Updated: Feb 15
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If you want a huge sounding, hot-rodded British overdrive sound, Friedman may well be the only place you'd need to go. There's no doubting the quality of their products or the ears and skill of Dave Friedman, who's worked in conjunction with players such as Steve Stevens and Eddie Van Halen to achieve their signature sounds.
The BE-OD is basically the famous BE-100 in a box. The BE-100 is the Brown Eye in a huge, earth-shaking 100 watt format that has tone to die for in both of its two channels. It's EL34 based and has great clarity even at higher gain settings. but can the BE-OD really compare?
To a large degree, it'll depend what amp the pedal is being played through as even Friedman can't make a Roland Micro Cube sound like a top of the range 100 watt tube amp. So although it can't completely change the characteristics of your amp, it does an amazing job and is versatile enough to deliver a tone that most rock enthusiasts will be more than happy with.
The BE-OD takes after the amplifier it's emulating in its looks as well as sound. Finished in black and gold, it's a classy yet classic looking box and its solid construction inspires confidence. There's no doubt that this beast can take the punishment of a life on the stage.
It'll take a 9v-18v power supply with the standard centre negative adapter, but unfortunately not a battery. Most guitarists tend to use a dedicated power unit on their boards nowadays anyway though, so it's unlikely this will be an issue. It's also true-bypass, as one would expect from a good piece of kit. The only difference I'd personally like to have seen would be the inputs being at the top rather than on the sides as I find that side mounted jacks tend to take up more room on the pedal board. However, this is a minor gripe and not really that important.
Let's take a quick look at the controls before we talk about the sound. There are six knobs, the top three being: Bass, Treble and Presence; the bottom three: Volume, Gain and Tight. All of these are exactly as you'd expect, but it is worth pointing out that the presence affects the highest frequencies. The Tight control is very cool interesting and adds a lot of versatility to the package.
I set up my Two Rock Studio Pro 35 with just the lightest touch of break up before turning on the BE-OD and starting off with the lowest gain setting, I was very easily able to dial in a good blues / rock crunch, which responded to picking very well indeed, and although the pedal starts of pretty overdriven even at the lowest settings, rolling the volume control back on my Suhr Telecaster-style guitar got me all the way back to clean pretty easily. The Suhr I used has vintage low out-put single coils - the Woodsheds - so I also paired the pedal with a couple of other guitars: a Waghorn 7 string with Dimarzio humbuckers and a Hartung Embrace, also with humbuckers. The BE-OD certainly had more bite with these guitars with even the lowest gain setting sounding raucous.
As you increase the gain level, the pedal responds by becoming very wild but very rewarding. Digging in just makes the notes sing and fast picked runs maintain clarity, even at ridiculously high levels of distortion and held notes sustain beautifully, screaming out if you dig in with the bridge pickup engaged. Chords ring out incredibly well too.
The only negative thing to point out is the noise, which gets loud early on in the gain range. I was using a quality power supply - the Gigrig generator, distributer and isolator - and when I compared the hiss against that of the Keeley Filaments, another gain monster, I found the Keeley to be much quieter.
That being said, there's something special in the the BE-OD. It taunts you and challenges you with its fiery I-don't-give-a-**** persona. It's almost like Friedman got hold of a little demon and stuck it inside this box - I mean, you'd be angry too, right?
The gem in this design though is the Tight control, which affects the low frequencies. Have it rolled back and the sound truly does open up, giving the pedal a more vintage rock sound which I really loved and worked particularly well at lower gain settings. Crank it up and it controls the bass end flub, which is very useful when working with higher gain settings, giving a more modern feel and tone. If you need to experiment with just one control on this pedal, this is it. It's just genius.
Hidden away inside the BE-OD is an internal trim pot that allows for overall gain adjustment. This allows you to tailor the pedal to your personal needs and guitar, which is another well thought out feature. For my review I kept this at 12 o'clock as per standard.
The amount of gain on tap here is truly obscene, for me it's just too much as it gets pretty spitty and noisy early on, but approach the pedal with a bit of restraint and it's very rewarding indeed.
I really enjoyed playing this beast and think Friedman have managed to pull off what many companies try to do, but sometimes fail - to recreate a great sounding amp in pedal format. Obviously if you really love this sound and you can't imagine anything better, I'd recommend getting the actual amp - the BE-50 or 100 - but if you already have an amp you love, but would like to tap into some Friedman hot-rodded goodness, look no further.
These are also awesome!
Out of curiosity, I also profiled my Two Rock with the BE-OD in the signal chain with my Kemper Profiler, check out the video and see what you think.
You can check out the BE-OD and other Friedman products here: