[review] Hotone Audio Skyline series Blues (by Bieke)

Hotone Skyline Series Blues

Hotone Audio company was founded in November 2012 and is operating from Hong Kong.  This young company claims however, that it has over 15 years of working experience in the digital audio field. Hotone also claims to do their own R&D, design, production and sales of their products of the highest quality. Hmmm. The proof is in the pudding.

Hotone Audio Skyline series Blues DistortionThe Looks

A fanciful design, it will not appeal to everyone, it is some sort of crossover between the Danelectro food series and the Guyatone Mighty Micro pedals. Build quality seems decent. No wobbly pots. The Blues feels sturdy, ready for some heavy abuse even though it looks like a toy.

Output and 9V DC adapter plug on the left side, input on the right. Front panel with volume and tone controls, and a push button labeled FAT, the footswitch (buffered bypass?) and a stomp guard to avoid damage or undesired setting changes, a transparent speed control for Gain and 2 LEDS on the top panel that will make the knob glow in the dark.

Of course it’s a blue pedal.

The sound

So it does not seem to hide that it is based on the popular Boss BD-2 circuit with the Phat mod.

BLUES is an overdrive stompbox that can be used on guitar and bass.

I tested it alongside a Keeley modded BD-2 and indeed, they do sound very similar and somehow I was even more charmed by the little Hotone Audio pedal, my only dislike was that the BLUES added some hiss and noise.

But it does produce the full range frequency response to create the classic tube-drive-like tone as advertised , clear, transparent and with the FAT button, you can get a richer tone with much more low end. The FAT switch works great for thickening up single coil pickups.

The BLUES also responds remarkably well to picking dynamics. When you roll back the volume on your, it cleans up nicely or you can dial in a gainy sound on the pedal and use the guitar volume to go from clean into overdrive.

Alternatively, the Blues also works great as a lead boost if you turn up the volume control on the pedal and keep the gain low, you get a nice amp-like overdrive.

Another useful way to employ the Blues is to crank your amp into overdrive and then with the gain all the way up on the pedal you can get a singing lead sound.

The tone control covers a wide range, and the Blues does color your sound a bit, but it definitely adds a warm bluesy touch to it as well, it is less creamy sounding than a Tubescreamer, but a lot crunchier.

The verdict

A charming little overdrive for low to medium gain stuff

It does not sound muddy, it works great for chords

Good boost functionality.

I would have liked it even more if it retained more of the lower frequencies.

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