In my first impressions of the NABLA Custom Black Tweed, I said that one of the things I didn’t like about it was that I found the tone to sound very dull. This morning, I was going back through my New Arrivals posts, and I was reminded of another tweed-tone pedal with a top-end that I didn’t like at first: the Mythos Lark.
I thought it’d be interesting to throw them both on the board together, and explore them side by side. This isn’t a ‘best’ kind of review: it’s about understanding the options that each pedal offers … and yes, about exploring the top-end of them both.
The NABLA Custom Black Tweed and Mythos Pedals Lark are two tweed-tone pedals that sound similar enough to work together on the same pedal board, yet are different enough to offer me choices. (This is good: I like having choices!)
The Black Tweed brings a glorious mid-range that dominates the ear, with amp-like feel and saturation that no-other tweed-tone pedal I’ve tried offers. The Lark offers more definition and articulation, but I can’t crank the Lark’s overdrive to the same saturated extent.
I find myself preferring the Black Tweed for chord / rhythm work, and the Lark for melodic and lead lines. If I was gigging electric guitar, I’d definitely try using them both on the same board for these duties. I’d have to try it to say for sure that this would work, though!
It’s hard to compare these pedals on value. Neither is readily available in the shops, and how much they’ll cost you to import for yourself greatly depends on where you are in the world, and whether you can find a Lark at all.
Finally, I’m hoping to get back into making recordings in 2021; and if I do, I’m hoping that both the Black Tweed and the Lark will get a lot of use next year.
What’s Your Signal Chain?
I’m running my Les Paul into either the Mythos Lark or the NABLA Custom Black Tweed, and then out to my Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 amp.
Both pedals are in separate loops of my Gigrig G2, both to make it easy to switch between them and to ensure that neither pedal can affect the other when not in use. I’ve also got my Klon KTR in another G2 loop, in case I want to boost or buffer either drive pedal.
I’m mostly playing in the middle position of my Les Paul. The neck pickup is set around 4. The bridge pickup will vary between 9 and 10; I tend to roll it back if things are sounding a little too harsh for my taste.
The Les Paul is fitted with PAF-style humbuckers. They’ve low output, and they’ve got that classic upper-mids energy that I personally love. That’s not to say that these pickups are lacking in low-end though. They sound big and ballsy.
Finally, I’m just playing alone at home volumes. I’m not recording, nor trying to play along to a backing track, or anything like that.
How Long Have You Had These Pedals?
I got the Mythos Lark back in May 2020. I bought it directly from Mythos Pedals. Here are my First Impressions of the Lark. It’s mostly sat in its box since the summer.
The Black Tweed arrived at the start of December 2020. I bought it directly from NABLA Custom. Here are my First Impressions of the Black Tweed. It’s been on my board throughout the month. (I’m writing this at the end of December 2020.)
In terms of playing time, I’d say it’s about even. One crucial difference though is that I have tried recording with the Lark. I’ve yet to try that with the Black Tweed.
Any Immediate Difficulties In Having Both On The Same Board?
I ran into one problem straight away: trying to match perceived volume between both pedals.
- I find the Black Tweed’s volume control frustratingly difficult to adjust. One nudge, and the pedal’s almost off. Another nudge, and the pedal’s boosting above unity volume. Above all else, it forces me to treat the Black Tweed as a set-it-and-forget-it pedal.
- The Black Tweed sounds a lot louder than the Lark because it’s got a lot more mid-range.
By far the easiest approach was to dial in the Black Tweed first, and then adjust the Lark to match. Fortunately, the Lark’s got a wide-enough sweet spot to make that work.
How Do They Differ In Sound?
First and foremost, the Black Tweed is all about that glorious mid-range. It’s big, it’s complex, and it’s one of the reasons why I love this pedal.
By comparison, the Lark’s got a wider sound: there’s a bit more lower-mid action going on, and it also has a crispness in the top-end. It might be that extra presence, I don’t know, but to my ears, the Lark doesn’t sound as mid-forward as the Black Tweed does. There’s just more energy in the upper-mids, I think.
When I first got the Lark, I complained that the Lark’s EQ sounded shelved: that both the top-end and bottom-end sounded like they’d been chopped off, when compared to other tweed-tone pedals. Well, the Black Tweed sounds like its EQ has been shelved even more (maybe because of just how much mid push the Black Tweed has?)
The Lark actually sounds like a warm pedal next to the Black Tweed. It also sounds brighter too.
Just going back and forward between the two, I found myself playing chord work on the Black Tweed a lot more, and single-note runs on the Lark a lot more. I think that’s a bit counter-intuitive, because the gain between the two is quite different.
