I’ve been wanting a Hotcake for a while, mainly because it’s on the pedalboards of Stephen Malkmus and Nels Cline –two of my favorite guitarists. So far, I’m loving this pedal. It also has a great buffer circuit that has my tone through the pedalboard sounding almost exactly like my straight to amp tone!
For a bit of history, the Hotcake was first produced in 1976 by Paul Crowther (a DRUMMER!) with the band, Split Enz.
According to Paul, “the Hotcake is designed to leave the undistorted component of the guitar sound unchanged, while providing a nice fat distortion sound without resorting to a treble cut circuit which will also affect the guitar tonality. With the Drive and Presence controls set to minimum, and the Level at around 2 o'clock, you should be hard pressed to hear any change in the sound at all when you switch the Hotcake in and out.” I’ve tested this and I agree 100%
I have the “Normal” original Hotcake. There was also a “Bluesberry” version which has a less buzzy edge at the onset of distortion. The buzz is what I was after. I imagined the Hotcake being the source for the tone at the intro of Silence Kit and that “wiggly” distorted part at the start of Stereo. It nails both tones. If I were to guess were it appears on Sky Blue Sky, I would say that Nels is using it on the solo for Side with the Seeds.
It also does great low gain tones and works well as a clean boost. If you keep it below 11 o’clock on gain the distortion is very amp like. Moving it up brings on what I would call fuzz – but a very smooth fuzz. Something about it really reminds of the tones on Siamese Dream as well. When you crank the gain all of the way, chords start to get a little muddy (with humbuckers and P90s). I plan to use it mainly for leads though. It also makes for great controllable feedback.
Any way you slice it, the Hotcake is awesome. Crowther Hotcake Review