Purchased from: Dolphin Music
Sound — 9
Starting with the Drive set low, the presence control at midday and the 'level' at about three o'clock, the pedal adds character to a clean amp channel, responding well to your playing. If you hit an 'E' chord very hard using a tele's bridge pickup, for example, you'll get a gentle Stones-esque crunch. Armed with a Strat and appropriate amp, you could get quite close to the oft-copied SRV lead tone. Wind up the gain a little more and you'll be treated to a light Drive similar to the 'break-up' sound of a small valve amp. The overall feel is quite spongy, without too much of the piercing treble associated with distortion pedals.Increasing the gain brings out a smooth, thick Drive tone with a slight edge to it, great for big distorted powerchords and riffs. Using a Les Paul you can achieve strong, muscular classic rock tones with enough bite to cut through a mix with ease. However, the real treat s when you feed the pedal into an amp already on the verge of breakup. Running the pedal into a little Class 'A' amp with the power tubes working hard, you can get a syrupy, sustaining lead tone. Piling on the Drive, you can reach anything short of scooped modern metal, whilst winding back the prescence puts you firmly in mind of Santana's fluid lead tone. With the presence high and the Drive control in the final quarter, you can even create some heavy Grunge tones. Commendably at most settings the Hot Cake adds very little background noise or hissing, only a faint click when you engage the footswitch. Owners of solid-state amps might not see the same results, as the pedal seems to work by adding gain 'on top' of the original signal, feeding some of your clean sound back into the amp. the best sounds are created by the interaction of the signal with the power section of a valve amp. With a typical transistor amp you'd likely hear little improvement between the Hotcake and a cheap budget distortion pedal. In general then, a dynamic and smooth Overdrive, albeit with enough bite to keep most rock, blues (and possibly metal) guitarists happy.
Overall Impression — 9
The Crowther Audio Hotcake has been seen at the feet of some of rock music's biggest names for a reason, it's bloody brilliant. The quality and depth of the drive tones make it suitable for most styles and setups, while it's handmade nature means it should last for years. This effect is ideal especially for owners of small, single-channel clas A amps who want to get a little more power and big-amp feel. I essence, you could use it as an extra channel to increase the versatility of an amp. In fact Crowther has now released a 'Double Hotcake' which gives you both a rhythm and a lead channel, in one box. In the UK this reatils at around 260. So, at 125 this particular Overdrive seems a little pricey at first glance, but delivers the sounds and quality to match. Certainly, it's as good as it's rival products by Carl Martin, T-Rex. Fulltone and the other 'boutique' names, so it's all down to personal preference. If you're looking to add a little edge to your lead tone, make sure you give this little yellow-ish box a look! You might well be impressed.
Reliability & Durability — 8
It's a sturdily built aluminium box, though a little slimmer than your average stomper, so it should to be kept on a flat surface. Better yet, in a pedalboard where it can take advantage of any standard centre-negative 9V power supply. The footswitch is solid enough to withstand anything you can throw at it, and the knobs seem sturdy enough to survive a direct impact from a stray boot without serious damage. With luck and a little care, the pedal could last years. If anything does go wrong, Paul Crowther is well reputed for answering emails directly, and will usually repair the pedal himself.
Ease of Use — 8
The Hot Cake is a straightforward distortion/overdrive stompbox. The layout should be familiar to anyone Who's used any similar pedal: Three knobs; 'Level', Drive', and the litle one in the middle, 'Presence'. 'Level' naturally denotes the output volume, whilst 'Drive' is simply the amount of Overdrive added to the original signal. The 'presence' is a tone filter which allows you to adjust the EQ of the output, which is useful to compensate for an overly dark/bright amp or guitar. Overall the controls seem simple and intuitive; as usual the best sounds tend to come in the midde section of each knob's travel. The Drive particularly has a very flat increase, starting with a gentle, barely perceptible Drive and continuing evenly into total saturation.