First Impressions: ToadWorks Leo Jr American Overdrive

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a second-hand Leo Jr overdrive pedal.

The photo shows the ToadWorks Leo Jr pedal, photographed from an angle above.

The pedal itself is black, with a gain knob at the top left, and a level (volume) knob at the top right.

I’ve been after one of these for a long time. Now that I have it, was it worth the wait?

What Is It?

The Toadworks Leo Jr American Overdrive is a (long discontinued) tweed-tone pedal. It appears to have been in production roughly 2007-2011.

Why Did You Buy It?

I honestly cannot remember how I first heard of this pedal.

But hey – it’s a tweed-tone pedal. It does the Fender Tweed-in-a-box thing. That’s my thing. And I found it on the second hand market for a great price.

I’ve Never Heard Of Toadworks Before

Me neither, to be honest. They were (are?) an American boutique pedal brand back before the boutique pedal market went mainstream.

It’s not clear if they’re still in business today.

What Does The Pedal Sound Like?

I’m playing my Les Paul, into the Leo Jr, and then out into my trusty Blackstar Studio 10 6L6. The Leo Jr is on its own loop in my Gigrig G2 (to keep the signal path isolated from anything else on my board).

And … it’s okay. It’s nothing special, while also definitely not being terrible either.

There’s no tone control on the pedal, just volume and gain. With the gain around 10 o’clock, I get a very usable tweed-ish rhythm guitar tone.

Unfortunately, if I roll the volume knob back on my guitar, the pedal doesn’t clean up (== reduce the amount of overdrive). Instead, the volume out of the pedal drops off very quickly indeed. I can’t remember the last time I tried a pedal that behaved this way.

Does It Klon?

Not only does it Klon, but I strongly recommend boosting it with something (anything!) to bring it to life.

In this respect, it’s a bit like the experience of playing the JRAD Animal. The Animal is a pedal that seems a bit pedestrian at first; and then, when I boost it, it’s got plenty of life and character. The Leo Jr is very similar, except I think it’s a pedal that I would always want to boost.

I’ve been boosting it with the JRAD Archer (Clean), and adjusting the Archer’s treble control to give the Leo Jr a bit more top end. While it still doesn’t sound anything special, I easily lost a couple of hours just noodling through it.

I can’t say that about every pedal I’ve tried since I started this blog.

I’ve Read That It’s A Bit Noisy?

The Leo Jr does have a noticeably high noise floor. At low gain, it produces more noise than most of my other pedals do when they’re set for a mid-gain sound. It isn’t a pedal I’d choose for playing quiet, isolated parts.

And yet, just playing here in the room at home, I didn’t find the noise annoying. I’m not sure why I didn’t. Maybe it reminds me of the kind of noise a cranked amp puts out?

Anyway, the noise is there. If you want your pedals to be quiet, you might not be happy with this pedal.

Final Thoughts

Is it the world’s greatest tweed-tone pedal? Can it compete with my beloved Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD for short)? Is it going to win a permanent place on my pedal board?

Well, no. No to all of those.

I’m honestly not sure how it fits into my tweed-tone collection. It’s a bit meh to be honest, which might actually make it a useful option for recording rhythm guitar parts. Something to fill the space without standing out in any way, that kind of role.

We’ll see.

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