23 June 2013

Pedal Effects: Weehbo PlexDrive and JCM Drive - First impressions


As already said, overdrives and distortions are the pedals that mostly rotate in our pedalboards. We seem satisfied for a while with some and then, there is something else that seems to cover the gaps of our current pedals or, that they seem to do it just a bit or a tad better.

To date, the pedal that left me closer to that Plexi (or early Marshall) sound was the Wampler Plexi Drive and, still works awesome but, all Wampler users are claiming to Wampler the same: "please, give a full tone stack to that pedal to exactly dial the right amount of treble, mid and bass".

Well, I've decided to wait for the next Plexi Drive release but, it doesn't seems to be close in time.

But... in the meanwhile... someone was talking about Weehbo effects. I was curious and, I've checked Youtube demos. I was really impressed with the sound. I thought: "Man, that fills the gaps of the Plexi Drive. They sound really organic. I HAVE TO TEST IT!.

Taking into account that Weehbo is an European firm, we, the european people can celebrate to have an outstanding line of boutique pedals, without having to source them from USA (what means lot of additional expenses in shipping and customs fees).

This blog entry discusses about my own testings with this pedals for about 1 week.

Weehbo PlexDrive and JCM Drive

Both pedals are nailing Marshall tones but, they are covering different types of Marshall vibes.
The PlexDrive is oriented to reproduce the characteristic sonic fingerprint of early Marshall units, as the JTM45 or JTM50 or, even the 1959 (SuperLead).

The tone of most of Rock beasts was built around those amps.
JTM line, with that plexiglas front panel (from where it comes the name), had a very distinctive tone that cutted the mix with authority. Those were low gain to mid gain amps that were pushed harder with the help of some pedals, like the Range Master booster, any kind of vintage fuzz (face fuzz, tone bender, etc) or any kind of treble booster or light overdrive (as the TS-8'08).

So, you should take this into account. The PlexDrive will sound with just that gain level that those amps had and, at its maximum gain level, you will get the same as with a driven Plexi amp. If you want more gain, you should use any thing else before or after (some booster, overdrive, distortion, fuzz).

The JCM Drive has two sides, a JTM side that shares the characteristics of the PlexDrive (even that the PlexDrive sounds to me more accurate) and, a JCM side that covers the original tones of the JCM800 (not hotroded!).

None of both pedals are delivering high gain and, even that the JCM has more gain available, don't expect the gain levels of a hotroded JCM800 or the line of JCM900, by example.

With the PlexDrive, you can easily nail the tone of "Little Wing" or, "The Song remains the same" or many other classic Rock and Hard Rock titles.

With the JCM, is quite easy to get that Deep Purple tones.

Both, stacked, give you a nice and organic Marshall driven sound, nice for leads but, never so compressed and fluid as the sounds you will expect from a Marshall's high gain amp (for that, you have the Weehbo JVM !!!).

Wise Design

Something I've loved from Wampler was that he always gave some additional options to every pedal, that made it as versatile as you would need but, dude, Weehbo goes beyond Wampler boundaries and, does it with spades.

Let's talk first about the INPUT knob. This knob allows you to change the input impedance of the pedal and, therefore, changes the load your pickups see. That translates to the fact that you can use any kind of guitar and any kind of amp without any kind of issues. You can leave rest of control as they are and just to adjust the input knob to suit your rig.
This knob injects the needed guts to your signal and, pushes the pedal in the wanted way.
Play with this knob!. It's key in Weehbo pedals.

Now, let's take tops off, when talking about the DYNAMICS switch.
These pedals are made in a way that your traditional 9V input is being internally increased to 18V.
If you ever checked how a booster or clean overdrive works when operating at 9V or 18V you should now what I mean.
Increasing the Voltage Rail inside the pedal, increases the dynamics of the sound (there is a higher range of voltage to represent different sound levels). So, at 18V, those pedals sound as organic as any tube amp. They really seem the real thing!.

At 9V, the sound is more compressed. Maybe is what you wanted if you are thinking on lead lines but, to my taste those 18V make those pedals to play in another league.

Sure, you can achieve the same with any of your current drive pedals, every time that you feed them with 18V (watch out!, read specifications. Not all pedals allow such an input voltage level). But, to be honest, I've never experienced so much difference as you can hear with Weehbo stuff.
Since Weehbo stuff were designed specifically in that way, they work very differently in each mode and, the dynamics change remembers me the big effect that the Dumping switch has in the Orange Rockerverb 50 amp.

I was browsing the line of Weehbo pedals and, they are mostly covering British sounds, except for a couple of pedals. It seems that Weehbo is just working on the gain pedals area and, even than the Dumbledore is a really good Dumble take (I think I like it more than the Hermida Audio Zendrive or the Wampler Euphoria), I am missing some other kind of pure overdrive unit (a la Timmy or Centaur).

Some of Weehbo pedals have ACTIVE tone stack, which allows you to dramatically change the sound of your guitar and amp and, this is very unusual in pedal makers.
So, I am very excited with Weehbo stuff but, I am missing some basic tools (I hope they will come some early day). I am quite sure, the designer is able to do anything with spades in the drive department.


Well, in most of the Youtube videos I've seen, these pedals are being actually demoed with a Marshall amp!.
Do you want to achieve the Marshall sound in a Marshall?. What's the point, here?.

The first amp where I've run those pedals is the Fender Princeton Reverb reissue I've got.
Nothing more far away than this amp respect of a Marshall signature sound.
The Princeton sounds saggy, darker, a bit compressed and lacks the punchy and crunchy mids of a Marshall. Good for Blues work, not so versatile for rest of things... or it is?.

Well, the Princeton is the hardest of my amps. It takes not so good any pedal and, pedals that shine in my other amps, sound lifeless in the Princeton, maybe because there is no way to regulate the gain at its input (other than use high or low gain inputs). Its sound is so particular that it's hard to "overwrite" with the help of any pedal so... how those Weehbo worked there?.

AWESOME. Enough said.

Instantanely, the Princeton was converted to a family of Marshall amps (depending on pedal settings). It sounds as Marshall as my Marshall 1923C 85th Anniversary Combo (some kind of JCM 2000 DSL50).
For the very first time, those 6V6GT tubes started to seriously cut the mix.

The only thing that worries me is, maybe, an excesive high end content that tends to generate feedback.
I've also noticed this in Youtube videos (looks as Brett Kingman is muting the guitar when detecting that feedback).
I've noticed exactly the same in this amp. There is some ringing high end that tends to generate feedback and, this worries me respect of live gigs.
More on this, I've seen same issue in all Weehbo pedals, according to Youtube videos.

Appart of this issue, pedals sound incredible good, like a real Marshall amp (in an amp that has nothing in common with a Marshall !!!).

To be continued...

I still didn't checked those pedals with all amps and guitars but, tests I did with the Fender Stratocaster and the Charvel San Dimas were really promising.


I've prepared a couple of videos, demoing these two exciting pedals.
First one focus on the PlexDrive and, the second one in the JCM side of the JCM Drive, since the JTM side is close to the PlexDrive. At the end of the second part, I'm testing both pedals stacked together.

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