Pedal Feature – Henretta Engineering’s Choad Blaster

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Hey there.  Hi.  Hello…  Want to hear about a pedal?  No?  Well then what the hell are you doing on my site?  Please leave and go back to looking at cats or whatever it is non-pedal-loving squares look at on the internet.  If you are actually interested in hearing what I have to say please send me $5 via PayPal to continue reading.  Haha jk, I do this out of the good of my heart so maybe you can impress somebody with your vast pedal knowledge.  I want you to sound as good as you look.  Plus, chicks and barnyard animals totally dig pedals.  Just don’t forget where you learned it, son.

I’d like to use your precious internet-surfing poop time to tell you about a great and affordable distortion pedal.  I mentioned it very briefly in a previous post, but now it’s time to give you the full-on hardcore details.

The venerable Choad Blaster, made by Henretta Engineering, for a long time was the only ‘normal’ sized pedal with knobs (the recently released Lake Effect fuzz tremolo and just released Big Zapper envelope filter are exceptions, but that’s another post or two!) they had to offer.  I refer to this pedal as a distortion pedal, which it is to the unenlightened.  But to the true pedal sage it is actually an overdrive, distortion, and fuzz pedal.  You mean you don’t know the diff?  Ok, let me break it down for you, you noob, with a helpful (although poorly edited on their website) explanation from the website of Dr. No Effects:

Overdrive – more mild, transparent gain.  Responsive to how you play/set your amp and tone.  Think Tubescreamer, Klon etc.
Distortion – more intense gain, tends to color your tone.  Think Boss DS-1, ZVex Box of Rock, etc.
Fuzz – more organic, can be aggressive or smooth with nice harmonic character and overtones.  Some can be great for fat, single note lines, others for thick chords and/or octave effects.  Some clean up with the volume knob.  Some are crazy, some are tame. Think Fuzzface, Fuzz Factory, etc.

So then to break it down for you further, the Choad Blaster can offer tones that compete with any of the aforementioned pedals/tones making it difficult to apply one label to this device.  Let’s get on with the pedal then, shall we?

I’m a sucker for knobs (knob-sucker?).  While the Choad Blaster has only 4 knobs (and one internal trim pot), they’re as sensitive as Bill Cosby‘s nipples while committing rape in a pool full of Jello pudding? Paula Deen‘s nipples while basting a turkey? A choad in the wind? A freshly circumsized choad in the wind?  Americans over a tasteless joke?  The Choad Blaster is designed so the EQ knobs adjust frequencies in the guitar’s ideal frequency range (i.e. mids), which allows you to boost or cut the important stuff to shine through the mix.  It doesn’t just work the mids though, the tone knob can dial in the proper bass/treble ratio.  This is truly a ‘one size fits all’ pedal that can be the only source of dirt on your board.  If you’re into looping and can’t afford the luxury of endless pedals at your disposal, the Choad Blaster could be THE pedal you use for any boost/distortion/fuzzyness you need.  It’s important that looped layers sit in different places/frequencies in the mix so they don’t turn into a big muddy ball of shit.  I would also find this useful in a recording studio as you can sometimes get away with strange tones you wouldn’t necessarily use live, but work well in the context of standing out in a mix.

Tweakables:
Green Knob – controls output volume.  This pedal can get so loud it’s like being stabbed in the ear with a choad.  Ouch.  Not that I would know…but your mom would.
Yellow Knob – controls amount of upper-mid frequency gain and gives you a classic British-style crunch.  Sometimes when setting this knob high, it sounds like you’re gonna get a big, fizzy, mid-scooped tone, but it always comes out with surprising crunchy clarity.
Red Knob – controls amount of low-mid gain and turns to mild fuzzyness as you turn it higher.  Could also be named the ‘balls’ knob to stay with the theme of the pedal.
Blue Knob – turn clockwise to add treble and counter-clockwise to add bass.  At noon with the red and yellow knobs turned fully counter-clockwise acts as a transparent boost.  I like to keep mine a little more on the bass side, but it’s nice to be able to choose.  Changes the tone quite drastically from dark and bass-y to bright and treble-y.
Internal trimmer – compresses fuzz more as your turn clockwise.  As you turn it up it gets more into Fuzz Face/Fuzz Factory type territory with octaves appearing on notes played in the upper register, but nothing that glitchy or too crazy.
Switchable Op Amp – Say what?  You can switch out the op amp to customize your tone further?  In the words of Team America, “Fuck yea!”.  I think Kevin Henretta should draw more attention to this feature; it’s kind of hidden at the bottom of the manual.

Let me clearly state that this pedal is neither a gimmick nor a typical distortion pedal (I do admit the name ‘Choad Blaster’ piqued my curiosity to investigate).  It’s simple controls easily let you dial in a wide range of ear hole-pleasing tones.  Overall, this is a great distortion pedal and, to me, it stands out from being just another tube screamer or amp in a box.  Also, if you’re like me and not the biggest fan of fuzz, the Choad Blaster can be your safe trip into fuzz territory, like your trail of bread crumbs so you can find your way out of the fuzz forest.  It’s controls won’t confuse and with the ability to switch the op amp, this pedal can easily take the place of your existing distortions and fuzzes.

