• Costalab Natural Drive review

    Italian company Costalab offer clones of classic Gilmour related pedals and their Natural Drive promise to be a faithful clone of the Pete Cornish SS2. The familiar Wall motive covering the pedal is an obvious attempt on a cheap marketing stunt but it did the job at getting my attention. Here’s my review.

    The Pete Cornish Soft Sustain appeared in David’s rig around 1993 during the Division Bell recording sessions. It was also featured in the 1994 tour/PULSE stage setup and later in the 1999 Pete Cornish MKI All Tubes pedal board used for the 2001/02 acoustic shows and On an Island recording sessions. The pedal is loosely based on the old MXR Distortion + circuit although with a distincly more sophisticated tone.

    The Natural Overdrive is housed in a rather large box aprox the size of a TRex but about twice as deep. It has controls for volume, drive and tone and runs on 9V adaptor or battery. The pedal is offered in both a true bypass version and a buffered true Cornish clone version. I’ve tested the buffered version (MKII) for this review on my main stage rig (Reeves Custom 50 with 4×12” Weber Thames 80w speakers) and my home practice rig (Laney Cub12 15w stack with 2×12” Weber Thames 80w speakers) and a Strat with EMG DG20 pickups.

    I’ve always had a struggle with overdrive pedals. They seem to be much more demanding that the average distortion or chorus pedal and often change character completely with different amps and guitars. When I first tried the Natural Drive it sounded dark and muddy and didn’t do much to convince me that this was a keeper. However after some tweaking it started to come alive and I must say that it was a huge positive surprise! It’s been anwhile since I used a SS2 but based on my memory alone the Natural Drive is very similar. Perhaps a tad darker with a hint more gain. The tone has a distinct mid rangy flavour with a smooth break up and a well balanced lower end. What I do like the most about this pedal is the natural compression that adds a nice smooth attack to your tone making a compressor almost redundant.

    Although the pedal is capable of producing a punchy clean boost it doesn’t really open up that well on lower gain settings. Compared to the Colorsound Powerboost and Tube Driver it sounds quite muddy and harsh. The tone knob could also have been more dynamic with a wider tonal range. It’s pretty useless in my opinion below 12:00 (o’clock) but increasing it to around 2:00 produces an incredibly right character with a crispy attack and creamy lows making the pedal cut through nicely in a band situation. The strength of this pedal becomes evident when you set the gain past 12:00 and use it as a dedicated overdrive. The smooth character and warm creamy crunch really stands up to the Tube Driver and nails those classic PULSE tones.

    I must admit though that the pedal hasn’t found its way to any of my boards but the reason is basically because it sounds too much PULSE for my taste and that’s never been my preferred Gilmour era. However, combine this pedal with an analog chorus, a mild delay and the EMG DG20 pickups and it’s hard to not drift away to Earl’s Court one October night in 1994.

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27 Responsesso far.

  1. OMAR says:

    Top Tone Light Drive or ocd?

  2. Cameron says:

    Have you ever looked at the Red Jasper by Free The Tone? I watched a video review comparing the Red Jasper to an SS-3 and they sound very similar. It’d be worth checking out.

  3. Paul A. says:

    Hey Bjorn,
    how does costalab pedals compare to top tone pedals? which ones are closer to Cornish you think?

    [Top Tone. No doubt. – Bjorn]

  4. Jeff says:

    Where can I buy Costalabs pedals?

    [Check out their MySpace site. – Bjorn]

  5. Joey D. says:

    Disregard that last one, just received a very nice and informative email from the owner.

  6. Joey D. says:

    Anyone hear back from these guys? I emailed them twice about their Tape Echo Simulator and haven’t heard anything back (this was about 2-3weeks ago)

  7. ALVIN LEE says:

    many parts are out of tune ,it’s true

    nice pedal rewiew

  8. Allan says:

    Someone’s keen ^ ;)

  9. didi says:

    Generaly you play very well but this was not a good day of you,if i show you would you post it to compare :) i can play it very very well and sooo close

    [I like your humble tone so much that I’d love to post a link to your clip :) – Bjorn]

  10. didi says:

    your playabillity is awfull you killed the solo sorry :)

    [Why don’t you show us how it’s suppose to sound then… :) – Bjorn]

  11. Giorgio says:

    Well I am not a great fun of the “pulse” era either, but I happened to be in Modena in 1994 nonetheless and I can tell you the air was not lukeworm, it was shaking… well you really don’t have words to describe it you just had to be there, especially during DSOT which came as a complete surprise. I kept telling myself is this really happening? Hey, they’re playing ‘On the Run’! And there was a clear melancholy in the air knowing that Roger for whatever reason wasn’t there. The live record doesn’t pay justice, really.
    Sorry to divert a bit but could not resist to jump in.

