Updated: Jun 2, 2020
#Hamstead Soundworks are a UK based company mainly producing high quality amps but also the Odyssey Intergalactic Driver pedal. Peter Hamstead leads the team in Cambridgeshire and his background in electronics really does bring a fresh approach to their products.
The amps Hamstead produces are all hand-wired and pretty special. When you have seasoned session pros starting to use them, it really should be time to sit up and pay attention to this company. Check out their stuff here: https://www.hamsteadsoundworks.com
In a field which has really been saturated for many years, their amps do bring a versatility and tone that make them worth checking out. And the same can be said of the one pedal they currently produce - the Odyssey Intergalactic Driver.
Rather a grand name for an overdrive pedal really, but it is a pedal that can take you on a series of tonal adventures and will last the journey, and clearly that's what inspired the name.
The pedal has clearly been designed to be a Swiss army knife of tone as it can cover a plethora of sounds from just EQ shaping, to clean boosting, to blues grit, to metal and even fuzz. So they'll be something for everyone here, but does it really succeed in bringing home the tone, or does it fall flat like many other pedals that attempt to deliver the stars?
The first thing you can't help but notice is the number of switches on the Odyssey. There are three forming a triangle in the centre of the pedal and all work in a very integrated way. Then we have the pretty standard layout of dials with: Tone, Bass, Treble, Gain and Level.
Let's start with the switching, as that's pretty interesting and what enables this pedal to be so versatile.
The top switch labelled 'PR EQ PO' changes the position of the EQ section (Tone, Bass, Treble) in relation to the Drive. 'PR' sets the EQ before the drive, giving Hamstead's rendition of amp-like gain structure; 'EQ' bypasses the drive and tone sections allowing the Odyssey to be used as a clean boost or tone shaping tool; 'PO' sets the EQ to after (post) drive, allowing the tone to be shaped in a way that is compared to studio EQs.
The interesting thing here is that you really might be amazed at how much difference it makes whether the drive is pre or post EQ. Increasing or decreasing the level of the Bass and Treble control means hitting the drive circuit harder or softer in the PR setting, which gives a great amount of control and that's before we've even thought about the clipping options.
The switch on the bottom left of the triangle labelled C1, C2, C3 allows the user to change the clipping circuit. With C1 being symmetrical clipping, C2 being asymmetrical and C3 using 2 circuits - the manual doesn't state if this is then still asymmetrical or not or if it using the C1 and C2 circuits or separate ones.
Symmetrical clipping is smoother, so it's unsurprising that this is the circuit used for the recommended Tubescreamer sounding overdrive available in this box. With the asymmetrical clipping option selected only half of the signal is affected, which gives greater clarity, less compression and can lead to arguably a more dynamic style drive well suited to low gain playing.
The final switch at the bottom right of our triangle - X2, X1, X5 - is another extremely powerful tool as it controls the strength of the input signal. X1 keeps the signal at unity, X2 doubles it and - yes, you guessed it - X5 multiplies the input by 5. This can be used to really push the drive circuits if you so wish, but is also great when wanting to get similar sounds with guitars that have different output levels or for providing high clean headroom when on the EQ switch setting.
On the bottom right of the pedal is the status LED; the jacks are on the top, which is always my personal preference due to pedal space on a board; it takes a standard 9v centre negative power supply, and has a 55mA draw, no battery option though.
This pedal is absolutely top notch. It just looks and feels amazing throughout. The knobs are totally solid, without a wobble evident anywhere. They turn with a firm resistance which exudes quality and I loved the fact there is a little 'click' in the feel at noon on the Bass and Treble controls - small touches, but they all add up into one amazing whole.
The foot switch is the Optokick designed by the Gigrig bunch, and it switches with just a small amount of pressure and is totally silent.
The enclosure is easily road worthy. It gives the impression that if you stamp on it too hard, you'd be more likely to damage your foot than the pedal.
This is seriously one of the best built pedals I've seen for a while, easily on par with Thorpyfx, which are also amazing.
Playing the Odyssey through a Two Rock using a variety of guitars: a Suhr, a Hartung Embrace and a Waghorn 7 string, I was able to dial in great tones very quickly indeed. The manual also has some recommended starting points for achieving certain classic sounds, which are a great starting point and another one of those small touches which adds to the whole quality package.
The clean boost tones are nice and sparkly and the Treble and Bass can be cut or boosted by a massive18db. Combine this with the Level control which can also boost by 32db and we're getting into some extreme boost territory.
The Tubescreamer setting is very convincing, with a lovely mid hump and a nice amount of compression, whilst the Transparent Low Gain has a clarity reminiscent of a Timmy overdrive. Move onto the Medium Gain Rock example and you can cover a plethora of 70s-90s rock tones with just a little tweaking.
And if you're into the heavier genres, the Odyssey will go there too without breaking sweat. Check out the Scooped Metal and Saturated Fuzz offerings and other recommended settings in the video here. You can also hear the pedal in context with different gain settings, to see if it might work for you.
As I'm sure you can tell, I'm very impressed with this pedal. It may find its way into more studios than pedal boards because of the range that it's capable of and this really is its strength. If you do get one, you may get a little confused as where to place it in your signal chain - at the front for a clean boost, pushing your favourite dirt box; towards the end to help shape the tone of your overall tone; somewhere before your modulation as your main high gain drive.
The important thing here though is that it really can do play all these roles, and very well indeed. Maybe the solution is to just get three or four of them and put them all on your board!
You want a wide range of low to high gain tones at your command.
You enjoy tweaking sounds to get the perfect tone that's in your head.
You need a compact pedal.
You want to buy a quality pedal that'll last for years to come.
If you are after one specific tone - you could probably find a cheaper option that'll work for you.
You don't enjoy tweaking at all - although the recommended settings will help you out here.
If your after more info, head to their site here: https://www.hamsteadsoundworks.com/odyssey