I think it was clever to design the Choad Blaster with the ability to distort upper and low mid frequencies.  Seeing how the guitar primarily sits in this part of the frequency spectrum means you have strict control over your tone and where you sit in the mix that would make Kim Jong-un red with envy.  Most distorted guitar tones you hear can be matched by distorting the proper frequency – the Choad Blaster offers this ability.  If your current distortion is blending in with your band, I suggest trying the Choad Blaster on for size (hehe).  Beware however, I’m pretty sure you can’t hold Henretta liable for any torn speakers and/or holes.

For more info check out Henretta’s website.

Check out my video demo:

That’s all for now.  As always, let me know what you think about the Choad Blaster.  Yay or nay?

Thanks for reading!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

Pedal Feature – Henretta Engineering

Hey there, everybody.  I know what you’re thinking, two posts in one week?  What am I, an animal?  No, my friends, I’m a mere human being with a sick insatiable desire for one thing….pedals.  Plus I miss you and just couldn’t resist talking to you again after our last conversation went so well.  henretta
The good gents at Guitar Riot mentioned the miniscule pedals made by Henretta Engineering when I last visited the store.  Surprisingly, I’m not going to talk about the Choadblaster, despite it’s amazing name (that’s another post for someday I guess).  Sorry.  What makes this Chicago-based company truly unique is found in their cute color-coded 2″ x 2″ enclosures.  I had heard of/seen them before, but didn’t think much of them because I dismissed them as a novelty or gimmick.  I know, I can be so superficial sometimes.  You see, there’s no trippy or shiny graphics to drool over or external knobs for that thing called tactile sensation.  What, no tweaking???  Does not compute…  Don’t worry, you still have control over essential parameters via trim pots located inside the pedal.  Personally, I don’t know how I feel about having to open a pedal every time I want to tweak something, but for those who like to ‘set it and forget it’, these pedals could be perfect.


My favorites are the Green Zapper Envelope Filter and the Purple Octopus Octave Up.  The Green Zapper has a nice and musical auto-wah quack to it.  I think I even hear a little Frank Zappa tone in there.  Some envelope filters can be all treble-y and harsh on your ears and therefore make you want to throw them away or bury them in a deep hole in the woods.  The Green Zapper is set at a manageable starting point for the filtering of your envelopes (although you’re free to fuck it up as you see fit).  As it is though, this thing is fat and crisp and would please even the funkiest of soul brothas.  Check it:

The Purple Octopus sounds especially awesome.  It reminds me of a super gnarly old school fuzz pedal.  Leads produce an octave up, rusty knives cutting cold glass kind of sound.  Chords produce a really fat wall of sound explosion.  Sounds like someone is murdering a robot.  Watch the video:

I could see myself making some old-school synthy textures with these.

I have to admit Henretta has made themselves a clever niche having ventured into the opposite realm of most builders by taking a minimalist approach.  By embracing this philosophy the company is able to focus on the most important aspect of designing any pedal – tone.  We all know that this is all that matters.  Luckily all their pedals sound really amazing, especially considering the price and their appearance to be far from one-trick ponies.  And imagine never having to mark your settings or worry about knobs mysteriously shifting just enough to mess up that sweet tone of yours when you fire up at a gig (I’m pretty sure underwear gnomes have a division for this).  My lovely wife would be ecstatic if I had these because I am a notorious tweaker.  I like to tweak, tweak, and tweak some more.  Like at band practice I take only a quick 15 minutes to get something to sound just right, then I’ll tweak it again and have to start all over.  Bless her heart…I’m working on this, I swear!

If you’re a traveling guitarist and need effects as part of your rig, look no further as these pedals are so tiny you can fit the whole line on the smallest pedalboard ever (apparently someone did just that at Guitar Riot to make a sweet travel board) and into a backpack, overhead compartment, or clown car glove box.  Henretta also gives you the really cool option of putting multiple units (up to everything they offer) into one still pretty small sized enclosure.  They’ll even let you pick the order of effects and put on external knobs (to control some parameters) if you want so you can completely customize your own analog multi effects pedal unit.  Sweet idea!  They also do all kinds of crazy shit like adding BYOC circuits and effects loops for adding external effects.  That way you could use the compact version for travel and when you have the time and space you can expand your rig to include your other favorite pedals.  If you’re like me and you’re too afraid to let go of your tweaking ways you can even buy a ‘normal’ sized pedal with external knobs included.  But who knows I might have to get my hands on one of the little guys someday.

Check out www.henrettaengineering.com for more info.

What do you think?  Do you care if a pedal has knobs for adjusting?  Let me know!

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File