Back in January 2023, I picked up something a bit different: a pedal that’s designed (amongst other things) for boosting tweed amps.
Read on for my (overdue!) First Impressions, with audio examples too!
The Cruiser Deuce is a boost/overdrive pedal made by Lazy J Projects, for pushing an amp into saturation at lower volume levels.
The pedal has no tone controls. If you want to use it as a regular overdrive pedal, you’ll need to use other pedals and/or your amp to shape the sound instead.
Personally, I’m going to stick to using it as a boost pedal into both clean and dirty amps. Paired with my Klon, I think it brings these signal chains to life, and sounds great in the room.
Table of Contents
- What Did You Buy?
- Why Did You Buy It?
- Why Did You Buy The Deuce Variant?
- My Rig Today
- Can It Function As A Regular Overdrive?
- Boosting An Overdriven Amp
- Making Strat Clean Tones More Interesting
- Why Not Just Turn The Amp Gain Up?
- Why Not Just Use The Klon To Boost Harder?
- Final Thoughts
What Did You Buy?
I bought a Cruiser Deuce dual-boost pedal. They’re made by Lazy J Projects.
I got mine from the second-hand market back in January 2023.
Why Did You Buy It?
I bought it to run as a boost in front of my tweed amp setups.
In the last few years, I’ve started using tweed amps. Back in 2021, I bought a Fender Tweed Deluxe amp. Late last year, I built a hybrid setup where I run my Synergy BMan and IICP preamps into the Axe-FX 3 for power amp emulation + effects.
Lazy J Projects make some of the most revered modern tweed amps on the planet. It’s my understanding that they designed the Cruiser series of pedals specifically to boost these amps, to drive them into full saturation at lower volumes.
So yeah … a boost pedal that seems to be specifically designed for my favourite type of amp? I had to try one 🙂
Why Did You Buy The Deuce Variant?
I believe that there’s two variants of the pedal: the Cruiser and the Cruiser Deuce. The main difference seems to be that the Cruiser Deuce has a second footswitch to control when the Drive & Saturation part of the circuit is active.
I went with the Deuce mostly for the convenience of that second footswitch. And partly because they’re pretty rare pedals, and it proved easier to snag a Cruiser Deuce than a regular Cruiser.
My Rig Today
I’ve used two different signal paths for the audio demos on this blog.
For the ‘regular overdrive’ demo, I used:
- my Fender Telecaster
- into the Axe-FX 3 (mostly for the tuner)
- out to the Cruiser Deuce
- back into the Axe-FX 3 for amp, cab, delay and reverb
- into my audio interface
- out to my DAW
For the ‘as a boost pedal’ demos, I used:
- various guitars
- into the Axe-FX 3
- out to my pedalboard, where I used:
- the Ceriatone Centura Klon-clone pedal in the classic clean-boost setup
- into the Lazy J Cruiser Deuce
- into my Synergy preamp, where I used:
- the Synergy BMan preamp module (based on the Fender Bassman amp), or
- the Synergy IICP preamp module (based on the Mesa Boogie Mark 2 C+ amp)
- into the Axe-FX 3 for power amp, cab, and effects
- into my audio interface
- out to my DAW
For guitars, I used:
- my Fender 63 Telecaster (known as Mirage)
- my 2021 Fender Player Stratocaster / Frankencaster (known as Starfire)
- my 2020 PRS Paul’s Guitar (known as The Earl)
At all times, any pedals on my pedalboard were in their own loops on my Gigrig G2 pedal switcher. This ensures that unused pedals cannot affect the captured tone at all.
It’s a lot of gear for one pedal, I know, and some of it (the IICP in particular) is quite exotic. As we get into the audio examples, you’ll see why.
Can It Function As A Regular Overdrive?
Let’s tackle this one first.
When I was doing research into this pedal, I read quite a few comments from people who were disappointed with the pedal and what it does. Maybe I misunderstood, but I got the strong impression that many of them were trying to use this as a normal overdrive pedal into a regular pedal platform-type setup.
