19 January 2013

Pedals: Wampler Tweed '57 in depth testing

Introduction

Probably, this is the pedal from Wampler that drove me crazy for a longer time. I wasn't sure how to achieve my "Tweed" sound, until I've carefuller read the user's manual.
This pedal is tricky, indeed. To know which goals were behind its design and, how Brian Wampler designed the controls to work to let you achieve your wanted Tweed sound, is key to get the best from this pedal.

Once, I've understood how every control works (despite of its name), things were way easier.
I would like to share with you my experience tweaking this pedal, with an in-depth demo that you can watch in the video attached at the end.


The Tweed Sound

 Firstly, we need to understand that there is not such a Tweed sound. Tweed amps were those early Fender amps with a cream colored cotton twill and a circuitry slightly different to the ones designed for Blackface Fenders (with black tolex). I think the main change was in the negative feedback circuit implemented for Blackfaces that gave them a compresser and thicker sound.

Maybe, there are some common characteristics behind all Tweed era amps. Most have a very mid ranged voice, more in the dark side than in the bright side. They were very dynamic, getting all the nuances of your picking technique and driving he tubes accordingly. The overall sound was warm and silky, with nice harmonics in the tube break up borders and with a dense saggy basses when pushed really hard.

Some of the models you can think on are: the Bassman, Champ, Deluxe and Twin, by example. All sizes, paired with different cabs and speakers, different power, slight differences in circuitry or tubes... so... they were all similar but different, at the end.

When you as for the Tweed sound, everyone has it's own in mind and, that depends on which one made the job for him. From low powered studio combos with single 10" or 12" speaker to powerfuller heads paired with a 4x12" or 4x10" cab. Mounted speakers have also a clear impact in the sound, depending on if they were ElectroVoice or Jensen, by example, or which models were used.

So, to make a Tweed sounding pedal has a wrong starting point for design, since there is not such a thing, there is not just a single and clearly defined Tweed sound.


Brian Wampler's approach

Brian wanted to bring together all those Tweed sounds and, make a pedal versatile enough to be able to emulate the different Tweed models and their differently paired cabs and speakers.
That was a very ambitious project but, If successful, could leave to each player to exactly nail the Tweed tone he was after.

And how Brian designed pedal's controls to achieve this goals?. That's the key to get the best from this pedal. Let explain it a bit.

The key Knob is the Middle one. Forget for a while that has a clear impact on the notch frequency around which middle frequencies are being bumped. Imagine it as a Tweed model selector and, move that knob until you hear the foundational tone of that Tweed you have in mind.
For sure, you will have to revisit this knob several times, while working with rest of controls, since there is a high interaction between all them but, you get the idea...

Now, think on the Treble knob as if it was an speaker selector. Small speakers had a higher projection of trebles so, move it to right hand if you are after that kind of speakers or, move it to left hand if you are after bigger speakers.

Then, think on the Bass knob as the cab selector. Small combos will have a cab that projects less basses and, very specially if its mounting a single 10" speaker so, move that knob to left hand if you are after such a kind of cab. Big cabs and, very specially closed back ones, projected powerfull basses so, move that knob to your right hand if you are after such a kind of cab.

Sure, those three tone shaping knobs work closely together (and affect and are affected also by the Gain knob) so, it would take a while of revisiting all them together to leave you were you wanted but, I am very positive that you will get what you were after.

Now, the Gain knob. Maybe, this is the knob where I find I would like more clean headroom and a smoother transition between clean, break up and distortion.
In my opinion, the Gain at minimum gives the only "clean" this pedal has and, it's a dirty clean anyway. But, that's ok. I always heard those Tweed cleans as warm broken-cleans with nice and full harmonics.
If you are planning to use the Tweed '57 just to shape your overall tone, I like the gain at minimum, because, it just colors the signal and leaves you to stack any pedal before, as if you were playing in front a Tweed.
That broken cleans sound as heaven and are very dynamic and responsive to your picking technique.

Pedal cleans really nice with your guitar's knob, specially in normal and bright channels and, not so good in the linked option. This allows you to work a la old school and therefore, setting your Tweed pedal to the maximum gain you will need and, regulate the break up level with the help of your guitar's knob, in a way quite similar as you'd do in a real amp of that time.

Last tone shaping control that Brian implemented is the Input Simulator. Most of Tweed amps had two channels (with a pair of inputs each one), that were named Normal and Bright. The behaviour and particular voice of such a channels is being reproduced in this pedal unit so, they make a clear difference when you switch the Input Simulator to one or the other.
Finally, a very common practice those days was to jumper both channels together (by example, from input 2 of normal channel to input 1 of bright channel) so you've got a thicker and complexer voice. This is being reproduced with the Linked option of the Input Simulator.

