capable of everything from classic woman tones to sharp aggressive rock tones. I began playing with the guitar's tone and volume controls which ended up producing some pretty interesting sounds. Some pedals you take your guitar's tone control back even a little and it's all down hill from there. Same goes when you start playing with your volume knob. The Soul Takers circuit was definitely built to get along with on-the-fly adjustments and fine-tuning of your overall tone. Next I cranked the pedal's gain up to full blast and got to picking. Here the pedal turned into a completely different animal. Harmonically charged overtones and undertones swam and flew all about, making leads, licks, and rocking riffs sound like magic. A hint of analog delay and I had me one of the most epic lead tones I'd ever gotten from a dirt pedal. At about this point the pedal had proven more than worthy of doing my guitar's handwound humbuckers justice. Time came to break out my 60's Strat build and put it's single coil pups to the test. And just as beautifully as it worked with the buckers - it did so as well with the single coils. I was able to get the same amount of versatility, feel, and overall smooth tone. With the Strat's pickups it was a bit more harsh though - perfect for alt-rock, punk, and everything in between. At low gain gettings with the presence and tone just behind noon I was able to get these amazing blues tones which were quite a surprise and quite a treat. I was able to riff and dig into chords with perfect string articulation and a great amount of dynamics. Then setting the amp to a slight grit itself things got even more aggressive and wild. I was able to pull these stinging fuzz/overdrive hybrid tones which my little 15 watter really loved pushing out. The combo of the amp's dirty goodness and Soul Takers crunch created something more than worth listening to. It was time to plug into something with more juice - and so then came the Super Lead. I disengaged the Soul Taker, set the amp to a loud slight grit, and began working in the pedal's dirty tone. Here I found the pedal's volume pedal worked quite nicely for taking the amp's natural grit to the next level. At the lowest possible gain setting with the volume blaring and the tone matched to the amp's - I was able to create something very special. If you've ever heard those slamming good old school Soundgarden Badmotorfinger tones you can imagine what was coming from my amp. With an upgraded Les Paul Studio things would only get better. By the time I was done with my first run of this pedal I had myself a squadron of rock tones. Things like putting a clean booster in front of or behind the Soul Taker also sounded good. And this is only the beginning of the Penfar FX rock and roll adventure - besides this pedal I've also had a chance to try a couple more, and all of them just as good as this one. But more on that soon to come. I say do yourselves a favor and try some of these pedals for your setups, absolutely no way to go wrong.

No comments:

Post a Comment