    [Thanks for sharing Giorgio! Of all the bootlegs I have from the tour the Modena show stands out as a magical night. You’re lucky to have been there! – Bjorn]

  12. ruodi says:

    There must be something wrong with my ears: I can´t realize any dullness nor muddiness in the sound of this pedal! For me it sounds great – at least/even within this sloppy demo video! Seems to be as if you´d “have it inside your fingers” meanwhile. I´m pretty sure that you´ve already come to a level where everything that you´re playing sounds more or less like the master himself (as long as you actually want to sound like him, of course). I wouldn´t exclude the possibility though, that this pedal revealed its dullness, muddiness, inferiority if, for example, I would play on it. ;-) – Folks, don´t expect to sound like Bjorn Riis by just duplicating his gear! This man is a sort of spheric monument conservator – and certainly out of this world …

    … I´m asking myself if there is any “PULSE guitar sound” at all. For me, the PULSE album is rather the absence of a remarkable guitar sound! Everything sounds equal (even the singing), and I have always the oppressive feel of lukewarm, conditioned & exhausted air by listening to these Pink Floyd 3.0 guitar solos. And so is the whole live album: Over-processed! No, I don´t like the PULSE era at all – though it would be great to get this huge sound out of my new little Laney Cub12 rehearsal amp! * :-)) *

    [Ha ha! Where do I start…? First of all I do agree with you… to some extent… that PULSE is over processed and at times a bit dull. Although there are some amazing moments on that album guitarwise I’ve always though that it lack some of that personality, spontaneity and honest feel heard on live recordings from the 70s or even Gdansk. The reason for this is many things. Not least because the album was produced in the 90s, which wasn’t much better than the 80s sonically. I often listen to bootlegs from the tour rather than PULSE, like Modena, Italy. It reveals some of the natural character of David’s tones. Anyway… As I said in the review, the Natural Drive do sound spot on the PULSE tones with the rights settings. It’s hard to find the sweetspots but once you find them the pedal really shines. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  13. Eric Nyberg says:

    I don’t know what it is about the Pulse tones but there seems to be some sort of a digital aftertaste in them. I love the construction of the C-numb solo, it’s my favorite version but I think the tone lost something in trying to fight all those lights with the EMG’s.

    [I’ve grown very fond of the EMGs over the years but they do sound quite different to vintage style pickups. Especially the CS69s and similar that you’d want to use for David’s tones. Not quite vintage sounding and not quite humbuckers either. I prefer David’s Black Strat tones. Seems to sound more natural and honest. – Bjorn]

  14. Danish Mahmood says:

    Hey! I really seem to like this pedal! It takes care of a lot of PULSE tones as you have said! It sounds a lot like the SS2 which great. May ask where you bought it from (an online site I’m guessing). Thanks!

    [They don’t have a site up yet but check out their MySpace site or send them an e-mail. – Bjorn]

  15. Freddy says:

    Cool review,
    I saw on Costa Lab’s my space page that they had other “Floydish” pedals too but they don’t seem to have a homepage and no pricelist. Do you know any distibutors for Costa Lab?
    Regards,
    Freddy

    [They’re fairly new so I don’t think they have any distributors yet. You can contact them directly via e-mail. – Bjorn]

  16. Marc-Étienne says:

    Hi Bjorn ! Can you guide me to find greats overdrives and/or distortions to cover both PULSE and On and Island tone ? And i’m not able to find where I can buy costalab pedals. Thank you !

