Hi everyone, today I am writing this article because I would like to share a pedal that in my opinion has its own reason: the Retro-Sonic eight-0-eight Overdrive.
Ok, from the name we understand (I would also say well) that it is a version of the well-known and now ultra-historic tube screamer T808.
The company that produces it is the Canadian Retro-Sonic (https://www.retro-sonic.com), active since 2001 based in Ottawa, which also produces other interesting pedals, such as chorus, delay, etc.
I met the pedal during a trip to Ottawa in August 2010. I was there for a conference and one afternoon, when I was free, I decided to go and visit the city. Obviously, having searched various points of interest, including music shops, my attention led me to “Lauzon Music” (https://lauzonmusic.com), you want for the location, you want for… I don’t remember. Anyway I decided to take the bus, take a walk and go see what it was like.
Ok, little premise about the shop… Wow!
When I enter I find a very kind salesman, I say that I don’t really intend to shop, but I’m just a tourist who was passing by. Instead of sending me to that country (which is typical in Italy), he very kindly tells me that I am welcome and that if I want to try something there are no problems. Then I start talking, I see an original TS9 and, having never tried it, I ask him if maybe it can be done. The enthusiastic one tells me that there are no problems, on the contrary, and recommends me not to stop at TS, but to also try other pedals, in his opinion much better, including the Retro-Sonic eight-0-eight Overdrive, which does not I know the least. All enthusiastic he tells me: “Try this and then let me know”. Ok, as if nothing had happened he gives me access to their rehearsal room, alone, with a flaming Gibson Les Paul and a 335,
No, oh well, I don’t believe it! But as if that weren’t enough, he asks me which guitar I usually use and I report that I have a Gibson SG Supreme, with a maple top, and in response then he also takes me the one that for him is the closest SG he has in the shop and all happy he leaves it to me. Ergo, I find myself locked in the shop’s rehearsal room all alone with that goodness you see in the picture, with the clerk on the other side of the shop all happy to be able to let me try their stuff in full confidence without the hassle of having to force sell something. Typical Italian situation… Sure.
Impressions and characteristics
Once closed in there (I didn’t want to go out anymore) I take the pedal in my hand and notice that it is really carefully built. The external box is a common Hammond container, in die-cast aluminum, series 1590, IP54, measuring 112.4 x 60.5 x 31mm (I know them because I used them too to make some handcrafted pedals). Excellent, nice solid and very resistant.
The potentiometers are the classic ones: volume, tone and drive. However, in addition it also has an additional bass adjustment, which in the modern edition is controlled by a switch on the front, while in this one by a potentiometer inside it.
The version I have is dark gray, practically the box with the original color to which they added the black and obviously green writings. The current version, however, what to find here https://www.retro-sonic.com/overdrive it is green, in the tradition of the original pedal. I must say that I prefer mine, it seems to mimic the original TS less …
Inside, the base is the very famous JRC4558 operational amplifier, which acts as a motor for a circuit that should be a faithful re-edition of that of the original TS808, but made true-by-pass and with first choice components.
The power supply is the classic 9V mains with central negative, or battery.
Nice, warm, aggressive as needed, with a paste that makes any instrument or amplifier look more beautiful.
Tried compared to the TS9, with some Gibsons and the tube amps you see in the picture, it seemed to me that it returned much more than the TS9! Trying to do the classic AC / DC open chords it felt like it gave more pressure to the cone, with more body than the TS9. From the photo you can see that on the stool there are the picks I used, including a 5 cent coin (yes, I know, I have these mental deviations, but the coin at the post of the pick is beautiful ????).
It has an excellent dynamics, by lowering the volume of the guitar the sound is cleaned as it should, and it reflects a lot both the basic timbre of the instrument and the touch of the musician who is playing. On the other hand, we are talking about a pedal that borders on the top of the range (at least for my budget). The sound manages to be both beautiful and powerful and creamy when needed.
The potentiometer settings are very sensitive and you can really sculpt the sound as you want. With the tone to the minimum it darkens a lot, vice versa it opens a lot. Setting the drive to minimum is a great boost, while turning up the gain is a great overdrive. Firing the gain at full throttle in my opinion (obviously) loses definition and perhaps becomes a bit too compressed: It must however be said that no overdrive / distortion should be adjusted with the gain at more than 3/4 if you want to maintain intelligibility between the notes … front switch does its job, poking the sound on command.
With the sigle coils it is spectacular, on the other hand it is a tube screamer. Emphasizes that twang of single coils with softness, giving the right compression to play what you want without worrying too much about making mistakes (something that with single coils is sometimes more evident than with humbuckers), but at the same time always allowing a remarkable dynamic. Beautiful.
The only negative note in my opinion is the internal bass adjustment, which I find practically useless. It works, well, in the sense that it adds a lot of bass, but in doing so the sound gets too crowded, losing that punch and clarity that makes it come out of the mixer easily. Especially with mahogany guitars and humbuckers, I personally don’t recommend it. Personally, I have always kept the internal potentiometer to a minimum, in order to obtain the sound of the original TS808, and once adjusted I have never touched it again (also due to the inconvenience of having to unscrew the bottom to get into it).
I like the pedal, it has a very nice texture. Is it identical to the TS808? I don’t know, but it is certainly very valid.
At home (yes, then I bought one!) I used it in the recordings I made with a virtual amplifier by putting it in front of it and I must say that it improved the final sound, and how. I let my guitar teacher hear the result with and without a pedal and his comment was: “a level pedal always improves the signal, stop.”.
I would just like to just make a small observation before closing. The enthusiasm, kindness, willingness and willingness to trust me on the part of the salesman, who did not hesitate to take 90 pieces as instruments at my only sign and then left me alone with them in the room to try , certainly influenced the overall impression I had of the Retro-Sonic eight-0-eight Overdrive. I mean, it sure is a beautiful pedal, if it had sucked I certainly would not have spoken highly of it.
But we are human beings, and as in all things the psychological factor plays a huge role! In the end, I didn’t buy it there (it cost well over $ 150), but the “fregola” has remained with me. As soon as I returned to Italy on ebay I found it at 90 shipped. Taken!
Published on musicanza.it on: 23/03/2020.