Hotone Soul Press Micro Volume/Expression/Wah

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mojobone
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Hotone Soul Press Micro Volume/Expression/Wah

Post by mojobone » Wed Jan 04, 2017 8:25 pm

Hot tone, hoe-tone, ho-Tony, however you pronounce it, this is one impressive little package, especially for the price, and at first blush appears to be built like a miniature submarine, though the finish is neither smooth, nor pretty. It feels pitted, but there are actually raised bumps, though it looks like it should hold up well; it's thick, but not gloppy. The heavy, powder-coated steel enclosure and treadle inspire confidence; plastic 'minimum volume' wheel and function switch? Maybe not so much, but the wheel feels solid and has a surprisingly long travel, which should provide plenty of control for most players.

Speaking of most players, despite the true-bypass toe switch, or rather because of it, this pedal does NOT switch between wah and volume hands-free; you have to choose one or bend over, since the toe switch in either case bypasses the entire unit. Some players will find this preferable, others a nuisance, but that's why they make Morleys, heh, heh. That and "Shaft", can you dig?

Unlike the optically-coupled offerings from Morley and others, the Soul Press sports a gear and potentiometer mechanism and is therefore prone to the same gremlins (dirt and grit, mostly) as vintage Vox/Thomas/Dunlop wahs, but unlike the passive Ernie Ball-type looped-string and potentiometer-based volume pedals, (and most other volume pedals) this volume control is ACTIVE, meaning no trebles are lost as you back off the gas; it does not operate like the volume knob on most guitars, so swells will sound different, which may or may not suit your pedal/lap steel stylings, but considering the pedal's tiny size, there's a surprisingly good amount of travel, the volume taper is even and at least adequate, and in any case, you'll probably adjust as you get used to it. Active buffering also means it should be able to drive very long cables with negligible signal loss, though I haven't tested this.

The size will likely be an adjustment; the pedal is about the width of a deck of cards, only half again as thick and half again as long. It appears to have been designed for the feet of a four-year-old (please don't send me death tweets if you suffer from Tiny Foot Syndrome) It's so small, I have to wonder at the inclusion of not one but two tiny ultra-bright LEDs under the rocker switch where you can't see them even BEFORE you cover the whole thing with your Doc Marten's or Birkenstocks. I'm not sure where else they coulda put them, there's that little real estate, but I'm sure they don't add much to the low, low asking price, and besides that, there are other details that are very thoughtful. Come to think, I guess those lights could help keep you from tripping over it on a darkened stage, but...only when it's active; it woulda been nice to have the lights separately indicate 'power' and 'effect active', but that could restrict battery life, which...I haven't tested, as of yet, but IMO, the Soul Press is unlikely to suck more amps than any other non-digital wah.

The rubber bushings beneath either end of the treadle effectively prevent unwanted clicking/clacking at either end of its travel and they appear far more firmly attached than those found on some of this pedal's full-size competition. These are of a very sturdy dense foam rubber, there's even a foam pad under the treadle, above the metal footswitch! The pad atop the treadle is regular rubber, like on a Dunlop.

Speaking of noises, there are no squeaks in my unit, a demo from our friends at Sweetwater, but the footswitch, while electronically silent, produces a small, yet quite audible acoustic 'ping', when engaged, something to be aware of at sound pressure levels that can excite microphonics, or if there's an active mic in the pedal's vicinity. Treadle tension can be adjusted with a common socket wrench and there are fore and aft rubber bumper plates underneath the pedal (the aft foam plate is thick enough to clear the raised screw heads on the bottom, more on that, later) so as not to mark up any polished surfaces, providing good 'grip' while leaving a center section for you to add your own velcro so as to have the best of both worlds, but if you're of the persuasion that prefers to use zip ties on your pedal board, you'll be hard-pressed (pun intended) to find a spot to strap this puppy down without interfering with a knob, a switch, an input, (either audio or 9V) an output or the treadle itself, so be forewarned.

The wah? Simply put, it's a matter of taste; it's a sturdy and useful tone-sculpting tool that most closely resembles a Thomas Organ/Dunlop Crybaby from the late 70s; great for humbucker-driven Cream-type riffage, but no throaty, vocal, pukey Hendrix sounds and no Shaft waka-waka to be found, so for my personal taste, this could never be my only wah, but for your fly rig (and mine) there's very little compromise involved and a great deal of value for your buckage, since it's truly three pedals in one. If the battery dies and you're stuck without a power supply, you can still control a parameter on another stompbox or keyboard or drumkit, presuming you can power those items.

I guess I covered everything but the battery cover, which is slightly unusual in that the bottom plate is in two pieces and requires six screws, but because it's split, you need only remove two screws to change the battery. The compartment is snug, but here again, there's foam and no worries about rattling batteries. These screws, unlike those on MXR's esteemed line of stompers (or indeed, the other four screws on the Soul Press) are not countersunk, but feature a design that allows the use of phillips, flathead, possibly even a dime could work in a pinch and the slightly oversized screw heads are knurled for extra finger grip, should you find yourself on the gig without a tool.This could be quite the time saver in the heat of a live show, except the screws are maybe a little longer than need be, so they take an awful lot of screwing, [write your own joke, here] so it's a great idea that's bit of a misfire. I reckon you could source some shorter ones, at the expense of the knurling, which unless you have SRV sausage fingers, is probably ineffective, anyway.

The verdict? This pedal is handy to have on any crowded pedalboard due to its multiple functions, and with its minimum volume control and active circuit, absolutely ideal for fading up your reverb and delay effects or backing tracks, since they'll never get 'darker' or lose presence as you turn them down. I'll probably prefer something larger for duty as my main wah or volume, but as a utility infielder, the Soul Press is downright indispensable.
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