Some of the cuddliest pieces of equipment at this year’s Frankfurt Musikmesse came in the guise of Hotone Audio’s ranges of micro-sized effect pedals and amplifier heads.
The special eye-catcher with the Skyline-series pedals is the transparent Gibson-style control at their front end.
Two coloured status-LEDs behind the transparent knob light up, whenever the effect is switched on.
Naturally, you cannot fit a nine volt battery inside such a tiny pedal, which is why Hotone Skyline pedals have to get their juice from a power supply (9 V, negative centre – not included).
The dark blue Hotone Blues (current price in Finland: 65 €) is an overdrive pedal specialised in producing juicy Blues tones by using a pair of overdrive circuits wired up in series.
The big knob is for gain adjustment, while the two noctilucent (meaning: they glow in the dark) knobs deal with tone and master volume, respectively.
Engaging the Fat-button adds a bigger bottom end to proceedings.
Listen to Hotone’s own demo of the Blues pedal:
Hotone’s Choir pedal (65 €) comes in a fetching baby blue colour scheme. This is the analogue chorus pedal of the Skyline series, built around a Panasonic BBD MN3207 bucket-brigade chip.
The Gibson-knob controls speed, while chorus depth and effect are controlled by the smaller knobs.
Depressing the Deep-switch will send you to the bubbly depths of psychedelia.
The Hotone Eko (65 €) is a delay offering you some analogue character.
The Eko’s maximum delay time is around 500 ms, which is long enough for most Rockabilly, Rock and Pop applications, but maybe just a bit too short for serious Brian May-style layering.
The Mod feature adds a sprinkle of tape-style wow and flutter to your delay sound.
The Skyline series also includes a Tube Screamer-inspired vintage overdrive, called the Hotone Grass (65 €).
The pedal offers you controls for gain, volume and Voice (tone).
The BRT-switch (for ”bright”) adds top end bite to your tone.
One of Hotone’s newest pedals – the Octa (80 €) – is an octaver that features both ”octave down” (OCT1), as well as ”octave up” (OCT2) signal in two different operating modes.
The regular Clean-mode is polyphonic, meaning you can play chords, too.
Octa’s Dirty-mode gives you a vintage-style, monophonic experience (you can only play single note runs), and sounds funky and greasy (in a good way).
And yes, you can use the Hotone Octa with your bass, too!
Hotone’s Trem (65 €) is an über-compact – yes, you guessed it – opto-tremolo pedal.
In addition to tremolo speed and depth you can also adjust the tone colour of the effect.
When choosing the Hard-mode the trem effect changes from a smooth, sine-style wobble to a harder on/off-type effect.
Despite their diminutive size Hotone’s Skyline-pedals aren’t toys, but grown up guitar effects!
Their zinc-alloy casing seems to be very sturdy, while the bent metal rod north of the footswitch works effectively in preventing your foot from hitting the pedal controls. Each pedal comes with two stick-on base covers – the non-slip rubber-type cover is for straight-on-the-floor use, while the velcro-style counterpart makes creating a micro-sized pedalboard possible.
The large control knobs aren’t just a visual gimmick, but also make it much easier to place three controls on such small pedals.
In terms of effect quality Hotone’s Skyline series is straightforward in the best sense of the word. Each of the six pedals I tried does exactly what you’d expect it to do, winning me over with a very decent sound. At these low prices you’d be crazy to expect esoteric boutique-quality effects, instead the Hotone Skyline pedals proved to be great guitar effects for your everyday needs.
I recorded a demo song with the review sextet:
• rhythm guitars: Hotone Choir (panned left), Hotone Trem (centre) and Hotone Eko (right)
• lead guitars: 1. Hotone Blues, 2. Hotone Octa, and 3. Hotone Grass
I used my Gibson SG Melody Maker for all of the guitar tracks, played through a Blackstar HT-1R valve combo:
Hotone Audio Skyline Series
Current prices in Finland: 65-80 €
Finnish distributor: R-Jam Group