Bass overdrive pedals are pedal board staples. They add a special grind and dirt to a bass signal like no other pedal can. Whether a little wool for a classic rock song or a lot of wool for a dirty funk anthem, overdrive pedals are a must have and having the right overdrive pedal in your board is essential.
Today we’re going to take a look at a special, boutique overdrive pedal by Bernell called the Steak Sauce Bass Additive Overdrive Pedal.
Drive at 8pm; Mix at Max
At full mix and very light drive, the pedal felt a little unresponsive at first. The overdrive feel, the sensation of a bass with some extra grind and grit on the signal felt very low and uninspired at low a low Drive setting and a full mix. Compared to a BOSS Overdrive, a pedal that is a staple to my pedal board and essential to the kind of music that I play, it was a little disappointing to feel like I was getting as little bite and responsiveness at as low a setting to try at. With a pick, the bite came through a little bit more particularly in the highs while the lows remained relatively unchanged from the clean signal with the exception of a slight bit of grit. While slapping, a similar outcome was achieved.
At a lower setting where the signal is saturated with the pedal effect (at full Mix), there certainly is something to be desired. In conjunction with a wah pedal, the grittiness popped a little bit more than with clean but still the results of the pedal when paired with another pedal.
Drive at Max; Mix at Max
Naturally, when the pedal has it’s Drive and Mix set to max, it shows it’s colors. However, when other pedals are set to the max, say an MXR Blowtorch or another commercial fuzz/overdrive pedal, the pedal sounds like it starts to get out of hand. As if the sound feels uncontrolled and rather than being a focused, sharped, aggressive sound it turns into a wild mish mash of buzz.
When the Steak Sauce is turned to the max, the pedal takes on a very controlled overdrive akin to butane flame where the user has control over the color, size and intensity of the flame. It may burn hot and bright, but it’s very focused, controlled burn that doesn’t ever feel too out of hand or like it might get out of hand if coupled with another pedal. While playing finger style, I noticed that I never lost the low end nor did it muddy at any point.
A common issue I’ve had with overdrive pedals in the past is the loss of low end and excessive high end or an all-or-nothing approach to dialing in low end. This pedal stayed bottom heavy and a considerable amount of my original bass signal was left in tact during this portion of demoing the pedal.
When playing with a pick, not only did I retain my bottom end and original sound of my bass, but the highs came out and shined a bit more. This was the same when I tried a few slap licks and what was particularly pleasing to listen to was the distinctness between a slap and a pop with the pedal going at full force. The slaps were big and beefy and the pops were snarling and cutting without ever getting piercing or irritating.
Mixing Up Drive and Mix
This pedal has a tremendous amount of flexibility and shows that just because a pedal has a few knobs, doesn’t meant that it can’t deliver some serious punch. While experimenting beyond the extremes of the Steak Sauce settings and working out different combinations of the Drive and Mix, I discovered the wide range of flexibility that this pedal offers. Keeping the Mix at noon and the drive between 10am and 2pm offered a solid, controlled overdrive sound that worked, to be so blunt.
At times I wished that the pedal would deliver a little bit more punch and grind when the settings were toggled to roughly the middle of the pedal. I really would have liked the pedal to bite back a little bit more than it was and have some of it’s real flavor (pun intended) to emerge around these settings and not so much toward the far extreme of the pedal. If there was one recurring disappointment with the pedal, it was that it didn’t go far enough.
However that being said, the range of beefy buzz and fuzz that came from this pedal was an absolute joy. Pushing the Mix knob closer to 3pm and the Drive kept between noon and 3pm gave my sound substantial heft and bite to it. Playing aggressive finger style brought out the extra overtones of the pedal and really made my tone snarl and bite without sounding too off-the-rails. Pick style gave some additional precision to an already focused fuzz sound but with some additional snarl in the upper mids and highs. Aggressive pick style playing was particularly enjoyable during this setting.
Slap style, like pick style, got more fun around these pedal settings. The lows got big and grinding while the highs bit and stayed in control. However, at times, I did wish the pedal did have some more grind to it without having to push the pedal to the limit.
This is a wonderful little pedal with a lot to offer at a very, very fair price (about 150 dollars without shipping and handling). Steak Sauce offers a very controlled overdrive feature that begs to be used with other pedals. Standalone, it’s a nice, beefy overdrive pedal that adds a good amount of grit and grind to your bass signal without it getting out of hand.
At times, however, I do wish I could crank up the power on the power and get a little bit more bite and feel from it as if it was just eeking into getting a little wild. It doesn’t offer the same kind of craziness in overdrive power and tone that someone like BOSS or ElectroHarmonix offers, but whether you decide to purchase one of these pedals is ultimately going to rely more on your style of play and pedal board arrangement.
That being said, this pedal begs to be included in a pedal board. The name ‘additive overdrive’ pedal is very, very true. The overdrive sound really roars when accompanied with a wah pedal without ever sounding shrill, piercing or clipping. Combined with a delay pedal, another often used pedal in my chain, the fuzziness does get a little distorted and some of the edge and power is lost, leaving behind a pile of fuzz sounds.
Again – this is not at all something meant to detract from the power and potential of making this pedal a member of your board. Standalone, this pedal can serve as a suitable overdrive pedal but will leave something to be desired. If you’re a bass player looking to get a singular overdrive pedal that can cover the sonic gamut and you’re not particularly concerned (yet) about tone loss and other details of your tone I’d recommend shopping elsewhere. The Steak Sauce really does thrive with other pedals. Like a good team player, it makes the rest of your pedals and combined signal punch much more.
Bassists that find themselves playing a lot of blues, boogie-woogie, classic rock and even funk when combined with an auto wah or wah pedal will find fall in love with this pedal. Bassists playing a lot of metal or music that requires a beefier, more aggressive distortion or overdrive pedal will be left with something to desire, when all is said and done, however.
I’d highly recommend checking this pedal out when you get a chance. Rock on!
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