Back in May 2020, my pre-ordered Mythos Lark drive pedal arrived. It’s been on the practice board most of the time since then, sharing time with various other tweed-tone pedals that I’ve been looking at.
How has it gotten on? Here’s my First Impressions of this drive pedal. It’s a bit of a long read …
What Is It?
The Lark is an overdrive and tremolo two-in-one pedal from Mythos Pedals. It’s an amp-in-a-box pedal, aiming to capture the sound and the spirit of Rhett Shull’s vintage Gibson Skylark combo amp.
Who Are Mythos Pedals?
Mythos Pedals are a boutique pedal builder based in Nashville, Tennessee USA. You might have come across them from previous collaborations with / promotion by Rob Chapman. They’ve also been featured on That Pedal Show.
Who Is Rhett Shull?
Rhett Shull is a professional musician and YouTube content creator. His YouTube channel offers a very informative insight into what it’s like to build a career in the music industry, along with great discussions and tips about both gear and tone.
One of the things about him that really inspires me is his commitment to pursuing his dreams. He signs off many of his videos with the phrase, “there is no plan B.” From many people, it’d seem like a cynical bit of marketing that belongs more with management and leadership consultants. From him, it comes across both as genuine and as something that you can’t succeed without.
Where Did I Buy It From?
I pre-ordered this direct from Mythos Pedals back when it was first announced. I bought it partly as a means of showing support for Rhett; ordering direct should give him the biggest cut of the sale price (I hope!).
Also, back then, I felt like they could have been a limited-run available only from Mythos. Whether it’s guitars, amps or pedals, I’ve never been good at taking a chance on limited-run gear. This is one of the few times that I’ve managed to spur myself into it.
Now, they’re in the shops like any other regular pedal. I think that’s a good thing. I’ve fallen in love with limited-run gear before, and honestly, found it a bit stressful. More about that in a separate blog post sometime!
If you’re interested in one for yourself, and you’re not in the States, have a look to see if your local guitar shop has one in stock. It’ll be a lot cheaper than paying the import duties and handling charges yourself.
How Long Did It Take To Arrive?
I pre-ordered it back in late January, with an estimated shipping date of mid-March. It shipped in mid-April, and arrived at the start of May. All things considered – global pandemic causing lockdowns all around the world and a worldwide shortage of electronics – that’s pretty good going.
The slow delivery service by USPS was, however, both disappointing and frustrating. I paid for a priority delivery, and don’t feel that USPS honoured that. It didn’t help that my parcel spent almost a week in a USPS warehouse in Miami before leaving the States. USPS parcel tracking is also pretty quaint by modern standards, with long delays between updates, and poor tracking once it’s on the plane. Even a month later, the USPS tracking is still showing the pedal as “in transit”. It’s just years behind what we’re used to over here.
If you decide to order one direct, just be aware that this is what it’s like. It’s not the fault of the pedal company at all, and there’s probably nothing that they can do about it.
What’s My Signal Chain?
My signal chain’s very simple: Les Paul, into the Lark, into a Fender Tre-Verb set to plate reverb, into the front of my Blackstar Studio 10 6L6. Sometimes with a Klon KTR in front of it, and sometimes swapping out the Lark for another tweed-tone pedal for comparison.
All the drive pedals have their own loops on a Gigrig G2, so that I can completely take them of the signal chain when they’re not being used. In particular, that makes sure that the Klon’s built-in buffer doesn’t colour the sound when I just want to hear the Lark on its own.
What Does It Sound Like?
Oh, surprise surprise! Stu bought another tweed-tone pedal. Who could have seen that coming?
That’s the main take-away. From what I’ve read, the Gibson Skylark is a sought-after vintage amp because it’s basically a tweed circuit. To my ears, the Lark sounds quite similar to other tweed-tone pedals I’ve tried in recent times.
Similar, but not the same.
Out of the box, I found it very very dark. I play mostly with vintage-voiced, vintage-output humbuckers, and I normally live in the middle position on my Les Paul. Even on the bridge pickup, just noodling in the room, I found it still found it surprisingly dark-sounding.
