Gear Review: Source Audio Zio Analog Front End + Boost Pedal

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Source Audio is an extraordinary audio device manufacturer. Not content to create amazing-sounding pedals and deep controllers, they go the extra mile and afford you what is quite possibly the most extensive software app experience in the business. We’re talking three to four levels deep and beyond the simple surface control of their pedals. Certainly, the most elaborate care in the industry.

Now comes the Zio analog front boost pedal. Simple right? But ah, as always with Source Audio the Zio has much more built-in. Z stands for impedance, I for input, and O for output. It’s the first all-analog pedal from Source Audio and the basic idea was simply to make your guitar sound better and they’ve achieved it in spades. True to the Source Audio pedigree of giving you more for less, it’s essentially 4 pedals in one: a one meg buffer on the input, a 150-ohm output impedance on the output for feeding other pedals and amplifiers, a second output for line-level or tuners, a built-in preamp circuit for four different voicings with up to 20db of gain on tap and a tone or capacitance control that replicates the effect of plugging into different lengths of guitar cable. The Tone capacitance control allows you to compensate for having that super-clean buffer if you so choose. You can set the true bypass pedal switch for on/off or mute your signal to switch to the tuner output.

The first way to think of Zio is as a signal conditioner that optimizes your guitar signal and brings it to the very best tone possible for feeding the rest of your signal path. The second function for the Zio is as a traditional solo boost to lift your signal and push your amp. The Zio was designed in conjunction with Chris Ventner, the sole proprietor and genius behind Shoe Pedals, one of my all-time favorite pedal companies, and the man behind the now legendary Savior Machine overdrive among others.  Ventner also collaborated with Source Audio on their incredible True Spring reverb pedal which in my mind is the gold standard for spring reverbs on the market.

This is a very subtle pedal, but the rewards will be down the line in your signal chain and certainly in your amp. The beauty of this pedal is that the small tweaks available can tailor any signal chain or amp to its optimum potential. There are four preamp types: JFET, low-cut, studio, and Echoplex and each has its own distinct, but again subtle, character.  JFET is the op-amp most commonly used in Dumble-esque pedals like overdrives and boosts, low-cut is, well, low-cut, studio is a more refined studio gear simulation and Echoplex replicates the famous preamp section of the classic Echoplex tape delay employed by greats such as Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen and many more. With each preamp, you can expect a slight lift, a little bit cleaner output, more articulation, a little bit more sparkle on the top end, and a bit cleaner in the lower midrange.  Trust me, it may seem negligible at first, but it will really matter down the line in your signal and you’ll really notice a mixdown for your project.

Complicated, yet, simple seems to be the Source Audio model and they’ve really outdone themselves this time.  Check one out today and see if it doesn’t improve your sound.

Leave a Reply

Review: Another Fresh Delivery from Massy Ferguson, Quality Guaranteed

Gear Review: Orange Learn Adds Graded Rock Guitar Books