The pedal features a clean blend control, to dose as little or as much of the coloring as you like. The output stage is very powerful, making the Understate useful as a boost pedal too. The pedal can give your clean guitar tone much improved presence and density, while enhancing sparkle and chime. It’s also a great tool to keep your level and dynamics under control. The saturation control can drive the pedal into a mild and pleasant overdrive, that shines at edge-of-break-up settings.
The optical compressor features an adjustable side chain filter, which is rarely seen in a pedal, and mostly found in studio compressors. The SC Filter is a key feature in the Understate, and this is what enables the compressor to appear so subtly. With this, you can have compression on all the time, without getting that recognizable signature sound of the typical compressor pedal, squeezing your attack or ducking your level noticeably, when you really dig in.
The side chain filter filters the signal which the compressor “hears” and reacts to, but it’s not part of the audible signal chain. By adjusting the SC Filter knob of the Understate, you can reduce the compressor's sensitivity to transients (by turning it down). The filter is double, like a big muff tone control, so that it also boosts bass when turning it down, and attenuates bass and boosts highs when turning it up. It’s neutral at noon.
The Saturation control is much like an overdrive circuit. It amplifies the signal post compressor and limits the amplitude spikes via a clipping circuit featuring MOSFET transistors and germanium diodes. You can turn it up quite a bit before the signal starts to get audibly distorted, and in the process, you get a louder, more dense signal. It’s possible to obtain a very full and rich sound, even with vintage-style single coil pickups.
If it all gets too much, the clean blend control is there to water the effect out, as much as you please. It goes to 100 % clean, turning the Understate into a clean boost pedal.
The tone control of the Understate is tuned to enhance ‘sparkle’, which is why we call it the SPARKLE control. It works right where it tickles.