Hotone Soul Press II
The Hotone Soul Press II is a wah/volume/expression pedal that represents a significant revamp of the original Soul Press, adding sonic versatility and greater economy when it comes to floor space. Hotone first became known for its broad series of compact, affordable yet authentic-sounding pedals. More recently, it has branched out into multi-effects and amp modelling hardware that competes with the beloved Kemper Profiler and Line6 Helix. I first became aware of the original Soul Press when searching for a multi-purpose wah/volume pedal. For about a year I was using a Cry Baby wah and a volume pedal that looked almost identical. I only had enough space on my pedalboard for one and had a couple of gigs that demanded heavy use of either one or the other. After a few nights that involved a lot of hand stretching to reach the volume knob for swells on my Gibson 339, or trying to make a phaser sound like a convincing wah, I decided to finally put a label on one of them to avoid mix ups. I also decided that my life would be easier if I could have both effects in one pedal.
The first thing that struck me about the Soul Press II was the sleek new design; the metallic blue sparkle looks great, especially under lights, and the metal casing seems robust. This pedal is still smaller than most units of similar style, but due to the wide top and the grip tape-like surface it feels easy to use and the rocking action of the pedal itself feels comfortable and familiar. Of course, the other main feature is the strip of LEDs on the side of the unit that turn on and off in real time to indicate the position of the pedal; this not only looks cool but is very practical. If you’re not a fan of the LEDs, you can simply turn them off. The wah-wah section of the pedal has two tone options – warm and classic. To activate the unit, press down when the pedal is at the ‘toe position’ – just like a standard wah. The ‘classic’ setting is suited to the more traditional wah user and has a similar response to classic effects such as the Cry Baby. The ‘warm’ setting occupies a slightly lower range in the frequency spectrum and is perfect for less abrasive sounds. These two modes, combined with the Q control knob (which controls how high the peak of the boosted frequency is), provides a variety of tones.
"The pedal is well built, and has been designed with a lot of thought and care..."
With the Q control at around 8 o’clock on the ‘warm’ setting you have a smooth and subtle effect; using the ‘classic’ setting with the Q at 12 will give you the familiar sound of a classic wah. A favourite of mine is on the ‘warm’ setting with the Q pretty much cranked – full harmonic resonance but never really venturing into brittle, high frequency territory. The Soul Press II has an active volume circuit, meaning that there’s no loss of tone that you might experience with a typical passive volume pedal. The volume control feels natural and smooth, so it’s perfect for swells. If you like to back off the volume to clean up a more driven sound, the LED strip is a useful visual cue. When the V/W setting is selected you can switch between wah and volume by pressing down at the top of the pedal - an LED on the side will flick between green and blue to indicate which mode you’re in. This pedal has been designed with a lot of thought and care. It is so easy to set up quickly with a very usable sound, yet it allows you to go relatively in-depth if you wish. That, combined with the fact that it’s affordable and well-built, leads me to believe that the Soul Press II belongs on the board of every guitar player - I certainly will be getting plenty of use out of it.