Free The Tone HB-2 Heat Blaster review

  • £345

High-end distortion pedal

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Our Verdict

A superb, fat rock distortion with edge to cut through in real-life playing.

For

  • Well-defined, unique tones. Build quality.

Against

  • Pricey.
Buying options

This latest box from the revered Japanese brand Free The Tone isn't pigeonholed into a genre, instead the Heat Blaster is billed as a "truly modern distortion sound".

Yuki Hayashi has used a JRC072D opamp here, in conjunction with red LEDs for the clipping (most pedals use diodes). Switching is FTT's true bypass - the signal passes through only one set of contacts when bypassed - and current draw is a non-battery hungry 7mA.

Sounds

"It has bite aplenty with a great deal of sensitivity"

LEDs tend to impart a higher headroom, crunchier, less compressed distortion character than diodes (depending on the rest of the circuit, of course), and we'd say that bears out in the general response and feel. It has bite aplenty with a great deal of sensitivity - the polar opposite of over-compressed, fizzy metal blandness.

The level pot offers significant volume boost above parity, while drive ranges from light break-up all the way to full-on saturated sustain. Two mini switches expand your tonal options; hi-cut attenuates presence, which can calm single-coil exuberance or, conversely, keep the sizzle in humbuckers.

Low-cut tightens things if you don't like a loose, almost fuzzy bottom end at higher gain levels. With the low left in and the high cut, there's some classic Brian May about the tone. Switch the high back in and the extra presence sounds rifftastically riotous on the end of a maple-necked Strat with a bridge humbucker.

Defiantly neither Satch- nor Vai-smooth, the HB-2 offers the amp-like edge and depth you might associate with anybody from John Scofield to Guthrie Govan. Hardly 'affordable', but still a must-try distortion.

Tech Specs

Available Outputs1/4 Inch Jack
Available Inputs1/4 Inch Jack
Country of OriginJapan
Battery/Adaptor Type9V Battery Nine-volt mains adaptor
FeaturesTrue bypass, hi-cut and low-cut mini switches