[review] Electro-Harmonix XO Germanium OD - Vintage Overdrive (by LordRiffenstein)

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


Electro-Harmonix doesn’t need an introduction. They have been building pedals since the seventies and have a vast range of pedals. Their range has something for everybody, from modulation to fuzz, from reverb to delay, bass pedals and now even amps in pedal-format.

Germanium OD

The pedal has a very basic look, like many of the EHX pedals, it comes in a metal box with graphics applied only to the top. There are 3 controls and the obvious input, output and 9v DC input. On the left side you have a gain control that sets the amount of signal going into the Germanium transistor. In the middle we find a bias control to adjust the current gain for the transistor. This works closely with the 3rd control, “volts”. The Volts-control sets the amount of voltage going to the transistor, all the way up is 9v and it goes down to 3v at the minimum setting.

The pedal in use

I was very curious to give this pedal a go, Germanium-based pedals can do really nice things for your sound so I plugged my tele into the pedal and then fired up my old Marshall. I set the Marshall clean and started with gain and bias at noon, volts full up. Mmm, not THAT much happening, there was a bit of OD coming from the pedal but the volume was pretty low. I tweaked the bias control but this changed the feel and tone a bit but did nothing to change the amount of gain or volume. So Bias back at noon, I turned the Gain all the way up. That was more like it, I got a healthy dose of boost and a gritty, old-school od/fuzz tone. It seems that the Gain control only really works from 13:00 and above. I tweaked both the volts and bias controls to get a different feel. I cannot say that there was a HUGE difference in tone while tweaking these controls, it was more a change in feel and response.
I noticed that you could make the low end go flubby or tighter depending on how the Bias and Volts are set. As a stand-alone OD, the Germanium will do some old fuzz/od tones but doesn’t have a lot of gain. With the Marshall set for a crunchy tones, things got a lot better. With the gain still set at 15:00, I was able to dial in a nice range of tones from fat stoner to rocking fuzz tones. The bias and volt control had more impact on the sound and turned this into a pedal that was a LOT of fun to play. My favorite setting was with all 3 controls at 15:00 for a great boost with a sweet fuzzyness to the tone and plenty touch responsive.

There are however a number of issues with the pedal that I need to address.
First of all, the 3 controls are noisy when you turn them. This shouldn’t be a surprise as it is the nature of what the 3 controls do but I felt the noise was more than it really should. I was powering the pedal with a quality power supply so that should be fine. This is of course only a real problem if you want to tweak the pedal while playing but beware of this.
More annoyingly, the pedal also generated some noise when I was “riding” the volume control. I tried different guitars to make sure it was not guitar related.
Finally, there’s the range of the controls. Like I said, the gain control only seems to work from about 13:00, weirdly the Volts control has a similar issue. It seems to only work from full on to 14:00, lower than that would basically kill the output of the pedal.

The EHX Germanium OD sadly is an interesting pedal that is let down by its build. It is not going to fall apart but the range of the Gain and Volts controls should be a lot better. The current range limits the pedal although with careful tweaking you can still get a nice range of good sounds from it. I wouldn’t use it as a standalone OD but pair it as a boost with another OD-pedal or set your amp crunchy and you can get plenty of Germanium coolness.

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