[review] HCFX Octophant (by Bieke)

Behold the mighty Octophant! Is it an octopus, Is it an elephant? No, it's the collaborative pedal designed exclusively by a team of knowledgeable HCFX peeps who  joined forces to build this exclusive pedal for Harmony Central Effects Forum members.

A Kickstarter project was initiated to raise the necessary funds and about 6 months later, a total number of 140 Octophant pedals made their way out there to the forumites. And you know what, I am really, really disappointed that I did not get on the list to get one of these myself.

The Credits

The whole technical idea came from V, a boutique pedalbuilder, founder of Shoe Pedals (check my review of the Shoe Pedal Savior Machine). V himself also finished about 45 Octophants, the other pedals assembled by skilled forumites WeStartToDrift and Blake (from Blakemore Effects).

There was a certain degree of personal touch allowed by the circuit so some pedals are slightly different as compared to others, different transistors, different Led configurations, etc.

MMolteratx did the PCB.

Stunning graphic design was offered by Robopimp.

Enclosures came from Pedal Parts Plus, who also took care of drilling, painting, and screening.

Parts were sourced from Bitches Love My Switches (OhNoNo), Tayda and Mammoth.

OK, but what is an Octophant?

The circuit is a combination of a few things. It is partially based on the Kung Fuzz which has a similar structure to a Fuzzrite.

It also has portions of an octave circuit from pedalguru Tim Escobedo called “Push me Pull you” between the two stages of the "Fuzzrite," and to top it off, it has a variable bias Germanium class A booster as its last section.

The Octophant uses a unique combination of several different types of Silicon NPN, MOSFET, and Germanium NPN transistors.

HCFX OctophantThe looks

Looks like a pedal, a beautiful pedal, totally practical and ergonomical, not too big, not too small, a 1590 BB enclosure painted in white with the beautiful Octophant creature, other colours were available as an option.

Jacks on top, battery snap as an option and standard 9V Boss adapter plug.

True bypass footswitches for On/off and to engage the Octave, each with a LED

Controls for Level, Boost and Gain and a 2 way Toggle for Texture.

The controls are actually misdrilled. The Switch was supposed to be labeled "Boost" and the knob for the boost's bias would have been "Texture." A few of them exist in that orientation actually, but most  Octophants ended up with a boost knob and a texture switch. The labels are still appropriate, actually as the boost knob does control how loud the second "texture" mode is along with the actual texture.

Inside, the circuit board and wiring  are immaculate. And there's a 5$ AC187 germanium transistor in there (some Octophants are fitted with an obscure Russian transistor).

The sound

There are four modes :

  1. (Texture switch down, Octave Off) is like a slight fuzz/dirty booster that can be cleaned up. Not gated at any setting.

  2. (Texture down, Octave On) is an octave up boost effect. Can get gated if you turn the gain down.

  3. (Texture up, Octave Off) is a germanium fuzz mode. It engages the boost knob. Boost is actually a bias control. All the way up, the boost knob will not gate out if you lower the gain and is a very thick fuzz. As you turn boost back you do lose some volume and you also dial out bass/get more gated sounds. At about 3 o'clock on this knob with the gain at max you get a big but fairly tight fuzz sound that's slightly gated at max gain. At about half on the boost knob you get a little more vintage fuzz. Below that is sort of like 60s fuzz, diving into the  nasal spitty sound territory.

  4. (Texture up, Octave On) is slightly more gated than just texture up and adds an octave effect. It behaves similarly to mode 3 but is an octave fuzz.

HCFX OctophantGain is designed to be left on full in most cases. It's more appropriately described as a trim knob. The idea is you use it to match your pickup/stacked pedal output to the pedal optimally and can turn it back a little bit to clean up/add clarity. It's not meant to be something you start at noon for a neutral setting. It's like the volume knob on your guitar but in a place where you can leave it at the right setting so you don't have to change volume on your guitar when you turn the fuzz on (like you might on a fuzz face).

The Verdict

I want one.

Extremely versatile dirtbox, not just another fuzz, but it nails that sixties fuzzsound, octave sounds, gated fuzz, splatter. It has a wide gain range, and yes, it does do low gain stuff brilliantly (that's what struck me about the pedal) and if desired, it can make your ears bleed.

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