REVIEW > ALAIREX
volume, in addition to a thicker midrange and
more robust low end—perfect for Zeppelin
riffs and crunchy ’70s-rock staples. It’s not
unusual for a good overdrive to send an AC30
to Page-ian heights, but with the H.A.L.O.,
you also notice how much detail remains
intact within the snarl and grind. And the
bass, contour, and presence knobs are all very
effective for fine-tuning the distortion and tailoring output to your guitar and amplifier.
At extreme levels, the gain control will
drive most amps into Van Halen-heavy
raunch that works as well for clear chords
as legato leads. But you can also use your
guitar’s volume to take advantage of the
pedal’s exceptional sensitivity—it cleans up
without obscuring picking dynamics.
Alairex doesn’t bill the H.A.L.O. as a
pedal for metal guitarists, but it works
beautifully for heavy rock in the second
gain mode, especially when you put high-output humbuckers at the front of the
signal chain. You’ll hear a lot of aggressive
mids, though the bass can lose some of its
stand-and-deliver tightness under barrages
of staccato picking or palm-muted triplets.
Pros: Outstanding sensitivity. Great flexibility. Bulletproof
build. Lots of gain on tap.
Alairex H.A.L.O., $399 street, alairex.com
Cons: Tone gets muddy with hot pickups and extreme gain
Ease of Use
Backing off of the bass control brings back
some low-end foundation and a little more
softness in the bass attack, illustrating just
how vital the tone controls are to getting
the most out of the H.A.L.O.
Engaging the saturation switch makes
the second gain mode monstrous—capable
of grind that would turn the head of any
metal fanatic, as well as a broad range of
high-gain colors that you can transform
subtly or radically with your guitar’s volume
knob. You’ll also hear and feel a little sag
at this point, which is great for lower-gain
rhythm tones. Paired with the AC30, this
mode yielded a voice reminiscent of a
50-watt Marshall JCM800.
Alairex’s Alex Aguilar is a tone-shaping
veteran, and his new H.A.L.O. lives up
to the lofty expectations that come with
a resume like his. It’s a multifaceted overdrive machine capable of everything from
velvety drive to raging distortion. But
what’s even cooler is the extent to which
the H.A.L.O. enables you to do much of
that work yourself with pick attack and
your guitar’s controls. This is the rare
pedal that can move between a strong personality and a natural, near transparency,
depending on how you set it up. And that
makes it one of the most musical overdrives you’ll find anywhere.
Think outside the box
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160 PREMIER GUITAR JUNE 2012