[review] Elmwood Woodpecker (by LordRiffenstein)

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


Elmwood has been around since 1998 and is mostly known for their critically acclaimed Modena tube amps.  At the Musikmesse 2011 they announced their 1st venture into the pedal-world with the Woodpecker Overdrive. The product has since been finalized and is for sale at their dealers.  Recently, they also announced a new distortion pedal.


The Woodpecker comes in a standard black box and has 3 controls. Gain and Output are self-explanatory, the Shape control is the tone control. Besides working on the EQ, it also changes the character of the pedal. The Shape follows the amount of gain and has less impact at lower gain settings.  The Woodpecker can be run at any voltage between 6v and 15v, for smoother sounds or more headroom/output.

Elmwood WoodpeckerThe pedal in use

The Woodpecker is JFet transistor based and that makes it a different beast. It’s a sound that will not be liked by everybody so it’s a bold move from Elmwood to start with this as their 1st pedal. Having said that, a JFet based pedal usually has its own thing going and the Woodpecker is definitely like that.

I have been a fan of Elmwood for some time now and actually own one of their amps but I wanted to see what this pedal can do with other stuff so I took some time to try it with different gear. The basic tone of the Woodpecker is sort of gritty but in a good way.  It won’t get you a very smooth and compressed sound but it really stands out. You might hear some fuzz-like tones in this pedal, it has that same ‘hairy’ character as some fuzz pedals have.

Using the Woodpecker into a clean amp, it reacts really well to the amp you plug into and I prefer running it into an amp with a looser feel. The pedal responds really well to this. It’s not a high gain pedal but will get you harder rocking tones. The Shape control does its thing and the range is plenty to tweak the pedal with different guitars. The Output control has about 15dB of output according to Elmwood and that is plenty to kick your amp. The overall tone is different than one would expect from Elmwood but I really dig it, it has this rootsy feeling to it that is a lot of fun to play with.

Turning the gain up on the amps and running the Woodpecker as a boost is where the pedal really shines in my opinion.  A JFet based pedal is usually very touch responsive and this makes the Woodpecker a joy to play. With a crunchy amp, you can dial in a good amount of volume boost with a touch of gain and get great big fat tones. I ended up spending hours jamming with some different settings on the pedal, working the guitar controls for all sorts of different tones. You can even run it into a higher gain tone, have the gain nearly off and still get the responsiveness of the pedal. The tone really depends on your playing and picking and can be very sweet or in your face.

Having played and seriously enjoyed the Woodpecker, I can’t wait what Elmwood will come up with for their distortion pedal. I applaud them for not going for any of the standard overdrive pedals and doing their own thing. It doesn’t have mass appeal but those who try it will be pleasantly surprised. I know I was and am looking for a vacant space on my pedalboard!

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