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JHS Pedals The Clover Preamp and Overdrive

Are you ready to try your luck with this pedal?

 

 

by Chris Loeffler

 

 

 

The Boss FA-1 FET Amplifier was something of an oddity in the Boss lineup. Part of the (short-lived) Pocket Series, it shared a formfactor that took the effect off the floor and onto your belt (belt clip, of course, included) that was an “always on” addition to your signal chain. The FA-1 came out when FETs were trending as a new way to create gain in popular effects, and it proudly incorporated the overdrive technology into its name, anticipating players would jump on the chance to experience “new” technology. Best of intentions aside, the odd form factor, inability to bypass the effect, and lack of coalescence around cleanish boosts resulted in the quick discontinuation of the pedal from the Boss line. Fast forward a few years, and a young man by the name of David Howell Evans picked one up and made it kind of a thing on a few albums in the 80’s. Some people might know Evans as The Edge, and those albums as The Joshua Tree and Unforgettable Fire.

 

While a few boutique companies have taken a crack at providing the circuit in a more stomp-friendly format over the last decade or so, JHS Pedals (who previously offered rehousings and modifications of the vintage unit) is the first mid-to-large scale effects company to take on the circuit in a big way, releasing a faithful recreation of the preamp while expanding its capabilities for a larger crowd. The JHS Clover features the standard FA-1 controlls of Volume, Treble, and Bass knobs as well as a Flat/Lo Cut switch to turn on a 3dB cut on the lower frequencies. It adds to the FA-1 by including a true-bypass stimp switch for on/off activation, a Middle tone control, an XLR output for acoustic or bass instruments, and a three-position rotary switch to choose different EQ presets.

 

What You Need to Know

 

First and foremost, the JHS Pedals Clover is a clean boost to light gain preamp that’s meant to sweeten a sound or push a distorting amp. Words often used to describe the FA-1 are politely raucous and reactive, with a general feel of liveliness and openness that comes with a true preamp. Those descriptors held true in my evaluation time with the pedal, and we’ll get to more of that in a minute.

 

The Volume knob offers an aggressive 24+dB gain to play with, meaning the Clover is more than up to the task of overdriving a dirty amp (or pedal) and can get ungodly loud when cranked in front of a high-wattage clean amp with tons of headroom. At unity gain, there is a marked sweetness to the mids and highs, and there is a little extra punch and clarity to the initial attack.

 

The Treble, Middle, and Bass knobs offer a 15dB boost or cut at the 10kHz, 1.3kHz, and 270Hz spectrums for natural sounding tweaks to the final EQ spectrum. This both sets the base tone and helps carve in more responsive overdrive behavior to any gain device downstream from the Clover. The previously mentioned Lo cut switch introduces a 3dB cut at 212Hz to clean up some of the sonic garbage that tends to translate poorly when overdriven.

 

The revelation and reason most people would be interested in the Clover is the three-position rotary EQ knob. While the introduction of the Middle control gives more control over the frequencies guitar players live and breath in, the option between Full EQ, No Mid, and No EQ is where the pedal covers new ground. Full EQ allows brings in the Middle control, so yes, similar-but-different Tubescreamer tones are accessible (albeit with a wider total frequency range). No Mid brings the Clover to exact parity with the original FA-1, for those who don’t want to mess with their mids and want an exact sonic replication of the FA-1 tone. No EQ completely removes the three EQ knobs from the circuit, meaning you’re running an open, nearly transparent FET boost that’s snappier and hotter.

 

The addition of the XLR output opens the Clover up to use with acoustic guitars and bass, and I found pleasant results in both instances. Running my Taylor 814ce into an Ultrasound acoustic amp, the Clover seemed to slightly round some of the peaks of the piezo pickups I demoed while also adding a touch of articulation to the mid-level parts. Said differently, the Clover added a more finished tone to what I was already really happy with, even as it removed a touch of the air from the acoustic space of the sound. The Ernie Ball Sterling Bass I ran through it become even more beefy and aggressive, and I was able to get a bit of growl from my passive pickups that I really enjoyed running into a Music Man HD-130 head and into an Avatar 4x10 cabinet with Fatar speakers.

 

The JHS Pedals Clover works well in several applications, from a unity-gain buffer to Baxandall EQ to clean boost. Of course, these relatively “transparent” applications (overused a term as any) are highly rig-dependent. Long signal chains, low output pickups, and amplifier preamps that are starting to break up will by far see the most benefit from the Clover, while running it after high-output active pickups, wanting to introduce crunch in a high-wattage clean amp, or trying to further push a saturated distortion box will be less impressive.

 

Limitations

 

The grit of the preamp comes with volume, so while the pedals overdrive can be glorious, it’s going to want something breaking up after it to really bring meaningful overdrive to your setup.

 

Conclusion

 

Despite the reputation of the Boss FA-1 and JHS’ documented lover for U2, taking on the Clover is something of a surprise to me, because it trusts players to actually understand the application of a preamp/booster in a way that isn’t a treble booster and isn’t a straight clean boost. Because it can be as subtle or in-your-face as you like, my time with the JHS Clover had me realizing more often when it was off than when it was on. Like a good compressor, everything was just a little bit better with the right settings, from signal strength to the sparkle of my signal.  -HC-

 

Resources

 

JHS Pedals The  Clover Product Page

 

Buy JHS PEdals The Clover on Amazon.com (MSRP $199.00)

 

____________________________________________ 

 

Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 

 

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