Tracking down a good overdrive is a challenge for most of us. Obviously, they need to have the tone you want but they also need to fit your amp and guitar and perhaps more so than any other pedal. A versatile overdrive that can cover a lot of ground is often a good place to start. I recently got my hand on the Tree of Life from Vick Audio, which definitely falls into that category. Here’s my review.
As discussed in the Buyer’s Gear Guide for Overdrive and Distortions, overdrives comes in two main categories. The transparent, mids scooped boosters and the mids boosted, amp-like modern overdrives. One of the first overdrives or boosters to emerge, was the Powerbooster from Coloursound (later Overdriver). It had a bright and transparent tone, with very little mid range. The pedal was designed to be used with loud tube amps and to drive these into sweet distortion.
By the late 70s, the smaller combo amps started to appear and with them, the Tube Screamer. This pedal had a lot of mid range and gain and was primarily designed to produce that huge tube sound on smaller amps and lower volume.
The Tree of Life follows the tradition of those early Tube Screamers. In fact, Vick Audio’s goal was apparently to design an overdrive that combined the tones of two modern classics, the Zendrive and OCD. Both of which are inspired by the Tube Screamer.
Housed in a typical MXR sized box, the Tree of Life feature high quality components, with mosfet semiconductors and Bat41 diodes used for the clipping section. It’s powered by 9V adapter (only) and feature true bypass switching and a bright led.
The first thing that strikes me with this pedal is that it is very loud. Unity gain/volume seems to be around 9:00 on the volume control. After some exploring, it’s evident that it has much of the OCD character in it. Perhaps more so than the Zen. Still, backing off the gain to around 11:00 and below, definitely takes the pedal into the Zen territory, sounding very amp-like, with warm and smooth dynamics. It actually cleans up so well that it can easily double as a clean booster, with a bit of mids added.
Increasing the gain beyond noon, takes the Tree of Life very close to the OCD. The OCD has for many years been my go-to overdrive, especially for recording and I know the pedal well. One of my minor issues has always been that it could have been a bit tighter in the low end. I also think it sounds a bit flat in the higher frequencies. Well, the Tree of Life has a sparkling top, without ever sounding harsh. It also has a more noticeable low end, which should please fans of both the Tube Screamer and OCD. It doesn’t sound nearly as boxy as the Tube Screamer though, which makes it more versatile and work better on a wider range of amps.
One of the things I like best about the Tree of Life is that it has more gain than the OCD and, while more gain often means a harsher tone, the Tree of Life has a nicely compressed character at higher gain settings, much like the dynamics of a tube amp.
Bedroom setups and smaller amps require a versatile overdrive and one with a mids boost, to compensate for the lack of mids on low volume. The Tree of Life works excellent on smaller amps and it has enough low end too, which maintains much of its big tone.
I don’t have much to put my finger on here really. Vick Audio has impressed me once more and the Tree of Life went straight to my stage board, sitting beside and complimenting my Tube Driver. It’s an incredibly versatile overdrive, with a range from clean boost to warm overdrive, rich with harmonics, and screaming distortion. Highly recommended!
Be sure to check out Vick Audio for more details and sound clips.