I’ve been generally quite impressed by the offerings from Japanese effects maker, Free The Tone, which include the Gigs Boson Overdrive, Matt Schofield MS SOV Special Overdrive, and Silky Comp Compressor pedals. But their latest release looks like it may be their most impressive to date. The Red Jasper is a low gain overdrive pedal designed to provide a more natural and responsive overdriven sound. Ever since the mythical Klon Centaur came on the scene, guitarists have been obsessed with low-gain overdrive pedals that enhance touch sensitivity, sweeten their tone, and push their amp harder without really coloring their sound. The Red Jasper aims to do just that as well and could become a hit with tone chasing guitarists if it lives up to its promise. Is this the best low-gain overdrive pedal available today? You’ll find out in our Free The Tone Red Jasper Review.
Drive control knob adjusts gain level.
Hi-Cut control knob reduces high-end when turned counter-clockwise.
Level control knob adjusts overall output volume.
HTS (Holistic Tonal Solution) 3-stage bypass and buffer circuit for silent switching, consistent output impedance, and no tone loss.
Powered by 9-volt batter or 9VDC power adapter.
Sound & Performance:
A pedal like the Red Jasper is one that often falls in the category of pedals for people who don’t like pedals. It’s one of those pedals that just provides a little something extra to help push your sound to where you want it to be. It’s not necessarily meant to have a dramatic effect on your sound in and of itself. But when combined with a great guitar, a great amp, and a great player, the Red Jasper may become just what you’ve been looking for to create your ultimate tone.
I started off with a little transparency test. Given how all the reputable low-gain overdrive pedals have a lot of their hype coming from their supposed complete transparency, it’s important to see just how the Red Jasper Overdrive compares to the guitar’s inherent tone. With the Drive all the down, the Hi-Cut rolled down around 1 or 2 o’clock, and the Level set around 10 o’clock or so, I was able to find a spot where the Red Jasper seems to have the least effect on the guitar sound when engaged. The Red Jasper produces beautifully transparent tones that have just a hint of extra upper-midrange presence for a gentle accent to your sound. The sound remains clean even with more aggressive playing and stays true to the guitar’s inherent character, letting the characteristics of your instrument be heard.
From here a slight boost of the Level knob to around noon and beyond adds some noticeable change to the overall sound. I find the Red Jasper to be right up there with the best tools I’ve encountered for adding a boost before an amp or another overdrive or distortion pedal. The Red Jasper can easily push your amp into breaking up with a subtle clean boost courtesy of its Level control. The breakup seems to occur as the spike in midrange volume becomes more prominent. Setting a slight dip in your amp’s midrange EQ will preserve a cleaner tone at higher volumes before breakup occurs if desired. The Red Jasper is highly interactive with your rig, and while it’s possible to just plug in and play, feeling out the best way to integrate it into your setup will reward conscious tone seekers.
Resorting to the Red Jasper’s own Drive control brings in more possibilities for overdriven tone. Turning the knob clockwise brings in a gradual increase in saturation that remains fairly mild even at the highest setting. You can use the Drive to add additional gain to your tone without necessarily having to push the Level too hard. This lets you achieve mild distortion sounds without spikes in volume. The Red Jasper delivers a smooth saturated overdrive that is very musical, pleasing in its tonality, and rich with harmonic content. As you crank the Drive, keep an ear out for any increase in treble frequencies that you may want to tame with the Hi-Cut knob. The Hi-Cut is very effective at rounding off those highs without sucking the life out of your sound.
HTS vs True Bypass vs Buffered Bypass?
I mentioned briefly in my review of the Matt Schofield MS SOV Special about his choice to incorporate Free The Tone’s HTS (Holistic Tonal Solution) circuit into his signature overdrive pedal instead of the true bypass switching of the standard SOV-2 pedal he had used previously. Free The Tone have included their HTS technology in the Red Jasper as well. The idea of HTS is to solve the problems of the change in signal integrity when using true bypass switching and the often compromised tone that results from buffered bypass switching. To my ears the HTS circuit offers a smooth transition in switching with no audible click in the signal. With the Red Jasper bypassed and placed in a footswitchable effects loop, I could detect no change in tone. It sounds good to me. While Klon Centaur creator, Bill Finnegan, swears up and down that buffered bypass trumps true bypass (yes, the Klon Centaur is buffered), guitarists dissatisfied by the limitations of both options may be swayed just like Matt Schofield by the merits of Free The Tone creator Yuki Hayashi’s Holistic Tonal Solution.
The Red Jasper gives you great tone whether it’s on or off. Few guitar pedals are capable of accomplishing that task as well as this one. Let’s see the final result.
The Free The Tone Red Jasper Overdrive offers a range of subtle clean boosting to moderately overdriven tones. And it does so without compromising the inherent character of your guitar. The Red Jasper melds your guitar and amp together with heightened touch sensitivity and responsiveness, resulting in rewardingly musical playability. It’s an exceptional pedal for the guitarist that just needs a little something extra to help achieve the perfect tone. If you’re looking for the best low-gain overdrive pedal, the Free The Tone Red Jasper Overdrive definitely worth considering.
That concludes our Free The Tone Red Jasper Review. Thanks for Reading.
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