Hands-on with the Free The Tone Quad Arrow Distortion QA-2

If you're a fan of flexible drive tones that range from crunchy to super saturated, the Quad Arrow Distortion QA-2 pedal should be high on your list of pedals to check out.

It's conception came from pedal designer, Yuki Hayashi who wanted to make an effects pedal that would deliver outstanding tube amp-like distortion, regardless of the amp it was plugged into. In addition, he wanted it to be responsive to a player's articulations, clean up when turning the guitar's volume down and to have transparency, even when playing chords with heavy gain settings. After some time, he discovered increasing the voltage internally to +/-15Vdc overcame the tonal limitations common with a standard 9 volt power supply (ie compression and lacking treble content). This also helped improve the signal to noise ratio; background noise is less than other similar high gain pedals. While the sonic results are impressive, the higher power consumption (90mA) means, like Free The Tone's SOV-2 overdrive, an alkaline battery will last for only a couple of hours so an AC adaptor is preferable for extended use.

Housed in a yellow, almost square, metal chassis, the pedal features four rotary controls: level, bass, treble and gain. There's a lot of flexibility here with plenty of volume on tap while the bass and treble can add/subtract much from the core tone. As for the gain options, a zero setting provides a light crunch with strong down picking and a bridge humbucker selected. Going for maximum gain is an exhilarating ride; even at house friendly levels (is there such a thing?) the rich and thick sustain, especially with high single note playing, is very pleasing. While perfectly suited to all manner of tube amps (we tried several with it), this pedal also works very well with small practice amps or solid state amps. All said and done, while you won't achieve an 80's scooped thrash tone, the QA-2 is very much a classy sounding distortion pedal suited to all manner of rock/metal riffing and emotive lead work.

The Quad Arrow Distortion QA-2 has a suggested selling price of £365.

For more info visit http://www.freethetone.com/en/products/effects/quad-arrow_distortion.html and to buy email sales@guitarxs.com

Audio demo

The demo below features the Quad Arrow Distortion; the rhythm parts and first solo had the treble and bass at 12 o'clock and gain at either zero or 12 o'clock. The outro solo had the treble at 1 o'clock and gain at 2 o'clock.

The guitar used was a Musicman Luke with EMG pickups (all pickup selections used) and a Fender combo 2x12 simulation (set to clean) in Amplitube 3. Reverb and delay came from the DAW, Presonus's Studio One v2.