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Cornish SS3 vs other boutique ODs
Old 30th December 2010
Lives for gear
Cornish SS3 vs other boutique ODs

Recently American dealers got their annual allotment of Cornish pedals, and finally I was able to get an SS3 from American Speaker and Sound (don't bother looking, they were all gone the first day, as were MusicToyz shipment). I've been interested in trying one of these with my own equipment for several years. Since it's billed as a lowish gain overdrive without a mid-hump, I thought it's most likely comparisons would be with the Klon and the Zendrive (II in this case). I've only had time for a short comparison so far: this was a 1965 Tele into a London Power Studio amplifier and a 412 cab with Naylor 50s as well as an Emery Superbaby into a pair of Weber alnico Bluedogs.

The SS3 comes very nicely packed, with included 9v battery. It has an input buffer that's always active, sustain (distortion), high and low cut and output volume knobs. It'll also run off of an AC adapter. I did link the pedals, so the Zendrive had the advantage of running after the buffer, the Klon, of course, has it's own high quality buffer.

Running from top to bottom, the SS3 actually has the highest amount of distortion on tap, followed by the Klon then the Zendrive, but it's not a huge difference. The SS3 and the Klon work about equally well as clean boosts, having just a hint of hair on notes played hard, the Zendrive can't quite clean up as much. The quality of overdrives is somewhat different with the Klon having more mids, the SS3 level and the Zen having slightly hollowed mids pushed hard. All of them clean up beautifully with the guitar volume and react really well to picking dynamics. The pickups in the tele aren't potted, so all of them have enough gain to cause the pickups to squeal, I was able to balance the SS3 to have the most sustain before hitting squealing but it was pretty close between the three.

A couple of bottom lines:
1. Alf has done a killer job with the Zendrive, it can play in the company of MUCH more expensive ODs and hold its head up high.

2. There is something about Pete and Bill's master-works that sets them above the competition to my ears but I'd have a really hard time choosing between the two of them. I guess it'd come down to more EQ flexibility in the SS3 vs a smaller form factor for the Klon.

3. Pete's stuff has LOT'S of gain on tap. Seriously, I expected the SS3 to be much lower gain, given that his distortion pedals have 3 more levels of higher gain, I wonder what insanity they achieve?

I'll report back later after I've had a chance to try this out with a few other amps and guitars. I think it's going to be a keeper, not sure if I need to own one of each flavor, though (maybe an SS3/G2 duplex)...

I got a chance to try the Klon vs the SS3 on my Hiwatt today. 50w, 2 input Hylight era from Canada (so the channels are jumpered together when you plug into the high, not the low). So, plugged into the low, into an Orange oversize 412 with Fanes and the amp set clean. This is where the SS3 is built to really shine (didn't have the Zendrive there this time). Both pedals work well at giving the amp some hair, and both sound reasonably like the amp pushed harder. There are two main differences. The SS3 has more total gain on tap than the Klon does and the SS3 can keep the EQ constant where the Klon sucks a little bass. This is what it's designed to do, BTW, since many amps including all Fenders and most Marshalls start to mush out if the bass is pushed when you crank them. Hiwatts into 200w Fane cabs, OTOH, don't mush at all, so the SS3 was a better match. With the 2 band EQ, I'm pretty sure I can make the SS3 work nicely with my Pro Reverb with JBLs, that's the next test...
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