Honey, who shrunk the pedals?
Okay. Sorry. But it’s a challenge not making tiny teensy bitty micro mini comments when discussing the Hotones, as they are most probably the smallest stompboxes ever manufactured. It’s certainly a tribute to technology that you can offer a full line of effects in casings that take up less physical space than a kindergartener’s juice box. In addition, the extreme compactness of these pedals is a major benefit for guitarists who travel to “fly gigs,” take cabs everywhere, can’t manage heavy gear, or have simply wished for a rig that can fit into one pocket of their gig bags. Heck, I can fit a delay and a fuzz in the front pocket of my jeans and still have room for bus change.
But radical miniaturization can also have a downside, as it’s difficult to fit circuitry, control knobs, and 1/4″ jacks in such tight quarters without perhaps compromising durability. However, it was impressive just how gig tough these minis are. I tossed them like dog treats across cement floors, stomped on them like some crazed elephant, and plugged and unplugged cables and power supplies into each pedal with no ill effects. Also, although the top control knobs are mini-sized, they are surprisingly easy to turn–even with stubby fingers.
While the Hotones may look like a pack of overfed Jelly Bellies, they are certainly not sonic jokes, toys, or trinkets. Each pedal in the line is truebypass (except the Wally looper), and all have analog circuitry, with the exception of the digital delay chip in the Eko. Everything in the Skyline Series sounds very good and can stand knob-to-knob with other like pedals in the same price range–which is $79 street for everything except the $89 street Wally looper. Here’s a quick survey of the pedals currently available, hotoneaudio.com -mm
- Blues Overdive
There’s good amp-like response and organic overdrive here. Even at higher raunch settings, the sound is very articulate without being overly bright.
- Choir Chorus
This is a nice analog chorus with a detuning feature. It can do the job, but it doesn’t produce an especially lush or sensual shimmer.
- Chunk Vintage Crunch
This is a ballsy distortion modeled after the Brit biggies. The Hot switch adds a mid/treble boost that increases both airiness and punch. Nice stack tones.
- Eko Delay
Up to 500ms of delay is available within this digital delay pedal, and notes are reproduced clearly–even multiple feedback repeats. The Mod switch brings on those groovy modulated decays.
No shortage of Hendrix-inspired frizz and frazz here. A very ’60s-voiced fuzz that can deliver thicker and darker buzz when the Push button is active.
- Grass Modern Overdrive
Nice “subtle” reference to stoner rock here, and this pedal definitely evokes the blistered growl of bands such as Queens of the Stone Age and Mastodon.
- Komp Opto Compressor
Unless you go for the lowest settings, this Is definitely compression that you hear. No subtle grab–it’s full-on squash with all notes ringing tough and evenly. I didn’t hear any pumping, breathing, or other artifacts.
- Lift Up Clean Boost
There’s a good amount of level pumping here for sending solos or riffs over the band mix, and a Warm button to calm the attack if you hit the front end of your amp too hard. Very stout and articulate.
- Trem Analog Tremolo
Inspired by the tremolo circuit on the Fender Twin, the Trem does speak vintage warble. It can also do slicer-type effects, as well as emulate the sexy swagger of the Smiths’ classic intro to “How Soon Is Now.”
- Wally Mini Guitar Loop Station
So incredible that you can get a working looper down to this size, and keep operation very basic and functional. There’s up to 15 minutes of loop memory available, one memory slot, and unlimited overdubs. All loops are solid and clean with no signal degradation over multiple overdubs.
- Whip Metal Distortion
Insane amounts of sustain with a high-midrange boost spoken quite loudly here. But even if you go for a massively saturated and aggro distortion tone, pushing the Edge button ensures that you’ll still hear every note you play.