There are some good demos of the HEAVY and playing one live does not disappoint. However, it does proves that YouTube compression does not do HEAVY justice. As the manual indicates, Channel 1 produces a heavy sound that is thick and punchy, whereas Channel 2 has a heavier sound that is tight and brutal (with more of a saturated quality as you go past 12-noon on the gain). That may best describe it in general terms, but there is a huge assortment of tones possible. Besides a treble and bass control (shared between the two channels) you can customize the midrange frequency in two ways – how much Mids you want, but also whether those mids focus on 500, 250 or 2k in frequency (and you get to customize those mids individually for each channel. Consequently, there’s a lot of tonal control so that you can have a crunch/rhythm sound on Channel 1 and a thick lead tone for Channel 2.
The distortion quality is fantastic – very grainy and edgy without sounding like a nest full of bees. You can achieve that scooped out sound or make it as fat and booming as you like. Often I hear guitarists removing their mids, but doing so sounds exceptional with HEAVY – I tend to be adjusting the Mid knob and messing with the various frequencies the most with this pedal (just when you think something sounds good, something else sounds better). And with two built-in noise gates, you can select a natural or aggressive gate to keep out any hissing noise or for an intense chugging and a ‘stop-quick-on-a-dime’ effect (or keep the Gates turned off all together if preferred). The Weight can really push the signal for that face-slapping quality, and really adds to a full tone when playing lead. Finally, if you want more headroom, power up HEAVY with an 18VDC power supply as opposed to a 9VDC (using a 9VDC will give you a tighter sound, but fewer dynamics).
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Although a bit pricey, at $299 USD ($399 Canadian), HEAVY does includes two channels with plenty of flexibility and a killer tone! HEAVY has been around for several years and it’s still around, which suggests its popularity and relevancy. And although there have been several new high-gain pedals flooding the market in the last few years, HEAVY still holds its own very well. You can achieve thick, punchy, tight and brutal tones, but also various levels of crunch merely by keeping HEAVY’s Gain relatively low (9-o’clock) and your guitar’s volume dialed back somewhat. However, HEAVY is known best for is its massive Metal tones that have exceptional ‘cut-through-the-mix’ ability. And it’s all here, from achieving that 80’s Metal quality to more modern down-tuning chugs, which sound nothing short of huge once you up the Gain, crank the Weight and punch some Mids (particularly if powering it with 18VDC for added headroom). With the ability to adjust the Bass, Treble and a 3-position Mid Frequency you can scoop or boost for any sound you desire. And don’t worry about it sounding messy or noisy, since HEAVY includes built-in adjustable Noise Gates, once for each channel. Along with great sounds you also get a great build quality with a steel chassis, metal knobs and a two-year warranty.
GENERAL USE: With plenty of knobs and switches to consider, think of HEAVY as a 2-channel device that has mirrored controls. Both channels share the same bass and treble control, whereas each side then has its own Gain, Mid (+ frequency selection), Output, Weight and Gate. The Gate has decent flexibility and works very well. It can be kept off (you may be running your own gate), but typically you would want one of two settings. The Natural Gate selection takes out any hissing or minor noises, whereas rhythm playing that requires sudden stops and starts (for a heavy handed sound) works best with an Aggressive Gate. As well, there’s a trim pot on the side that allows you to set the threshold for the Gate. Keeping the threshold to maximum does not steal your tone nor rob you of much sustain.
The Low and Hi (Bass/Treble) work as usual. The Mid (on each channel) also works as it should, although with greater flexibility. You can choose what frequency you want for each channel, whether 500Hz, 250Hz or 2kHz – this function produces a lot of tone flexibility so that each channel can sound very different just based on that factor and whether you cut or boost that frequency. The Gain is still pretty decent at 9-o’clock and really gets ripping at 1-o’clock. Up full it does not sound overly saturated and still cuts through the mix well. The Weight knob gives you that ‘ooomph’ or punch in the tone, which needs to be used carefully and particularly with heavy mids and/or bass. Each Channel also comes with its own Output, so that you can have your crunch rhythm at one level on channel 1, and then have a louder level (boost) for lead playing on channel 2.
OTHER DETAILS: HEAVY weighs approximately 1-pound (0.45 kg) and measures 4.5 (w) x 3.5 (l) and 2.0 (h w/ controls) or 11.43 x 8.89 x 5.0 cm. A steel chassis with black powder coated paint (and white lettering) the overall design and quality of HEAVY’s elements are excellent. The two footswitches (to engage or turn on/off each channel) are soft, in that you do not hear any clicking from the switch or in the signal (very important when running high-gain gear) and require only a light step to switch. There are ten knobs that control the various settings and each one is made of aluminum – you won’t crack these with stomping feet. And each pot turns so smoothly and quietly (no crackling), like self-oiled bearings. There are four switches that control the Gate and Mid Frequency, all of which are located behind the knobs (well protected), with solid clicks and plenty of toggle length in which to grasp between the fingers. The input/output are located on the sides, as is the power input. All three are positioned low on the pedal and approximately midway or further back. Power requirements include 200 mA via a standard 9VDC power adapter (it will accept 18VDC for greater headroom). Lastly, HEAVY (as well as all Empress Effects) comes with a two-year warranty against failures resulting from defective parts and/or faulty workmanship.