But it’s not your typical ‘dark’ sound though. The Lark definitely doesn’t sound like a pedal with the tone control turned way down. It doesn’t sound like someone’s thrown a thick blanket over the amp.
It’s got a mid-range is very clear, and is very usable.
So what’s going on? Whenever I’m trying to get my head around something that’s different, I stick another pedal on the board and do an A/B comparison.
How Does It Compare To Other Tweed-Tone Pedals?
Switching between the Lark and other tweed-tone pedals, the main thing I notice is that the Lark doesn’t sound as open as the competition.
Normally, when I talk about openness, it’s a feel thing, and it’s down to how much the pedal adds compression. Drive pedals with a lot of compression sacrifice dynamics. The Lark doesn’t feel that compressed. I wasn’t sat there wishing it had more dynamics to it.
Going back and forth between the Lark and the Lovepedal 5e3 Deluxe, I’m struck by how much the Lark sounds like its EQ is shelved. Both pedals have very similar mid-range characteristics, but the Lark sounds like both the low-end and the high-end has been chopped off.
There doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it.
Very Mixed Feelings About The Internal Trim Pots
The only way to adjust the EQ is to pop the back of the pedal off and tweak a couple of internal trim pots. There’s one for the top-end, and another for beefing up the body of the pedal.
It’s great that Mythos included a way to adjust the EQ. Without it, this pedal would be a bust for me. I just wish that it wasn’t done via trim pots.
- Trim pots, internal DIP switches … anything that can only be adjusted by reaching for a screwdriver, it doesn’t matter. At best, it’s really inconvenient. Any pedal that has these kind of controls, I find that it ends up limiting the pedal to just one guitar and one role.
- With many trim pots – including the ones in the Lark – I find it really hard to see what they’re set to. It’s definitely something that gets more difficult as you get older.
I’ve got other pedals in my collection that have internal controls like this, and I’ve noticed that they just don’t get used, no matter how good they sound. If I’ve got two pedals that can do the job, I’m always going to pick the one that’s more convenient to work with.
If Mythos do a version 2 of the Lark, I hope they move the trim pots out to be external controls, because I certainly had to fiddle with both EQ pots to dial this pedal in. Oh, and maybe give us a more traditional EQ section as well / instead, please?
The Presence Control Helps A Bit
Even with the internal presence trim pot turned up to 3 o’clock (the stock setting), the bridge pickup of my Les Paul still sounds dark to me. And the middle position on the Les Paul (where I prefer to live)? It’s too dark for my taste.
The trim pot only goes up to about 4 o’clock.
I’m currently running it with the trim pot slightly closer to 4 o’clock than 3 o’clock. I’ve tried it full-on, and there’s something about the top-end that doesn’t work for me. Best I can describe it is that I feel that the treble is a little brittle, and starts to sound non-musical.
It’s still a little dark for me, but I’ve got a workaround for that. But before I get into that, there’s another trim pot to explore.
This Pedal Doesn’t Need More Body To The Tone
Mine arrived with the body trim pot turned down all the way. I left it alone until writing up this section of the blog post.
This surprised me: the more I turned up the body trim pot, the less I liked it.
To my ears, turning it up has the effect of quickly making the pedal sound darker overall. That, and it doesn’t take very much to end up sounding too thick for my tastes with my Les Paul.
I’ve ended up setting it to around 9 o’clock, because (to my ears) that’s the sweet spot for boosting this pedal with a Klon.
Klon To The Rescue
I like this pedal a hell of a lot more when it’s getting a bit of help.
As usual, I’ve got my Klon KTR in its classic clean boost setup: a small amount of gain to fatten the tone, treble around 1 o’clock, and output set to achieve unity(ish). I’ve found that this setting not only works really well with my clean Strat, it also does magical things to most (not all, sadly!) pedals that come after it.
I think the Lark really comes alive when it’s being boosted like this. It really brings out the Lark’s lovely mid-range character.
