First Impressions: Tone City Dry Martini Overdrive Pedal

Back in October, I picked up a new (to me) mini pedal: Tone City’s Dry Martini overdrive. I’ve seen folks recommending this as a viable alternative to Fulltone’s legendary OCD pedal.

This photo shows two pedals on my pedalboard.

On the left in shades of purple and pink is Tone City's Dry Martini mini pedal.

On the right in a warm cream colour is Fulltone's OCD pedal.
Tone City’s Dry Martini pedal next to the Fulltone OCD

But … is it really? And if not, is it still worth checking out? Here are my first impressions.

What Did You Buy?

I bought a Tone City Dry Martini overdrive pedal from the second-hand market.

Why Did You Buy It?

Fulltone recently closed down. While their owner and his reprehensible views won’t be missed, their pedals will be. Fulltone pedals were some of the best at what they did, and accurate clones of them seem to be few and far between.

In the past, I’ve recommended Fender’s Full Moon Distortion pedal as an OCD replacement. Spoiler alert – I was wrong. Great pedal, and it captures that vibe, but it doesn’t give me the same sound.

I’ve seen folks say that the Dry Martini might be the one. I wanted to find out.

I’m really glad that I did. This very cheap pedal doesn’t sound cheap at all.

I’ve Been Really Enjoying This Pedal

This went onto my practice board just before I had to work away for a week. I didn’t really have much time with it before I headed off. I did post a Twitter thread with some thoughts, but thanks to Space Karen, damned if I can find it again.

When I got back, I just plugged in and played. Didn’t touch the pedal, didn’t even think to switch over to something else. It ended up staying on the board all the way through to mid-December, when I needed to make switch things up for some other blog posts.

Yeah … this little pedal is giving me a sound that I really want.

How Does It Sound?

Back when Line 6 released the Pod XT, they had a cracking amp model that was supposed to be based on the mighty JCM 800. It was my go-to sound … until a firmware update replaced it with a different model that sounded very different 🙁.

The Dry Martini gets me close to that old Pod XT sound in my head that I miss.

I’m running it with the gain either at 9 o’clock (for a very light crunch) or 10 o’clock (slightly fatter sound), and then using my guitar’s volume and tone pots to tame it to taste.

The Dry Martini is a bright pedal, with a lot of energy coming out in the upper mids. I enjoying it the most when I use it in the middle position of a guitar, like a Les Paul or the PRS Paul’s Guitar. The brightness helps the middle position work well, while the inclusion of a darker neck pickup adds low-end to balance out that brightness.

Does It Sound Like The OCD?

No, it doesn’t.

My Fulltone OCD has a sound that’s very thick and quite dark. I’d go as far as saying it’s so dark, it’s difficult to use. It’s definitely a pedal I’ve hung onto because of its historic importance, not because it does anything for me.

Side by side with the Dry Martini, those differences are stark.

With Les Pauls and Telecasters in the middle position, I’m going to choose the Dry Martini over the OCD every single time. With (say) the bridge pickup of a Strat, or a particularly twangy Telecaster? Then I’d have to audition both again before making a choice.

Any Things To Watch Out For?

There’s a couple of things I’m having to be mindful of, when I’m using the Dry Martini.

  • Dig in much harder by accident, and this pedal really spikes. Setup for low gain, it doesn’t compress very much (which I love!), so if I’m not very even with my playing, the output volume will jump quite a bit. When I record with it, I’ll probably run a compressor in front of it to compensate for my bad technique.
  • I’m managing the tone with the volume and tone control of my guitar – and not the tone pot on the pedal. When I turn the tone pot down below 12 noon, it doesn’t take much to sound like I’ve thrown a blanket over my speakers. Not a sound I ever ever want.

Final Thoughts

If you can’t tell by now, I seriously love this pedal. It has given me a version of a sound that I’ve longed missed.

Sometimes, I need a break from my beloved tweed tone. Sometimes, the piece I’m writing for myself needs a cut, aggression and coldness that doesn’t suit my warm, round, laid-back tweed tones.

When I do, the Dry Martini is going to be the pedal that I grab first. It’s just perfect for that side of my musical expression.

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