Browne Amplification Atom review: A tasteful overdrive with a sound of its own
Taking its inspiration from two famous green pedals but not trying to copy either, this classy-looking unit is a tasteful overdrive with a sound of its own
First there was an overdrive, and it was green. Then there was another overdrive that sounded completely different but was also green. And now there’s the Browne Amplification Atom, which sets out to capture the essence of both… and is beige. Tsk, pedal designers, eh?
The Atom has been described as a variant on the Nobels ODR-1, but it’s clear from Browne’s own website that this little box was never intended to be any kind of clone. Taking ‘the Nashville drive pedal’ as a starting point, the Kansas City maker has also incorporated some tonal ingredients from that earlier classic – the Ibanez Tube Screamer.
In sonic terms, this should mean we get the smoother, fuller-bottomed nature of the ODR-1 but with some of the more mids-focused snarl we associate with TS types. What we’re also expecting from this premium-priced stomper with soft switching and true bypass is impeccable American boutique build quality.
Actually, if you’ve ever tried the Browne Protein dual overdrive, you’ll know exactly what to expect from the Atom, because this is essentially the ‘green’ half of that pedal in standalone form. So it has the same three knobs – level, drive and tone – that you’ll find on the right-hand side of the original unit’s wider enclosure. (No doubt you’ve already pored over our review of the Carbon, which is lifted from the left side of the Protein.)
Browne’s pedals have a rugged look that’s redolent of military hardware and the Atom is no different, its black nameplate sitting on an enclosure the colour of desert camouflage. The status LED, naturally, is green.
Putting together our own virtual Protein by running the Atom next to the Carbon, the difference between the two is stark: while the blue pedal keeps things broadly transparent in its updating of the 1991 Marshall Bluesbreaker overdrive, this is a much more assertive kind of crunch.
First things first, how’s the frequency response? Well, the TS-style bump to the upper midrange is definitely there, but compared to our reference Screamer it’s a lot less pronounced – and that’s equally true of the low end, which is tightened up a tad but still allows plenty of bloomy content through.
The gain range runs from a clean-ish boost with drive at minimum to a richly saturated (but controlled) roar at full blast, and there are noisy frolics to be enjoyed at all points along the way. This is helped no end by the tone knob, which can feel more like an amp’s presence control than a standard treble-cutter: lower settings are smoother rather than duller; and as with the Carbon, cranking it seems to add extra urgency to the distortion itself.
The Atom does exactly what it sets out to do, and in real style. If you’re happy with the timeless tones of the two green pedals that have inspired its design, you might not find room for it in the space between them; but for anyone in search of a toneful middle ground, it’s a high-class option.
- PRICE £219
- DESCRIPTION Overdrive pedal, made in the USA
- CONTROLS Level, drive, tone
- FEATURES True bypass, powered by 9-volt mains supply only
- DIMENSIONS 120 x 72 x 59mm
- CONTACT browneamps.com