There are many guitar pedals that try to offer solutions for many different guitar tone needs in a single stompbox. But while many such Jack-of-all-trades pedals exist, most of them end up being a master of none. At best, they excel in one area while falling short in others. Enter Dr. Scientist’s The Elements. This pedal promises to cover a diverse range of uses from clean boost and overdrive to full-on high gain distortion. It can even be used as an EQ to shape your overall guitar tone or the sound of another pedal. Is it the best all-in-one boost/overdrive/distortion pedal? You’ll find out in our Dr. Scientist The Elements review.
The Elements is a masterfully crafted pedal with an attention to detail inside and out that you’ll rarely find in a pedal. Husband & wife duo, Ryan & Tanya Clarke, work in tandem to design their pedals, putting just as much into the meticulously arranged PCB design as the beautifully inspired enclosure artwork. Each run also has unique visual look. Here’s a few examples before we move on…
Gain: Adjusts distortion level. Op-amp based, ranges from less than unity to very high saturation.
Vol: Adjusts volume level. Passive resistance to ground.
Mix: Mixes wet and dry signals. Dry at 0, wet at full.
Bass: Adjusts bass level. +/-15 dB peaking filter centered at 100Hz.
Midrange: Adjusts mid level. +/-15 dB peaking filter, center frequency chosen by Mid Freq toggle switch.
Treble: Adjusts high-end level. /-15 dB peaking filter centered at 3kHz.
Gain: Lower position is low gain mode (less than unity to medium overdrive), Upper position is high gain mode (medium overdrive to heavy saturation.
Clip: Upper position is LED clipping diodes (2V threshold), Middle position is no clipping diodes, Lower position is asymmetrical clipping with Germanium diode and LED (.3V + 3V threshold).
Bass: Upper position is medium input bass cut, Middle position is no input bass cut, Lower position is heavy input bass cut.
Mid Freq: Upper position sets midrange knob to 400Hz, Middle position is 1200Hz, Lower position is 800Hz.
Expression pedal input for real-time control of Mix knob.
True bypass via soft touch switch and relay.
Powered by 9VDC or 18VDC power supply.
Sound & Performance:
The Elements has been one of the most challenging pedals to review. Why? Because every time I started playing it, I could barely stop long enough to write anything about it. Surely that’s a good thing. And where to even begin? The Elements goes above and beyond what most boost/overdrive/distortion pedals have to offer in terms of tone-shaping options. Despite the insanely wide range of adjustable parameters available, The Elements is a straight forward pedal that lets you dial in your ideal tones with ease once you learn how to operate its various controls. Of course, even without knowing what the controls do, you can have a lot of fun just flipping switches and twisting knobs, letting your ears decide what sounds good. I’ll start simply and take you through some of the EQ, boost, overdrive, and distortion possibilities on tap.
Starting with the Mix all the way up, the Gain just past 9 o’clock, the Volume and EQ controls at noon, and the Clip switch set to the middle position with the other switches at their bottom positions, The Elements will produce a flat, clean signal around unity gain. Slight tweaks of the Bass, Mid, and Treble knobs will let you dial in a sound that’s quite transparent and reflective of your dry signal. I find that boosting the Treble knob in particular helps compensate for any perceived loss in high-end, although that slightly warmer sound may be what you’re after. The Elements provides deep tone tailoring with surgical precision thanks to its 3-band EQ, Bass Cut switch, and midrange frequency selection options.
From here a boost in Volume will kick the front end of your amp, helping push it into overdrive. A cut in Volume and a boost in Gain will make for a much hotter signal with added harmonic presence. The Low/Medium Gain switch setting is ideal for letting The Elements add just the right amount of warmth to your signal for a transparent or colored volume boost or a mildly overdriven tone.
Cranking the Gain knob brings The Elements into fatter overdrive territory. It’s worth experimenting with the 2 clipping options available in addition to the open-sounding unclipped tone to find your ideal pedal response. Boosting the Mid knob and flipping through the 3 Mid-Freq options lets you find the ideal frequency for a great lead tone that cuts through the mix. The Bass-Cut options will help make Humbuckers sound more single-coil-like or tame the low-end if needed. If the limitations of a traditional 3-knob overdrive aren’t cutting it for you, The Elements will more than likely help you create the overdrive tone you’re looking for.
Flipping the Gain switch takes it up more than a notch. (Be sure to cut the Volume down before flipping the switch as this pedal is loud!) The Elements is also a hot-rodded high gain distortion in addition to everything else it does. The Elements’ distortion has a looser low-end for a spongier feel and an ultra-saturated sound that’s great for screaming lead tones and raucous rock riffage. The noise floor comes up a bit on the Medium/High Gain switch setting, but you’ll probably be playing too hard to notice. This is the mode you’ll find yourself using when an all-out gain attack is called for. The myriad of clipping variations and frequency tweaking options will let you dial in just the right distortion sound for your needs.
The Mix control is useful for a adding in a hint of your dry signal for extra clarity. This is also useful for adding a little distorted grit to various audio sources, not just guitar. In live situations an expression pedal can control the Mix function for seamless transitions from clean to dirty sounds. There isn’t much this pedal can’t do as Dr. Scientist added just about everything you could imagine possible in a distortion pedal.
Since The Elements offers such dramatic tone tweakability and can be relatively transparent in its own right, it’s very useful in conjunction with other overdrive and distortion pedals. Are the tone options on your favorite overdrive a bit limited? Want to scoop the midrange of your favorite distortion pedal for metal tones? Need a more focused mid-boost for solos? The Elements can provide the perfect foundation for use with other distortion/overdrive pedals or take center stage on its own. The possibilities are without limits. You can find a way to make just about any distortion pedal sound better with some Elemental conjuration.
This Dr. Scientist creation is awesome on all fronts. Like their Frazz Dazzler, this pedal transcends run-of-the-mill stompbox design. The Elements has become one of my personal favorite pedals and has enough utility value to warrant a place on many a pedalboard. Let’s see the final result.
Dr. Scientist’s The Elements is a top-tier effects pedal that stands in a class of its own with more functionality and versatility than just about any pedal you could compare it to. It’ll clean boost. It’ll overdrive. It does high gain distortion. It’ll EQ and enhance your tone with preamp-like flavor. Once you add The Elements to your rig, you’ll always be able to find some creative use for it. From subtle to extreme, The Elements will help you craft a range of great tones for any occasion. It may just be the best all-in-one boost/overdrive/distortion pedal available.
That concludes our Dr. Scientist The Elements review. Thanks for reading.
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