Early Crowther Hotcakes

The Hotcake is an amazingly versatile and famous overdrive pedal made in New Zealand by a lovely man by the name of Paul Crowther. He came up with the design in the seventies while touring in his band, Split Enz. He doesn't have a website, doesn't advertise and he makes them with his wife at home, and everyone who wants a great overdrive should own one. They are the most responsive OD I've ever played and can be used for anything from a clean boost to a full distortion. He's been making them for nearly 40 years and the new ones still sound great.

I don't want to be that guy who says old stuff sounded better but ........


   

This is one of the older Hotcakes that I picked up a few years ago just because it was "different" and when I asked Paul he said it was a very early one.

As you can see the graphics, knobs and enclosure are different from the newer ones and that difference is also in the circuit.

As I said, I LOVE the current Hotcake. I think every "version" I've heard is an exceptional overdrive, but despite what is written out there or spoken in shadowy hallways in the back of venues, there are different sounding versions out there.


This doesn't have any dates or serials written anywhere inside or out so I can't verify the age or circuit type.The PCB is "guncked" like all Hotcakes but it is a much more primitive etched board with less components than current Hotcakes.

It sounds like a Hotcake, as they all do, but this one has much more gain and volume than the current version. It can be "wound" back to sound pretty much identical to a current version but goes further when pushed to full. The other thing is the drive pot works backwards (anti clockwise) to other Hotcakes.

The 9V adaptor has been retro fitted and there's no LED.


   

This is one of the 80's versions of the Hotcake. This style of enclosure and graphics seems to date right through to the early 2000's.

This one has a repaired PCB in it but I've compared it to other Hotcakes of the same version that I can verify were made from the late 80's and it's very similar to any up to the early/mid 2000's when the three knob version came in.

These 80's-2000's versions had slightly more gain and volume than the current model too. Not as much as the early one but still more than the current. The tone is very similar to the current model. As of mid 2000's Crowther started making the Bluesberry version as well. New Hotcakes have dipper switches inside for selecting either version.


I know this one has a repaired PCB because it has "repaired" and Pauls signature on the piece of cardboard stuck to the PCB.

Paul will fix any Hotcake, no matter how old if you send it back to him but because the boards are guncked he just replaces the whole PCB with a new current one so if you have an old one like the original above, it will sound different when you get it back.

This pedal once belonged to Aussie guitarist Diesel and has his name and phone number scratched into it. I bought it from a guy on Ebay who bought it from a guy on Ebay so if you're missing a Hotcake Mark, call me.


   

So, while these two Hotcakes are my favorites, there's absolutely nothing wrong with current ones. With some knob tweaking you can make both of these sound like a new one. They just both have more at the end of each pot.

The early one has considerably more volume and slightly more gain and is in a slightly smaller enclosure than the latter switch and 3 knob type. I actually prefer the idea of a tone knob instead of the simple mid lift switch, although it is very effective. I own a bunch of Hotcakes including three knob versions and an early Double Hotcake but for some reason I keep going back to these two.


I'm not writing this article to try and push the price of old Hotcakes up (I'm not selling these) and I'm not someone who believes older is better, especially when it comes to pedals. If you've got a newer one,you've got yourself a great pedal and if you're considering buying one, buy a current one with the knowledge that they are still a great OD pedal.

If you're in town or in the studio you can hire these pedals from my HIRE section.

PS: Since writing this article I had a visit from Paul who drove an hour while on holidays to say hi. I asked him if he'd autograph my older one and when I took it out he was shocked. He said it was one of the first ones made and remembered making it. He seemed very smitten with it, and so he should ........ and so am I now it has his scribble on it.

Jul 18 2013 Written By: Tim Brennan