The newly released Cartographer from Matthews Effects is a Parametric Overdrive - yes, another drive pedal in a world filled with drive pedals. But wait, Parametric? Something's a bit different here. Ok, so this isn't so much a review as a personal testimony, a quick glimpse as to how this great sounding drive became more than just a great dirt pedal.
First off the Cartographer is a fantastic sounding drive which can do all the usual things one would hope for in a drive; it delivers a great clean boost at low gain settings and a great rich saturated tube like grit with the gain turned up. However; it's when you turn your attention to the lower two knobs that this thing really shines. The two lower knobs are the Parametric EQ part of the drive, a frequency knob which lets you select the specific part of your drive tone you want to affect and via the cut/boost knob you can, well...cut or boost it.
For me personally this is what makes this thing worth it's weight in gold as it's solved a major problem. One of my favorite guitars I have is an early 70's Gibson Les Paul Special and one of my favorite amps is a 1962 Supro, the problem being for some reason they just never really got along. It happens, some guitars just refuse to play nice with some amps. In this case the combination tended to produce a tone that would best be described as a wet wool blanket draped over the speaker, dull and lifeless. The tone controls on neither the guitar nor the amp couldn't elevate it out of that darkness. While Testing out the Cartographer I was really enjoying what it brought to the table and the strength of the EQ shaping led me to think I might finally have a solution so I moved on to the dreaded Supro/LP Special combo - long considered untouchable around here. With it I found that I could single out the frequency that seemed to be overriding everything, bogging down the tone and really whip it into shape. With the knob set right at about 2 o'clock and the boost knob at around 3 o'clock the P90's on the Les Paul suddenly sprang to life, shedding their muddiness and truly blooming. A literal moment of clarity for a guitar and amp combo I've wanted to work forever but just couldn't get to play along.
With the Cartographer Matthews Effects has not only delivered a great sounding overdrive but also a truly useful substitute for a tone knob. With the ability to selectively shape the tone via the parametric EQ instead of just dialing back and forth between lows and highs with a single tone knob it really becomes a serious tool for a players tool box.