Mapping New Tonal Territories: Matthews Effects Cartographer Parametric Overdrive

Cartographer Parametric Overdrive

Matthews Effects CartographerBeing in the pedalboard industry I see a lot of pedals; a lot. I would say 90% of those pedals were all some sort of overdrive. Transparent, haunting mids, Klonesque, Mid range hump; I’ve heard all of the cliché descriptions that are tagged to the next up and coming dirt box. It wasn’t until Rick Matthews said the word parametric that my attention was peaked. The Matthews Effects Cartographer is the first parametric overdrive or at least the first I’ve heard of. What exactly does a parametric overdrive mean? Well to put it simply it can take that sea of overdrive pedals and put each of them inside of one compact stompbox.


Oh the Places You’ll Go

At first inspection, the Cartographer seems like any other overdrive pedal. With the knobs at noon, the Cartographer has a nice throaty growl that can be cleaned up by pulling back the gain or pushed into a pronounced and cutting overdrive. By itself, the drive stands up and would hold a spot on my board; but that’s just the start. Instead of a traditional ‘Tone’ knob that would give you a high or low boost, Matthews gives us a Frequency knob. This allows you to dial in a specific frequency between 100-4khz; that’s a wide range of tonal possibilities. Instead of leaving it there, we are also given a boost/cut that allows you  to further enhance or diminish the selected frequency. Between these two knobs a new world of sounds is possible. Want to fatten up those single coils? Drop the frequency to 9 o clock and boost. Maybe there’s too much jangle in your tele. Find that ice-pick frequency and cut it until it’s gone. Or, for even more fun, hold a note and roll the frequency knob back and forth; overdrive wah pedal? Yep it does that too.

Bottom Line

Bottom line, this pedal does things I’ve never heard any other overdrive do. As a traditional overdrive the Cartographer holds its own but as a secondary coloration, it really shines. I feel this pedal will fit just as comfortably in the studio as on stage. Just a few seconds into playing it, inspiration was flowing from the many sounds this thing was creating and would be perfect to find that ‘just right’ guitar tone. All analog signal path, true bypass and built by hand in Eastern Washington. At $189 street price, it’s hard to find anything wrong with this Swiss Army knife overdrive. Get one and knock begin your own tonal explorations.

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