Cornerstone Imperium Drive Pedal Review
Updated: Jan 16
I love the #guitar and guitar gear. I love guitar #pedals, especially #overdrive pedals, and have tried many, many different ones over the years. I've tried the best and many of the flavours-of-the-month, and this new #Imperium by #Cornerstone just claimed its spot on my primary board within about 30 minutes of me opening it!
For those of you not sure who Cornerstone are, here's a little history.
Cornerstone Music Gear is an Italian company who burst onto the scene with their take on the Dumble sound with their Gladio Pedal. This was inspired by the tones of Robben Ford, Sonny Landreth, Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and other famous Dumble users.
The concept of the pedal was to produce something that helped users capture those tones, whilst retaining pure amp-like compression and great dynamics.
The Gladio is also a dual drive, with channel one voiced like Robben Ford's tone on Cannonball Shuffle, and channel two going for Sonny Lanreth's tone on Elemental Journey.
Here are links to these tracks if you want to have a listen. They are great songs so well worth grabbing a beverage and enjoying them.
I should probably point out at this point that Cornerstone did such an amazing job on the Gladio pedal that Robben Ford now uses their gear! Click here to see the artist list.
The next incarnation of the Gladio was the Gladio SC, which was an attempt to not only have the same Ford tones in a single drive, but also capture the every desirable sounds of Stevie Ray Vaughan.
These two players have a very different sound though, so how did Cornerstone go about achieving this? Well, in a very clever way.
First they added a switch so you can swap between Ford's more compressed tone and SRV's more open one. Then, and this is the really clever bit, they incorporated a clean blend. More commonly seen in compressors, this is a great way to add dynamics and a string clarity back in to the signal path.
This is side one of the Imperium pedal.
Let's move on to the Antique.
This pedal is simply a Tube Screamer in essence, and we all know that there are thousands of iterations of this produced by almost every company that makes guitar pedals, ranging from budget versions all the way through to very expensive boutique ones.
I've personally reviewed a number of these which you'll find on the site if you're interested in Tube Screamers:
The main features of the Antique over a standard Ibanez Tube Screamer is the addition of a switch to bring down the amount of compression, as seen on the Gladio SC, and another that cuts the mids at 1khz a bit from the standard TS808 sound.
These are the two most common complaints about the Tube Screamer - nasally mid hump and too much compression. These features really do change the sound and feel of the Antique, dare I say also capturing a Klon like sound and even maybe a Nobels ODR-1?
You can hear a Klon, TS and ODR-1 comparison here:
Especially when you add in the Tone and Presence controls, which are used to adjust the low and high mids independently.
These features result in a very versatile pedal that can sound like a traditional TS808 when you want it to, yet move away from that compressed, mid-hump if that's not your bag or if you already have a mid rich set up, e.g. certain humbucker loaded guitars.
And thus was born the Imperium, a blend of two different single pedals that together just sound amazing. This really shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, however, given that SRV used a TS into a Dumble amplifer! But it is a thing of sonic beauty!
As this pedal is a combination of the Gladio SC and Antique, we've already covered the main features.
The extra ones worth talking about are clever switching options.
Firstly, you can choose whether the Gladio feeds into the Antique side, or the Antique goes into the Gladio. Then you have the foot switches.
A short press turns the side of the pedal on or off. A long press flip flops between the sides - what a great idea! Much less tap dancing. If you have both sides on, you can then turn one off with a short press, as expected, but also turn both off with a long press, and then both on with a long press on either of the single foot switches.
Very clever, yet very intuitive stuff from Cornerstone.
As far as sounds go, here is the demo to check out. I start with using a Strat and a PRS Hollowbody so you can hear the Imperium with single coils and humbuckers, then the rest of the demo is on the Strat, as I think the combination of a TS and Dumble with a Strat is just magic.
I hope you enjoyed this review and found it useful.
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And do comment at the bottom as I'd love to hear about your favourite pedals too.