***Handling*** The Handling is fairly easy. You can either use this device as a normal overdrive or distortion pedal in front of your amp, plug it in directly to your Power Amp Section as a Preamp or you can also send the signal directly into a PA mixing board, since it emulates a guitar speaker.
***Features*** Six knobs: Low, Mid, High, Level, Voice and Drive. Input / Output and a connection for a power adaptor.
The Voice knob is the really interesting feature. It controls the shape of the mid frequencies. The more you dial in, the thicker the sound will get, ranging from early Mk II Sound to the super thick Hi Gain Sound of the latest Rectifier series.
***Sound*** This device is supposed to emulate guitar amps that are build in Petluma, California. And it does! I did an A / B comparison with a Dual Rectifier and it comes close, very close.
Like with the original amps, be careful with the amount of Bass you dial in. This pedal has LOTS of it.
The integrated speaker emulation cannot be turned off, although that is not a big deal, since you can compensate that with adding more High Frequencies.
When you dial in full Drive and full voice, it makes a very strange humming sound. But in reality this is never a problem, because the pedal have tons of gain reserve, you actually do not need to turn it all the way up.
Therefore I tend to presume it's the Chinese sound for: Warning! Too much distortion.
***Quality*** From the outside this thing is built like a tank. The knobs are very easy to move, some will find it a bit too easy. The on/off switch is indeed positioned a bit close to the knobs, but that is no problem because it is elevated and you will not touch the knobs with your foot.
The only thing that is to criticize about this pedal is the battery compartment. The battery is to be clamped directly under the PCB circuit board. And that can't be a good thing.
Be prepared to be surprised ! The HB California TrueTone pedal is superb in every way. Great value for money (c'mon, you could pay more for a T-shirt !!!), solid construction, looks cool, nice positive action on the control knobs including the footswitch, not too loose, not too tight. Possibly the best ¤30 I've ever spent on a piece of kit.
And the sound ? Well, I absolutely love it. Nice clean and clear at one end of the range right through to raw and very crunchy at the other without any unpleasant noises up to the moment when you have everyhing turned up to 10 when it really starts to break up, but hey, what would you expect from any pedal at those settings.
I use this pedal mostly through a small amp with the amp EQ set to 0 and effects set to 0 also except when I want a bit of reverb or delay. My personal favourite settings on the pedal have the low EQ at around 5, mids at 4, high around 6 for that scooped sound and then the level at 6, voice at 7 and gain anywhere from 4-7 depending on how much crunchiness I need. Each to their own, you'll find a setting on the California to suit almost every taste I can think of (maybe not if you're a classic jazz afficionado though !).
Is there anything I don't like about it ? Eh, no. If I could afford to I'd buy one of these as a present for every guitarist I know because I think they'd all find something good in it that would suit their personal sound pallet.
This purchase was a real eye-opener for me as I wasn't expecting it to be quite as good as it is despite having read and watched numerous reviews, thank you Thomann. Thank you for giving me access to that fantastic rockin' Anglo-Americana sound that I love in a neat little box that's a genuine pleasure to use almost daily.
Do I reccommened you get one ? Yes, indeed I do, you won't regret forking out ¤30 for something that is effectively giving you so much range and scope in your sound all in one box.
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