Electro-Harmonix Nano Operation Overlord Overdrive
By Chris Loeffler |
When you need to be ready to battle!
Electro-Harmonix released the Operation Overlord Allied Overdrive two years ago, providing a unique, mostly uncolored overdrive option with multi-instrument applications thanks to its variable input level selector and took things even further with true stereo ins/outs, active three-band EQ, and an integrated Boost section. While I found it a great option for a different type of OD sound and enjoyed the stereo I/O for keyboards and synthesizers, I wondered at the time how many guitar players would take advantage of these options. Enter the Nano Operation Overlord.
Electro-Harmonix has crammed the guts of the Operation Overlord into their Nano-format mini enclosure, retaining controls for Volume, Dry, Gain, Bass, Mid, and Treble as well as the three-way input switch, consolidating the independent Boost knob and footswtich into a single Boost button and removing the stereo I/O. The Nano Operation Overlord is powered by the same 9.6v 200mA power supply options, and unlike many modern EHX pedals, the bypass is buffered with an extremely transparent buffer to accommodate the various input signal strengths.
What You Need to Know
As mentioned, the Electro-Harmonix Nano Operation Overlord Allied Overdrive drops the stereo inputs and outputs of its predecessor while maintaining the active, three band EQ section of Bass, Mid, Treble that shapes the pedal gain (Gain) and output (Volume), with the option to blend in the uneffected signal (Dry). The Boost section is a preset mid-rocused boost in front of the overdrive circuit that creates even more gain, typically creating more distortion and focus but can also create a volume boost if the gain is low enough. Using the optional external pedal jack, you can activate the boost circuit with your feet for a hands-free toggle between rhythm and lead tones.
The Nano Operation Overdrive uses JFET gain stages to create amp-like, low-to-medium levels of overdrive and early distortion. It can be dialed in via the three-band EQ controls to sound identical to the direct signal, or carve deeper lows or brighter highs. The Gain control runs from completely clean to about as much crunch and saturation as a cranked vintage amp while incorporating minimal sag. Although the Nano is sonically different, I would liken the difference more towards the K-style overdrive tightness than TS-style tone shaping. I found the Treble, Mid, and Bass controls to provide a useful range of sounds without going overboard at the extremes. Although the shape of the distortion changes with the EQ, the basic character of the tone does not… it isn’t an amp in a box, it gives amp-like distortion to complement the core tone.
The Boost introduces a slightly mid-humped boost to the Overdrive to up the gain. I would describe the boost as“cleanish” because of the aforementioned is push in the mids along with the gain boost, similar to a tame Tube Screamer. Unlike the original Operation Overdrive, there isn't an option to run the Boost section independently from the overdrive section.
Input Level control selects between High (HI), Normal (NORM), and Low (LO) input settings, so anything from extremely low output guitar pickups to a hot synthesizer output can be accommodated. Using hotter, modern pickups in the LO input setting resulted in the softer clipping most guitar players are used to, while slamming the overdrive with the same pickups in the HI input setting gave an extremely aggressive girth to the distortion.
Dry control blends the direct (clean) signal into the overdrive, which gives players the ability to dial in a little definition and clarity from the direct signal. Combining the Dry with the Overdrive, the Volume control makes available a large dB boost for players looking to use the overdrive signal to push their preamps.
Some of the uniqueness of the original Operation Overlord (stereo I/O, independent channels) were sacrificed to make the Nano a smaller, more affordable, guitar-focused pedal.
The Electro-Harmonix Nano Operation Overlord Overdrive builds on the incredibly flexible foundation that differentiated the original circuit while stripping back overly-specific application features to bring the size and price down significantly. If nothing else, the Nano OO provides a great solution to the typical grievance guitar players about how all the overdrive options sound the same. -HC-
Buy Electro-Harmonix Nano Operation Overlord at Sweetwater (MSRP $118.90, Street $89.40)