As a stand-alone preamp, the Edison is very clear, yet full-bodied. When hooking it up to an Axe-Fx II (with Marshall cab simulation), the first thing I noticed is how ‘amp-like’ the sound was… headroom and dynamics without that processed sound. Now, to be fair, the Edison Preamp is an actual tube preamp, and so it should not sound artificial or lackluster, but matching it with a cab-sim, as opposed to an actual cab, brought about a quality of sound I was not expecting. Although one of the better sounding (and behaving) cleans I’ve heard, the Edison Preamp still needs to be tamed somewhat. Because it offers a lot of headroom, having the volume up too much can produce some distortion or rumbling (like an amp breaking up, which it likely is doing). Nothing wrong with that, but either the preamp’s volume or the guitar’s volume need to be dialed back slightly if you want to avoid those artifacts. On that note, the Edison Preamp does clean up exceptionally well and sounds great as you dial back a guitar’s volume knob. As for the preamp, it sounds good at lower volumes, but you definitely can hear more note fullness and fatness when turned up half-way or beyond.
When combined with other gear the Edison Preamp offers a lot. It makes for a great pedal format, whether dealing with clean-type effects (delay, modulation) or distortions/drives/fuzzes. Even when combined with other preamps (I added the Edison to a few Victory preamps, the Kraken and the Countess) the Edison mixed with those other preamps incredibly well, for a bolder and fuller sound. What should be noted is that the Edison Preamp has fantastic warmth to it, which can make other gear sound a touch darker, which means upping your treble or upper-mids a bit to balance out the tone. Regardless of this minor quirk, the Edison does not color other gear very much (very little in fact) so that everything simply sounds ‘hot-rodded.’
OVERALL IMPRESSION: The Edison Preamp is aptly named, since it looks like a glowing light bulb within its aluminum housing. Developed by Night Owl Industries, this preamp has exceptional warmth, tons of headroom and pure amp-like tonal qualities. The Edison Preamp’s simple, yet effective design has a built-in voltage tripler to push the all-tube EF86 preamp for a real amp tone. It functions well as a stand-alone unit (in pedal platform), but also works well in pushing the limits of other preamps/amps (solid state or tube). Its third and obvious use is as a clean boost, but not any ordinary boost, since its full-bodied and robust tube sound will fatten up your tone for some great lead soloing. Its green glow (both tube and footswitch ring) not only look ominous, as though it came from a mad scientist’s laboratory, but makes for easy location on a pedal board and on dark stages. At $225 the Edison Preamp is of average cost and very decent value considering how it enhances other gear, besides working well with guitar, bass or a recording rig. Simple to use and effective best sums it up.
GENERAL USE: Although Night Owl Industries suggest “try it in front of your favorite distortion pedal or another tube effect for endless possibilities,” I found my tone and results as good when adding the Edison Preamp AFTER some effects and other preamps (likely because my cab simulation came later in the chain). The sound was fine when used before in other instances, but placing it after impressed me as much and depending on the gear. The Edison Preamp is about as easy to use as it comes – a footswitch to turn it on and off. How great is that? No tone controls, although you need to adjust the volume accordingly (whether aiming for parity or boosting the signal). Insofar as the volume is concerned, how much you turn it up will depend on what is being connected to it. For example, if using the Edison as a stand-alone preamp (going into a cab or cab simulation) and with some pedals, the volume can be turned up more than if using the Edison to push an amplifier or other preamp. Then again, by keeping the gain/volume down on another amp or preamp, then certainly more volume can be had with the Edison (depending on what balance or ratio sounds best to your ears). Regardless of the setup, you will find there is a sweet spot in coordinating gear, so that you have enough push and sound fullness without adding distortion or artifacts.
OTHER DETAILS: A slightly odd shape, the Edison Preamp measures larger at the top than bottom, but generally is a standard sized pedal. Measuring 3-inches across the top, 2.25-inches across the bottom, 4.25-inches long and 1.5-inches high, this preamp is lightweight and likely an aluminum housing (since it feels light) with center glass window (to view the cool-looking green light and valve). All connections, including the volume control, are located on the sides, which does take up a bit more pedalboard real-estate, but nothing excessive. The footswitch, which is SILENT (you don’t hear a thing when turning it on and off) has a solid click and is of good quality. The Volume knob also feels of good quality when turned. The glass window sits below the aluminum chassis, and positioned within the design of the pedal in such a manner that damage from a stomping foot is very unlikely (don’t wear high-heels). The Edison Preamp powers up via a standard 9VDC 250mA supply. Tubes can last a matter of months or even years, depending on usage and any potential flaws (inherent with tubes), and so the Edison’s reliability in regard to tube life cannot be determined with any confidence. However, Night Owl Industries does test each Edison Preamp and tube (via Amplitrex testing) prior to shipping, which helps to weed out any immediate operational issues in advance.