There were times in my life when I would be reluctant to experiment with newer pedals. Even if I knew that something was better than the unit I owned, I would still stick to the one I was used to. I felt attached to my devices and couldn’t force myself to step out of the comfort zone and try out innovative stompboxes. When you know perfectly well how to achieve desired sounds with traditional methods and pedals, why would you look for additional headache and learn everything from the very beginning? That’s how I would justify my behavior. But later on I discovered that such an attitude limited my possibilities and was a handicap on my way to development. So I started purchasing newer pedals and keeping up with innovation. I would highly recommend doing the same, because in this day and age there’s no place for those who can’t adapt and change. On that note, today I want to present to you the pedal that blends together modernity and versatility. Tone Hammer from Aguilar provides us with countless opportunities and, thus, provokes creativity in every musician. It is one of the best (if not the best) bass overdrive pedals on the market and though it isn’t cheap, it’s certainly worth the money. Let’s list down its features, controls and sounds and come up with the verdict together!
As I have mentioned above, Tone Hammer from Aguilar offers a wide array of options. It’s definitely a multi-faceted unit that can be used for various applications. Plus, it is featured in steel body that protects the interior really well. As you open up the box, you notice neat and organized wirings, letting you know that this puppy has an ethereal quality. More importantly, it is equipped with AGS (Adaptive Gain Shaping) circuitry, which mixes together equalizer and overdriven sounds. It tweaks them simultaneously so that your tone shaping tools and overdrive operate as a single body. That way, the sound created by this unit is more uniform in the sense that every aspect of it corresponds with one another. AGS does also provide you with the ability to utilize Tone Hammer as a clean preamp. You can simply dial down gain and you’ll be left with equalizer that will shape your original bass sounds. Not only that, but it can also boost each frequency band with up to 18dBs. Speaking of frequencies, it has defined midrange that can be accentuated for more uniqueness, or eliminated for that ‘scooped’ effect. In addition, this bad boy has D.I. functionality which makes it suitable for studio or stage application. It can be placed either before or after EQ – depending on what you prefer.
Tone Hammer can be powered by two 9V batteries or an 18V adapter. Though it can be a pain to find suitable power supply or pair it with other pedals, enhanced voltage indicates on more headroom. This means that you can intensify your clean sounds more courageously, because they won’t overdrive unless you want them to. When it comes to connections, this pedal has standard input and output, 18V DC jack, as well as XLR balanced output for the D.I. To be honest, I can’t think of anything you won’t find in this puppy!
Aguilar Tone Hammer is definitely convenient in terms of controls. What I mean is that everything is laid out on the surface and you don’t have to dig deep to modify its parameters. You can simply connect your electric bass guitar, twist and rotate the knobs and results will follow. This pedal is so transparent that you can read its potential even by looking at the surface.
Now, let’s get specific. Gain alters the level of input sensitivity (it boosts your clean sound at lower settings and intensifies overdrive as you rotate it clockwise), while Master adjusts the level of overall output. Treble adds/cuts up to 18dBs at 4kHz, while Bass does the same thing at 40Hz. Mid Freq enables you to choose the frequency spectrum of midrange (from 180Hz to 1kHz), while Mid boosts or cuts the selected band with up to 17dBs. We have two footswitches: Engage activates or bypasses the circuitry, while AGS turns AGS circuit on and off. As you can see, Tone Hammer provides you with all the controls you would need to craft your bass sound to perfection.
The sound displays why Aguilar chose Tone Hammer as the name of this pedal. It is so powerful that you might need an extraterrestrial shield to protect yourself. Exaggeration aside, this pedal is capable of creating extremely saturated overdriven sounds. With enhanced emphasis on the midrange, it delivers distinctive and full-bodied results. It could even be said that middle frequencies are secret ingredients of this unit, taking to a whole new level of performance. The headroom is wide enough to make sure your signal doesn’t get clipped unexpectedly – it does maintain the pristine character of your original sounds. What’s more, Tone Hammer’s AGS circuitry makes EQ and gain dependent on each other. At lower settings, the EQ becomes flat, while at higher ones it smooths out high-end and adds an extra bite to the lower frequencies. Gain does also tighten bass response, which creates textured overdrive. This puppy goes back to vintage times easily and brings back the warmth we all admire. The only drawback here is that AGS circuitry doesn’t have a dedicated volume control. Though what I’ve described sounds pretty awesome, once you start playing around with this pedal, you’ll discover that words don’t even come close to actual results.
All in all, Aguilar Tone Hammer is one of the most impressive bass overdrive pedals on the market. At first glance, it doesn’t have anything that distinctive, but as you take a closer look, you discover that it has a couple of tricks that turn it into a really unique piece. It shares some characteristics with other pedals on the market, however, its distinctive ambience shines through every setting and sound. Good luck!
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