Holy Stain review by Electro-Harmonix

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  • Sound: 5
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Ease of Use: 5
  • Reviewer's score: 6.5 Neat
  • Users' score: 7.6 (19 votes)
Electro-Harmonix: Holy Stain

Price paid: £ 60

Purchased from: eBay

Sound — 5
My setup is not of importance as I am considering the pedal on its own, but I am using, at least, my Fender HR Deville 212 60W and a Fender Jazzmaster or other single coil guitar. First the positives - it is very quiet when on, unless you are using the high gain settings which is to be expected. It is transparent when off which means it has very little intrusion to your tone. It looks cool, is compact and has a funny name. Now the issues - While this is a multi-effect pedal it is not geared towards live playing in that it is not a substitute for a Boss GT or a similar. This is mainly due to the sparseness of controls which has meant some compromises have had to be made. Split the pedal into two halves; on the left are your Reverbs, Tremolo and Pitch Shift, selectable in this order in a cycle using the left footswitch. An LED light next to each effect listed on the front shows the currently engaged effect. Here is problem 1 - if you want to Switch from tremolo to room reverb when playing live you must hit the Switch 3 times, engaging pitch shift and hall reverb in the process before you get to the room reverb. These 4 effects are controlled with the 2 left most knobs above - Mix blends the dry signal with the effect between 0% (no effect) 100% (just effect signal) and Amount controls the depth/size of reverb, rate of tremolo and pitch for the pitch shifter. Problem 2 - in a live scenario you need to constantly play with the settings when switching effects because it does not let you store settings for each effect. Of the effects the reverbs are best, in fact, superb, and worth the relatively low price of the pedal alone. Tremolo is ok, but not strictly a tremolo as it adds some reverb to the signal too, oddly. Pitch Shift is perhaps the weakest effect. I think it shifts the pitch a 3rd down and a 4th up and anywhere inbetween, but either way it does not do a full octave which makes its use questionable as that is a common/basic requirement for this effect. It must be noted that this and the other effects can be controlled via an external expression pedal (not included) which may expand their use but I have not tried this yet. On the right half of the pedal is the On/Off footswitch that engages the whole pedal, and the knobs above select the distortions on offer. A 3-position knob selects Clean, OD/Dirt and Fuzz. Note that this is once again selected only via the knob so you can't practically Switch to distortion without using your hands. ... And this is where it all falls apart for me. The 4 effects can be used clean or with the OD or Fuzz, infact there is always one of them on unless you turn the mix knob to 0, BUT the volume difference between Clean and the distortions is HUGE. Say I have the clean on about 3 o' clock. If I select fuzz it is super loud, so much so I need to turn the master volume knob back around to about 9 'o clock to match the volume of the clean signal. This, along with the lack of a clean/dist footswitch totally kills the pedal's potential for live use on anything other than really a single setting.

Overall Impression — 7
It may sound like I really dislike this pedal but I don't. It is like owning a game console that doesn't always work. You know it's a bit rubbish and frustrating but when it does work its worth the fact that you didn't get rid of it. The reverbs are, as I said before, superb and I would recommend this pedal to anyone looking for a reverb pedal as all the rest is then just a bonus. I bought it mainly on this merit. The pitch shift is lacking in usefulness but I have found a cool sound on a particular setting and if left just off centre creates a chorus like effect. The tremolo is ok but I already have a dedicated trem pedal that does it better, and while the OD setting is a bit fizzy, the fuzz is pretty nasty in a good way. DO NOT expect this to be a versatile multi-fx unit that does 6 things in 1. Instead I find it does 1 thing at a time, but provides a pool of effects to play around with and many sounds to discover in order to make a particular sound to add to your setup. Then, when you are bored of that, take it away, find something new and give it another identity. It would also make a good studio pedal as this environment is better suited to the control style of the pedal which it comes to switching between effects rather than the immediate demands of a live situation.

Reliability & Durability — 9
It is very reliable, solidly built with a metal casing and will withstand lots of use. It'll be little more than a pretty paperweight if you lose the power supply as there is no battery option. I don't know many people who backup their pedals so it would have to survive the gig anyway!

Ease of Use — 5
How easy is it to get a good sound out of it? This is a very relevant to this pedal as it is something of a victim of it's own ease of use. Electro-Harmonix promote this pedal as their 'first multi-FX pedal' as the Holy Stain offers Hall Reverb, Room Reverb, Tremolo, Pitch Shift, Overdrive distortion and Fuzz in one compact box with 6 knobs and 2 footswitches. The stripped back controls mean no fiddly menus and a clear layout, but this also cripples it in certain areas where a more expansive control system would have opened up the full potential of the sounds available. Comes with a power supply as there is no battery option, which is not a bad thing considering the amount of time may find you need to fully explore and understand the options available. Very hard to rate this section - I will base the score on my impression having owned it for a few months.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I just picked this pedal up at a price that I couldn't refuse. I bought it as a dedicated reverb pedal, with the occasional tremelo effect to use. I was very surprised how good the fuzz and drive options are. I don't have any overdrive pedals, I mostly use distortion. However, my Gibson Les Paul Standard loves the drive feature on this. Very Zeppelin-like overdrive. I was surprised!
    having recently got this pedal used i have to say the reverb is awesome, not sure yet on the drive as i dont really use it as i use a Wasabi Overdrive infront
    I bought one of these in a bit of ebay madness. Surprisingly it is good, kind of 4 usuable effects in one. I like the fuzz and drive going into my Marshall. A lot of people hate it. The reverbs are ok, not as good as the Holy Gail Plus but usuable. The other great feature is the tremolo. The bit I hate is the pitch shifter, theres a time delay for it to kick in. Pointless. Oh, I put this in the FX loop.
    So the last reviewer says that the pitch shifter and the overdrive are pretty lacklustre in use yet still rates it a 10 in sound and impression??? I am kind of considering getting one of these but can't justify the Australian retail price - keeping an eye out on eBay and hoping for the best...