There is a caveat: to my ears, boosting the Lark’s treble with something in front of it can make it sound quite harsh. I definitely found myself reaching for the tone controls of my Les Paul to help roll off some of the highs.
Another way to tame that treble is to use the Anasounds Element spring reverb unit between the Lark and the amp. The Element does this very useful thing where it smooths out and tames harsh treble, without making the tone sound darker – even if the reverb mix knob is completely dialled down.
I do think it’s neat that this pedal both needs – and responds pretty well to – being boosted. Somehow, that seems more amp-like.
There’s one more option that’s well worth mentioning.
This Pedal Really Loves The Archer Clean
The JRAD Archer Clean has really grown on me as perhaps my pedal of choice for boosting overdrive pedals. It’s much more of a pure mid-boost than an actual klone, with a lot of the brightness boost coming from the internal buffer.
And I really like what it does to the Lark.
Back in May, I was doing a bit of music writing and recording for myself. I wanted a backing track (of sorts), because it’s one thing to listen to a pedal on its own in the room, it’s quite another to hear a pedal pulling lead duties over a backing track.
As it was on the board, I gave the Lark a try. The Lark (boosted by the Archer Clean) worked pretty well for lead duties.
That mid-focus that it has keeps it nicely separate from the rhythm guitars that I tracked. Even though it doesn’t sound thick or saturated in the room, I thought it had more than enough weight to carry a classic rock guitar solo.
Is this where the Lark offers something that other tweed-tone pedals don’t? Maybe.
I’m Not The Person To Talk About Tremolo, Sorry
The Lark isn’t just an overdrive pedal. It also includes a tremolo effect.
Tremolo is one of those effects that I just don’t incorporate into my playing very much. I don’t know how to use it well, and I certainly don’t know what to look for in a tremolo effect.
As the Fender Tre-Verb is permanently on my practice board, I did do a quick A/B between the two tremolo effects. I thought they sounded very different. (In general, I think different is good, because it gives the guitar player more choices.)
The main thing that struck me was the difference each tremolo effect made to the overall EQ of the signal, at least to my ears. The Fender Tre-Verb seems to lose some of the low-end frequencies, and the Lark seems to lose some of the high-end frequencies.
The only other observation I can make is that the Lark’s tremolo sounded far more organic, and next to it, the Tre-Verb’s tremolo sounded like it lacked character.
I’ve no idea if those observations are any use to anyone?
Is It Worth The Price Of Admission?
I don’t often talk about how much a pedal costs. Here in the UK, though, this is one expensive pedal. So expensive, in fact, that the Analogman King of Tone is the only pedal I’ve ever paid more for.
To put that in context: the Lark cost more than my Klon KTR, more than any klone I’ve ever had, and more than I’ve ever paid for any sought-after, rare boutique pedals like the BJFe-designed Bearfoot FX pedals.
It’s no coincidence that my most expensive pedals have all been ordered directly from the USA. Shipping and import charges really distort the final price, especially as they’re levied as a proportion of the original purchase price. That’s something to keep in mind if you decide to order one direct.
That said, if I bought it from a local shop today, it would still be the third-most expensive pedal I’ve ever bought. Any way you look at it, this pedal puts the boutique into boutique pricing.
How can the price of the Lark be justified? Here’s a few things that I thought of:
- Firstly, this is a unique pedal. As far as I know, there’s only one other pedal out there that aims to replicate the Gibson Skylark tone: the Bearfoot FX Model G. Bearfoot FX’s deal with BJFe is over; it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see these made again. If this is a tone you really want from a pedal, the Mythos Lark is (almost) the only show in town right now.
- Secondly, this is a two-in-one pedal. You’re not just buying an overdrive pedal. It’s got a built-in tremolo. If we use Boss pedals for comparison, one of their standalone tremolo pedals will cost you about a third of the price of the Lark.
