The Holy Stain from EHX may be named along the lines of the ‘Holy Grail’ reverb pedals, but it is so much more than that. Yes, it features reverb, but also basic EQ shaping, drive/fuzz, tremolo and pitch shift …
So far, I have not reviewed any multi-effects as such. Sure, there have been a number of combined preamp and compressor pedals or drive and preamp, but nothing like the Holy Stain. Well, I have nothing against floorboards or multieffects, but must admit that this one has the feel and vibe as a stompbox (which I like) – a pretty big one, though.
The Holy Stain has 6 knobs (but 2 of them are really 3-way toggle switches), 2 foot switches, and 5 LEDs. Let’s run over the knobs from the right – the input side. First you will find the DRIVE toggle knob that allows you to select between CLEAN, DRIVE and FUZZ. Next to it is the other toggle knob, COLOR, which can be set to BRIGHT, DARK or WARM.The remaining 4 knobs are turning knobs, the 2 middle ones being TONE and VOLUME. The next knob labelled AMOUNT and it works a little differently depending on which mode the pedal is in. The last knob is MIX and simply blends the clean signal in.
The right foot switch punches the pedal in and out, and the left foot switch selects the MODE – or effect type – that the AMOUNT knob controls. Your options are ROOM REVERB, HALL REVERB, PITCH SHIFT and TREMOLO, and each of them have a dedicated LED to indicate which one is selected.
There are 6 rounds of sound clips in this review. The first two focus on the reverb side of the Holy Stain and the approach is fairly methodic. Then, you can listen to variations of the Tremolo effect, different Tone settings, Drive and Fuzz. Finally, there is an example of the pitch shift, simply sweeping through the entire range.
- Room Reverb
- Hall Reverb
- Drive & Fuzz
- Pitch Shift
NOTE! Please use headphones or ‘real’ speakers. You simply can’t judge low-end material on laptop, tablet or phone speakers…!
NOTE! If you are on a mobile device, please turn it to landscape mode to see the knob settings of the pedal for each audio clip.
With so many different types of effects under the hood, you could easily argue that of course it’s a versatile pedal. And it is. But having so many quite different effect types sharing a relatively simple control surface also puts a limit to the versatility of each of them compared to dedicated pedals. For instance, you get a ROOM and a HALL reverb, and to my ears it sounds like the same basic algorithm, but with a longer decay time on the Hall preset. Makes sense and it works out pretty much as intended.
For the TREMOLO effect, you can change the time and in a way you can adjust the ‘intensity’ by blending in some of the dry signal. But you can not choose between different characters such as sine or square. Also, as you dial in more speed, using the AMOUNT knob, you will also add reverb gradually, which I found a little strange. However, the effects that had the most limitations due to the control surface are by far the DRIVE and FUZZ that is simply either ON or OFF.
Having said that, obviously you can create more different sounds with this pedal than most other individual stompboxes, so at the end of the day it offers lots versatility, but it may compromise a bit on the flexibility.
In this case, the review unit was pre-owned and has already seen a couple of years of use, but no quality issues such as noise or mechanical issues with knobs, switches or connectors were present.
The user interface design is functional and fairly simple. As mentioned in the versatility section, you can create some usable sounds with most of the effects, but some are limited. I would say that if you need to use for instance tremolo just once in a while, but like the reverb of this pedal, you could save the dedicated tremolo pedal unless you need some very specific tones in that regard. I would probably not use the Holy Stain to replace a dirt pedal, though.
Finally, it is a pretty big pedal that will take up quite a bit of space on your pedal board. But in the end, it depends on how many individual pedals you can scrap and replace with this one. If it is two or more, you might end up actually saving you some space.
Today (2016), a new EHX Holy Stain can be bought for less than $120, which is a very fair price in my opinion. Again, depending on how many pedals you may be able to cover – or replace – with this one, you may even be looking at a very good deal.
Initially, you get a lot of variety and creative possibilities with this pedal, but once you start digging in, you may find the flexibility of each component a bit limited. This may not be a problem at all, depending on your needs, though. Overall, I think the Holy Stain is worth checking out, especially if you like reverb for soloing and sometimes a touch of tremolo. The pitch shift is very basic and the dirt/fuzz is usable but the least flexible part of the pedal.
Fairly versatile (but less flexible)
Good value for money
DIRT circuit is very basic
Quite big footprint