Origin Effects’ new Halcyon Green Overdrive pedal is based on the classic Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer (which can sound really good on synth sounds — don’t dismiss it as a guitar‑only pedal), but the company have worked hard to overcome some of the limitations of the original. While the TS808’s mid hump and bass roll‑off work well when you’re pushing it hard, the tone is rather less impressive when you play quietly or back off your guitar’s volume control. Origin’s newly developed adaptive circuitry addresses that. Sensitive to both the level and pick attack, it applying a dynamic tone‑shaping profile that follows the input signal dynamics such that, when switched on, it automatically achieves a flatter response for quieter inputs. In other words, the tone is prevented from becoming too thin and bass‑light when you back off the volume.
Designed and built in England, the Halcyon Green Overdrive has a compact pedal format, with the jacks at the top edge to allow close spacing on a pedalboard. The casework is fabricated from stainless steel and it’s a few millimetres taller than a typical compact pedal. A standard 9V DC, centre‑negative power supply capable of at least 100mA is required; internal circuitry boosts the supply voltage to increase the available headroom.
The four knobs adjust Level, Drive, Tone and the Dry level, and there are two Adapt options. The original Tube Screamer added a fixed amount of clean signal to improve note definition, and the Halcyon Green’s Dry control gives you more control over that. Setting Dry at 50% adds the same amount of dry signal as a classic Tube Screamer. There’s a choice of two Voice settings: 808 replicates the classic Screamer mid hump, while Mod adds a stronger presence peak that can help if using humbuckers that could benefit from a little more ‘edge’. For a classic TS808 sound and response, then, you can select 808 mode, set Dry to 50%, and not switch in the Adaptive circuitry.
As well as Off, the Adaptive toggle switch gives you two options — a semi‑adaptive mode or a fully adaptive mode. A second toggle switch brings in the aforementioned presence voicing option, while a conventional footswitch is used to engage the buffered bypass. An LED indicates whether the pedal is active or bypassed.
The tone is prevented from becoming too thin and bass‑light when you back off the volume.
I found that the straight Screamer sound, whose settings I described above, matched up well against originals that I’ve used. Back off the guitar volume and the sound does lose a bit of vitality, just like on the original. But with the guitar volume backed off and fed into a clean amp channel, the full Adapt setting retains more of the low end, while also adding a useful clarity to the highs. The semi‑adaptive position still helps bolster the lows and highs, just to a lesser extent; it’s good to have the option. In both cases, when you put the guitar back to full volume and play normally, the tonality is similar to what you’d hear without the Adapt settings.
The Voice switch adds a quite noticeable presence peak — when playing a Strat I found that I didn’t really need it, as using the pedal’s Tone control I could get the bypass tonality to match the drive tonality pretty well. However, I did find it really useful in helping thicker‑sounding humbucker‑equipped guitars to cut through. If it seems a little too forward‑sounding, you can back off the pedal’s Tone control a touch to compensate for that.
If you’re a fan of the classic TS808 Tube Screamer, then Origin Effects’ Halcyon Green Overdrive comes under the category of ‘better mousetrap’. If you always pick hard and set everything to 11 then maybe the benefits won’t be so obvious, but it will be of particular benefit to those players who employ a lot of picking dynamics or guitar volume control adjustments as part of their playing style. This is a really well‑designed drive pedal with a lot to offer the discerning player.