Tuesday, August 6, 2019

JHS AT Drive Andy Timmons Pedal Review

There is a sound I have searched for, a sound that I first noticed in David Gilmour's Live in Gdansk, Eric Johnson had something similar, Andy Timmons had "that sound" too. Part of it is phrasing but as I dug and dug into their somewhat complicated rigs I found it was partly the sound of the BK Buttler Tube Driver. I say partly because the Tube Driver has to be played into a cranked amp to get that sound and sounds awful at low volumes. With all three of them it is an EL34 based amp. The Hiwatt's for Mr Gilmour and for Eric and Andy old Marshall Plexi's set somewhat clean or crunchy. Andy later switched to Mesa's particularly the Stiletto (which if you read my review was a tweaked clone of his two plexi's). Then a while back JHS and Andy released the AT drive and then shortly after that the AT Drive V2. Then I noticed the Tube Driver wasn't on his board anymore.

I've been using an OCD clone using Bjorn Riss's settings to duplicate the Tube Driver but I finally got my hands on the JHS AT Drive V2 and I will confirm that this pedal can give you "that tone". I've talked about my love of Andy's tone in this post and others and I've played most of his gear at some point or another.

The AT Drive sound reminds me of the lead channel on the Mesa Lonestar, It has a Marshall like quality while being very liquidy and smooth and not to in your face. It's not exactly the Lonestar's lead channel but it has those qualities a kind of chewy power distortion style drive.  I keep seeing people say this sounds like a JCM800... it doesn't. It doesn't sound like any JCM800 I've played through. It doesn't have that punch or in your face roar. If your looking for a Marshall in a box pedal there are other options.

The EQ knob works like a tone knob on your typical three knob drive pedal. All the way to the right is open and then it rolls off the top end as you roll it back. The AIR knob is the really interesting feature in this pedal. It acts similar to the presence knob on an amp opening up the top end of the amp. Finding the right balance between the EQ and the AIR for your setup is the secret here. Once you find that plugging into different amps should only be a matter of adjusting the AIR. The EQ should stay pretty much the same. You might roll it back for brighter amps and forward for more compressed amps. It sounds amazing into both Fendery 6L6 amps and Marshally EL34 amps thanks to the AIR

The toggle switch moves you from 25watts in the up position, 50 watts in the down and 100 watts in the middle. When I owned a Mesa Stiletto it had the option of 100 watt and 50 watt and I don't think the volume difference was this dramatic but it's interesting to note that it adds more compression so if your using this as an overdrive into a gained up amp you may find the 25 watt more useful. You will move your volume knob a lot when deciding where to put this one.

For a long time Andy said he would use a compressor to boost the front end of his amps. The boost section can be used independently making it that much more versatile. If your amp is set clean just below breakup it can push it over the edge to a nice crunch and definitely adds some compression to the sound, rounding off the lows and adding more mids. Adding it in front of the main drive section of the pedal pushes it harder adding more gain and compression but not that much more volume. Still this would be helpful for solos if you need a bit more singing sustain.

As you can imagine if you like stacking gain pedals this pedal is amazing. TS type pedals are good but more open pedals like the Boss Blues Driver (also on Andy's board) and the plethora of Klon klones out there sound glorious with this pedal. Currently I'm stacking the Way Huge Saucy Box with  mine and it's hard not to stay with both of them on. I have to say that as good as it sounds with higher output humbuckers this pedal is amazing with more vintage open sounding pickups. Single coils in particular really sing.

Who might use the JHS AT Drive? Well obviously people who want to sound like Andy, but also minimalist who want less pedals on their board. It's a great overall sound and with the added boost making it very versatile. With just a clean fender-y amp like a Hotrod Deluxe you can have four sounds One clean, second pushed with the boost, third with the main drive sound and forth with the drive and boost together. With a two channel amp like a DSL or similar the options really start to add up.

I got a great deal on this pedal at Replay Guitar Exchange in Tampa and was in no way compensated for this review

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