About a year ago I did a review of the Drive Gate DG-1. Since then TopTone has gained a lot of recognition for their pedals and a couple of newcomers have been added to their rooster. I recently got my hands on the DG-2 and the Light Drive. Here’s my review.
The Light Drive and DG2 are both housed in MXR-sized aluminium boxes and feature true bypass switching and runs on 9V battery or Boss-style adapter power feed. See my review of the TopTone DG1 here.
The Light Drive has a strong tonal resemblance to the Cornish SS2 with a warm, smooth character typical of many of Gilmour’s milder tones on PULSE. It really has a wide range of tones from punchy transparent clean boost to creamy overdrive/distortion. A mix between the Keeley/Analogman modded Boss BD2 and a classic TS9 comes to mind. It’s an incredibly versatile pedal that brings life to your tones, adds a nice crisp attack and lots of sustain. I prefer it as a clean booster set just on the edge of breaking up but it could easily double for the Tube Driver and those hard edge overdrive tones.
I’ve always had a hard time finding overdrives that manages to stand out of the overwhelming variety of pedals. Every model seem to offer something different but only a few catches my interest. The Light Drive works very well for most genres and styles, whether it’s bluesy single coils or hard rock humbuckers. It also manages to stay nicely focused and maintains most of its character on typical bedroom volume levels.
Drive Gate DG2
The DG2 is very similar to one of Cornish’s more unique pedals – the G2. According to Cornish the G2 is based on a generic Big Muff design but the combination of silicon transistors and germanium diodes places the effect closer to a germanium fuzz with a much warmer, smoother character than the usual Muff. Personally I think it’s very close to a classic RAT (LM308 models) which isn’t that surprising really since the RAT was actually based on the old germanium Fuzz Face pedals that were modified for more gain. Compared to the average Big Muff, the DG2 has less lower end but considerably more mid range and sustain.
For this review, I did an A/B test the TopTone DG2 and the Cornish G2 and there’s no doubt that the DG2 sounds better to my ears. In all fairness, they’re very similar and at some settings, they’re hard to tell apart. The G2 has buffers, which obviously makes a difference with long cables and huge pedal boards. The pedal buffers the overall signal, which also better maintains the character of the pedal. I don’t mind true bypass but it can end up sounds a bit too dark on some setups, which might result in the DG2 sounding not as open as the G2.
The DG2 has a bit of noise, which is typical of the mid boosted pedals such as the RAT. It’s nowhere near a RAT in the level of noise though. It also got a much more open tone than the RAT. More presence and a bit more bite in the top, which is a pluss if you think the RAT and similar can be a tad too dark. Compared to the G2, the DG2 has quite a lot more gain, which is why I like this pedal more. Comparing the two I think the DG2 has more of an edge, a more open tone and that little extra, which the G2 doesn’t have. Call it mojo or whatever. I recommend this one warmly!
I know some have argued that TopTone is basically making Cornish clones. Call it what you will but I don’t see how that’s any different than making a clone of any pedal. What matters to me at least is that a pedal offer a tone that I can use and one that makes my playing sound better. In this case, I also prefer the TopTones over Cornish. You may disagree but that OK. That being said, I think it would benefit the TopTone brand to reconsider the name of some of their pedals. It’s tempting to use obvious references but I think it only devalues the otherwise brilliant pedals.
I don’t usually comment on prices but $300+ for a single stomp box is slightly above the average price range. However if you’re like me – not willing to have a huge grey box on your board that you have to wait over a year to receive – then TopTone is a welcomed addition to the wonderful world of stompboxes!