There are so many overdrive/distortion pedals on the market and most say the same thing in their description. Overdriven tube amp sound. Yet, when I’ve played through many they don’t actually sound like an amp overdriven. That’s not to say they sound bad. Some sound quite nice, but not really like a cranked tube amp.
I’ve been testing out the Effectrode Tube Drive for a few weeks now. I must say I’m quite impressed. I read up a little on the pedal before I received it. I knew that it runs at high voltage which allows more headroom.
This was appealing to me. Part of my dis-satisfaction with other pedals is I feel they’re too compressed.
When I first plugged in I was quite surprised. It didn’t cut any low end from my sound. I find that a lot of overdrive pedals tend to filter the signal. The Tube drive leaves the low end intact. It actually feels like a tube amp. It has that nice sag feel to it.
Since reviews are merely opinion based, let me give you a little about my background and tastes. I tend to prefer non master volume amps. I like power tube saturation. I use Victoria tweeds, the occasional Blackface Princeton or a Marshall JTM 45. Volume is an issue with ever changing environments when you like amp overdrive. I sometimes need a pedal to help me get that sound at small club volume.
I don’t play with a lot of gain. Just about the amount you would get from a tweed deluxe cranked. I find this is hard to recreate with pedals.
I’ve tried plenty.. Klon, OCD, Tube Screamer, Full Drive, Real Tube, Holy Fire, Slostortion, Expandora, Box of Rock and so many others. I still own a lot of these because sometimes they’re the right tool.
The Effectrode Tube Drive can do what others can’t. Create authentic real overdrive tube crunch.
I used the pedal in a number of environments. From 500 to 50 seat venues. Home studios to commercial studios.
I also tried it with a series of amps like a Victoria tweed 35115, Victoria 510, Fender Silverface Twin, Fender Blues Deville, Bogner Shiva and a Fender 59 Bassman.
For guitars I used a Les Paul with Voodoo pickups, Standard American Stratocaster, Telecaster ’52 re-issue with Voodoo pick ups and a Gibson Melody maker with P90’s.
The Tube Drive is a pretty quiet pedal. More then a lot of other pedals I used. it should be noted I’m not the noise police. I don’t mind a little hum here and there. I like analog tube gear and P90’s. it’s to be expected. Still though, it’s nice and quiet.
The craftsmanship is top notch. There is nothing flimsy about it. Sealed pots ensure dust will never get in them. It also features special pots that can handle force from stepping on them.
It does still have tubes exposed though. They’re guarded by metal rails, but you still have to be a little careful.
The top 12AX7A tube is swappable. You can buy variety of miniature 9 pin double triode tubes to try. other tubes like a 12AU7 will result in more subtle again.
The Effectrode Tube Drive features an all tube Baxandall stack circuit. In simple terms it allows you more control then a traditional bass-mid-treble knob on an amp.
You can either cut or boost with the circuit. This is a powerful feature. There are times when I have to plug into an amp that is bright enough to cut your head off. The cut option is a life saver.
When you boost, it’s definitely not a traditional bright knob. It’s very dynamic with what frequencies are getting boosted.
Mellow/ Bright Switch
Perfect for when you need more chime. They were smart by placing the bright switch before the tube clipping circuitry. This prevents the pedal from getting fizzy. Another pet peeve of mine from other pedals.
Active Bass Boost
Low end can be a tricky thing on guitar. It doesn’t take much to get tubby. Often what sounds fat in a room sounds mushy and undefined on recordings.
I’m not sure what freq. gets boosted when this is engaged on the Effectrode Tube Drive, but they clearly made the right choice.
You can easily get that Grungy sound without losing focus. It adds just the right amount of weight.
The Tube Drive is equipped with noiseless switching. This is done to avoid popping when switching the effect on and off. The only drawback is there is a slight delay while it switches over.
This could be a problem for those that use this as a distortion pedal. There are two solutions: Get good at knowing how long it takes to switch over (couple of milliseconds). The other option is to use it in a true bypass loop.
When I do use this pedal as an effect rather then front end, I place it in a Loopmaster switcher. This is my preference for all pedals on my pedal board. It keeps all my switching easily accessible. I also tend to like things completely out of the chain when it’s off even if it’s true bypass.
External Foot Switch
There is an option to control the on/off of the pedal from a remote footswitch. I’m guessing this idea came for two reasons. 1: the foot print is kinda large (a little bigger then two regular pedals combined). 2: They realized some of us would be using this as a front end for our amps.
In the event you have the pedal at a distance from foot reach, you can set up a small remote pedal on your board with a small footprint.
The Effectrode Tube Drive comes in at $425. US. That may cause some to do a double take. But, consider this… How many pedals have you bought over the years and haven’t been satisfied?
I’ve lost much more then that amount. I’ve rarely regretted buying some of my most expensive pieces. My Fulltone TTE and Valvetrain Spring Thing were very pricey. They’re both still an important pat of my collection. Many other things have come and gone.
It’s worth the money in my opinion. It’s a pedal to grow old with, not a bargain bin special.
My Signal Chain
There are a couple of options for running this pedal. There is the traditional position in the chain before spatial effects. This is great when you might be using the pedal for higher gain settings and/or switch it off and on.
I’m using it in a less common manner. Because I really like when an amp breaks up, I also like the sound of any effects running before the overdrive changing. For example, I prefer my spring reverb to run through the overdrive. Same thing for tape delay. That means I place the tube drive last in the chain. Everything runs before it.
It’s what you hear if you take a Blackface Princeton Reverb and crank it (with reverb on). It all gets overdriven. It’s lovely.
The Tube Drive is the 1st pedal that I can place last in the chain and it doesn’t get over squashed.
Because of my placement of the pedal I never turn it off. It’s part of my amp.
It’s becoming more and more important to have a swiss army rig that can work with a variety of back line amps on tour. It’s becoming less likely you’ll get to use your preferred amp every night. Even though you have a rider, they still may give you the amp you don’t want.
So, what do you do? You have to find a way to make it work. Having the Effectrode Tube Drive as a front end to my amp helps me have some consistency when I’m on the road.
It can make a high powered clean amp sound good at tolerable volumes.
Ok, I know it seems like I have a lot of good things to say about this pedal. How can it be that good? Well, it is. I’m just really stoked to find the pedal I’ve been waiting decades for. Choosing pedals is a personal preference ofcourse. But, if you’re into:Tom Petty, Cream, Black Sabbath, White Stripes, Early Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Stones, Ryan Adams, Allman Brothers, Pearl jam and Soundgarden (to name just a few) you’re going to love the Tube Drive.