THE TONE STACK 

NEWS, REVIEWS, TIPS & TRICKS FROM THE LAB

The 9 are abroad Halloween 2014

October 31, 2014

"9 were gifted to the race of Men, who above all else desire power"

 

Seven years after the Holy Fire debut, three years in development, one pedal comes to rule them all.  Genetically spliced with the heart of a Holy Fire Classic and the power of a Grizzly.  The long awaited Holy Fire 9 overdrive distortion puts the power of a vacuum tube emulator in a 9VDC pedal. 

 

From the research invested to develop pedaltrain's powertrain1250 pedal psu, the mad scientists at Creation Audio Labs found ways to boost 9VDC pedal power to 36VDC and breathe new life inside their monster pedals. First introduced in the Funkulator and later perfected in the Grizzly Bass, this new source of power finally made the dream of a 9V Holy Fire a reality.  If you are familiar with the awesome power of the Holy Fire 48V pedal, then you're already old friends with the Holy Fire 9.  If the Holy Fire overdrive distortion pedal is new to you, then allow me to introduce your new best friend.

 

Pick it up and this heavy metal 16 gauge 430 stainless steel pedal with Lazer cut logo feels like a tank in the palm of your hands.  Only about 3-1/8" wide and 4-1/4" long with all the connections in the back, the pedal is smaller than you would expect and easily packs in side by side with other pedals on a small pedal board.

 

The Lazer cut logo with red backlight indicates the power of the pedal. Stomp on the pedal and the main central LED lights-up red to let you know the pedal is engaged.  Begin to play and notice how the interactive LED literally puts the fire in the name of the pedal by flashing over to yellow as an indication of the presence of overdrive or distortion.

 

Four knobs

Starting with "O" and "D" all the way off counter-clockwise, "~" all the way up clockwise, and "G" at about two o'clock Holy Fire 9 is absolutely clean.  Something most distortion overdrive pedals simply can't do.

 

The "G" stands for "Gain" this knob can add 12 dB of pure clean boost for solos or be turned completely off.  This ability to turn way up and down will be important for working with the "O" and "D" knobs next.  The "G" acts as a master volume on the output of the pedal.

 

The "O" knob is for "Overdrive".  As you turn up the "O" the signal begins to saturate like a vacuum tube.  Cranking up the "O" can get pretty loud but you can turn down the "G" a little to match the volume as you turn the pedal on and off.

 

"D" is the "Distortion" control.  Turning up the "D" begins to introduce hard clipping and then compression.  Now the "G" becomes a make-up gain to keep the volume level whether the pedal is in or out.

 

Now check out how the "O" and "D" interact with your playing dynamics.  It is possible to play lightly or turn down the volume of your guitar and have the Holy Fire 9 completely clean up, the pedal seems to disappear, even with the "O" and "D" controls maxed out!  So you can control the effect with your volume and picking dynamics.  back-off a bit for a clean sound, or dig in a little harder for more grunge.  You can add a boost pedal before the Holy Fire 9 and push the pedal into another realm of heavy metal fuzz.  If you have weak pick-ups, you might want a boost in front to give it a more hard edge distortion.

 

The remaining control that looks like a "~" is the hi cut.  All the way up is flat, then as you turn the knob down a gentle 6dB per octave high cut sweeps in from 20 KHz to 400Hz. The hi cut is perfect for smoothing the harsh edges of a heavily distorted sound and give the Holy Fire 9 shimmering sheen or a nice creamy dark feel!

 

Holy Fire 9 vs. Holy Fire Classic 48v

The pedals may look like twins, but they are not identical twins.  The Holy Fire Classic 48V is tweaked to take advantage of the full 48V of headroom available.  But for all the "pros" the Holy Fire 48 has one major "con"... the need for a dedicated 48V power supply (included).  This was a turn-off for some people who wanted to keep their pedal boards simple and also blocked out some countries that require expensive permits to import 48V power supplies.

 

The Holy Fire 9 has all of the "pros" and avoids the "con" of the 48V power supply.  The Holy Fire 9 is fine tuned to get the most out of the available 36V which means the tapers of the pots are a little different.  Although the difference is hard to notice, the Holy Fire 48 is a little bit more "hi-fi" sounding than the Holy Fire 9, on the other hand the Holy Fire 9 can be made to overdrive and distort a little sooner and a little harder, pushing it into a creamier, vintage feel giving both pedals a place of their own.

 

Power

The Holy Fire 9 uses the innovative power boosting and protection circuit perfected for the Grizzly.  The pedal accepts standard 9VDC 250mA pedal power and steps it up to 36VDC inside for plenty of headroom and huge dynamic range.  The pedal doesn't mind if you use tip positive, tip negative or even AC power!  Whatever you plug in, it all gets converted and regulated to 36VDC.  You can even plug in 18V, but there's no point, all it will do is make the pedal heat up more.  For best results, use a standard 9VDC >250mA pedal power supply.  If you are into batteries, the Holy Fire 9 wouldn't last long on a regular 9V battery, however, pedaltrain makes a great little rechargeable battery that fits neatly under the footprint... Check out the VOLTO.

 

Wave shaping

The heart of the pedal is an analog computer, like the one used in the Holy Fire 48.  The "O" and "D" knobs are like variables in a mathematical function that acts on the input and your performance.  The analog computer is programed with these variables to re-shape the waveform into an overdriven or hard clipped sound of your choosing.  Not a digital effect... the speed of light analog computer has no sampling or latency errors. 

 

The real advantages of wave shaping are how it can be made completely clean, fine-tuned to saturate just like a vacuum tube, or achieve heavy clipping without adding a ton of circuit noise.  Turn down the volume on your guitar so there is no hum from the pick-ups and listen to the noise of the pedal alone... it is almost non-existent.  If you are hearing any noise, it's probably from cables or other pedals in front being gained up by the Holy Fire.

 

Analog wave-shaping is like having a tube preamp in the signal chain, but without all the downsides.  Now, inconsistent tube quality from one batch to the next or deteriorating specs over a tube's short life span will be a thing of the past.  And, if you plug directly into a sound system or use a solid-state amplifier the Holy Fire pedals are a great alternative to buying expensive, bulky and fragile tube preamps.

 

These pedals are pro audio, studio quality pieces of gear... not just some other guitar pedals.  The full range of frequencies available make the Holy Fire pedals just as potent for bass or guitar.  Built like a tank.  Awesome pure tone!  You won't be disappointed.  If you have any questions, please leave a message below.  Cheers!!!

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