It was long a mystery what overdrive pedal David used 70’s but now we know that his secret weapon was the classic Colorsound Powerboost. The pedal has slowly regained recognition for its awesome tone and several clones have appeared in recent years. I recently got my hands on a Colordrive from Vintage FX.
Introduced in 1968 the Colorsound Powerboost soon became a favorite among many British guitarists for its powerful tone. The pedal was originally designed as a volume booster although many preferred to crank the gain and use it as an overdrive unit. The pedal is considered to be the first real overdrive pedal and a predecessor to the Tube Screamer and later the Tube Driver. In an era when one only had treble boosters and fuzz pedals the Powerboost gave the guitarist a whole new range of tones.
David was first seen using the pedal in early 1972 while premiering Eclipse – the suite that one year later would be released as Dark Side of the Moon. The pedal was David’s main overdrive/booster on Dark Side, Wish You Were Here and Animals, mainly used as an overdrive on songs like Time, Money, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Have a Cigar, Sheep and Pigs. The pedal was later replaced by Pete Cornish version the ST2 and in 1994 by the Tube Driver.
The first thing you notice about the Colordrive is the size. The pedal is housed a sturdy box similar to TRex pedals, about 1/3 of the huge Colorsounds (I’m always scared that I’ll stomp right through the fragile aluminum box on my old Colorsound). Originally the Powerboost only had three knobs: volume, treble and bass (the volume being basically a gain control). Like the current Colorsound reissue, the Colordrive features a master volume that allows you to use the pedal as a clean booster with about 30dB volume boost. The circuit is based on the Solasound (later Colorsound) schematic dated June 1971 with three BC109 silicon transistors and minor tweaks to make the pedal cleaner. The pedal is dead silent although a slight hiss appears when you max the treble, but you never really do that anyway. The pedal has a 9V adapter output for Boss adapters or similar but I strongly recommend 9V carbon batteries for a warmer and smoother tone (it really makes a difference!). And yes, the pedal has a true bypass switch.
Compared to the Colorsound, the Colordrive has a much wider clean range. On vintage style low output single coils (I tested the pedal with Fender CS69 neck/middle and Duncan SSL5 bridge) you can turn the gain up to 2-3:00 before it breaks, while the Colorsound starts to distort around 12:00. The treble and bass controls are also a bit more versatile acting more like passive EQ controls rather than boosters, as they do on the Colorsound (in essence, you can adjust the treble without it affecting the amount of gain). The overall tone is brighter than the Colorsound with a much more defined character and dynamics, which makes this pedal an excellent clean booster that really brings out the full potential of your pickups and amp and even smaller transistor combos at low volume (ideal for getting a bit more tone when you play at home). It’s also perfect for boosting that Big Muff for a tighter more compressed lead tone. The Colorsound is darker and warmer and lack the fine dynamics on clean settings but, in my opinion, it has a much better overdrive tone. Still, with the treble rolled off a bit both on the Colordrive and your amp, you can get great sounding overdrive ideal for that Dark Side and Animals stuff. For WYWH, or more recent tones for that matter, I prefer the Colorsound.
So, to sum it up. I feel that, although very similar to the Colorsound, these pedals are more like two cousins than identical twins. The Colordrive works much better as a clean volume booster than the Colorsound. The pedal fits nicely on the pedal board and the 9V adapter output is handy if you’re fed up with replacing dying batteries. Personally I’d like the pedal slightly warmer, which I think would also make the overdrive tones work better, but it depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a powerful transparent clean booster that works on both tube amps and smaller combos I recommend the Colordrive. I also want to add that Vintage FX offers fast shipping and excellent customer service. Check out their site and full range of pedals.