The Hot Wax combines two other Electro-Harmonix overdrive pedals (which I incidentally have never used) – the Crayon and the Hot Tubes – into one medium-sized pedal. Each pedal can be used independently, or they can be “stacked” with the Crayon doing its thing before the Hot Tubes does its thing.
The Crayon side is sort of like a Tube Screamer but with more tonal control due to separate bass and treble knobs, so it does not necessarily have to be midrangey. The tone can be quite “full range” or even “scooped.”
The Hot Tubes side is a bit like the Soul Food except more pleasant sounding (warmer) and with more gain on tap.
With drive set to twelve-o’clock, the Crayon is more distorted than the Hot Tubes, but at maximum level the Hot Tubes actually exceeds the Crayon in distortedness, as if the Hot Tubes, like a Tube Screamer, retains a bit of the clean signal at all settings. The character of the distortion on the two sides is pretty different too, with the Crayon being both smoother and more articulate and the Hot Tubes having more or a “torn speaker” effect. The Crayon is probably more compressed, which is especially apparent when playing arpeggios and stuff. There is some pretty hair around single notes on the Crayon side that isn’t there on the Hot Tubes side. The Crayon would really be useful for gigs with that Matthew Sweet cover band. Some of these tones would be right at home on a Foo Fighters record.
“Stacking” the two pedals can create all sorts of cool sounds, and trying out varying positions of the two pedals’ knobs can bring up many different tones, particularly when using the “blend” knob, which I will get to below.
This pedal is a bit different than having a separate Crayon and Hot Tubes on the board because the two pedals share a common master bass/treble EQ, and there is the useful “blend” knob for blending in clean guitar signal, which is probably great for bassists as well as guitarists on the hunt for certain “dirty yet articulate” tones. Unconventional sounds are available, including setting all the knobs at full blast for Metallica-style ridiculousness but only blending in a tiny bit of the “dirty” signal. I like a lot of the sounds available with a 50:50 blend.
The shared master EQ has to be the reason why the two sides stack well together. I am normally not a fan of “stacking” multiple dirt pedals, because each pedal tends to have its own sort of EQ profile and they often don’t play well together. Sharing the same EQ makes the two sides stack nicely. This also gives the Hot Tubes side, which would in the usual pedal form have just one tone knob, independent bass and treble controls.
Likely due to the shared EQ, unlike the “true bypass” Crayon and Hot Tubes, this pedal is buffered bypass, which can be an advantage when it comes to long cable runs.
Although seven knobs can be overwhelming, these additional features cause the Hot Wax to be greater than the sum of its parts. I look forward to using this pedal. A