First Impressions: True North Pedals Tweed Drive

I’ve just bought a Tweed Drive by True North pedals.

The True North Pedals Tweed Drive on my pedalboard, next to the Mythos Lark.

What do I think of it? Read on for my First Impressions.

What Did You Buy?

I bought a Tweed Drive overdrive pedal by True North Pedals.

First and foremost, this isn’t advertised as an Amp-In-A-Box (AIAB for short) pedal. That makes it very different to most (all?) of the tweed-tone pedals that I’ve written about before.

Instead, this pedal seems to be chasing the classic raspiness / borderline fuzzy overdrive characteristic of a tweed amp.

Why Did You Buy It?

I am hoping to try as many tweed-tone pedals as possible. This is one of the few remaining ones (that I know of) that I haven’t tried yet.

It’s one of those pedals that I’ve actually been putting off. I didn’t feel any urgency because there’s a UK stockist of True North pedals. That changed this past weekend. When this one popped up on the second-hand market, I went back to the UK stockist to check prices – and they’d sold out of the Tweed Drive.

Seemed to me that this might be my best opportunity to try one for some time!

My Rig Today

For today’s demos, I’m playing:

  • my Les Paul
  • into the Axe-FX 3 (mostly for the tuner)
  • out to my pedalboard
  • out to my PRS Mary Cries compressor
  • back into the Axe-FX 3 (for amp, cab, delay and reverb)
  • out to my audio interface
  • and into my DAW.

I’m playing my Les Paul in the middle position. Both volume controls and both tone controls are rolled back a little (the neck pickup controls more than the bridge pickup controls) to give me my preferred Les Paul tone.

On the pedalboard, I have the Ceriatone Centura (Klon klone), Mythos Pedals Lark (50’s Gibson AIAB pedal) and the True North Tweed Drive all in separate loops on my Gigrig G2. When a pedal isn’t being used, the G2 completely takes it out of the signal path, so that things like internal buffers can’t colour the sound in any way.

You won’t hear the Lark today. It’s already on the board to help me test my upcoming pedal platform preset. I’m using it off camera (so to speak) as a control sound to assist in dialling in the Tweed Drive.

On the Axe-FX 3, I’m running an experimental version of my latest pedal platform preset. I’m running my attempt at a typical Fender blackface-voiced clean pedal platform amp. If you want to know a lot more, I’m currently writing a series of blog posts about this new preset.

How Does It Sound?

Right out the box, I was surprised at just how dark this pedal is with my Les Paul. I ended up cranking the pedal’s Tone control up to around 2 o’clock to compensate. Maybe this pedal’s originally voiced for single coil pickups? A question for another day, as (alas) I’m a bit short on time right now.

I also had to dial in some extra mids on my amp too, bumping the Mid control up to just above 6 (10 is the max). That really brought out the character of the Tweed Drive, I thought.

After trying the diodes toggle switch in both positions, I greatly prefer it in the ‘up’ position. I find the pedal far more open and dynamic this way. I think it sounds better too.

With the Drive control up past 1 o’clock and the Volume control down below 11 o’clock, and the Fat switch engaged, here’s how the Tweed Drive sounds:

Gibson Les Paul > True North Tweed Drive (Fat boost on) > Axe-FX 3

The note attack sounds incredibly rounded when I’m playing lower notes. Is that because of the amount of low-end that’s present too? Maybe. I can hear more note definition when I’m playing higher up the neck. I’m going to explore that a bit more shortly!

That raspy / fuzzy character that the pedal’s chasing is clearly there. It’s a key characteristic of early tweed-tone overdrive. Straight out of the box, I was worried that it was a bit much, but now that I’m used to it I don’t think it’s getting in the way at all (see my recent Little Tweedy Drive post for an example of how it can).

Another key characteristic that I look for is a solid foundation in the low-mids. The Tweed Drive doesn’t disappoint here either. That makes me very happy.

But that’s because I’ve got the pedal’s Fat switch engaged. What happens if I toggle it down, and go with the pedal’s “original” sound?

Gibson Les Paul > True North Tweed Drive (Fat boost off) > Axe-FX 3

In the room, that wasn’t as satisfying to play through. It really felt like something was missing.

