Zen and the art of distortion – the Tao of HAO

Zen and the art of distortion – the Tao of HAO

by Aubrey Singer for TheToneKing.com 

When you’re a pedal maker up against the amp-centric gain revolution, you gotta dig deep in order to remain relevant. If you want proof, just check out The Tone King’s 30 Pedals In 30 Days series. And that’s, like, 0.0001% of the category. Brands that were once indispensable are still barely in the game thanks to acquisitions and signature series models. And then you’ve got the usual suspects not only modeling (i.e. copying) amps, but plagiarizing other distortion pedals while a swarm of tertiary brands come and go, fighting for scraps by way of retro designs, cheesy names, and wacky paint jobs. But amidst all the panic, along comes the HAO OD-16 – an MXR-sized box that stays above the fray by keeping its eye on the prize: pure, unadulterated overdrive that preserves the true tone of your axe.

The unit’s secret sauce is its unique voltage regulator. In a nutshell, it gooses the nine volt power source to a sweet 16-volt output with plenty of headroom that is quite breathtaking when you hear the difference. Headroom has always been the exclusive domain of amps, but the HAO OD-16 is reclaiming that ground for those of us in the pedal camp who believe that overdriving your head may not always be the best sounding option.

The other cool feature is the true tone bypass switch. A simple flick removes all the tonal influence from the pedal to create a far more intimate experience between your guitar and amp with a pure, creamy overdrive without it becoming a sonic third wheel.  Certainly the box’s size belies the immense tone that comes from the unit, forcing a double-take or two when you hear it for the first time. But compare The Tone King’s video review to other OD-16 reviews on YouTube; you’ll notice an impressive tonal consistency regardless of amp, guitar, or player.

The other double take happens when you see the sticker price of around $300. But remember, it only looks like an average pedal. Tonally speaking it’s in a whole different league. Think of it as more of an assurance pedal — something that reinforces the investment you’ve made in your axe for a fraction of the price. Of course, if you’re playing a $200 copy, it’s hard to rationalize the spend. But if you own a $4500 Les Paul, you’re much better off forgoing all the usual overdrive suspects for the HAO OD-16.

True, while many of us lost our overdrive cherry on the classic pedals from MXR and Boss, the HAO OD-16 is for the tone connoisseur who, having already explored the plethora of pedals and modelers yearns to return to a simpler time when pedals were small and the output was huge. The HAO OD-16 is waiting with open arms and some much needed inner peace – the kind that can only come from knowing that you’ve hit the bulls eye.

Watch the video by clicking HERE, or by clicking PLAY below 


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