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One Control Honey Bee Overdrive

Is this pedal sweet enough for your rig?

 

by Phil O'Keefe

 

 

 

If you're into effects, or have spent any time at all hanging out on guitar or effects forums, you're no doubt familiar with effects designer extraordinaire Bjorn Juhl and his BJFe pedals. You may even be familiar with one of his most beloved designs - the Honey Bee Overdrive. Designed to emulate the sound of cranked-up small combo amps, it was first introduced in 2002. It has had multiple revisions made to it in the years since, and versions of it have been available from a couple of different companies, including BJFe and BearFoot FX. Today we'll be taking a look at the newest version of this modern classic - this one is from Japanese effect pedal manufacturer One Control. How does it compare to the other 'Bees in the hive, and is it sweet enough to earn a place in your rig? Let's get the taste test started…

 

 

 

What You Need To Know

  • The Honey Bee Overdrive was first introduced by Bjorn Juhl and BJF in 2002. The original version quickly earned classic pedal status and has become highly-sought by pedal connoisseurs around the world.
  • When it was first issued, the Honey Bee had lower gain and fairly low output compared to the later revisions. In the first revision of the circuit Bjorn added 6 dB more output level. The next revision included a goose in the upper-midrange. The third revision changed the response of the pedal's Nature control a bit, giving it a wider range and a mild treble boost when dimed instead of the previous version's mild treble cut. In the fourth revision more overall gain was added. The modern Honey Bees are still capable of all the same low-gain overdrive tones as the originals, but now there is 6 dB of additional gain available too. 

 

 

  • The One Control Honey Bee Overdrive is built into a machined aluminum enclosure that measures 46 mm H x 113 mm L x 64 mm W (1.811" x 4.448" x  2.519"). It weighs 295 g. The pedal is painted a honey gold color, and has subtle bee hive elements to the graphics on both the top and the bottom (!) of the pedal. All of the labeling is done in black letters, which are fairly easy to see against the gold background.
  • The input and output jacks are mounted on the sides of the pedal. Input impedance is 370 k ohms, while the output impedance is 50 k.
  • The front of the pedal also has Honey Bee OD and One Control's name printed on it.

 

 

  • The controls are simple and relatively straightforward. There are three knobs on the Honey Bee Overdrive, along with one small toggle switch.
  • Volume, as you probably guessed, sets the overall output level of the pedal. There's plenty of juice on tap here to get boosts beyond unity gain if you wish, just as long as the Drive control isn't turned down all the way.  With drive turned all the way down, gain is at unity, or just slightly above it when the Volume control is dimed.
  • Drive sets the overall amount of overdrive and distortion. The range here is from essentially no dirt when it's turned fully counter-clockwise, up to medium levels of overdrive, dirt and grit when it's maxed out. The amount of overdrive that is available is dependent on the position of the toggle switch, which we'll look at in a minute.
  • The Nature knob is a bit different than the typical tone control you'll find on a lot of other overdrive pedals. When turned fully counter-clockwise the tone is darker, with more lows and low-midrange. What happens when you crank it all the way up depends on the setting of the toggle switch, which is a new addition for the Honey Bee.
  • The small toggle switch lets you select either Modern or Vintage settings. In the Vintage position the One Control Honey Bee is faithful to the original circuit, although it does incorporate the 6 dB increase in overall output volume. Flip the switch over to the Modern position and all the rest of the circuit tweaks that Bjorn has dialed in over the years kick in - with more gain on tap, a bit of a upper-midrange boost, and a mild treble boost when you dime the Nature control instead of the mild treble cut you get when you crank it up all the way in Vintage mode. The Nature control also has a wider overall range in Modern mode.
  • Both the Modern and Vintage settings provide very usable tones, but if you are after lower-gain tones and a more transparent sound the Vintage setting may better suit your preferences, while if you're looking for a bit more gain and dirt, you'll probably prefer the Modern setting more.
  • Switching on the One Control Honey Bee OD is true bypass, and a yellow LED positioned in between the three knobs illuminates when the pedal is active.
  • Power can be supplied with a 9V battery or through an industry-standard 2.1mm center-negative power jack, which is located at the top of the pedal. No battery or power supply is included with the pedal - you'll need to provide your own.

 

 

  • The Honey Bee has very modest current consumption (~3mA), so batteries should last fairly long just as long as you remember to unplug the input jack when you're not using the pedal.
  • Opening up the One Control Honey Bee is easy - just pull the four screws from the bottom plate and remove it. This reveals one of the differences between the One Control and the other versions of the Honey Bee - the surface mount construction. The previous versions of the pedal all utilized full-sized, discrete components and hand assembly. This shouldn't really have any effect on the sound, but machine soldering and surface mount technology does allow for faster, more efficient construction which makes sense for a mass-produced pedal.

 

 

  • Removing the bottom plate also gives you access to the pedal's battery compartment. A separate battery area is nicely machined into the pedal - a cool touch.
  • Four adhesive-backed rubber feet for the bottom are included along with the pedal, but come unattached, allowing you the choice of installing the feet if you want, or user-supplied velcro instead.

 

 

Limitations

  • If you're looking for heavy levels of distortion, you'll probably want to consider one of the other BJFe-designed pedals from One Control - this one isn't going to give you copious amounts of dirt unless you layer it with a second pedal - which, by the way, is something that this pedal is particularly well suited for.
  • Due to the surface mount construction, this pedal wouldn't be well-suited to post-purchase modifications. 

 

Conclusions

The One Control Honey Bee is an amazing sounding low-gain overdrive pedal. It's very amp-like in the way that it breaks up more when you play harder, with the kind of touch-sensitive response that brings out the best in your playing; reacting very sympathetically to variations in your touch and dynamics. If you are looking for high-gain, heavily saturated tones you will need to look elsewhere, but don't underestimate this pedal's utility for other tasks, such as fattening up your cleaner tones or giving you some outstanding low to mid-gain crunch sounds. It also stacks exceptionally well with a variety of other dirt boxes. It adds thickness, character and sustain to your tone while retaining clarity and excellent note definition. While it is mass-produced using surface mount components and it isn't hand-painted and hand assembled from full-sized electronic components like the original BFJe or BearFoot FX versions, it will no doubt be more widely available, allowing Bjorn Juhl to spread his pedal pollen far and wide and bringing the sound of this highly-regarded circuit to a much broader audience. Kudos to Bjorn and One Control for adding the very useful Mode switch and incorporating all of the upgrades and revisions of previous Honey Bee Overdrives in the Modern setting, while still letting people access the original sound via the Vintage mode. Regardless of which mode you personally prefer, you'll find the Honey Bee Overdrive to be one very sweet pedal, and one that could easily find a permanent place on your pedalboard.  -HC-

 

 

Want to discuss the One Control Honey Bee OD or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Effects forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!

 

 

Resources

One Control Honey Bee Overdrive  ($189.00  "street")

One Control's product web page     

 

You can purchase the One Control Honey Bee OD from:

Guitar Center     

B&H Photo Video   

Musician's Friend     

 

 

 

 

 




__________________________________________________

 




Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

 

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