Review: Beetronics Overhive & Buzzter

From the masters of insect-themed steampunk styling, two more dirt machines that are creating a bit of a buzz… but not literally.

beetronics overhive buzzter

All images: Eleanor Jane

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Beetronics makes buzzy fuzzes, right? Thus the name and the references to honey, nectar and other apian terms all over the California company’s gloriously quirky pedals. But while these two latest units knock it out of the park with their painfully punny names, there’s no fuzz to be had here: the Overhive is purely an overdrive, the Buzzter purely a booster.

Bee that as it may (sorry), you know things aren’t going to be quite as simple as that with Beetronics. So, beyond the hefty wedge-shaped metal enclosures, side-mounted jewel lights and mismatched knobs, each device puts its own spin on an apparently straightforward job in the form of a canny bonus feature.

With the overdrive, that means a pair of tone-tweaking toggle switches, one for tightening things up and another for thinning things out; with the booster, it’s a second footswitch so you can hop between two output levels – well, three, if you include bypass.

beetronics buzzter
The Buzzter’s Pollen/Nectar switch selects preset levels of boost

Cosmetically, the Overhive shares the ‘salvaged from a bomb crater’ look of the Octahive and Whoctahell fuzzes, but the Buzzter is unbattered, its controls housed on a raised metal control plate (like the one on the Royal Jelly). The result is a look that’s less ‘vibey’, perhaps, but no less enticing.

On the inside, meanwhile, we’re pleased to see the theme of insect-shaped circuit boards continuing – and evolving. The Buzzter’s handwired board has been designed to look like a sort of Jim-bee Hendrix, complete with bandana and upside-down Flying V.

beetronics buzzter
The Overhive’s Honey control adds gain

In use

The Overhive is described as a medium-gain pedal, but there is a decent range of amp-like drive on offer – and all of it fits roughly into the ‘transparent’ category. With tone set to noon, the overall EQ balance of the bypass signal is preserved, with just a slight softening of the note attack and only when gain is pushed close to full do things start to feel congested.

The toggle switch on the right is supposed to cut out some low end when flipped down, but the audible result is actually an increase in upper mids and treble. We’re not complaining, though: this can add just the extra bite you need to stop chords getting mushy.

The left switch, similarly, doesn’t work quite how you might expect: flicking into loose mode makes things ever so slightly bigger, but the difference is more about sharpness than bassy bloom. Taken together, the two switches make for a potent tone-finessing weapon.

beetronics overhive
The Overhive’s right-hand toggle increases upper mids and treble to avoid low-end mush

The Buzzter is a much simpler pedal. The boost is just about completely uncoloured, and there’s enough range available to set up two distinct levels of volume-lift – or distortion, if you’re using it to push the front end of a low-wattage amp – for different parts of the same song.

Our only real issues here are with the ‘honey’ knob – firstly, because its black-on-black pointer is impossible to make out in low light, and secondly, because we’re not convinced it even needs to be there: with a fixed ‘master volume’ and the other two controls doing all the work, you wouldn’t be losing any important functionality.

beetronics overhive
The inside decal depicts a Hendrixian insectoid playing what looks like a Flying B

That little oddity aside, both these boxes represent a worthy expansion of the Beetronics range into tasteful new territory – even if, deep down, we still prefer this maker’s pedals when they’re not quite so well beehived.

Key Features

Beetronics Overhive: 8/10

  • PRICE £251
  • DESCRIPTION Overdrive pedal. Made in USA
  • CONTROLS Tone, volume, honey (drive); hive (tightness) and body (bass cut) switches
  • FEATURES True bypass; powered by 9-volt mains supply only (not included)
  • DIMENSIONS 145 x 99 x 70mm
  • VERDICT An uncharacteristically restrained but very impressive overdrive

Beetronics Buzzter: 8/10

  • PRICE £197
  • DESCRIPTION Dual booster pedal. Made in USA
  • CONTROLS Honey (master boost level), pollen and nectar (preset boost levels)
  • FEATURES True bypass; powered by 9-volt mains supply only (not included)
  • DIMENSIONS 145 x 99 x 68mm
  • CONTACT Face face.be beetronicsfx.com
  • VERDICT Does exactly what it claims to do, while looking ridiculously cool

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