Just what the world needs, right? Another overdrive pedal... Well, in the case of the Electro-Harmonix Soul Food the answer might just be a resounding 'yes'. Powered either by a 9V battery or the included 9.6V power supply, the Soul Food is a simple three‑knob overdrive box, sporting the expected Drive, Volume and Treble (tone) knobs. Plugging in a guitar switches on the power. An LED shows when the pedal is active, and there's an internal switch setting for true or buffered bypass. As shipped, the pedal is set to true bypass. All three knobs do pretty much what you'd expect, but with any overdrive pedal it's the fine detail of how these actually work and interact that matters.
Prior to trying this pedal I've been a long‑time user of the Fulltone OCD overdrive, specifically because you can set it so that backing off your guitar volume control gives you essentially the same sound as bypassing the pedal with your guitar turned fully up. This allows the amount of drive to be varied using only the guitar volume control without sacrificing your tone, so you can leave the pedal in circuit and just lift your guitar volume for solos. The Electro-Harmonix Soul Food also manages this feat, and with the drive at minimum and the Treble knob set mid-travel it also works as a clean boost pedal, again preserving the guitar tone to the extent that you can hit bypass without the sound changing at all. In fact the drive range is pretty wide, going from clean, through bluesy, right up to classic rock territory, in which the natural‑sounding overdrive tracks the guitar volume and picking intensity extremely well.
Playing with the Treble control reveals more flexibility. Set the Drive down low, the Treble up high, and you have a clean treble booster. Add some drive, turn the Treble left or clockwise and the top end gets smoother, not in a muddy way but rather adding mid‑range focus reminiscent of a Tube Screamer. Leave it in the centre and your guitar tone remains unchanged.
During my tests I didn't notice any undue noise that wasn't attributable to my guitar's own pickups; the pedal did exactly what I needed without messing up my tone and it was capable of more tonal and drive range than I'd expected. It works equally well with single‑coil pickups and humbuckers, and is perfect if you just want to add a hint of 'hair' to your sound. Given its non‑boutique price, boutique‑challenging performance and sheer flexibility, this is one pedal that's going to find a permanent home on my pedalboard. Paul White
£45 including VAT.