The Fender effects division is on fire lately. Their expanding guitar pedal line is beautiful in form and function, and their two new acoustic-specific pedals exemplify this craftsmanship.
The Fender Smolder Acoustic Overdrive, priced at $149.99, is deceptively simple but expressive. The standard tone control acts more like a filter and is interactive with bass and treble controls. I found that a slight bass boost around one o’clock, treble at noon, and tone at two o’clock worked for a few different acoustic guitars of mine. The pickup compensation is where this unit shines. Fender states that it has a high/low pass filter, but it sounds more like some impedance loading. It really makes your guitar and pickup come alive and pop while retaining the essence of your instrument. You can hear it more as you start adding in the drive circuit and adjusting the blend knob.
The overdrive is rich and specifically tuned to work with acoustic instruments (i.e. no harsh transients or feedback), and you must push it hard to get it really raunchy. Sometimes a little for overdrive can add definition to your playing and isn’t as fuzzy as distortion. Or just turn the blend knob down and let ‘er rip! I wish more pedals had a blend control.
Fender also includes a handy drop-down, nine-volt battery compartment for those without a full pedalboard, and/or stand-alone power supply. You can also choose to engage the LED lights or not to save juice. The Fender Smolder Acoustic Overdrive is built to survive live shows, or the studio, and fits nicely on your pedalboard.
The Fender Acoustic Preverb is much more than a reverb. It’s also a preamp, EQ, and notch filter. The preamp section is based on the tilt function and the gain knob. Turn the tilt to the right and you get less bass and more treble, to the left less treble and more bass. It neatly shapes your instrument to be less boomy, have more body, or add heft and cut shrill frequencies. The gain is employed to boost your signal to where you’re just touching the peak light to get the optimum level. The tilt and gain are fairly interactive with each other.
Then there’s the reverb section; three reverb types to suit your needs: room, hall, or plate. All three are terrific sounding, are particularly tailored for acoustic instruments, and are very impressive—and I’m a reverb snob! Time (length of reverb/space), damping (how much high end gets damped), and level round out the reverb section. A nice bonus in this pedal is the notch filter to remove feedback and a phase switch—two excellent and key additions for any gigging acoustic musician and both work very well and are simple to use.
This is an extraordinary package in one pedal, especially at the price point of $169.99. Additionally, the mute switch is handy for silent tuning or switching out guitars. The Fender Acoustic Preverb does not have the same battery option as the Smolder (and the rest of this new pedal series from Fender) as it wasn’t possible due to space restrictions, so it needs nine-volt wall power.
For the hands-on test, I placed the Smolder as the first pedal in the chain of my pedalboard and after my compressor. It worked quite well in both positions, but I think I preferred it after my compressor. I utilized both of these pedals with the James May passive pickup system in one guitar and the L.R. Baggs active under-saddle pickup in another. Responsiveness was even across both. It was very responsive to the touch and wasn’t “peaky” or “spikey” which could be another worry for an overdrive device not made specifically for acoustic.
I tested the Preverb pedal at the end of my chain after the compressor, Smolder, hold/freeze device, chorus, and Fishman Aura Spectrum imaging DI preamp. This is where the preamp section of the Preverb really delivered. I set my Fishman Aura so that the peak light was only flashing as suggested, but the signal still had headroom. I felt this allowed me to customize and compensate a bit more after adding other effects between the Smolder and Preverb. I was extremely happy with the depth and heft of my signal while retaining clarity. If you employ a clip-on tuner or do alternative or capo tunings, the mute switch in the Preverb could be extremely handy so that you can mute your sound and save the audience’s ears for your music.
Many guitar effects designed for electric guitars don’t translate for acoustic artists. Both the Fender Smolder Acoustic Overdrive and Acoustic Preverb Pedals can provide some added texture and depth to your acoustic live shows, demos, or studio recordings. You don’t need a giant pedalboard but a few well-placed effects can make a big difference. Fender is on to something with this series. Hopefully, they develop more with the acoustic musician in mind.
Photos courtesy of Fender