As a Wampler's fan, I am interested on every pedal that Brian Wampler makes, even that I recognize that not all its pedals are workhorses for each song or gig.
Wampler has a line of awesome all purpose pedals, as the Euphoria OD, the Sovereign Distortion, Faux Tape Echo, EGO Compressor, Nirvana Chorus and, even the Paisley OD.
But, it also has a line of one pony trip pedals, that are after nailing a particular sound, like the Pinnacle, Plextortion, SLOstortion, Blackface, Triple Wreck, etc.
Well, the '57 Tweed is some kind of amp-in-a-box, like the Plexi Drive and, a pedal that is being designed to be at the end of your gain chain, to give that color to your sound as if you were playing into a Fender Tweed amp and, this is a bit complex, since under the Tweed umbrella we can find different amps (Bassman, Champ, Deluxe, Twin...) and, despite that all them have a warm and saggy voice, not all them have the same headroom or break up character.
So, firstly, is there a Tweed sound?. I am sure the answer is not. If you ask for the Tweed sound you will get a different answer, depending on which of the Tweed amps that particular person liked more (a Bassman with a 4x10" cab, a Tweed Champ, ...) but, there are some characteristic that could be common to all them and, in my opinion, I think that's what Brian Wampler tried to catch in this pedal, providing a wide range of gain, three different channels (normal, brigth and bridged) and a complete tone stack that follows the behaviour of the tone stack in those amps.
Then, we have the Leviathan fuzz. As per Brian descriptions, this is fuzz designed from scratch and, that tries to cover every kind of fuzz and go beyond. One of the things that can surprise you more is that the clipping is achieved with diodes, instead of transistors (classic) or IC chips (as moderner takes).
An ambitious project, trying to cover all the ground but, without being based in any old or modern fuzz and, removing all the impedance issues that classic fuzz have, being able to place the pedal whenever you want in your pedalboard. Sounds interesting, indeed.
I am a lover of Fuzz effects but, I am always fighting with my love for fuzzes and the odd issues that introduce in my pedalboard (positive ground, impedance issues, instability, ..) so, I wanted to give a try to this new design.
On the line of the rest of Wampler's pedals. Both come in a discrete white carton box, with some sticker on the front, with a picture of the pedal and Wampler's logo. Each pedal comes inside a fabric bag and wrapped on bubble plastic. Inside the box, as ever, a single-sheet "user's manual", one sticker with Wampler's logo and some info about other pedals.
Pedals seems built as a tank with the appeal of a racing car.
Sets the overall output level of the pedal. It's is better to leave it a bit over the unitary level, while dialing the wanted tone and then, to set up to Unitary Volume Level.
Sets the distortion level and character but is highly influenced by all the rest of controls and, specially by the Input simulator switch
Input Simulator switch
This switch provides three modes that correspond to the two channels available for some models (normal and bright) and the linked option of both channels (as it was often used).
This one is some kind of highs contour knob. It gives the overall character when you are searching for one or another Tweed amp. For sound similar to 10" speakers, raise the highs, for deeper and warmer cabs, lower the highs.
Tweed were all about midrange and, this knob is the key to achieve the exact tweed tone you are after. This is the key knob and, it's the one you have to put your hard work.
This takes care of the low end, helping to shape the Tweed sound you are after. It has a great impact in body and distortion grain.
I would say that this was the hardest to tweak pedal of all Wampler's.
Firstly, the Gain control leaves very few clean headroom. The pedal gives an instant break up with very low gain positions and goes to full saggy saturation so, to get just that sweet spot, in the borders of tube break up with warm harmonics singing was a challenge.
Secondly, as discussed, which Tweed tone do you like is a very personal matter so, it took me a while to find the right settings for tone controls.
Depending on your settings, the pedal can sound lost in the mix or cutting the mix with authority so, you should take your time to adjust the pedal to your rig and, if you can, test it with some backing tracks.
