I’ll be the first to admit it. Whenever Buffalo FX announces a new pedal I await with great anticipation – and great expectations. The last one in their rooster, The Evolution, is inspired by some of my all time favourite pedals and tones. Naturally, I had to check this one out. Here’s my review.
The Evolution is a four stage overdrive. Although an overdrive can be anything from a clean booster to near fuzz the Evolution is really a distortion. At least to my ears. Based on the Cornish G2, this one’s got that unmistakable Marshall flavour, somewhere between a RAT and ram’s head Big Muff played with humbuckers.
The Evolution is housed in a TRex sized chassis, with a bright led, true bypass switching running on 9V battery or adapter. Controls are gain, tone, volume and contour. Apart from the familiar ones, the contour allows you to fine tune the tone response and mid range sweep.
My first impression is that the Evolution is, like all Buffalo pedals, a tad darker than what you expect. That is part of the reason why I like their pedals but you should be aware that this is not an overly aggressive pedal, like the DS1 or nastier sounding fuzz. Still, the pedal has plenty of gain on tap allowing a wide range of tones from mild amp-like overdrive to sweet singing distortion.
My problem with classic distortions like the RAT, DS1 etc is that they tend to get way too wild and harsh sounding when you crank the gain. Not to mention noisy. The Evolution is tweaked for a more linear gain character. This means that even if you crank it all the way up, volume and gain, the tone stays intact and the frequencies nicely balanced. It still sounds huge but tamed and with very little noise.
In recent years I’ve relied less on Big Muffs and more on classic distortions. Most of my lead tones are a combination of a Tube Driver set fairly aggressive and a mild overdrive for boost. This produce a JCM kind of tone, with emphasis on sustain rather than gain. The Evolution works perfectly for this application, with a mild gain setting and the contour control adjusted for a clear presence without getting boxy, like a TS9 often does.
Make no mistake though. This pedal stands very well on its own and can nail most of David Gilmour’s lead tones throughout the decades. With the gain between 50-75% it sounds very much like a G2 covering David’s Live 8 and Gdansk tones. Turning the gain all the way up and the contour around 75% takes the pedal into Muff territory producing a roaring fuzz, with fat lows. Roll the gain and contour back and you’ll have a smooth Tube Driver-ish tone perfect for PULSE.
It’s really not fair to do straight comparisons with other similar pedals but I know you’re gonna ask so here goes. Of all the Cornish pedals, I’ve always liked the G2 the most. It’s really unique compared to most other gain pedals. However, my problem with it is that it’s a tad too overwhelming and harsh at high gain settings. It also lack some low end to my ears. The Evolution is perfectly balanced between top, middle and lows and it can handle full gain, without getting harsh or bleeding all over the place.
The DG2 has long been a favourite of mine and I still prefer it over the G2. However, like the G2 it can be a bit bright at high gain settings. Again, the Evolution stays warm and smooth all the way through and like those old Marshalls, the attack gets more compressed the more you crank the gain and tone. I also think it does milder overdrive far better than both of the G2 and DG2.
The Evolution is perhaps not what you’re looking for if you want authentic fuzz or Muff. However, for timeless overdrive and distortion tones that sound equally good on stage and bedroom setups and all types of guitars and amps, then look no further. Buffalo FX has once again managed to take a familiar design and make something new. The Evolution is a damn fine pedal and probably the most versatile overdrive/distortion out there. See www.buffalo-FX.com for more details.