Listening back to the audio, I think it sounds pretty good – and arguably better than my first audio demo does. I’m now hearing plenty of note definition all along the neck. That extra low-end in the first demo was definitely blurring some of the detail from the lower notes.

I don’t hear an obvious difference with the drive characteristic in this demo – but it’s hard to be sure. That suggests that maybe the fuzz isn’t being produced by overloading the low-end?

Let’s turn the Fat switch back on, and reduce some of that low-end by throwing on an EQ after the pedal. This will allow the Tweed Drive to do its thing, and then give me a bit more clarity to understand how much low-end input affects the drive circuit.

Gibson Les Paul > True North Tweed Drive (Fat boost on) > Axe-FX 3 (EQ cut)

Instantly, I feel that that’s a nice balance between recorded tone and playability. It felt nice to play through, and I think the recording sounds better than the first two audio demos did.

Does it have a touch more fuzz than the second audio demo did (the demo with the Fat boost switched off)? Maybe. If I throw on an EQ in my DAW to reduce some of that low-end, then I think I’m hearing about the same amount of fuzz in both demos.

Does It Klon?

To finish the audio demos, I’m going to add a Klon klone in front of the Tweed Drive. I’ve got my Ceriatone Centura set up in the classic Klon clean boost configuration: gain around 8 o’clock, treble around 1 o’clock and level set to unity gain.

Normally, I dial in the Centura so that it’s in the ballpark and I’m done. Not in this case.

I had to tweak both the Centura’s gain and treble to make sure I wasn’t cutting too much low-end from the signal, and to make sure that I wasn’t adding too much note attack either. I actually recorded a demo before making these tweaks, and ended up stopping half-way through because it sounded like I’d forgotten to switch on the Tweed Drive’s Fat boost.

How much of this is down to the Tweed Drive reacting to the input signal – and how much of it is down to me simply having a new pedal platform preset that’s not as dark as before – I can’t say. I’m going to have to keep an eye on this as I explore other pedals this year.

Either way, here’s the sound that I settled on:

Gibson Les Paul > Ceriatone Centura (classic clean boost) > True North Tweed Drive (Fat boost on) > Axe-FX 3

It doesn’t just sound louder because of the mid-range push that the Centura is adding; it is a little louder on my DAW’s meters than the other demos.

To my ears, the Centura has stripped away a little bit of the low-end foundation, while adding a little bit of sharpness to the note attack. I like it, but I also wonder if it’s shifted things just a little too much?

So let’s do something I don’t think I’ve done before …

For the next demo, I’ve reconfigured the Centura. All I’ve done is turn the treble control down from 1 o’clock to around 11 o’clock. Everything else is exactly the same. And here’s how that sounds:

Gibson Les Paul > Ceriatone Centura (treble reduced) > True North Tweed Drive (Fat boost on) > Axe-FX 3

Oh nice. I think that’s brought back the roundness of the note attack. The low-end foundation is still there, but (compared to the first audio demo) it’s more balanced and less dominating.

I’m very happy with that tone. And I think that I need to explore this new (to me) boost setting in a future #CoffeeAndKlon article …

For good measure, here’s how this all sounds if I also switch on my Mary Cries compressor. No tone opinion from me on this one; feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments. All I will say is that the extra compression felt even nicer to play through.

Gibson Les Paul > Ceriatone Centura (treble reduced) > True North Tweed Drive (Fat boost on) > PRS Mary Cries > Axe-FX 3

Final Thoughts

For one, it’s nice to write one of these First Impressions posts the same day that the pedal arrived. If they’re written within (say) 48 hours or so of the pedal going on the board, then I think they can struggle to capture what I actually felt when I first plugged the pedal in.

As for the Tweed Drive … I was definitely a bit ‘meh’ at first. After a couple of hours, though, I’ve started warming nicely to it.

I need more time (and some comparisons) to be sure, but I’m wondering if this might just be the right tweed-tone pedal for folks who want that raspy drive characteristic, just without a strong vintage-flavour voice. I suspect it’s a far more accessible sound than full-on tweed amp-in-a-box pedals.

How does it compare to other tweed-tone pedals? I’ll explore that (hopefully later this year) in my #TweedTone series of blog posts, where I’ll put this through a rig that’s voiced specifically for tweed-tone.

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