In my tests, the pedal seems to always have some break up level so, I found no way to just get a warm clean sound, it goes dirty very soon.
With the gain very low, it lacks some sustain, what forces me to raise the gain (and obtain break up, again). Probably, the best is to tweak it to the maximum distortion level you will use and then, to control the headroom with your guitar's knob (in the old way). It cleans nicely when you roll off your guitar's volume.
I've tested it with some blues backing tracks and loved the sound. I am quite sure I am still not getting the best of this pedal but, I just need time to exactly get what I am after.
I've focused mainly in the normal channel voice and, I still have to check in depth the other two voices and, very specially the linked one (because it was the most used mode in these amps).
If you are facing this pedal for your very first time, my recommendations are:
- raise your volume level over the unitary volume level
- rest of knobs at noon
- focus first in the Middle knob, set the middles were you wanted them
- focus then in the Highs knob, choose your "speakers".
- focus then in the Bass knob, choose your "cab".
This sets the overall output level of the pedal.
This one controls the level of the fuzz effect and, the amount of available gain depends also on which fuzz mode is active. In its lower settings you can achieve classic Fuzz sounds while set at full you can go beyond Big Muff settings.
Shapes the high frequencies. Roar mode has more high end representation than the Rumble mode. It works very interactively with the Bass knob.
Controls the low end. Adds body and modifies the fatness of the distortion. Overdone, can be a mess. Highly related to Treble, Gain and Mode.
Rumble / Roar toggle switch (mode)
This switch allows the Fuzz to work in two very different modes: Germanium (Roar) or Silicon (Rumble) and, it does it without the positive ground or impedance issues of the classic fuzzes!!!.
The Roar (GE) mode is louder, more raw and unpredictable (what I love) and covers from Tone Bender fuzzes to high gain razor fuzzes.
The Rumble (SI) mode is quieter, more synthetic sounding, more stable, with more refined voice and, covers from Fuzz Face sounds to high gain muff.
I need more time with this pedal. It goes from very subtle fuzzes to high gain muffs, with everything in between. You can get razor-like sounds or deep and muddy ones. All controls have a high dependency so, to achieve a certain sound, you need to tweak and tweak and tweak.
Manual comes with 4 sample settings that will allow you to get the overall possibilities of the fuzz.
I've tried first classic tones: a la Tone Bender and a la Fuzz Face. I wouldn't say that I was able to nail the tone of those fuzzes. I've got a Tone Bender MKII clon (Stroll On) and, they don't feel the same, in my opinion. You go close but you don't get exactly that tone.
Silicon tones are easier to nail, since silicon transistor delivered a more consistent tone, while Germanium was always very unpredictable.
Anyway, no impedance problems!. I can place the fuzz where I want with no issues and that's really good.
It sounds quieter than traditional fuzzes, even at high gain levels and, its tone controls allows you to exactly dial the amount of body, distortion grain or cutting highs you need. In that way, the available range of tones is so huge that makes it difficult to choose which one to use.
Since I ever found Silicon fuzzes as very "processed" and even "synthetized", I focused my experiments firstly in the Roar mode so, I still have to investigate harder the Rumble mode.
I am not sure to get exact classic fuzzes (by now) but, maybe I even don't need those. I just want a flexible fuzz (in all senses) to engage it on demand and that can be compatible with rest of my pedalboard.
The sounds I can get from the Leviathan satisfy me and, I am happy to forgot all the issues I've got with classic designs so, I finally have a Fuzz!.
Since I am still not mastered in those two pedals (that I am still discovering), I wanted to set up them for an usable sound and make some tests with some backing tracks.
The Tweed is being used in the three songs and, the Leviathan just in the last one, with a more fusion approach than classic.
There are other videos already covering several settings of those two pedals so, please, watch those if you wanted a complete review of such a pedals. I was more interested on to know if they were capable of being integrated in my pedalboard and be of help in my songs.
I honestly thing that they have a place in my pedalboard but, I need more experimentation with both pedals to get the best from them.