EHX Hot Tubes: Back From The Dead

EHX Hot Tubes Overdrive PedalElectro-Harmonix released the original Hot Tubes pedal back in 1978. Using the best CMOS technology of the time, the original Hot Tubes attempted to recreate the wondrous distortion tones of the era’s most popular tube amps. Sadly though, the Hot Tubes eventually went the way of the dodo, and was discontinued.

Fast forward to today, and the original version of the Hot Tubes is highly sought after. So much so, it’s extremely difficult to even find one for sale because owners do not want to give them up. Well, Electro-Harmonix are able to recognize a market demand when they see it and they’ve decided to resurrect the Hot Tubes pedal, this time reincarnated in their much smaller, nano pedal design.

The Video Demo

Blast From The Past

When the Hot Tubes was invented in the 70s, it was trying to emulate the tube amps of the time. And what did those old tube amps sound like? In general, they were powerful, warm, punchy, overdriven but not super saturated. And I think that right there is actually the perfect description of how the new Hot Tubes sounds.

Playing through this pedal makes me want to pull out a whole bunch of old school riffs. A little Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, some ZZ Top, it all sounds great. This overdrive is perfect for that vintage blues guitar sound too.

Warm Overdrive

The range of overdrive that you can dial in is pretty wide. With the Overdrive Knob turned all the way down, the Hot Tubes basically functions as a clean boost, just adding some warmth to your tone. Turn up the Overdrive to about the 10 or 12 O”Clock position and you start to get some breakup in your tone; great for adding a little attitude to your clean sound. Crank it up and you have that full fledged, meaty, 70s overdrive sound. Even at this setting, if you dial down your guitar’s volume, the Hot Tubes cleans up pretty well.

In general the Hot Tubes is a warm sounding overdrive. With the tone circuit on bypass (which is switchable via a mini toggle), the default tone is not shy with the low end, and the highs from the added overtones are smooth; not too harsh or brittle. But you do have the option of sculpting your sound with the Tone Knob, which seems to me to operate as a dual shelving filter.

With the Tone turned counter-clockwise, the lows are boosted while the highs are cut. As you turn the Tone Knob clockwise, the differences between the highs and lows begin to even out. The tables turn past 12 O’Clock with the lows being cut while the highs are boosted.

Final Thoughts

Every time I review an effects pedal, I try to live with it for a while. I’ve spent some time playing around with the Hot Tubes and I have to stay, it’s really starting to grow on me. It’s just a really sweet sounding overdrive. It has a boutiquey tone, without the huge price tag. That combined with its simple design and small pedalboard footprint, this is definitely an overdrive you should check out.

Dave Willard (28 Articles)

Dave Willard is an experienced guitar player and teacher, providing private guitar lessons in Morristown, New Jersey. After over 14 years of teaching, he's helped literally hundreds of students become better musicians. When he's not teaching, you can find Dave playing in cover bands around the NJ club scene.