Overdrive is probably the trickiest of the pedals and effects. For me at least. I’m constantly searching for that something special and whatever that is, seem to change depending on what amp and guitar I use and in what mood I’m in. My latest addition is the Engine from DryBell. Here’s my review.
The Engine is a two channel pedal, with an overdrive and booster, which you can combine either up or down stream. Perhaps not your typical David Gilmour pedal, but it’s an incredibly versatile pedal and definitely one that can handle Gilmour’s unique tones as well.
David Gilmour is known for his pristine clean tones and creamy overdrives. It’s a bit of Hiwatt and Fender combined, with a Tube Driver, or several actually, for more grit. All of these components have strong ties to the very early generation of Marshall amps and the Engine fits right in there.
The overdrive side of the pedal is based on the early 70s Marshall Plexi that just about every rocker used in the 70s. There’s the typical gain, tone and volume controls and a very handy mids control, allowing you to either scoop or boost the mids depending on what amp you’re using.
The booster is basically DryBell’s Unit 67, with a Rangemaster boost, boosting the upper mids, a two band EQ (bass and treble) and a volume boost.
I’m a huge fan of those early Marshall tones. Compared to the overwhelming JCM and the more modern models, the so-called Plexi amps, the JTMs and Super Leads, are to my ears, much more musical and timeless sounding. The Engine captures every nuance and characteristic of these amps, with an impressive accuracy.
It really feels like I’m playing a real tube amp. It’s got that natural compression and it responds incredibly well to my picking, whether I pick gently or really dig into it. One thing I often miss in Marshall modelled pedals is that they either lack the low end or that the mids are either too low or too high. The Engine is perfectly balanced, with that low end chug and the mids right where they should be, without sounding boxy or hollow.
The booster is basically your classic Rangemaster, which was the secret tool British guitarists used in the late 60s and early 70s to get more gain from their Marshall and Vox amps. Page, Iommi, Bolan etc they all used this elusive pedal. Adding a bit of boost to the overdrive takes it over the edge and turns it into a full blown distortion, which is just what you need to be able to cut through during your solos.
David Gilmour relies on his Tube Drivers, which tonewise are very close to a Fender Bassman and Marshall JTM. The Engine is fully capable of nailing those tones and again, the booster, makes it ideal for everything from clean boost to warm overdrive and distortion.
If I were to put my finger on something, then it would be that I miss the compressor from the Unit 67. Since they already featured the booster and EQ, they should also have included the compressor, which would have made the Engine the ultimate compressor, EQ, booster, overdrive pedal. For me at least. Still, this is no doubt one of the finest pedals I’ve played in a long time. Much like their Vibe Machine and Unit 67.
See DryBell for more details.