[review] Chuck Collins Harmonic Percolator (by LordRiffenstein)

LordRiffenstein, all-around tone freak and purveyor of great tone.

Chuck Collins

Chuck Collins is operating out of Milwaukee and is actually a Theremin-builder. He also builds the only true copy of the original Harmonic Percolator, a distortion pedal build in the 1970s in Milwaukee. Check out his site or the EffectsDatabase page for more info.

Harmonic Percolator

The Harmonic Percolator was originally built in the 1970s. The circuit uses a silicon and a germanium transistor in a weird circuit that produces a lot of even order harmonics. Chuck Collins' version is the one that is true to the original down to the enclosure, transistors, the sliders etc. Compared to modern day pedals, the Harmonic Percolator has a couple of downsides. The enclosure is big compared to what's inside, there's no 9v DC input so it only works with a battery and those sliders can get dirty quickly. However, the tone you get from this box will make you forget about all this. The left slider is the input gain or distortion control and the right one is the output control. Oh yeah, the input and output are the other way around from what we are used to now!

The pedal in use

After having figured out the input and output on the pedal, I had a go with it. I had no idea what the sliders do but I fiddled around with them.  I plugged my tele into the Harmonic Percolator and ran it into my old Marshall.  With the amp set clean, there's a HUGE boost coming from the pedal. So I moved the sliders and got a real nice distortion sound keeping the right slider low. I thought this sounded very good, big tone!

However, when I turned up the wick, I was in for a shock. I had looked inside the pedal when installing the battery and there's hardly a circuit in there. The box looks odd as hell compared to modern pedals but OH MY GOD. Into an amp with some crunch going, this is absolutely fantastic. It doesn't matter where you set the sliders, you WILL get fantastic sounds. I ran the left slider around half way and the right one just a touch higher and this generated so much fun that I could NOT stop playing. It sounds right, what it does for your harmonics is astonishing. It cleans up so well and it keeps dishing out those lovely, juicy even order harmonics. I was literally LOL when I was playing. I switched to my LP (that happened to be tuned down a half step) and was not disappointed. More of the same fantastic tones were happening. The Harmonic Percolator has no problems keeping things tight with the low-tuned LP. I jammed with some backing tracks and you just KNOW that this pedal sits perfectly in the mix.

I also plugged the pedal into a modern hi-gain amp and the results were, yet again, fantastic. With a good amount of gain from the amp, the Harmonic Percolator will push things further, more gain, fatter tone but you will sit so nicely in the mix. There's no muddiness at all unless you intentionally set your amp up that way. Even with crazy gain, the Harmonic Percolator lets you dial back your guitar's volume control to a clean tone. An added bonus is the fantastic feedback you get with this pedal, harmonically rich and very pleasing sounding.

The couple of niggles you could have about this box simply disappear once you have plugged in. I thought about a situation where this pedal wouldn't do wonders for your tone, but I couldn't find one. Although some people will be turned off by the looks and non-modern setup, I would like to say this is a MUST HAVE for any guitarplayer. There are kits to build one yourself, put it in a smaller enclosure with a 9v dc input if you need to BUT I have the feeling that THIS one, with its quirkiness, is where it's at!

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