- Thirdly, I think this pedal works well in a mix – perhaps better than on its own in the room. I suspect that Rhett’s experience showing there. Some pedals completely disappear in a mix, making them a liability for playing live or for recording. It’s always nice to find one that doesn’t.
- Fourthly, while I have no experience with durability, Rhett’s an actual touring musician. He’s said in his YouTube videos that he took the prototype out on the road with him. He’s going to have made sure that the pedal stands up to the rigours of being gigged with. And Mythos are still small enough that their quality control is going to be right up there.
Finally, I’m hoping that the price (this seems to be the most expensive pedal that Mythos sells atm) includes a healthy cut to Rhett. If so, I’m very okay with that.
But, I have to be honest: if none of those things are important to you, here in the UK you can buy Fender’s MTG pedal from a shop just over half the price of the Mythos Lark and dial in a pretty similar drive sound.
There are differences: the Lark has a more rounded attack, and the MTG has more energy in the upper mids that I haven’t managed to dial out on the pedal itself. The Lark just does the one sound, and while the MTG takes quite a bit of fiddling with the EQ to dial in, you can also dial in other sounds on the MTG.
Do those differences make the Lark worth almost twice as much as the MTG? The thing is, your options are pretty limited.
The Lark doesn’t have a lot of competition.
There really aren’t that many tweed-tone pedals that are in production right now. It’s not like there’s lots to choose from on the second-hand market either. For whatever reason, it’s never been a mainstream pedal genre, and only one design (Mad Professor’s Sweet Honey Overdrive) has remained in production long-term.
So the Lark isn’t just the only Skylark-in-a-box that’s currently in production that I know of, it’s one of the few tweed-tone pedals of any description that’s currently being made and sold in the shops that I know of.
- Mad Professor do two (Sweet Honey Overdrive, Big Tweedy Drive),
- Fender make two (MTG and MTG:LA),
- Catalinbread do two (Formula 55, the 5F6),
- Xvive make one (Sweet Leo),
- and now Mythos make the Lark.
That’s a pretty short list. Beyond that, you’re into variants, clones and knock-offs (almost entirely of the SHOD), modellers, and limited runs that are only available direct from boutique pedal makers.
I haven’t tried the two Catalinbread pedals, but the rest? Only the MTG sounds like the Lark, in my opinion. Your options here are limited.
Looking at it purely as an overdrive pedal, I think that the Lark is a solid, middle-of-the-road performer. It’s got the one sound, and that sound is very locked-in. I do think it’s a good sound in a mix. In the room on its own, it’s a little tougher sell.
It’s also a sound that I can feel I can get pretty close to for a lot less money. The Lark is the most expensive pedal on that list by a country mile, with the next-most expensive pedal being around two thirds of the price.
I’m left with very mixed feelings about this pedal as a result.
It’s not buyer’s remorse. I like the pedal, it’s staying in my collection, and I suspect that the more I record with it, the more it’ll relegate other pedals to the back of the storage shelf.
It’s more that, at its current price, I think it’s a difficult pedal to recommend first.
- Want that old Magnatone sound that’s all across A Star Is Born? Get the Big Tweedy. It absolutely nails that tone.
- Don’t know what tweed-tone is? Get the SHOD. It’s legendary for a reason.
- Just playing at home? Get the MTG. Dial back the mids to make it sound close to the Lark, and dial up the mids to make it sound close to the SHOD.
- Finding the MTG a little too aggressive, or annoying to dial in? Find a second-hand Lovepedal High-Power Tweed Twin or 5e3 Deluxe.
- Can’t / won’t find a second-hand Lovepedal? Likely to be recording? That’s when I’d recommend looking at the Lark.
You can pretty much afford to try two competing pedals for the price of a single Lark. The SHOD and MTG together cost about £10 more than the Lark, at the time of writing, from Andertons here in the UK.
And that’s the rub of it.
Now, of course, these are just my opinions, based on my rig and my playing. I’d love to hear yours. How are you getting on with your Lark? Thinking of getting one, but got a question I haven’t covered in this blog post?
Let me know in the comments below.