Cornering the classily understated end of the British boutique pedal market, Echoline specialises in vintage-flavoured overdrive and distortion – and not, despite the name, echo. Luckily, there’s no such room for confusion with the company’s product names: on test today is a silicon high-gain fuzz called… the Silicon Hi-Gain Fuzz.
The Echoline range was recently redesigned for modern players – in other words, made smaller so they’ll fit more easily on pedalboards – and we have no complaints about the look of this compact stomper. An all-black metal enclosure with just three controls spells stylish simplicity, and the fact that those knobs are fire-engine red is just a bonus.
What we’re promised here is lashings of harmonically rich fuzz, courtesy of four silicon diodes. It’s a straightforward device – you really can’t go far wrong with a three-knob filth generator – but it’s worth keeping in mind what the manual says about the tone control. It’s been ‘tailored to passively attenuate high frequencies without sacrificing midrange and clarity’, which in theory at least is very sound thinking.
This is a tidy little chunk of gear – there’s certainly nothing wrong with the overall build or the choice of hardware components, and no obvious clues as to how Echoline has managed to bring it in at a retail price that’s not very ‘boutique’ at all.
Bracing ourselves for something quite ferocious, we begin our testing with a Tele, a clean-ish Vox-type amp and the pedal’s controls all trained skywards. It’s high-gain alright, with a full-range frequency response and the kind of harmonic richness that makes power-chords sound instantly epic.
In a side-by-side comparison with a silicon Fuzz Face type, the distortion itself is much more smooth and furry, swapping that vintage ‘gurgle’ for something with a lot more air. But the midrange is strong – you won’t find any Muff-style scooping here – and there’s a biting edge to the tone that makes this feel like a thoroughly modern stompbox.
That bite can be accentuated by cranking the tone control or softened by turning it down; and as promised, this happens without any loss of clarity or midrange snarl. In fact, whip back and forth between those two ends of the dial and it sounds like two different fuzzes, both of them extremely nice ones – which is more than you get from most pedals of this type.
The gain knob’s no slouch either: max it out for thunderous chaos, whack it down to zero for a more old-school sound that’s still totally fuzzy but with less presence and more dynamic range. The breadth of tones you can get by playing around with those two controls is really quite something.
The one area where the Echoline does fail to match a Fuzz Face is in how it responds to pulling back on the guitar’s volume knob – things get woofy and weak rather than crunchy and crisp – but this probably isn’t the sort of pedal you’ll want to use at anything less than full blast anyway.
- PRICE £129
- DESCRIPTION Fuzz pedal, made in UK
- CONTROLS Volume, tone, gain
- FEATURES Buffered bypass, powered by 9V mains supply only (not supplied)
- DIMENSIONS 121 x 72 x 56mm
- CONTACT echolinepedals.com