    [They don’t have a site up yet but you can contact them directly via e-mail or check out their MySpace site.
    Choosing the right overdrive depends very much on which amp you’re using. If you want something versatile that’ll cover both PULSE and Island and that works on almost any amp I’d go for a Tube Screamer 808/TS9, Fulltone OCD or Boss BD-2 (preferably Keeley mod). Still, David used/uses Tube Driver overdrive for the periods. It’s an awesome pedal but needs a loud tube stack to sound its best. – Bjorn]

  17. Vadim says:

    Hi Bjorn!
    At this pedal, I heard a very dull sound. And the sound in my opinion is a distant sound to the sound of “rememer that night” and even more so to the “Pulse”. I think the Maxon/Ibanes will sound much better. I get the impression that many companies simply want to cash in on David’s name. Incidentally, why do not you like the sound “Pulse”. In my opinion a delicious sound!
    Yours faithfully
    Vadim.

    [It’s not that I don’t like the PULSE tones but they’re not my favourite. I’ve always been more into David’s Animals, Wall, Final Cut tones and have based my tones on that period. Still, there are some magical moments on both Delicate and PULSE.
    It’s always hard to do justice to a pedal in these reviews. Especially since I don’t have the proper recording equipment. IMO the Natural Drive does a good job producing those PULSE overdrive tones but it has its flaws, which I mentioned in the review. – Bjorn]

  18. Giorgio says:

    Great timing for this review! I was just browsing around looking for a true bypass overdrive that could do for gilmour ..I have a Blues Driver which is good and works fine with the RAT but is buffered. I am trying to put a together four of five pedals all with true bypass and the overdrive is the missing link. Besides the RAT I also have a Little Big Muff and planning to get a Fuzz one day (MXR Classic Fuzz is shortlisted for now). What do you suggest for a transparent vintage overdrive? OCD? My rig is too small for the Powerboost, I play at home. This one sounds good (with your playing for sure, spot on!) but I agree is a bit too much Pulse…
    Ciao

    [The Natural Drive has a buffer too although a much better one than the Boss. IMO the OCD is a much more versatile overdrive that seems to go very well with most setups and tones. – Bjorn]

  19. Carlo says:

    Hi Bjorn! Nice review, but IMHO the Providence Stampede:
    http://www.providence.jp/providence_e/fx_series/fx_3.html

    is far better and sounds more natural… I’ve tested the Natural Drive MkI and I’ve found it too bassy and muddy in every setting!
    The Providence SOV-2 is more natural, with a lots of headroom (it has an internal DC converter which pumps the voltage up to 15v), a little more gain on tap and a versatile sound, not too-too much PULSEish :D

    [Thanks for the tip! I’ll check it out. The Natural Drive is muddy and has lots of bass but after having spent some time with the settings I’ve found a setup that sounds very nice indeed. Still, wouldn’t characterize it as versatile in the lines of the BD2 or OCD. – Bjorn]

  20. Eric Nyberg says:

    ugh…I think I’m gonna stick with my Keeley Phat Mod BD-2…

    [:) – Bjorn]

  21. Ricardo Almeida says:

    When will you show a vid with your reeves amp?
    I received today a Peter Cornish P-2. It was love at the first chord…:).
    It play beautifuly. But when i turn the Tube driver(gain at 8:00 and leval at 11)) after the P2 i receive a lot of feedback and volume. The sound is too loud. I can’t play silent. too must noise. and it is note hum.
    I have must more control with the Boss BD2 (keeleymod). It is more quiet. My chain:
    FENDER Stratocaster deluxe with EMG DG20 pickup>MXR dynacomp(JHS mode)>BOSS CS3 (montallum mod)>PROCORAT (keeley mod)>P2>BYOC (triangle version)BD2 (KEELEY mod)>Tube Driver>TREX replica>BOSS GE7 (analogman)>CE2 (keeley mod)>Laney CUB 12 amp

    [What’s your settings on the P2? It’s one of the few Muff models that seems to work better alone than with a booster so you might want to try using it alone or adjust the gain on the P2 and TD if you use both. Keep in mind that adding a compressor also adds a lot of volume, gain and noise. It’s also wise to set the gain on the Laney at 1 (7:00 o’clock) and the master high. Any higher on the gain will often cause feedback when you engage gain pedals. – Bjorn]

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