First Impression: Abasi Concepts Pathos Distortion Pedal

I’m not entirely sure what the correct name for this pedal is. In the box, it says that it’s the Abasi Concepts Pathos, and online it’s more commonly referred to as the Abasi Guitars Pathos.

Confusingly, their YouTube channel is called Abasi Concepts, and their website is called Abasi Guitars.

Either way, here are my first impressions of this interesting pedal.

tl;dr

Imagine a two-channel amp: the Wampler Sovereign v2 as the rhythm channel, and the Abasi Pathos as the lead channel. There’s some overlap between the two pedals for sure, but the Sovereign is better at handling lower-gain duties while the Pathos handles saturated lead duties far better.

This is a pedal for lead tones, that can really sing if it is cranked.

What Is It?

The Pathos is a high gain distortion pedal that’s aimed at recreating the sound of Tosin Abasi, guitarist extraordinaire with Animals Are Leaders.

It’s designed to do three different jobs, depending on how you set the controls:

  • to push an already driven amp
  • to provide high-gain distortion into a clean amp
  • or as a boost in front of a digital modeller

It’s a collaborative design between Tosin Abasi and Brian Wampler.

Why Did I Buy This Pedal?

Let’s make sure this is said upfront: I’m not the target market for this pedal. I’m about as far away as you can get from Tosin Abasi’s sound or playing style. Take that into account as you read this.

So why did I get it?

First of all, I took a punt on it because it was heavily discounted in this year’s Black Friday Sales. I basically got a brand new unit for less than you’d expect to pay for a second hand example.

Secondly, there’s a hell of a lot more guitar players like me than there are like Tosin Abasi. Is this a niche pedal for (what turned out to be) a tiny market, or could this pedal have a wider appeal? I wanted to find out.

Finally, it’s a Wampler pedal at heart. Is it a brand new circuit, or is it actually something like a re-voiced Euphoria or (hopefully) Sovereign? I have both of those, and I want to compare the Pathos against them.

What’s My Signal Chain?

I’m going from my Les Paul into the Abasi Pathos, and then into the Synergy T-DLX (mostly on the red channel, which sounds like a Fender Deluxe Reverb).

No Sound

First time I plugged it in, there was no sound at all out of the pedal. I honestly thought it was broken. Given that I’ve waited three weeks for this to arrive, that wasn’t a great feeling.

It turns out, this is a pedal that needs to be cranked.

With the gain at 12 o’clock, unity volume is found at around 2 o’clock. That’s unusually high for a guitar pedal. My guess is that it’s so you can balance out the signal level as you crank the gain?

Low Gain Is A Very Dull Boy Without Help

Roll the gain down below 12 o’clock, and it’s not just the distortion that disappears. As the pedal cleans up, the treble disappears too. The end result is a very dull tone. Even cranking the treble control doesn’t offset the loss.

Hit it with a Klon though, and things start to come back to life. It takes the Klon surprisingly well, and the result is quite a nice low gain tone with good clarity and surprising sustain.

I think there’s easier ways to get this kind of tone, for sure. It’s always nice to have another option available, especially one that’s a bit left field 🙂

Sustain Forever

Crank the gain past 3 o’clock, and this pedal sings. It very suddenly, and very definitely, goes from a very dynamic pedal to being a creamy compressed monster – albeit with a significant amount of high-end fizz. Crank the mid control to max, and that fizz … well, it fizzles out and the resulting tone had me reaching for the neck pickup of my Les Paul.

Just blend a little bit of bass back in to taste.

Oh, So This Is A Wampler Sovereign Then?

The Wampler Sovereign is one of the most enigmatic pedals that Wampler ever released. It’s got this very promising, really responsive and sharp distortion that many of us are searching for.

Unfortunately, it also puts out enough low-end to do battle with the Octobasse, and there’s no bass control on the pedal to do anything about it.

The Abasi Pathos also wants to go to war with the Musical Instrument Museum’s famous deep-end monster. And the similarities don’t end there.

Both pedals have a mode switch. To my ears, the Pathos’ ‘smooth’ mode sounds similar to the Sovereign’s ‘vintage’ mode, and the ‘edge’ mode on the Pathos sounds similar to the ‘modern’ mode on the Sovereign.

I wouldn’t say that the voicing is identical. They can sound identical at first, but flip between them for long enough, and there is a difference. Best way I can describe it is that it’s just like the tonal difference between a plexi-era Marshall and the mighty JCM 800. The Pathos is slightly colder, more clinical in the mids than the Sovereign. It’s suble, but it’s there. Now, that might be down to the EQ I’ve dialled in. Speaking of which …

Where things are very different are the EQ controls. The Sovereign v2 has a mid-contour control that you can use to dial back the bass, while the Pathos has a full-blown 3-band EQ. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been hoping for a Sovereign v2 with a 3-band EQ.

Unfortunately, the usable range on the Pathos’ bass control is best measured in hair widths rather than positions of the clock. It moves from zero bass to usable to send-in-the-Octobasse within moments. So while we might have a 3-band EQ at last, we don’t yet have an underlying circuit with a usable bass response at 12-noon.

Going back to the gain and volume controls is where we’ll find another key difference. Unity volume on the Sovereign is around 10 o’clock, and as you roll the gain down, the treble doesn’t disappear too. Crank the Sovereign’s gain, and while it doesn’t have the rectifier-style high-end fizz of the Pathos, it doesn’t have that compression and sustain either.

No, It Isn’t A Sovereign v2

The Pathos isn’t a Sovereign v2 with the 3-band EQ we’ve been hoping for.

Given how close I can dial them in, I suspect that the Pathos is based on the design of the Sovereign v2. In many ways, the Pathos takes off where the Sovereign stops, and goes much deeper into saturated high-gain territory.

I find it helpful to think of pedals in terms of channels on an amp, especially when planning a pedal board. Some pedals act like the rhythm channel of an amp, and some pedals act like the lead channel.

And that’s exactly how I see myself using both of these pedals: the Sovereign as a rhythm channel, and the Pathos for leads. It should make for a consistent pairing.

There’s just one last thing to test …

Can You Boost The Sovereign v2 With The Pathos?

One of my bugbears with the Sovereign v2 is that it doesn’t like being boosted. When I took a second bite at it earlier this year, I couldn’t find anything that the Sovereign v2 liked in front of it.

Well, I have now.

It’s a bit fiddly to dial in – roll back the gain, and the Pathos acts more like an underdrive than a boost – but keep adjusting the volume and gain, and yeah, the Pathos definitely can boost the Sovereign v2. I like it.

If you want saturated lead tones, you’re better off simply switching between the Sovereign and the Pathos.

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