Initial Thoughts On The Santa Ana Overdrive

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to play the new Fender Santa Ana Overdrive for myself. AStrings’ recent demo had left me unsure what this pedal actually was, so I thought I’d go and find out for myself.

And I’m glad that I did.

I ran the Santa Ana into the vibrato channel of a Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue (DRRI). I went for that amp partly because it’s the clean tone that I’m into right now, and partly because I know that particular DRRI is a very sweet-sounding amp. (If only I had the space for it, it would have come home with me a long time ago!)

For guitars, I used two very different beasts: a single-cut PRS 594, and a certain green Fender Special Telecaster. I’m not sure how I managed to leave the store without the Telecaster …

I haven’t come across another drive pedal that sounds quite like the Santa Ana Overdrive does. To my ears, it does offer something different.

I really liked how it sounded through the DRRI. Roll back the treble and presence a bit, wind up the drive and mids, and there’s a really sweet creamy lead tone there. Roll back the volume on the guitar, and you’re in ZZ-Top-ish Texas tones for rhythm.

There’s a softness to the initial attack that I particularly liked. Along with the pedal’s natural compression, it certainly made me sound a lot more fluid than I really am! I really enjoyed how it tamed the natural spikiness of the Tele’s bridge pickup. I had a hard job handing the Tele back after that 🙂

You can hear an example of what I mean in the jam at the end of this video:

The jam starts just after the 32 minute mark. The tone that Danish Pete gets out his Les Paul is very similar to what I was getting myself today.

Also, check out the earlier jam around the 25 minute mark. Very impressed with how well the Pugulist Distortion pedal worked over the top of the Santa Ana Overdrive in that.

Other thoughts …

The light-up knobs aren’t a gimmick. Even in a well-lit shop, I found they made it quicker to see how the pedal was dialled in. I wonder if we’ll see them catch on with other brands.

The two voices were different, but not drastically so. A bit like how a Tweed is different to a Deluxe, I guess. One was a bit more in your face than the other. Both were very usable.

The boost/extra drive circuit doesn’t change the tone at all. It’s just either a volume gain or increased saturation. I’m not sure that I’d make any use of it personally. I’m more inclined to either ride the volume knob of my guitar, or kick on a second pedal to change the tone.

It’s an interesting pedal, and I’m sure I’ll be picking one up at some point.

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