Ernie Ball put the pedals to the metal. By Steve Henderson

The Ernie Ball company, innovative manufacturer and industry leader, continues to come up with practical and very cool ideas for the working muso. Ernie was the first guy to supply gauged string sets, as well as offering a bunch of accessories that, today, we take for granted – their bulletproof volume pedal is an industry standard. Ernie Ball Inc. also picked up the defunct Music Man line, re-issuing (and improving) the classic StingRay Bass and creating the fabulous Silhouette.

HEAVY TREADLE 
Most recently, they’ve come up with a couple of treadle-style effects pedals: an overdrive and a reverb/delay. Using the same platform as their popular volume pedal and their fabulous (but currently out-of-production) wah pedal, these two devices are a welcome change from the usual drive and echo formats.

The Expression Overdrive has three parameters, just like most drive pedals, plus a boost function. The treadle operates the output level while the other parameters have knobs, as usual. The drive tone has plenty of scope, from a soft wooliness to a medium-gain punch. Or, if you like, from a TS-808 to a Mesa Flux-Drive. It’s a fairly generic (in a good way) tone, which means it won’t colour your guitar with it’s own thing. Indeed, a vintage Strat, an Anderson Strat (with EMGs), an old 335, a new Godin Summit and an old Tele (low gain single coils) all retained their own character and dynamic range. Yahoo!

It takes a few minutes to get used to having the output volume as a real time variable parameter (over-revving is a little easy at first), but once you get a feel for it, it’s really cool. The tone control is very usable and smooths out the drive nicely – very cleverly, with the treadle down (back), the effect is bypassed. The gain boost (up to 6db) is super-handy for low-output pickups and, in fact, adds some extra grunt to any guitar.

WE’RE EXPERIENCING A DELAY
The Ambient Delay pedal has four parameters across two effects. Like most amp reverbs, the reverb function is a single knob controlling, in this case, a plate reverb. The other controls are for delay time and feedback, while the treadle controls the output volume of both the reverb and the echo. There’s also a port to add a tap tempo switch.

The unit shines when it comes to plate reverb - it can be very subtle or super saturated. You can drench the guitar with ‘verb and then add just a touch of echo, or you can dial up a subtle ambience alongside a long (up to a second) delay with as many repeats as your bandmates can handle. Fading in the delayed signal is such a cool effect (more fun than you think), and for slower pieces, fading in, out and then in again will bring out the perfectionist in anyone. The echo repeats are accurate without being clinical. The feedback knob will dial back to a single repeat, but not “off” - so, if you want reverb, you have to have one echo minimum. Sensibly, the delay feeds into the reverb, so each repeat triggers a new reverb image (just like in the real world).

For acoustic or electric, I love reverb and delay. However, since reverb is an “environment” (often just left on) and delay is an “effect”, it would be nice if the player could select the reverb to be on while the treadle controlled the delay only. This way, the delay could swell up through the already-on reverb. Having said that, this combination of effects (as presented here) is entirely useful and loads of fun to mess around with. To that extent, it’s worth the effort to use it in your effects loop for a higher fidelity top end.

THE BOTTOM LINE
These Ernie Ball rocker pedals are clearly designed by musos, for musos. They operate with a standard 9v supply and are built to last like you won’t believe – absolutely bulletproof. They’re presented beautifully, too, in their flashy gold finish (one is gold and the other is rose gold, so you can easily tell them apart) and the treadle movement is smooth and positive. These devices will take up a little extra real estate on your pedalboard, but they’re worth it. The Ambient Delay and Expression Overdrive are pro quality effects, and they’re built for the player who wants realtime control and that extra creative edge.

FEATURES

Expression Overdrive
• Drive, Tone, Boost, Level (treadle) controls
 In and Out ports
• 9v power adaptor
• 200mm (L) x 87mm (W) x 67mm (H)

Ambient Delay
• Reverb Level, Delay Feedback, Delay Time, Output Level (treadle) controls
• In, Out and Tap Tempo ports
• 9v power adaptor
• 200mm (L) x 87mm (W) x 67mm (H)

PROS
•​ Well built
• Great sounds

CONS
•​ Large pedalboard footprint

CONTACT
CMC Music

Ph: (02) 9905 2511
Web: cmcmusic.com.au