First Impressions: Fender Smoulder Acoustic Overdrive Pedal

This one’s a bit different – an overdrive pedal made specifically for acoustic guitar. What do I think of it? Will I be able to gig with it? Let’s find out.

What Is It?

It’s an overdrive / distortion pedal designed specifically for acoustic guitar players.

Why Do I Want One?

I want one for gigging with my band. We’re a little duo – me on guitar, Tess on vocals – and we play what we call Undercranked Covers. We take rock songs, and turn them right down, sort-of in the old “unplugged” style of old.

We’ve got a couple of songs – Ember Drive in particular – where we’d rather just rock out. Hopefully, this unusual pedal from Fender will help us do that.

Can’t You Just Use A Normal Overdrive Pedal?

In my experience, no.

In fairness, I haven’t tried every single drive pedal that’s on the shelf with my acoustic guitar. The ones I have tried just didn’t sound right to me. And there were (sometimes) problems with feedback.

What Kind Of Drive Does It Sound Like?

You’re not going to mistake it for the sound of an electric guitar.

With the ‘Pickup Comp’ control all the way to the left, there’s almost no attack, no definition to the note. It’s like the result of breeding wooly fuzzes together for generations just to make the wooliest fuzz of all time.

Turn that control up, and it gets more defined – at the expense of losing the sound of your guitar. In the room, I found it harsher than I wanted. Although it was boomy, it didn’t sound warm and smooth to me.

I was happiest when I dialled in just enough Pickup Comp for it to add a bit of underlying thickness and grit to my acoustic guitar. I was using it almost as a way to hint at an overdriven guitar, instead of trying to make my acoustic rig sound like an overdriven guitar.

But, there again, I’m not using it in quite the same way as you might.

Use An ABY Box To Get The Best Sound

Although the Smoulder has a ‘blend’ control to mix in your acoustic’s original signal (as shown in Fender’s YouTube video at the top of this post), I didn’t like how it sounded in the room.

It wasn’t unusable by any means.

It’s just that I got it sounding far better by splitting the signal from my acoustic in two: the acoustic guitar into one channel of my amp, and the Smoulder into another channel on the amp. With that setup, I can EQ each signal separately (and very differently) so that they sound the best that they can.

That’s probably how I’ll use it going forward.

Final Thoughts

It was the very last of Fender’s drive pedals to actually ship, arriving months after the two MTG pedals did. I think it was worth the wait.

Now I just have to wait until life returns to normal, and we can get back to band rehearsals and gigging. I fear I’ll be waiting even longer for that than I was waiting for the pedal to turn up.

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