To my taste, Wampler makes the most interesting gain pedals but, Wampler is mainly doing amp-in-a-box type of pedals. That's nice if what you are looking for is just that and, certainly, I love the tone of the Pinnacle and SLOstortion and, I will probably love the Triple Wreck but, what I wanted is a pedal that I can tweak to my taste, without being an amp-in-a-box distortion type.
Thanks to the request from Guitar Center, Brian Wampler did a versatile distortion unit and named it the Sovereign. Unfortunately, to buy this pedal is possible only in two Musical Stores in USA. You cannot even buy it directly to Wampler. Importation and transport fees are too much to order this from Europe so, even wanting it to death, I decided to wait until the Sovereign was released for European Stores.
But, I had good luck, at the end!. A friend of mine was on Holidays on NY and asked me if I wanted something from there. Sure... I want a Sovereign pedal!. And, he went to GC and bring me that little beast.
The half hour that I spent the very first day he bring it to me, I was smiling like a mad. Finally, a good and modern distortion unit that can take the place to the RAT.
On the line of the rest of Wampler's pedals. Comes in a discrete white carton box, with some sticker on the front, with a picture of the pedal and Wampler's logo. The pedal comes inside a fabric bag and wrapped on bubble plastic. Inside the box, as ever, a single-sheet "user's manual", one sticker with Wampler's logo and some info about other pedals.
The pedal seems built as a tank with the appeal of a racing car.
Sets the overall output level of the pedal. It's is better to leave it a bit over the unitary level, while dialing the wanted distortion tone and then, to set up to Unitary Volume Level.
Sets the distortion level and character but is highly influenced by all the rest of controls and, specially the boost and bright switches.
Even / Bright toggle switch
Even mode has pronounced middles and balanced basses and trebles, it's more oriented to solid Rock tones. The Bright switch re-equalizes everything bumping the high end of the pedal. For some positions of the Tone control, it can be extremely harsh and, it's like using a razor blade to cut your ears.
The Bright toggle switch can help to some dark settings of the Middle Behaviour control and, has some resemblance to the edgy highs of some old fuzzes.
Standard / Boost toggle switch
On the Standard mode, the pedal sounds more crunchy and chunky and, it's more like a high gain overdrive than a distortion pedal. Since I've got overdrives enough and, I wanted a distortion unit, I feel at home with the boost always on, where you can get liquid and solid distortion.
This control sets the focus on the middle frequencies that you need for every case. To the left, it focus over darker low-middle frequencies and, to the right it focus over harsh high-middle frequencies.
Settings affect to everything else, including volume, tone and gain.
This one helps to set the right amount of trebles, even if the Bright toggle switch is pushing hard.
The standard mode is a bit out-of-my-scope, since I was interested more on the high gain side of this pedal. Even that it has usable sounds, I prefer the sounds I am getting from the rest of Wampler's overdrives for that work.
Toggle the switch to boost mode and, this is day and night. Something similar to the crunch/drive settings of the SLOstortion, even that the SLOstortion crunch mode seems to me more useful, instead.
Once the boost is on, you have THE distortion pedal. You can set up practically every wanted distortion sound. Maybe, it cannot cover extreme metal settings. Maybe, for this, you will prefer the Triple Wreck.
But, if you are after a liquid, singing distortion, with all the reminiscences of a big amp cranked to its best, organic, well structured and defined, this is your distortion pedal.
I was testing extreme settings in both directions: extremely harsh or extremely dull and dark. The tonal range of this unit is outstanding. I cannot imagine any user don't getting his/her dreamed distortion sound from this unit (except for extreme metal tasks, where I am not so confident).
I ran my tests with a PRS 513 Rosewood and, since this axe has the possibility to work in single-coil, humbucker and high-output humbucker modes, it's quite easy to see if the pedal is just a one trick pony for just a type of pickups and, it's not!. It works awesome with any type of pickup.
Particularly, I like the pedal more when the gain is between 11:00 and 14:00h. There you can get a gain structure very similar to a great amp well cooked, with lots of interesting harmonics.
First day I tried it with a Fender Stratocaster and, comparing the results with the PRS, I can say that the pedal preserves the foundational tone of your axe and, just adds what is needed to achieve that distortion tone that you were after.
Perfectly stacks with the rest of pedals and, without radically changing the distortion character of the Sovereign, any of the Overdrives of Wampler add their own touch. But, honestly, this pedal doesn't needs to be pushed, because it has gain enough.
Enough writing!. I think it's better that your hear the video I did during this session.
Not too much speech on this video, just the first 1:45". The video is lenghty, about 38 minutes of test.
I am demoing first the guitar "clean" tone and then, going to check random settings on the pedal.
I am starting on low gain settings, just to check what it does.
Then, I am pushing the gain with the boost toggle switch and checking the difference.
After this, I am checking more settings with medium and high gain settings, moving all the controls to several positions and, searching extreme settings, just to evaluate the versatility of its distortion tones.
Then, I am showing my proffered setting and testing it with the Neck pickup, that sounds absolutely awesome, as a flute and, comparing it with the Bridge pickup sound, brighter but with attitude.
After this, I am leaving my preferred setting there and checking how this pedal stacks with Wampler's overdrives: Paisley, Plexi Drive and Euphoria.
Then, I am comparing the sound of the Sovereign against the Pinnacle and the SLOstortion.
Finally, I am doing a test changing from single pickups to humbuckers and to high-output humbuckers to see if the pedal has some preference for a particular pickup type.
Get your pop corns, something to drink, wear your headphones and crank the volume. Enjoy!.
Forget my unstructured and sloppy playing, just hear the voice of the Sovereign!.