“awesome vintage distortion”
 Total Guitar Aug 2007   Full review


The Hellbender is a high quality guitar overdrive pedal, designed and hand made in the UK to give guitarists a touch responsive and dynamic distortion effect which will range from a very mild and subtle overdrive to a rich, saturated, singing lead tone. Unlike most distortion pedals available today the Hellbender uses more than one stage of distortion and more than one distortion mechanism. This gives a more realistic emulation of valve amp being driven hard. As you pick harder the different distortion mechanisms come into play to give your playing a much more responsive sound. The Hellbender is also capable of higher output than many other distortion pedals (up to 3.6 volts pk-pk) and even with the gain set to its lowest level where the sound is almost totally clean a healthy volume boost is achievable. The Hellbender is not a digital model of anything, nor does it claim to recreate the sound of any particular vintage or modern amp, and isn't designed to be used for recording direct into a mixer or computer. This overdrive is intended for use the old fashioned way - between a guitar and amp, either on stage or mic'd up in a studio. The guitar, pedal and amplifier should work in synergy to allow you to create your own sound. Any good guitarist's signature sound comes not only from their equipment but from their particular approach to picking, pick attack, pick angle, vibrato etc. The Hellbender will allow these playing subtleties to come through, enhancing the overall sound and becoming an integral part of the guitar/pedal/amp combination. (Beware of pedals which claim to sound like, for example, a 1969 Marshall, regardless of the amp it is fed into.)

The Hellbender can be used in several ways. When set for low gain and a relatively clean sound the Hellbender can give a harder rocking edge to an otherwise clean amp. The high output level available from the Hellbender also allows relatively clean, low gain settings to be used as a cleanish boost. (For a true, totally clean boost use the Atomic Booster pedal.) When used in conjunction with an amp which is already set for some distortion a slightly distorted boost from the Hellbender will give a volume lift and create more distortion without completely overiding the existing tone.

At high gain settings the distortion available makes singing lead tones with enhanced sustain possible. The volume control can be set so that it lifts the output level to push an already distorted amp into very high gain territory. This combination of pedal distortion, signal boost and amp distortion can be balanced to create the right blend of saturation and dynamics. The Hellbender features true bypass switching. This leaves the guitar completely isolated from the circuit when the unit is bypassed so that your raw guitar tone is not affected in any way.



Hear the pedal

Checkout the sound samples below. All samples were recorded using a small class A valve amp (1 x ECC83 pre-amp valve, 1 x EL84 output valve, custom made by Rothwell Audio Products) driving a 10" Celestion speaker, close mic'd with a dynamic microphone. No EQ used at mixdown.

Bluesy/space rock lead tone, strat (bridge + middle pickups), Hellbender gain control set to 12 o'clock, tone set to 12 o'clock.

Blues/rock 12 bar rhythm tone, strat (bridge + middle pickups), Hellbender gain set to 9 o'clock, tone set to 2 o'clock|.

Soft rock/pop tone, strat (neck pickup), Hellbender gain set to minimum, tone set to 11 o'clock.

High gain lead tone, Gordon Smith guitar (2 humbuckers, Les Paul style), Hellbender gain set to 3 o'clock, tone set to 3 o'clock.

Live Video - Cold Shot are a Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute band. This is a youtube video link showing the band demonstraing Rothwell pedals at a guitar show in Manchester, England. Geoff Garcia, guitarist, is using a Hellbender. Notice how the Hellbender enhances the tone of the guitar and pushes the amp harder rather than superimposing too much of its own sound on the guitar.



How to buy the Hellbender
The cost is 139 and units can be purchased from our UK and international dealers (see dealer list) or from our online shop.

review - Guitarist June 2007

review - Guitar Buyer June 2007

Who uses Rothwell?
Find out by clicking here

review - Guitar & Bass November 2007

online user review

Harmony Central

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