Origin Effects Halcyon Gold

Adaptive Overdrive Pedal
By Dave Lockwood

Still searching for an ‘always on’ overdrive that works with your guitar’s volume control turned up or backed off? Your search might be over...

Origin Effects Adaptive dynamic EQ circuitry debuted in their Halcyon Green ‘Tube Screamer variant’ and gets another outing here in a Klon Centaur‑influenced pedal. Overdrive pedals are usually designed to emphasise midrange, often trimming off a significant amount of bass, and sometimes some top‑end too, to create a tone that will work well with distortion and create a fluid, articulate lead guitar sound. That’s fine if you’re only going to switch the pedal on for lead lines, as many people do, but an overdrive can also be used as an ‘always‑on’ pedal providing a fundamental voicing to complement, or indeed overcome the basic tonality of an amplifier.

A classic and much used example is the combining of a mid‑heavy Tube Screamer with the mid‑scooped voicing of many Fender tube amps. The issue then is that the ideal amount of mid boost for your ‘singing lead tone’ becomes a weak and incomplete‑sounding clean sound when you back off the guitar’s volume control, as there’s too little bass and treble. The world of overdrive pedals is full of attempts to find a ‘better compromise’, either with small tweaks to the Tube Screamer‑type symmetrical clipping circuit, the asymmetrical clipping of the classic Boss overdrives, or indeed something completely different like the Klon Centaur.

Adaptive EQ

Origin’s Adaptive circuitry addresses this issue head‑on by providing a level‑dependent, analogue EQ stage that provides the necessary mid‑forward voicing when the input level is high, with the guitar’s volume control turned up, but progressively restores the shaved‑off bass and treble when the input signal is lower. When combined with a distortion circuit that offers good volume‑related clean‑up, this allows you to have both a warm and sparkling clean tone and a mid‑pushed solo tone without touching a single control on the pedal itself, just by riding your guitar’s volume control. Of course, being level‑related, the Adaptive circuitry responds to picking dynamics, too, which may not always be what you want, so you have a choice of two degrees of Adaptive implementation, as well as an Off setting.

Four rotary controls offer Drive, Level, Tone and Dry — the latter a departure from the Klon Centaur circuit to give you independent control of the amount of dry‑through signal, rather than have it automatically faded out as the gain is increased. The final control is the Voice switch, offering the relatively narrow midrange peak of the original Klon circuit, or a broader, gentler mid‑lift combined with a slightly different clipping characteristic.

The Magic Diode Myth

The Klon Centaur design is actually a conventional hard‑clipping circuit, albeit combined with a very unconventional ‘voiced’ clean feed and a dry through path, all mixed together at the output. The diodes used in the clipping stage were ‘specially selected’ germanium components that are no longer available. Many Klon users, however, will never have heard their ‘special’ clipping diodes in action, as they don’t start working until you are quite well up on the Drive control, and the Centaur gained much of its reputation being used as an almost clean boost pedal. A lot of ‘klone’ makers successfully used different germanium diodes to achieve much the same effect, but Origin have taken a completely different approach.

Halcyon Gold actually uses silicon diodes, configured to offer a progressive, soft‑threshold clipping characteristic reminiscent of the best germanium‑based circuits. It certainly works, and it sounds like the clipping circuit is in play to some extent throughout a large sweep of the Drive control. Wherever you set it, there’s a ton of touch‑sensitive tonal nuance available just from picking dynamics and volume‑control riding. Combine that with the Adaptive circuitry and you have a truly expressive playing experience more reminiscent of a great tube amp than an overdrive pedal. Blend in some dry signal for a bit of additional articulation if you’re playing into an amp that’s nicely cooking on its own, or turn it right down if your amp is running clean.

It’s much better as an overdrive than any Klon or ‘klone’ I’ve ever used...

Does it sound like a Klon? Not at all with those settings. It’s much better as an overdrive than any Klon or ‘klone’ I’ve ever used. But you can easily get it into Centaur territory with the Dry contribution up above 50 percent, while the Drive is low and, of course, with the Adaptive circuitry switched out and Voice set to Klon. There’s a ton of level above unity on tap, so you can easily get your Halcyon Gold to do an authentic Klon‑like semi‑crunch, pushed front‑end tone, but the Halcyon Gold is still a better, more contemporary overdrive, to my ears: with a Klon at low gain settings you are basically just hearing some fairly stiff op‑amp clipping. The tone control is ‘typically Origin’ in that it doesn’t get unusably bright or dark, and it also gets slightly overridden by the Adaptive circuitry, so you can use it to tame a bit of top end in the driven tone, but still have enough sparkle in your cleans.

Housed in Origin’s bullet‑proof, four‑knob, steel enclosure, with top‑mounted jacks, buffered bypass and silent switching, Halcyon Gold is an absolute gem, whether you are looking for something Klon‑like or the much wider palette of tones that it has to offer.

Summary

The Halcyon Gold is impressive: while it may have its roots in the Klon Centaur design, it is far more than a ‘klone’.

Information

£249 including VAT.

www.origineffects.com

Published October 2023

From the same manufacturer