This is what it sounds like as an overdrive pedal through my rig:
In that audio demo, I had both sides of the Cruiser Deuce switched on, and I ran it into a totally clean pedal platform patch on the Axe-FX 3.
There’s two main things to be aware of:
- there are no tone controls at all on the pedal
- the overdrive has a fuzzy characteristic to the sound
I can’t tell you how much of that fuzzy characteristic is coming from the pedal itself, and how much is coming from the interaction of pedal + amp + cab. Either way, it’s there.
To change the tone, you’ll need to either put another pedal in front of it (such as a Klone), or dial in your amp to suit. Or maybe both.
This is how the Cruiser Deuce sounds if I activate my Ceriatone Centura Klon klone pedal in front of the Cruiser Deuce:
To my ears, the Klon klone + Cruiser Deuce combination now has a much more defined attack to each note. The fuzziness is still there, but it’s not as prominent. I can’t tell if it’s reduced because the Centura is reducing the low-end going into the Cruiser Deuce, or if my ears are just latching onto the improved note attack instead.
So that’s using the pedal as an overdrive. That’s not what I bought it for though.
Boosting An Overdriven Amp
I bought the Cruiser Deuce to boost my tweed amps. Let’s explore that now.
Sticking with the Telecaster, I’ve switched over to my Synergy BMan amp. This is based on the Fender Bassman circuit, and over the winter months I’ve come to really love playing through this amp. (Long Term review blog post coming soon!)
To start with, this is how my Telecaster sounds into the red channel of the Synergy BMan, which is the more overdriven channel. I’ve got my Ceriatone Centura on as a classic Klon clean boost, and I’ve switched my Axe-FX 3 over to a patch I’ve made to give me power amp emulation.
That, right there, is where I love to live. It’s a very smooth overdrive tone, with plenty of playing dynamics for when I want to dig in. I’m very happy with how that sounds.
So why bother boosting it? Well, this is why …
What you heard there is just the boost side of the Cruiser Deuce; I’ve turned the overdrive side off, and I’m going to leave it off for the rest of this blog post. All the other settings on the pedals and amp remained the same.
For lack of a better description, what I’m hearing is that there’s a little more life in the overall tone now. There’s been a bit of an edge added to that smooth overdrive tone. I imagine that it catches the ear more … it demands a bit more attention.
And that works even better on clean Strat tones.
Making Strat Clean Tones More Interesting
I’ve swapped the Telecaster for the neck pickup of my Stratocaster, and I’ve tweaked the bass response switch on the front of the Synergy BMan to its highest setting too. [That was probably a mistake, but it sounded great in the room at the time – Ed]
Historically, I’ve preferred my Strat clean tone to be exactly that: crystal clean. And this is what that sounds like, with no pedals at all, into my Synergy BMan on the green channel this time:
The Synergy BMan can be a bit of a bass-heavy amp (which is one reason why I didn’t buy one when they first came out). I can definitely hear that there!
Fear not, that’s (partly) what Klons are for (he says!) I switched on my Ceriatone Centura pedal, and got this:
With the Centura set in the classic clean boost, there’s quite a difference. It’s pushing the mids a bit harder, and adding some definition back into the notes. To my ears, it’s also starting to drive the amp a bit too.
That’s getting us into the kind of ‘clean tone’ that professional musicians on YouTube often talk about and demonstrate. It’s not clean at all, but it has that character that will make it sound clean while working better in a mix. Or so I am told by people who know about these things!
So what do we need the Cruiser Deuce for here? Well, I kinda like the results of throwing it into the signal chain too:
I admit that the end result needs a bit of work there: at the very least, the low-end needs cutting back a bit. But I love the added thickness that’s come from pushing the amp even harder using the Cruiser Deuce.
The Strat’s now taking up a lot more sonic space, and that works for me. When I use a clean Strat, it tends to be as a featured instrument, and the last thing I want is for it to sound thin and weak.
