Parabellum Overdrive

Se7enHeaven Regular
Feb 14, 2018
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If you’re looking for ‘boutique,’ then Night Owl Industries fits that bill. This company’s focus is on tone, while delivering something unique, and its current project is no exception – The Parabellum Drive (a collaboration with Dunwich Amps). It can hotrod a clean channel or make a dirty channel pop with pizzazz, as demonstrated in the video below. I would consider the Parabellum a low to medium gain drive, but when fully-cranked, the thick distortion does bring you into Sludge and Doom territory.

There are a number of aspects that make this drive unique. First, this is a 3-stage parallel EF86 tube-boost driven distortion. It does an amazing job at clearing up a tone (removes some mud), as the signal begins with a buffer, then splits into three signals, each going to a different germanium distortion: 1) traditional; 2) higher gain; and 3) a hybrid diode/germanium. These three distinct voices are processed individually then mixed back, thus producing a complex distortion that is jam-packed with harmonics, definition and detail that you would not get with conventional, in-series pedal builds.

Second, the active and passive EQ section is quite expansive, from tight lows to exceptional highs (it can transform the darkest and muddiest amps and pickups), with a midrange that “lay a perfect fourth in interval above and below the bass and treble controls, respectively.” Different pedals have EQ sections with a decent range, but the Parabellum’s is so broad that it compliments anything you throw at it.

Third, and this is the kicker, each control (Volume, Treble, Midrange, Bass and Gain) has its own GAIN switch (the mid boost switched was tuned by Dunwich Amplification, which also expanded the EQ section and modded the preamp for more gain). What you can do with this pedal is massive, and I tried to demo this various knob tweaking. But imagine dialing into a great EQ setting, but you wanted to boost the treble frequency, or perhaps the midrange or bass… or all three! In doing so, you do get a different result than merely setting the EQ on its own. And so, the Parabellum not only is a drive/distortion pedal, but it’s a treble booster… a midrange booster… and a bass booster. What I noticed is that the boost on each EQ emphasizes enough that if you like the treble at a certain frequency, it usually sounds better backing off a little and then engaging the boost (however, that’s how I like it). The boost on the Volume and Gain also produce unique results. The Volume boost pushes the amp harder, which results in more breaking up and a bigger robust sound – and this is true even if you turn the Volume knob all the way down, then engage the boost.

The Gain has a very diverse range. To hear anything through the pedal, the Gain knob needs to be turned up a touch, around 8-9 o’clock. The result is a fine grain distortion that puts a bit of hair on a clean channel and makes a dirty channel sing better with more detail. As you turn it up and nearing 12-noon, the tone is more intense, thicker and with some degree of saturation. Once past 12-noon, the saturation increases to the point of sounding like a distortion/fuzz combination (particularly full-bore). Now, if you happen to like the sound of the distortion around 10-o’clock, whereas dialing up more Gain results in too much saturation, then all you have to do is engage the Gain’s boost and you get that more intense rip-roaring tone. Further, turn down the Volume somewhat (or all the way) and flip on the Volume’s boost and the tone becomes more monstrous.

Overall, this is a serious pedal on so many levels, and if you need your tone to cut through the mix, the Parabellum does an exceptional job. I tried it with clean, dirty and hi-gain amps, and it sits perfectly well with the gear. I tried single-coil and humbuckers, with no issues and everything sounded great. In fact, it works well with a bass guitar, giving it a tighter bottom end and more punch – perfect for rock and metal. Two thumbs up!