First Impressions: Tone City Wild Fro and Durple Pedals

Last month, I pre-ordered both the Wild Fro and Durple pedals. They arrived earlier this morning (along with the Abasi Pathos, which I’ll cover in a separate blog post).

I’ve had an hour or so with the pedals so far. Here’s my first impressions.

tl;dr

The Durple is an affordable Amp Eleven sound-alike, with a Mid control that should make it very easy to dial this pedal in for just about any amp and guitar. I’m very happy with this pedal.

If you like the Amp Eleven sound, Mosky make an even more affordable pedal called the Amp Turbo. To my ears, it’s a perfect clone of the original Amp Eleven. Speaking of which, Lovepedal’s Amp Eleven is still in production today, and the now discontinued Lovepedal OD11 is the drive section from the Amp Eleven.

The Wild Fro is an affordable, brighter-sounding Suhr Riot that works best with my Telecaster. It didn’t work with my Strat’s neck pickup as well as I expected from the demos. With single coils, it’s a little noisy and has an ear-fatiguing harshness in the top-end. Sounds great with humbuckers though!

The original Suhr Riot doesn’t have the noise problem, but it is a much darker pedal. It’s out of production. Second hand copies do turn up from time to time. I haven’t tried the newer Suhr Riot Reloaded, so I can’t compare. It’s also one of the most cloned pedals of all time, so if you can’t afford an original, you’ll find one in the lineup of many Far Eastern pedal manufacturers.

Both pedals are affordable, and are worth a punt to see if you like them. Or do what I did, and get both just to have the set.

What Are They?

These two pedals are a collaboration between Rabea Massaad, “Danish” Pete Honore, and the folks at Tone City Pedals.

If you haven’t come across them before, both Rabea and Danish Pete are (amongst other things) part of the crew of the Andertons YouTube channel. Andertons are also the UK-exclusive distributor of Tone City pedals.

Tone City are a Far-East pedal manufacturer, known for their range of mini pedals. I’m not sure if they’re an outright circuit cloner like Rowin and Mosky are, or whether their pedals include meaningful design changes.

What’s My Signal Chain?

I’ve tried both pedals through both channels of the Synergy T-DLX, into a Syn 5050 power amp, and out to two 1×12 open-back cabinets (16 ohm Celestion Blue and 16 ohm Celestion A-Type). The green channel on the T-DLX sounds like a Fender Twin, and the red channel sounds like a Fender Deluxe Reverb (ie, the blackface clean tone).

For guitars, I used my Fender Elite Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul Custom, and Fender Vintera 60’s Modified Telecaster.

It’s a great rig for running pedals, and the three guitars between them cover all the main bases.

The Durple

The first pedal I plugged in was The Durple. This is a tweaked Tone City Mandragora, which in turn is based on the Lovepedal Kalamazoo. I haven’t played either of those pedals, so I’ve no idea how The Durple compares to either of them, sorry.

From the first note, though, this pedal sounded really familiar. Where have I heard this before? Ah yes. Turn down The Durple’s Mid control to just above 9 o’clock, and this pedal sounds very close to the Lovepedal Amp Eleven.

I wasn’t expecting that at all.

I’m a huge fan of the Lovepedal Amp Eleven. It’s one of my favourite drive pedals of all time (and no, despite the controversy around it, it doesn’t sound like Pete Cochrane’s Timmy pedal at all).

The Durple doesn’t seem to be an outright Amp Eleven clone. The Durple has Mid and Tone controls, while the Amp Eleven has Bass and Tone controls. To my ears, these EQ controls do different things, so while it’s possible to make them sound the same, it’s also possible to make them sound somewhat different.

This pedal’s a keeper.

The Wild Fro

I’m not sure that I can say the same about The Wild Fro.

Of the two pedals, this is the one that I was looking forward to the most, based on the demos that Rabea and Danish Pete posted when the pedals were first announced. I love the idea of a lower-gain pedal voiced for Fender Strats, and I think Rabea got some great tones out of it in his demo.

Sadly, I’m no Rabea, and I can’t make this pedal sound as good as he does.

Even with the gain dialled all the way back, this pedal is a bit noisy. Not unusable with single coils, but nosier than I wish it was. For home use, it’s fine. If I wanted to crank the gain on this (or use the ‘More Gain’ switch), I’d need a noise gate too.

Tone wise, the first thing that leaps out is the surprising amount of low mids. This pedal’s quite thick-sounding through the Twin-like green channel on the T-DLX, making it a bit muddy with the neck pickup of my Strat. Switching over to the Deluxe-like red channel on the T-DLX, the more scooped sound cleans up the mud a lot, and gives the guitar quite a cutting sound.

Switch to a Telecaster, and I’m immediately much happier. The snap and bite of this pedal is well suited to the aggressiveness of Tele pickups, and all that extra low mid from the pedal balances out the Tele’s natural high mids in a very nice way.

Unfortunately, the top-end on the Wild Fro is a little harsh for me with my Tele. It’s the kind that causes me ear fatigue. I can tame it a bit by rolling down the tone, but in this very quick first go with the pedal, I haven’t managed to hit the sweet spot yet.

All that said, I think this pedal’s best suited to the humbuckers of a Les Paul into a blackface-voiced amp. The top-end harshness is gone, and I’m left with a punchy and really clear sound. It’s a sound with a lot of bite, which is nicely tamed just by rolling down the pickup’s volume control.

Side by side, The Wild Fro is brighter than the Suhr Riot that it’s based on. Until I compared them, I didn’t realise just how dark the Suhr Riot is. Going back and forth between the two, I had to crank the Suhr Riot’s tone control up past 2 o’clock to stop it sounding very dull. Any chance that the Suhr Riot is voiced to go into an old Marshall plexi that still has its bright cap?

The Suhr Riot has a toggle switch to select between three different voices. It’s not a pedal that I use a lot, and I don’t know it very well. To my ears, at lower gain (and extra brightness aside), the Wild Fro is voiced like the middle position of the Suhr Riot. But I wouldn’t swear to it.

When I’ve got time, I’ll try running the Wild Fro into my Marshall amps – something closer to what Rabea uses in his YouTube demos. Maybe that’ll suit it more?

I’ll report back when I have done so.

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