The endless pursuit of tone, particularly when trying to find that “perfect” overdrive or distortion pedal, can be a daunting task. If you’ve been down this road for a few decades, you know that these pedals have come a long way since the days of poking pinholes in the cones of your speakers and playing through stomp boxes that resembled the sound of static from an AM radio.
The TWA Hot Sake Overdrive/Distortion pedal is a perfect example of advancements in technology that deem a pedal to be “boutique.” Hand-built in the USA and containing some cool, proprietary engineering, this pedal is sure to bring your dirty tone to a new place.
|Documentation & Support||10%|
|OVERALL RATING = 3.7 Stars, which earns it a WIHO Award!
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
Unlike your ordinary two-banger overdrive pedal providing minimal control features, the TWA HS-02 Hot Sake Overdrive/Distortion pedal is more of a six-banger pedal full of tonal options—we just love knobs and endless settings!
The top row of the pedal provides the following function controls: A Drive knob for settings from slight overdrive to full on distortion; an LED Status light that glows dimly to show inactive and bright red to show active; and a Level knob to control the preferred amount of volume. The Drive and Level knobs are rubberized, making them easy to grasp, and have tapered pots providing slight resistance to help minimize any unintended setting changes from bumps, scuffs or brush-bys.
The second row of controls provide a mini Tone control knob to sweep thru bass and treble settings; an LB (Low Boost) mini toggle switch to enhance the lower bottom end of you tone; and a mini Mids control knob that works in conjunction with the Tone control to achieve a midrange boost.
To the left of the Hot Sake’s footswitch, and embedded beneath the surface of the faceplate, is a dipswitch for functions L1 and L2. This switch enables you to select between two filter caps for the Low Boost circuit to best match your rig and tonal taste. L1 is at 100Hz and L2 is at 60Hz. This isn’t meant for on-the-fly changes; rather something to set and forget.
A very impressive feature of the Hot Sake Overdrive/Distortion pedal is TWA’s proprietary S3 “Shortest Send Switching,” which is a form of True Bypass. It uses an electronic relay combined with a mechanical switch to ensure the input signal travels the absolute shortest distance between the input and output jacks resulting in the most transparent bypass tone possible.
The unlabeled input and output jacks are located on the sides. The Hot Sake can be powered by a 9-Volt battery (accessed by removing four screws on the bottom of the unit). An optional DC In jack is located next to the Input jack on the right side of the pedal. It’s a standard, tip-negative power supply with a minimal 100mA power draw.
Navigating the pedal is basically intuitive—for the most part, plug and play. You’ll want to follow directions and make sure you start with all knobs set counterclockwise (at 7:00)–especially the Level control, as it can unleash the demons and really overload your amp. From there, it’s pretty much dial to taste.
The Hot Sake Overdrive/Distortion pedal provides a number of different control features to achieve just the right tone whether you’re looking to add a very slight overdrive like the fizz off your carbonated beverage or full on distortion like a full bag of pop rocks in your mouth.
No matter what type of guitar/pickup configuration you fancy. In dialing in the Tone and Mid Boost knobs, you can achieve a very pleasing tone whether you prefer those clear highs to cut thru a mix or a very warm, rounded bluesy tone for that mellower atmosphere. The Mids Boost control really added usability to every sweep of the Tone control.
The optional Low Boost toggle control along with the L1 and L2 circuitry selection ensure the pedal will meet your tonal pallet expectations, whether looking for a modest, pure tone or you are looking to enhance some low-end thud for your more sinister-sounding tendencies. This switch really came in handy when we wanted to fatten up the sound of a single-coil Stratocaster without the usual mud from a simple tone control.
Players of most contemporary genres will find use for some Hot Sake: Rock, Jazz-fusion, Country and Blues all have a voice to be unleashed within this pedal. In reviewing the TWA Hot Sake Overdrive/Distortion pedal, we plugged the pedal in front of a mid ‘70s Marshal Super Lead for some pure, clean power. For guitars, we used a standard Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul to see how the pedal reacted to these familiar pickup configurations.
Starting with the Stratocaster, we dialed in the Drive knob to the 8:00 position and set the Tone and Mids knobs to the 12:00 position for starters. The pedal provided just a slight overdrive much like the low breakup of a tube amp. The sound was very consistent and smooth—not raunchy in any way. While checking out the sound, we activated the LB (Low Boost) toggle switch, which gave us a nice, round, bottom end. It really made the Strat come to life and have more presence in the low girth area.
With the LB toggle engaged, we decided to check out the effects of the L1 and L2 circuit settings. The L1 circuit provided just the right amount of low-end boost when paired to the Marshall amp, while the L2 setting provided too much low end, making it loose and sloppy. Since the Marshall already provides deep, low-end thud characteristically, the L2 setting was not needed.
Sweeping the Drive setting clockwise providing increased overdrive well into the Distortion atmosphere, similar in sound to a classic Big Muff. Though we couldn’t quite reach a heavy tone suitable for metal, the Distortion level was suitable for hard rock settings and singing leads. No matter what settings we used, from slight overdrive to heavy distortion, the Hot Sake pedal provided excellent tones with a very clean and smooth sound, without any annoying overtones or white noise. There’s no need for a noise gate with this pedal. This is a very quiet (noise-wise) and musical sounding pedal.
Switching to the Les Paul provided much of the same results. Obviously, the humbuckers provided a bit more drive—as they should. Still, the Hot Sake never got heavy enough for the metal crowd. But for that hot country sizzle and classic hard rock tone, this pedal is one to be considered.
Video courtesy of GODLYKE Distributing.
Documentation and Product Support
The Hot Sake Overdrive/Distortion pedal came with an “In-Flight Manual” which provides everything you need to know about the pedal from soup to sushi. Each function control is very well detailed—including the effect of the controls at different settings. TWA also provide a few sample diagram blanks so you can mark down your favorite settings for future reference.
The TWA HS-02 Hot Sake Overdrive/Distortion pedal sells for $189. Considering the pedal is hand built and provides excellent tones for both overdrive and distortion, it’s a very nice deal. This pedal is right in line with many boutique pedals of its class, and is definitely worth considering.
TWA/Totally Wycked Audio Effects
GODLYKE Distributing Inc.