Overdrive has always been the staple of the guitar sound. Whether you pin a hole in your speaker, crank the tubes or use pedals, overdrive makes your guitar come alive and make it the expressive instrument it is. The large orange coloured pedal was one of the first to hit the market over forty years ago and it’s heard on countless classic albums. I recently got my hands on the Overdriver from Vick Audio. Here’s my review.
When I first started to explore David Gilmour’s tones I knew there was something missing. I had pretty much everything nailed but there was one tone that I could quite get right. I spent years figuring out what this pedal was and after much research the secret was finally revealed. Then, in early 2005 I visited Macari’s in London and saw that orange pedal lying behind the counter. I bought it (it cost £85… imagine that!) and I’ve been in love ever since. I’m of course talking about the Colorsound Powerbooster.
The Powerboost was introduced in 1968 but when the American’s first saw it in the early 70s they apparently didn’t care much for the colour. The pedal was rehoused and called Overdriver. Same pedal. Same tone. The Overdriver from Vick Audio is based on the same classic design.
The Overdriver feature controls for bass, treble, gain and a much handy master, which allows you to crank it without blowing any windows. It’s got a bright led, true bypass switching and it runs on 9V battery or adapter.
The orange Powerbooster was David Gilmour’s main overdrive unit from 1972’s Obscured By Clouds up until the recording and touring of Animals. Both the Powerboost and Overdriver has been spotted in his rig during several recording sessions since then. Jeff Beck was another fan of the pedal and he used the Overdriver extensively on the Blow by Blow album.
Vick Audio’s Overdriver should be used with passive pickups and tube amps. The circuit is designed to interact with the dynamics of your playing and to take those dark tube amps over the edge and beyond. With a moderate gain setting the Overdriver acts as a volume boost. There’s enough headroom here for the pedal to boost your cleans and other gain pedals. Raise the gain to about 50% and the pedal starts to break up (depending on how hot your pickup are). It’s mild but on a loud tube amp you definitely feel that something awesome is about to happen.
The treble and bass controls are powerful EQs that can be used to enhance a dull sounding amp or to compensate for frequencies lost when playing on smaller amps and bedroom levels. Be careful with the low end when you boost other pedals though or it will choke up your Muff.
In my opinion the Overdrive really shines when you crank the gain and add a hint of volume boost to really push the amp. The tone is just insane and it feels like the pedal is violently squeezing the living shit out of your amp. The sustain is super sweet and a hint of compression rolls of those otherwise harsh overtones. I can definitely hear Have a Cigar and some of the heavier parts on Shine On You Crazy Diamond.
My issue with the original Powerboost or Overdriver is that it could do with a bit more headroom and a slightly darker tone. This is no complaint really as it is the nature of the pedal but other brands like Buffalo FX and ThroBak has tackled this with their versions. These pedals has more headroom and a bit a “twang” (in lack of a better word) when you set it all clean. The Vick can come off as a bit too bright and aggressive. In that sense both the Buffalo and ThroBak are probably more versatile and easier to set up.
When it comes to gain though the Vick is hard to beat. I love how it gets into (silicon) fuzz territory when you crank it. It’s spitting out dark, squeezed distortion with lots of sweet harmonics. It’s perhaps best described as an old plexi Marshall being driven extremely hard push tons of air through the speakers.
Two things you need to keep in mind. Like the original, the Overdriver has very little mid range. It’s a treble and bass boost. If you’re using Fender and Vox amps you probably want something with a bit more mids. Also, and again like the original, the pedal doesn’t like buffers. Make sure you keep your Boss or dedicated buffers far away from this one.
The Overdriver is perhaps the closest you’ll ever get to owning a real Colorsound. The footprint and price tag is much more appealing too. If you’re looking for those classic bright and glassy overdrive tones heard on Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and tons of other albums from that era then look no further. See vickaudio.com for more info.