Now, this begs the question: if all I’m doing with the Cruiser Deuce is slamming the front of my amp harder, why use the Cruiser Deuce for that at all?
Why Not Just Turn The Amp Gain Up?
According to the Lazy J Projects website, the Cruiser Deuce was originally intended to drive amps harder to avoid having to turn them up. With modern recording setups – including home setups – we don’t have that problem any more, because we’re not driving real cabs. We’re doing what’s called silent recording, and the only thing stopping us turning up the gain on our amps is personal taste.
To demonstrate that, I’ve switched both guitars and amps. I’m now using my PRS Paul’s Guitar into the Synergy IICP. The amp is based on Mesa Boogie’s classic Mark 2 C+ amp, and while it’s famous for hard rock and metal, it’s a tweed amp at heart – and it has some killer cleans with the right guitar.
Here’s what that sounds like:
I think that’s a really nice sound. This guitar and amp go together so well. I know that Kristi thinks it’s the best clean tone that I’ve managed to dial in to date.
If I throw on both the Centura and the Cruiser Deuce together as boost pedals, I get this:
It takes me a few listens to get used to the difference. I really like what the two pedals have done, by shifting the tone a little bit and starting to add a little bit of distortion to the sound.
Anyway, the main reason I’m sharing that is that’s our reference sound that I’m going to use to answer the question: can’t we just turn the gain up on the amp instead?
This is what it sounds like if I switch off the Cruiser Deuce entirely, and turn up the gain on the IICP instead:
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the results at all. Turning up the gain has changed the tone of the amp. It sounds more congested to me, with less note definition and less clarity.
Now, I picked this amp to show this off for two reasons.
As you’ve heard, the clean channel has a sweet spot, and frankly it’s got a pretty small range of settings where it sounds good. Start to move away from that, and I think the amp starts to sound like crap very quickly indeed. I think that it’s better to leave the amp alone, and use pedals like the Cruiser Deuce instead to shape the tone.
The other reason? On this particular amp, the clean channel cascades into the overdrive channel. Adjusting the clean channel also changes the sound of the amp’s overdrive channel. By luck or design, it just so happens that the overdrive channel sounds great when the clean channel also sounds great. So that’s the second reason why I’d rather put a pedal like the Cruiser Deuce in front, instead of tweaking the amp settings: I don’t want to mess with the sound of the overdrive channel.
But does it have to be the Cruiser Deuce?
Why Not Just Use The Klon To Boost Harder?
I’ve already got my favourite Klon klone – the Ceriatone Centura – in the signal chain. Can I just turn up the Centura, and skip the Cruiser Deuce entirely? Or, to put it another way, does the Cruiser Deuce actually bring anything to the party?
Here’s what my rig sounds like if I switch off the Cruiser Deuce and turn up the output on the Centura to compensate. On the amp, I’ve returned the gain control back to around where it was originally.
Sounds pretty similar at first, yes? There are a couple of differences.
My audio meters are telling me that this demo is actually louder than when I used the Cruiser Deuce, but my ears don’t believe it. My ears are telling me that this demo is noticeably quieter.
Secondly, this demo sounds thinner to me. The demo that uses the Cruiser Deuce sounds like it has more low-mids.
I have the input Gain control on the Cruiser Deuce up past 1 o’clock. It isn’t mentioned in the manual, but I suspect that this setting is adding some compression to the overall signal.
I can’t demonstrate it through audio examples, but my rig feels nicer to play when the Cruiser Deuce is on. That would make sense if the pedal’s acting as a pseudo-compressor.
Would I use the Cruiser Deuce as a regular overdrive pedal? I don’t think I would. It’s not what I bought the pedal for, and it’s maybe a little too raw for me? If that changes, I’ll do my best to follow up with a blog post about it.
I’m really loving what it does as a boost pedal in front of my amps, especially when paired with a Klon-style pedal. Strat, Tele, or something with humbuckers: it works with all of them, and it works well.
And I still need to run it into the front of my Fender Tweed Deluxe amp too … I’m saving that for its own blog post soon!