Review: Heavy Electronics Ascend
“After 3 years working and managing guitar stores, I saw the repeated shortfalls in pedal quality in terms of build and tone. In contrast, the few pedals that worked and sounded great were either vintage favorites or ultra high-end boutique pedals both of them carrying price tags one might expect to be hanging on a guitar. Heavy Electronics is born out of a desire for honesty in tone, construction, aesthetic, and price. Heavy Electronics makes road-ready effects pedals made with the finest components teamed with superior design…”
-Sayer Payne (Owner/Operator of Heavy Electronics)
For those of you who look for high quality, durable, transparent pedals, then you will be excited to learn more about Minneapolis based pedal manufacturer, Heavy Electronics. Heavy Electronics specializes in building boutique guitar pedals that cater to the player without compromising tone.
Needless to say, they had us at the word TONE.
Today we’re going to look at the Heavy Electronics “Ascend”. On a basic level, the Ascend is a boost pedal. On a much deeper level, the Ascend offers a player unparalleled depth and transparency while giving your tone a kick in the pants.
First, let’s get you some of the nitty gritty.
- -Bypassable Tone Control
- -Voiced Openly for Guitar & Bass
- -True Bypass Switching
- -Single Point Mounted PCB
- -Flying Leads to Pots and Jacks
- -Neutrik 1/4 inch Signal Jacks
- -Powder-Coated Durable Finish
- -Customer Service Ready to Help
- -Dual Quality-Control Testing
- -Hand Signed and Numbered
- -Hand-made in Minneapolis Mn.
- -Lifetime Warranty (Barring Abuse)
- 9 Volt DC 200 mA Center – 2.1mm
- Power Consumption: 5.40 mA
- I/O Impedance: Input = 330K Output = 5.8K
- Dimensions: 4.37″ x 2.37″ x 1.07″ – 11.1 x 6.02 x 2.72 cm
As you can tell from the blurb above, Heavy Electronics are built with not only the finest components, but, they are also built to last. If you ask me, that’s a winning combination.
The Heavy Electronics Ascend is certainly no exception. It all starts with a sturdy metal casing that is powder coated and topped off with a smooth grey/blue finish. Because powder coating does not have a liquid carrier, it can produce thicker coatings than conventional liquid coatings without running or sagging, and it ensures the paint will withstand every element of the rock n’ roll lifestyle. The main logo and design of the plane laid on top of the powder coat is very clean and seamlessly integrated to the overall layout of the pedal.
“…All of the pedals feature a “single point” circuit board mounting design that eliminates multiple pressure points on the PCB. Jacks are always metal Neutriks; finish is powder coated; Toggle switches are metal and are located to avoid impact. In fact, all electromechanical pieces and connectors are metal (except the 9V Jack where metal jacks simply must not be used). However, these aspects are not considered luxuries by Heavy Electronics but rather as mandatory features. High quality is a license to flourish as a company that makes its product right, NOT a license to hold guitarist’s tone ransom at an unfair price compared to cost of production. I make guitar pedals for musicians, and I play every pedal that ships to eliminate any compromises. It is for this reason specifically, that Heavy Electronics offers a lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defect. All pedals are hand-made in Minneapolis. This isn’t just about pedals. It’s about your art.”
-Sayer Payne (Owner/Operator of Heavy Electronics)
The Ascend has 2 knobs; Volume and Tone. The volume knob push’s your signal, while the tone knob shapes your overall sound. One of the most exciting parts of the this pedal, is that the tone knob is completely bypass-able in order to capture your true tone.
“In addition to a VOLUME control with intense headroom and push, we’ve added a bypass-able TONE knob. This way the user can choose whether to tweak and filter the boost or use it at it’s fullest in tone-bypass mode. Simply rotate the tone knob all the way counter clockwise until the knob “clicks” into bypass mode.”
On the bottom of the pedal you will find four plastic grips and a sticker that displays the serial number and the initials of who tested the pedal. (SP -Sayer Payne).
Below is a picture of the “single point” circuit board mounting design.
“Discrete analog design allows this exquisite boost to be balanced and true. Wonderfully transparent and clear, yet powerful. As your amp gain increases to the point of saturation, the Ascend can be used to push your tube amplifiers preamp into overdrive. Reverb tanks are fed beautifully with its strong and concise low end. Component quality is maximized with a “Metal-Can” amplifying transistor as well as metal-film resistors and low-tolerance film capacitors.
Because boosts often end up at the front of the signal chain, the Ascend incorporates a J-FET buffer circuit on the input signal. This guarantees better impedence reaction and long cable performance. After all, the Ascend was made for big stages.”
Not only does Sayer test every pedal that goes out the door, but, Heavy Electronics even offer a lifetime warranty with every pedal that goes out the door.
