Review updated 4 January 2009
David is often associated with his lead tones but he’s a master creating the sweetest overdrive tones too. Ever since 1994’s Division Bell he’s been using the Tube Driver as his main overdrive unit and it’s been one of my favourites for the last couple of years.
The classic Colorsound Power Boost was David’s main overdrive unit in the 70’s and after some experimentation with different units in the 80’s he settled with the Tube Driver during the Division Bell sessions in 1993-94. The pedal was also an essential part of his tones on 2006 On an Island album an tour.
The Colorsound Power Boost and Tube Driver are very similar, which may be one of the reasons why David chose the Tube Driver. They both got that powerful transparent tone with thundering lows and a crisp top. The main difference is the dynamics and warmth you’ll get from the tube in the Tube Driver but my experience is that with the gain all the way up the Colorsound manages to stay more focused and compressed. David uses two Tube Drivers in his rig but you could easily substitute one of them with a Power Boost for a hint of that vintage flavour.
The Chandler Tube Driver (in David’s rig from 1993-2006) has a slightly warmer tone than the new BK Butler model (in David’s rig from 2006). Tonewise, I would perhaps place the Chandler somewhere between a Tube Screamer and a BK Tube Driver. The BK has a bit more presence and a generally more aggressive tone, although this can to some extent be “controlled” by replacing the stock tube.
The 2006 BK model is delivered with a 12AX7 tube which is a bit too aggressive for my taste. It depends on what tone you’re looking for but it has a very narrow clean response and it can be a bit boomy as well. I replaced the 12AX7 with a 12AU7 (JJ Electronic) for an overall warmer tone with more compression and a much wider range from powerful clean volume boost to soaring overdrive.
- This a clip of my band Airbag and the song Prelude. I’m using my black Strat with CS69 pickups > Gollmer Composus > BK Tube Driver > Boss DD2 > Sound City amp.
Check out Airbag’s Youtube Channel.
Keep in mind that if you do decide to replace the 12AX7 tube you should give the pedal some time to break in. All tubes, whether it’s your amp or a pedal, need some time before they reach their potential so don’t freak out if the 12AX7 blows your head off the first time you try it. Likewise, expect the 12AU7 to sound a bit muffled at first before it breaks in and “opens up” nicely.
The Tube Driver is designed for bigger tube amps so if you’re mostly playing at home on a smaller rig or transistor amps I’d go for something a bit more versatile like a Boss BD-2 or Ibanez/Maxon Tube Screamer.
The BK Tube Driver is an excellent overdrive ideal David’s 70’s and present tones although I have no trouble getting great PULSE tones as well. It also works extremely well as a booster for the more demanding distortions like the Big Muff.