How Does The Overdrive Compare?
I’m avoiding the term ‘fat’ here because neither of these pedals bring that lower-mid body and weight that (say) a Lovepedal 5e3 Deluxe does.
That said, the Black Tweed brings an amp-like overdrive that fills the mid-range (but only the mid-range). Wind up the gain, and this pedal delivers a saturated, compressed overdrive that never loses its quality or its musicality.
The Lark’s overdrive is more defined, with a cutting edge that makes single-note runs sound more pleasing in the room. I can’t wind the overdrive up anywhere near as much as I do with the Black Tweed, because it loses those qualities at around 2 o’clock and starts to fall apart.
Again, maybe it’s because the Lark has presence where the Black Tweed does not, I don’t know. The Lark for me sounds more surgical; it’s not trying to fill the entire mid-range. The Black Tweed, on the other hand, fills the mid-range in an almost effortless way.
I guess that’s why I kept going back to the Black Tweed for chords / rhythm playing. It’s just glorious to play through.
How Do They Compare For Value?
This one is hard to judge, because their value probably depends on where you are in the world.
I’m in the UK, where (until the end of 2020) the Italian-made Black Tweed is substantially more affordable than the American-made Lark is. At the time of purchase, it cost a lot of money to self-import anything from the States, costs that didn’t exist for imports from Europe.
Ordering direct from Mythos (I was a pre-order customer for the Lark), the Lark is the second-most expensive pedal I’ve ever bought. Only the Analogman King of Tone (another self-import from the States) has ever cost me more.
The Black Tweed cost me about two-thirds the price of the Lark. If you’re in the States, I imagine this equation gets flipped on its head quite a bit.
Each pedal has more to offer than I’m using in this comparison:
- The Black Tweed has a total of 4 voices: a Blackface mode and a Tweed mode, and each mode has an ‘Old Tubes’ and a ‘New Tubes’ voicing.
- The Lark has a built-in tremolo effect.
These may be important to you, if you’re trying to decide which one to buy. Now, about that …
How Do They Compare For Availability?
At the time of writing (late 2020), neither of these are common pedals.
The Black Tweed is available directly from NABLA Custom. As far as I can see, that’s the only place you can get one from. They’re built to order. I ordered mine on the last day of October 2020, and it arrived on the first day of December.
The Lark … I don’t know of anywhere you can buy one from atm. Mythos Pedals has stopped taking direct orders, and I couldn’t find a dealer that carries the Lark. I haven’t seen any turn up on the second-hand market myself, either, but that may be different in your part of the world.
The Black Tweed is rare partly because it’s a new release, and partly because NABLA isn’t a well-known brand. While the Lark is also a new release (it shipped in March 2020), I don’t believe that it was a limited edition pedal.
Which One Will I Use More?
For me, what I care about most is utility: how much use will I get out of a piece of gear? Within reason, if something gets a lot of use, then it was a good purchase regardless of cost. There’s no value to me in a piece of gear being cheaper if it isn’t going to get used.
For just noodling at home, I’ll be using the Black Tweed far more than the Lark. The Black Tweed feels so good to play through, and that mid-range really does sound glorious.
For 2021, I’m trying to get back into recording music once again. And that’s where I’m not so sure. Until I’m doing some recording with them both, I can’t really speak about this with any confidence or experience. That’s doubly true because I’ve just upgraded my studio monitors, and I need to revisit every tone that was built against my old monitors.
I’m going to try the Black Tweed as a complimentary rhythm tone against my beloved Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD for short). I already know that the Lark sounds good as a lead tone over the top of the SHOD.
So yeah, both may get a lot of use in 2021.
For me, these pedals aren’t interchangeable. (Maybe that’ll change once I’ve tried to record with them?)
Although they’re both tweed-tone pedals, they feel different to play, and they sound different in the room. Right now, I’d reach for the Black Spirit for when I want to play rhythm, and I’d switch over to the Lark when I want to play lead or melodic parts.
They sound similar enough to work well together. If I was gigging electric guitar, I probably would gig them together like this.
There’s just one caveat to that: I don’t know how well the Black Tweed will sit under a vocalist. Anything that fills the mid-range runs a risk of competing with a vocalist. It’s something I need to try (which isn’t going to happen any time soon) before I can answer that one.
What Do You Think?
These are just my opinions. I’m just a bloke who plays music at home for fun, and who gigs with an acoustic when I can. I don’t work in the music industry. It’s a hobby for me, it’s not my career.
Have you tried either of these pedals yourself? I’d love to hear yours in the comments below.