Are you sold yet?
Gear used for these examples:
- Diezel Herbert – Clean Channel
- PRS Standard 22 – Dragon II pickups
- Heavy Electronics Ascend
- Audix i5 microphone
- North Eastern cable company guitar cable
The first example is the dry signal of the guitar to the amplifier. These are basic open chords on the clean channel of the Diezel Herbert.
These next set of examples are the same basic chords as the example above, but, this time I showcase three different settings with the Heavy Electronics Ascend.
The first example has the volume knob of the Ascend turned half way up and the tone knob is turn off (bypassed). The guitar is turned to the neck pickup. You can really hear as the sound and tone start to breakup and become saturated. Listen closely to each chord and how you can still hear how transparent and clear the strings are.
Next, I switch to the bridge pickup of the guitar while keeping the volume at half and the tone knob on bypass. Take a listen as the tone has a little more bite to each chord. It actually is a little reminiscent of an old Marshall Plexi. You can still hear the transparency and clarity of each string.
In the third example, I turn the volume knob on the Ascend up all the way and leave the tone knob in bypass. Maxing the volume knob really pushes the signal of your amp and lets YOUR tone come to life. Pay special close attention to how the tone warms up and let’s the amp breathe.
Finally, in the fourth example, I demonstrate the same chords, but, this time the tone knob is maxed out. You can really hear how the tone starts to become more compressed and brightens up in the top end compared to the previous examples. I really liked that, even though the tone compresses, you still don’t lose the overall integrity of your core tone.
In the next set of examples, I wanted to showcase how well the pedal responds to different pick attacks, as well as, demonstrate the impact of the volume and tone knob. Plus, you get to hear me butcher a classic.
In this first example I have the neck pickup selected with the volume and tone knob on the Ascend maxed out. Again, with the tone knob completely maxed out, you can really hear how the tone compresses and brightens up.
For the next example, I left the volume maxed out, but turned the tone knob to bypass. This should give you a solid demonstration and contrast of the impact that the tone knob of the Ascend can have on your overall tone. I thought the tone sounded a bit warmer and a little more even between the top and bottom end of the guitar.
Finally, with the neck pickup still selected, I keep the volume maxed out, but, I dialed the tone knob back to about half in order to get a nice blend of my core tone and the Ascend. Take special notice of how transparent the tone is. I thought this did the best job at re-creating the core tone of “Shine”. You can really hear how the moving melody sits nicely within the rest of the open strings.
For this next example, I really wanted to demonstrate how much of an impact the volume knob on your guitar can have when used with this pedal. The first half of the example has the volume knob on the guitar dialed back about half way. The second half of the example has the volume knob turned all the way up. The volume on the Ascend is maxed out with the tone knob in bypass.
You can hear how the signal breaks up just enough to capture the definition of the strings, yet maintains the transparency and clarity of your overall tone. Once the volume is turned up, you really start to hear how much the Ascend pushes your tone.
It wouldn’t be a true review if I didn’t butcher one more classic. So, for this last example, I once again wanted to demonstrate how much the combination of your guitar’s volume knob and the Ascend can impact your overall tone. This example utilizes the neck pickup of the guitar, the volume knob on the Ascend is maxed out, and the tone knob is three quarters of the way up.
Pay special attention in the first half of the example to how well the signal responds to the pick attack of my right hand. Then, once the volume on the guitar is turned up, you can once again hear the warmth and clarity the Ascend brings to your tone.
As you can hear, the Ascend provides your sound with a nice kick in the pants that doesn’t take away from your core tone. The transparency and clarity of the pedal is absolutely what any TONE FREQ could ever want in a boost. Long story short, the Ascend does exactly what it’s suppose to do. It boosts your signal, doesn’t mess with your tone, and delivers on both quality and performance.
Plain and simple, this is one of the most impressive and best pedals I have had the pleasure of playing.
- Transparent and clear
- Tone Bypass allows you to push YOUR tone.
- Solid construction and built to last. (Probably the best built pedal we have ever had our hands on).
- Smooth, responsive controls
- LIFETIME WARRANTY
- HAND BUILT
- Provides a nice, full, thick sound.
- Simple and usable
TONE FREQ USER RATING: 10 out of 10
Honestly, this is a tone lovers wet dream. After all, that’s why you’re here anyway, right? Not only does it provide your tone with a nice swift kick in the pants, but, it’s HAND BUILT by someone that CARES about YOUR TONE. If you’re looking for a pedal that will give your tone a nice boost without affecting your tone, then do yourself a favor and pick up an Ascend from Heavy Electronics. We PROMISE, you WON’T be disappointed. And if you are, we’ll buy you a beer and discuss why you’re wrong.