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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Crowther Hot Cake - opinions needed...

Discussion in 'The Stomp Box' started by gypsyseven, Oct 4, 2011.

  1. gypsyseven

    gypsyseven Friend of Leo's

    Mar 7, 2009
    I heard that the Hot Cake pedal is the best to drive your AC30...
    I saw some nice videos, but the most i trust is your opinions who had one, who uses one and who(like i do) want one?
  2. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    I have one.

    I scratchbuilt it, combining different elements from the '77 Hot Cake up to the present model.

    Paul Crowther changed some things over the years, and I just happen to like some of the earlier parts combined with some of his later ideas.

    I'd say that my scratchbuild probably has more in common with the later models than it does with the earliest ones. I have the presence control instead of the toggle, and I went with the later version op amp chip because it has a more minimized OD sound compared to the older ones, which can be a bit "furrier" sounding, even before they get into the fuzz tone that happens at the final twist of the knob.

    The Hot Cake is a rare example of an OD that has clean bass - Crowther designed it so that there is NO clipping in the bass frequencies, but they are still very present - the frequency response is flat relative to many other OD pedals. That means you have more precision with dialing in the harmonics and dirt so that you can just get it slightly on the verge of clipping. Since Crowther's presence control is very mild compared to a traditional tone control, the Hot Cake stays very bright and snappy, which I really like.

    It's hard to believe that the pedal was first released in the late 70's, because it can go toe-to-toe with many contemporary OD pedals. The only negative things I can really say about it are it isn't an obvious choice with a big clean amp like a Twin Reverb, because it's going to sound a little bright (remember - the bass isn't distorting at modest OD levels, and you typically want some clipping in that range with a powerful clean amp), and if you want a sort of "medium" overdriven sound, it might be too fuzzy for your tastes. It can be dialed in to many users' satisfaction, but those are the two niggles that I have experienced, AND heard from others.

    Personally, it's a pedal that I have to have in my collection, even if it isn't on the pedalboard at any given time. Because what it works for typically can't be duplicated with any other OD pedal, because Paul came up with something just really different. Even the buffered bypass mode is simply brilliant, and allows him to use a much more rugged DPDT switch AND have a status LED, just like the Klon Centaur does.

    Great pedal. Unless it doesn't work with your rig, it's hard to say anything negative about it, IMO.
  3. Del Pickup

    Del Pickup Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 24, 2008
    New Zealand
    I've had one for several years and have had an on/off relationship with it. Sometimes it sounds really good and other times it just doesn't do it for me.

    At lower gain settings it's an excellent clean boost. At higher gain settings I find it can get a bit 'fizzy' (rather than fuzzy as 11 Gauge described it).

    At the moment I'm using it with my LP copy into my 57 Twin to get these creamy rich Mark Knopfler-like Les Paul tones and it's great for that.

    The Hotcake is a big favourite with guitarists here (Kiwis can be very parochial in their allegiances!!).

    I used to use it more when I had my old Bassman RI and DRRI but when I got the 57 Twin I went off it in front of that amp and even considered selling the pedal. I actually met Paul Crowther a couple of years ago when I played a gig up in Auckland and had a quick chat to him about this and he was interested to hear what I felt about how the pedal worked with different amps.

    I played through one of the old model pedals with the toggle at last week's jam night and was able to get some very similar tones to what I get out of my newer pedal (with the presence knob). I've no idea what the electronic differences are between the two - and don't care to even think about it!

    So there you have. It's a good pedal and a not so good pedal depending on what day I pick it up!
  4. snod911

    snod911 TDPRI Member

    Jun 4, 2008
    Washington, DC
    Had one for awhile. Bought it primarily based on the chorus of "Hot Cake!" I'd see whenever anyone asked what kind of overdrive goes best with a Vox. (I've since learned that the party line on such things isn't always right for me.) To me, it sounded just okay. The part I really couldn't stand was this spitty decay at medium to high gain settings that just sounded really artificial as notes died out. I can't know for sure if it was a problem just with the pedal I bought (new), or whether it's just a characteristic of the Hot Cake. But since I had other pedals that didn't do that, and sounded better with my AC15s--Wampler Paisley, Blackstone, KOT--I sold it. Always wondered though whether I just got a lemon, as I really wanted to like it and am puzzled by all the loving it gets on forums as the go-to for Voxy amps.
  5. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    Because the Hot Cake doesn't use clipping diodes to control the distortion like all the other pedals you mentioned, it is normal for it to get kind of "twitchy" like that at the medium and higher gain settings. What is happening is the bass is no longer clean at higher gain, and it clips "aggressively" (just like many fuzz pedals do). There is also much more bass than in most other overdrives that have that much gain, so it will do weird things to the entire frequency spectrum, until the bass signal isn't big enough to distort any longer (that's the fizzy trails that you hear).

    ...The "sweet spot(s)" with the Hot Cake IMO are all compressed into a very tiny portion of the dial. I've found that I can almost always dial it in, given enough time, but it's usually a bit tricky with some rigs.

    So you didn't get a lemon - believe me. It is also the other part of the reason that I scratchbuilt mine. I tweaked it to do 2 more things that no Hot Cake can do:

    - have less bass at any setting

    - not go into that fizzy, fuzzy effect at the max setting the sweep of the controls is much more usable, particularly through a bunch of different amps. But it could potentially be argued that my scratchbuild is no longer a Hot Cake. What is surprising to me is that I have not found any such tweaked pedals that companies are building, which is why I was forced to do it myself. But it's actually better that way, because I can determine specifically how much bass I'm cutting, and how overdriven it sounds at max. I also might do some tweaks to the presence control, but again this will just take it further from the original Hot Cake design.

    ...I really only wanted to remove the warts and make it more flexible. The Hot Cake (in stock form) is a great pedal IMO, if you can get that tiny sweet spot dialed in.

    It's sometimes easy to forget that the Hot Cake design is over 30 years old, so by modern standards it requires more fooling with to get stellar results, IMO. But yeah - all the other pedals you mentioned are much more "automatic," and you could almost set the controls anywhere on them and get a decent sound. The Hot Cake will almost always require finessing, unless you use it as a dirty boost or odd fuzz effect.

    This is probably one of the better clips I've heard of the Hot Cake:

  6. Mr. Jinx

    Mr. Jinx Tele-Meister

    May 6, 2004
    I'm on record as being a fan of the HC. Sold it a few years ago and am on the lookout for another. Such a good buffer. It was obvious to me when I took it off the line. Have never met Crowther, but have had a few email exchanges. Always quick to respond and seems like a lovely fellow.
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