If you chat with a guitarist and mention overdrives, you’ll need to pull up a chair and get comfy. You’re gonna be there for a while.
It’s a deep subject partly because there are so many overdrive pedals on the market. It’s flooded with overdrive options.
You might ask why we need to add one more to the list. Well, normally I would agree. But every once in a while an OD pedal comes along that’s a game changer. Such is the case with the Robert Keeley D&M Drive.
The thing with OD pedals is, you have to try them to hear how they sound. There are really no words that properly explain the way an OD pedal will react to your playing, guitar, and amp.
Generic words are often used to describe these pedals. “Tube-like,” “amp breakup,” “touch-sensitive.” Blah, blah, blah. These terms are numbing by now ‘cause they’re used ad nauseum. Keeley doesn’t do this. In fact, they’re quite understated about how great this pedal is.
Here’s the thing about OD pedals. They’re very personal. For me, I don’t like when an OD pedal is too compressed. I find a lot of OD pedals tend to be overly compressed, which makes them sound small to my ears. I like to keep some of the dynamics. Unless it’s a special occasion, of course.
I also don’t like too much low-end truncation. A little is fine, but if the pedal is taking an axe to my low end, I’m not usually into it. Again, special occasions may happen.
These are my two biggest gripes. I think this is a big discussion for most guitarists. I rarely hear guitarists talk about how much gain an overdrive has. They chat more about compression and low-end roll off.
Let us not forget the midrange bump, though. Many a guitarist can get into a heated debate over whether a mid bump is acceptable or not.
Bands have broken up, marriages have been ruined, friendships broken over the subject. Ok, not really. But some guitarists are very passionate about their functional/dysfunctional relationship to midrange.
What does it sound like?
With that out of the way, let’s jump into the Keeley D&M.
This is a lively pedal. It doesn’t compress the signal too much. I’m not saying it doesn’t compress at all because c’mon… it’s a drive pedal. By its nature, it compresses.
But the D&M doesn’t add gobs of compression. It’s dynamic. It feels good and doesn’t make my guitar feel or sound small.
The drive channel is based on a Tube Screamer circuit. Which by nature tends to be compressed. But it doesn’t feel as soft or compressed as my Maxon OD-9. And the low end is more active on the D&M then the OD-9 and other TS circuits I’ve used.
It holds up at bedroom, rehearsal room, and stage volumes. I don’t find this with most overdrives.
This is often neglected by people trying to recreate vintage tones. There is something about being in the same room with the amp and letting the amp and guitar speak. In any room, there are harmonics that don’t exist at low levels or in the control booth.
Normally, it would take a considerable amount of volume to create this on an amp without master volume. The Keeley D&M allows me to get to this point at about 4-5 on my amp. Yeah, this isn’t exactly quiet. But, it’s a lower volume than it normally takes for me to create this tone.
You can hear some of this in my recordings. Where it seems like it’s almost about to feed back. Like there’s a note hanging on up there, waiting for its turn.
Let’s listen to some samples.
Gibson ES-335 with Florance pickups into a Headstrong Lil’ King Reverb:
Boost and overdrive channels gain settings:
Boost and OD EQ settings:
Volume knob reaction:
Boost before drive:
Fender American Standard Stratocaster into a Headstrong Lil’ King Reverb:
Below the Mason Dixon drive:
Gibson Les Paul with Florance Voodoo pickups into a Vox AC15:
Clean to boost comparison:
Mary Jane boost tone:
Boost into OD:
Gibson Melody Maker into a Vox AC15:
The Keeley D&M includes a boost channel and a drive channel. They are independent of each other and you can switch their order.
This is a brilliant feature. Sometimes you want your boost before the drive, to push the drive harder. Other times you want a cleaner boost after the drive, to bring up the volume of solos.
You can also think of it as having two channels. The boost channel can be a clean boost. But it can also give you some grit with the gain knob.
The boost channel is a considerably different tone from the drive channel tone. The gain from the boost channel can give you a bit of that Tom Petty “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” rhythm tone.
So you don’t have to use the boost channel as a traditional boost. It can also be another “channel.”
This also opens up the door for stacking. Note: your placement of the boost channel—before or after the drive channel—will influence the tone. Even if you’re not boosting volume!
I have very few complaints about the Keeley D&M. If I had to pick one just to show I’m not the teacher’s pet, it would be the placement of the power jack.
I wish it was on the side opposite the output jack. Its position next to the output jack makes it hard to use a right-angle plug and keep the plug flush with the pedal.
I don’t want to judge too harshly. The designer might have been abducted by aliens only to arrive to work with a celestial hangover the next morning. Leading to the oversight of the power plug placement.
Or—more likely the case—the designers decided to keep all the jacks on the back, making it easier to squeeze more pedals on the pedalboard. Which means they were really considering its integration onto pedal boards. Ok, Ok, I now see it’s a good idea. Well, I tried to find something I didn’t like!
It works perfectly with solderless cables, which are what a lot of people use these days. I mostly use Disaster Area solderless cables on my boards.
It’s only when I used the Keeley D&M in a pinch with some Fulltone patch cables that it becomes a mild issue. Of course, I solve this by walking to the next room and grabbing my Disaster Area cables instead of being lazy.
Pump Up the Jam
This pedal has a lot of output! By now, it’s no secret that guitarists used to use Tube Screamers to slam the front end of their tube amps.
Both the drive and boost channels of the Keeley D&M have more then enough gain to juice your amp. On the drive channel I have the output knob at the half-way point just to match my clean sound. This gives me plenty of room to blow things up if I want.
True Bypass Looper
By now you’re seeing how versatile the Keeley D&M drive is. I know this because I keep going on and on about it. I’m almost done, but I do want to mention one more thing.
Since this is a dual pedal, it’s likely you’ll hear guitarists somewhere mumbling about wanting to split the drive and the boost in their chain. Maybe they want their OD early in the chain and the boost last in their chain.
Seems like you would need two pedals, right? Get ready for my rabbit out of a hat trick… Keeley’s got this covered.
You can use insert Y cables to isolate each effect. Meaning, you can set it up to have separate ins and outs for the drive and boost. Two independent effects. Brilliant!
You can integrate this pedal into your true bypass lopping system and independently control each effect’s on and off status.
I really do like this pedal. I think it’s one of the best drive pedals on the market. I don’t say that lightly, either. I’ve played so many OD pedals it makes my head spin. I highly recommend you take this one for a spin.