[review] Shoe Pedals Savior Machine (by Bieke)

During my last visit at Bart’s gear vault, he handed me a conspicuous looking tan prototype pedal.

Bart asked me what I’d make of it, hmmm, hard to tell by the looks of it, but I was curious to hear the sound produced by the Savior Machine … Super Touch Sensitive Original FET Overdrive.

First off, Shoe Pedals

Handmade Effect Pedals from Brooklyn New York, Shoe Pedals is selling direct, Shoe Pedals is on Facebook or you can contact Christopher Venter -the man behind Shoe Pedals- via shoepedals at gmail dot com.

One day, during the summer of 2011, our soon to become pedal builder stayed up late during a massive thunderstorm and put together his first pedal up in his room in Brooklyn next to a guitar shop called Pentatonic Guitars. It was a fuzz in a blank silver enclosure. The footswitch was labeled "SHOE" with an arrow pointing to it. He took the pedal down to the shop for people to try and some folks really liked it. For the next few weeks he would go home and build more pedals. He would bring in the new pedals and see what people in the shop liked best. Because of the footswitch label, people started calling them "Shoe Pedals".

Shoe Pedals now has an entire line of pedals targeted towards sonic miscreants and "normal" people too.

Shoe Pedals Savior MachineThe looks

Hmmm, for a prototype, this pedal looks really clean, inside and out.

The usual MXR sized enclosure, controls for Level, Tone and Gain

True bypass switch, bright LED, 9V Boss style plug.

The graphics are enchanting, I like the handwritten “Shoe” and arrow and control labels, it certainly gives the pedal that handmade, artisanal touch.

The production version is going to have nicer aesthetics, I have seen pictures of the Savior Machine with hand stamped art, but silkscreened versions might also become available in the future.

The production version of the Savior Machine might also have an extra switch for a stiffer/louder clipping. Or even an extra control for headroom. Or both.

The sound

The Savior machine is an extremely touch-sensitive overdrive pedal that uses a combination of discrete Jfet and Mosfet transistors combined with adjustable soft clipping that can be controlled via the gain knob. It sounds very much like a Marshall JCM800 at higher gain settings. With the gain back, however, it goes into earlier Marshall classic rock territory, sort of like Mick Ronson's guitar sounds on early David Bowie songs. The name of the pedal refers to the Bowie song.

Most of all, the Savior Machine is a medium gain overdrive with a very versatile and wide range tone knob and very amp like breakup. Furthermore it also makes a nice strong dirty boost on lower gain settings.

The Savior Machine is a very touch responsive overdrive pedal not based on any particular existing overdrive. So it is not another tube screamer. There are no Integrated Circuits in this pedal.  The builder decided to start from scratch and designed an overdrive circuit that would retain the reactive feel of a transistor fuzzes but sound like a tube amp. It is based off a Class A gain stage and it uses a mixture of J201 Jfet and Mosfet driven soft clipping.

It ends up having a transparent overdrive sound that can get a little flavor of its own with the gain control. It retains its very pickup and attack sensitive character and amp-like breakup, reminiscent of the older Marshall amps.

I tested it on a Fender Vibroverb amp and it was like having an extra amp under my feet.

The verdict

So you’re picky about overdrives, kind of fed up with yet another variation of the tube screamer. Looking for an original pedal that is geared toward indie rock, that is equally great for classic rock, blues, general leads, and such? An overdrive that is super touch responsive and very much disappears into your amp or that can also give you an extra gain channel that really stands out ...

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