There is a very good chance I just found the perfect drive pedal for my needs
Overview & Cost: $180.00 from Shotmaker.co
Equal parts fuzz, overdrive, distortion, and boost the Shotmaker Instruments Heroine is an ultra-flexible gain pedal meant for the modern guitarist. Now, that’s not to say that it doesn’t hold warm vintage tones inside this black square box. But really, it is designed to create very authentic amp-like gain instead of being built to replicate some other sort of legendary drive pedal. In fact, Shotmaker Instruments built the Heroine around silicone transistor master circuit which aims to create gain like a ’50s power-amp. It aims to create a touch responsive drive that will compress and distort differently depending on your pick attack. To me, that master circuit is like a tweak-able master volume knob on an old tube amp, which is right up my alley. The controls on the Heroine are pretty unique, which contributes to this being anything but just another gain pedal.
You’ll find two toggle switches labeled “sustain” and “bright” below the three control knobs. The sustain switch is a cascading gain option, which adds a mid boost and compression to your gain tone. Bright will create a brighter (more high frequencies) tone with less headroom and more bias. These are both flexible, with the sustain switch really helping to thicken up single coil pickups while the bright knob evens out muddy humbuckers a bit. The three knobs are a master volume (think like tube amp master volume so it makes it louder and more overdriven), a “pre” knob, and a high cut. The high cut is self explanatory, it removes some of the higher harsh frequencies (like on a RAT). The pre knob is incredibly fun, because it’s almost like a normal/dark switch on an amp, it can increase the gain even when the master volume is rolled down. Quite useful for low volume playing in my apartment or modern high gain tones when cranked.
Review & Opinion
It’s really hard not to love this pedal, especially when you play with multiple different gain tones like I do. The Heroine doesn’t color over your guitar’s tone unless you tell it with the various switching options, this means that you can get a warmer mid-rich overdriven tone like a tube screamer or a fully hard clipping bass-boosted RAT sound. However, the Heroine isn’t a RAT or tube screamer, it’s an ultra-shapeable amp that reacts wonderfully to your specific guitar and amp. With single coils it can create a searing lead tone, but without changing the settings it will turn your P90 equipped guitar into a garage rock beast with chugging chords and sustaining riffs. You can shape the Heroine to do what you want or you can do what I do, and let it accentuate the best aspects of your various guitars. I did the demo of this pedal with the Noventa Telecaster because I just loved how it opened up the sonic versatility of this single pickup guitar. This will essentially replace two pedals on my board, the overdrive and distortion, because when I kicked a boost on top of it, I could totally mimic those two flavors of gain. My favorite setting is the sustain on, bright off, master volume at noon, pre at about 9 o’clock (for a less heavy gain tone) and the high cut at 1 o’clock. This is the perfect rich distortion tone for me and if I role that master volume down even more, it becomes far closer to warm tube amp breakup. Subtle changes to the volume knob or my guitar’s volume can do sweeping things to this sound and I’m a huge fan of it.
Final Conclusions & Rating: 10 out of 10
I am usually very anti-boutique guitar pedals, I think many are overpriced retreads that are hard to replace if they’re lost/stolen/damaged on the road. So it should be very telling about the quality of the Shotmaker Heroine that I’m raving about its tone and feature set. I mean, I took off two of my favorite pedals to put this on my board permanently. As far as pricier, small batch pedals go, the Heroine perfectly executes the balance between something new and familiar. The classic gain sounds we love (TS, RAT, Bluesbreaker) are all buried in it but you can also “set it and forget it” and let each guitar or pickup combo do a little something different through it. For me, I can plug in a Strat and get overdrive or plug in a Les Paul and get thick distortion, all with just the one pedal on my board. That’s real value. Plus in a world that is seeing $200 and $300 pedals become the norm, the $180 price tag is incredibly reasonable. No pedal will ever be a perfect solution to tone, but this is a perfect boutique pedal that I will be using for years to come.
Farewell to my RAT and TS-9, who have been with me for years, but will now live on my travel/gigging pedalboard where they’ll (hopefully) power my sound in a band setting!