So, you have there all the tools to achieve your wanted Tweed sound and, now, you know how controls were planned to work to get the right results.

Do this pedal achieve Tweed sounds?.
I cannot really answer that, since all tweeds I've heard were owned by others and, even that you can hear those in lots of recordings, you know that studio work masks the real thing so, I really don't know.
What I can say is that this pedal sounds purely awesome (once you understand how it works) and, it delivers wonderful sounds and, leaves my to get the Tweed I have in my mind (that shouldn't necessarily be your Tweed!).


The Video

The sound is better to hear than to explain. This video discusses a bit what was already discussed above in the blog entry and, starts demoing how he different controls help to achieve the tone, as described above.
Finally, an small channel by channel comparison.
It's around 30 mins long so, get your pop corns a beer, relax, push the volume button and watch it or, leave it for when you have time.

6 comments:

  1. Hi,
    And thanx for a great review!
    How well does wampler tweed 57 work with Vox night train NT15 (or other el84 based amps)?
    All the best
    Haris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No worries.
      The NT is one of those amps that takes well any pedal.
      I didn't find a pedal that didn't worked with the NT.
      The Tweed '57 works flawless there.

      Delete
    2. Not to be mean but it's hard to understand why this Pedal confused you so much. I find it hard to get a bad sound. It's very easy for me. The controls are simple and work good in any settings.

      Delete
  2. Thanx man,
    I have another question!
    Do you have any experience with Lovepedal high power tweed twin? In that case, how does it compare to Wampler tweed 57? Is Lovepedal perhaps more rigdependant than Wampler, considering all the tweaking options that Wampler provides. But many people swear on Lovepedal having the more authentic and much sweeter tweed tone than Wampler. You see, since I play though a 15w amp (Vox nt15 modded with and EHX 12ay7 in V1 and Ei 12ax7 in V2 and 2 Mullard El84 reissue in V3 and V4) with master volume pushed all the way up to push those Mullards and preamp gain knob on about 9 a cklock just to have that slightly dirty sound. However, there's not much headroom left here so I am afraid that an additional OD pedal without enough gain range might just turn out to be a bit too much, behaving almost like a high gain pedal. At this time the dirt pedals I have in my pedal-chain are: a Vox Cooltron Duel OD, a Vox valve-tone v810, an ehx germanium OD, a Visual Sound Truetone boost, an earthquake devices hoof, an dwarfcraft devices shiva fuzz, an ampeg scrambler reissue and also a mini-mod fuzzer - and they're ALL set near to minimum gain and still each one can push my amp fairly strong into overdrive. (I only sometimes stack one or two for a particular flavour but too much stacking easily results in uncontrollable distortion mayhem). I guess what I want to avoid is acquiring a tweed pedal that only can do a cranked tweed sound. But still I don't want to compromise with the authenticity of desired tweed sound, If you know what I mean? What are your thoughts on this?

    Will you please be kind and reason with me a bit on this one?

    I appologize for being lengthy. I'm just tryin' to help you help me.
    Kindest regards!
    Haris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have no experience with the Lovepedal take of tweed sound.

      Nails the Wampler the tone?. Honestly, I don't know.
      Does it matter?. It doesn't, is a sweet pedal, all the way, with high tweakability.

      My experience with Lovepedals is that they are one trick pony, doing very well what they should do but, doesn't have great possibilities to modify that signature sound.

      The Wampler is so sweet as the Mad Professor's Sweet Honey overdrive, with higher tweakability and, in my book, worked perfectly with Marshall DSL50, Fender Princeton Reverb RI and Vox NT.

      The issue you are having with the NT is due to your pre-amp configuration, IMHO. I know the 12AY7 will let you closer to a tweed than a 12AX7 BUT, sound and headroom are compromised then.

      If you have the chance, please try the following:
      1) a couple of Mullard 12AX7 reissues in V1 and V2.
      2) a Mullard 12AX7 RI in V1, a NOS JAN/Philips 5751 in V2.

      Then, you would be able to run the amp clean or in the break-up sweet spot, at higher volumes and, with richer sound.

      That couple of Mullard 12AX7 RI in pre-amp together with those Mullard EL84 RI in your power amp will do Magic, believe it!.

      Delete
  3. Great, thnx man - and thank yoy for the advice!

    ReplyDelete

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