LunaStone – Big Fella Overdrive REVIEW

LunaStone has a concept they call TrueOverDrive that supposedly should nail the tone of tube amps being pushed hard. It’s made for guitar, but that has never stopped us from trying out a pedal, and it certainly won’t this time…

 

The vast majority of drive pedals are based on a technical approach called diode clipping. However, there are a few companies out there that take a different approach that doesn’t involve any diodes at all. The idea is to cascade various gain stages to gradually build up the dirt.

Reportedly, one of the main advantages should be that this gives you a very dynamic pedal with a response similar to a tube (guitar) amp that you can ‘tame’ using nothing but your fingers and maybe ride the volume knob, which is admittedly more of a guitar thing than something you’d typically do on bass. Rather than trying to explain the technical side in detail, here is link to a page where the founder and engineer at LunaStone talks about the TrueOverDrive concept.

 

lunastone-big-fella-overdrive-controlsThe Big Fella has 4 knobs, a toggle switch, two footswitches and two large LEDs. The knob in the upper right corner sets the GAIN and the middle knob in the top row is a VOLUME control to dial in unity gain post-drive. The las know in the top row is a dedicated BOOST control that is connected to the left footswitch.

The last knob is round in order to avoid conflicts with the pointy design of the VOLUME and BOOST knobs – and it controls the TONE. At 12 o’clock, it is neutral, and from there you can boost or cut the treble.

The drive circuit itself has two ‘profiles’ – OD1 and OD2. You can use the toggle switch to choose which one you want to use. OD2 gets things dirtier, but it’s not like it takes over were the OD1 at full gain stops. There is a significant overlap, but OD2 at full gain definitely gets you more drive than what the OD1 profile is capable of.

 

 

white headphone with rhythm symbol

A combination of reader feedback, saying that separate sound clip pages can sometimes ‘interrupt’ the user experience, and the fact that extremely detailed and methodical sound clip sections take forever to create, I have decided to try – at least for now – to make the reviews a little less dense with regard to the amount of sound clips. There will be sound clips, but more serving the purpose of demoing specific points that I want to pin down.

Please note that the plan is not to be any less detailed or thorough and I will attempt to describe the overall sound of the pedals in general to the best of my abilities.

So what does such a Big Fella sound like then? It sounds amazing – at certain settings – and is less ideal for bass at others. As mentioned, this pedal is designed specifically with guitar in mind, and that is audible especially at low gain settings where the tone for bass loses too much low end punch to my taste. There are spades of clarity, which is always great, but less so if it comes at the cost of decreased low frequencies.

But wait, before you write it off, there are at least two more things to consider. First, the pedal sounds great at high gain settings, and it does really seem to be extremely responsive to dynamic playing. In the first sound clip, where the pedal is at full gain in the OD1 mode and with the TONE knob at 30-35% for a slightly darker tone, note the soft crunch in the first two bars of the main groove part. Then, in bar 3 I strum the D and G strings hard, but make absolutely no changes to the pedal settings, punch in/out the boost circuit or adjust the volume control on the bass. It is strictly responding to the incoming dynamics of the playing style.

 

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.

 

I really like how you can throw in riff like parts at full drive and keep the main groove relatively clean (relatively!) and use only your fingers to control it all.

The other thing I would like to emphasize is that the TONE knob is also designed very musically. As mentioned, the Big Fella sounds best on bass at full gain, so why not try that in the OD2 mode with a pick and then play with the TONE knob. In these three examples, the settings are identical to the first example, except from being in OD2 mode, and then the TONE knob is moving from the neutral 50% position towards darker tones at 25% and 0% settings.

 

 

In three different ways, I like each of the variations. I would rarely go for boosting the highs, but you can indeed tailor the tone in a pleasant way with the TONE knob.

 

 

I a sure this pedal is extremely versatile for guitar, but unfortunately (fortunately, really!) I don’t play the guitar – at least not in public. For bass it sounds great for certain things, but while the gain range is absolutely usable all the way to full-on, which is pretty rare, I would not use the lower gain settings with bass. I also like the OD1 and OD2 characters that are of course related, but still have unique flavors to them.

Now, to be able to use the full gain range, I tried to hook up the Big Fella with a Boss LS-2 Line Selector to be able to blend with the dry signal. This definitely helped maintaining the low end and raised the versatility mark by a mile. You would of course need an additional pedal, and an update of the pedal with a blend feature would make it absolutely killer on bass as well.

Further, the boost circuit is a great addition if you need a little push to cut through, or if you solo once in a while.

 

 

The build quality and physical design is top notch. Everything felt good – knobs, connectors, switches, etc. The visual design may not be revolutionary, and in a time when there are literally thousands of small and large pedals builders out there, of which many try to stand out from a visual standpoint, it can be hard to come through with your particular pedal. Well, there are many reasons to love pedals, and visual is only one of them – and to be honest, in my opinion, it’s only a superficial and generally unimportant aspect. Tone is really all that matters, and on a dark stage, all pedals look the same anyway.

I already mentioned the blend feature that I would wish for in a bass version of this pedal. That little hardware design tweak would make a world of difference. Also, a dedicated footswitch for toggling between OD1 and OD2 would make sense. Having said that, however, there is already a solution to that. LunaStone have another pedal that is base don the Big Fella, but with three footswitches – the third does exactly that: toggles between OD1 and OD2. It’s called the Three Stage Rocket.

 

 

Today (2016), a brand new Big Fella will set you back around $249. Not the cheapest of pedals, but certainly not the most expensive either. If you dig that particular tone and appreciate extremely dynamic response in a pedal, this is a must-have. Alternatively, pick up a used LS-2 or Xotic X Blend and enjoy the full gain range of the Big Fella.

 

 

The Big Fella sounds great at high gain settings. And even at full gain in OD1, you can tame it and get near-clean/light-crunch tones if you play softly – and then full on drive if you dig in. That is rare in a pedal, and that is what truly sets it apart from the majority of drive pedals. At low gain settings, it probably sound great on a Stratocaster, but less so on a bass due to loss of low end frequencies. If you add a blend pedal, though, you can easily use the full gain range and maintain your beefy tone and low punch.

 

PROS

Sounds great at high gain

Quite versatile

Great quality

Good value for money

 

CONS

Loss of low end at low gain settings

A blend option would have been nice

 

SCORE

SOUND: 85

VERSATILITY: 85

BUILD QUALITY: 93

DESIGN & USABILITY: 86

VALUE FOR MONEY: 87

TOTAL SCORE: 87.2

 

 

 

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