First Impressions: DanDrive Tweedy 5B3

I’ve just bought a DanDrive Tweedy 5B3 overdrive / amp-in-a-box pedal.

The DanDrive Tweedy 5B3 on my pedalboard.

I’m in shock over how good this pedal is (for me). Read on to hear why.

Table of Contents

What Did You Buy?

I bought a DanDrive Tweedy 5B3 overdrive / amp-in-a-box pedal. I bought mine brand new from a dealer on Reverb.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, DanDrive’s website is down. All I can go on is what various retailers have included in their sales info online. The descriptions are pretty consistent, though, so it’s probably what the manufacturer’s website would have said.

The Tweedy 5B3 aims to replicate the magic of a ’53 Tweed Deluxe amp and its often-overlooked 5b3 circuit. This should give it a different flavour to the “holy grail” 5e3 Tweed Deluxe sound, if nothing else.

It seems that there’s two versions of this pedal (some retailers refer to their stock as the ‘MKII’ version). I believe that the original Tweedy chased the 5e8-A circuit (aka the Low-Power Tweed Twin), and that the mark 2 version is the one that chases the 5b3 circuit. I haven’t found anything definitive, though, so don’t take that as gospel.

Why Did You Buy It?

This is a tweed-tone pedal that’s been on my bucket list for some time now. It’s one of those pedals that has obtained mythical status because very few people have actually played one.

However, it’s also a very expensive pedal, and I couldn’t justify it. I’ve already got my #1 tweed-tone pedal (my beloved Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive), and even as a collector, it’s silly to pay the steep retail price for a pedal that isn’t going to be on my board all the time.

Then, the other night, I was browsing on Reverb and found one being sold at a hefty discount. Looked legit, so I bought it before anyone else did (or before the dealer changed their mind).

What Can You Tell Us About The 5b3 Tweed Deluxe Circuit?

From what I’ve read online, the Fender 5b3 Tweed Deluxe is the same circuit as the 5a3 Tweed Deluxe; the only difference between the two amps is the cabinet.

The 5a3 / 5b3 circuit seems to be much cruder than the legendary 5e3 circuit. This appears to have led to an amp that was very mid-focused and somewhat challenging to dial in. It’s supposed to have less gain than the 5e3 circuit too, I believe.

Two things stand out to me that might be interesting to explore with this pedal:

  • the 5a3 / 5b3 circuit is very sensitive to hotter pickups, and
  • the tone control interacts with the gain control

The pedal’s included literature makes it clear that the tone control does affect gain. Hotter signals (ie humbuckers) though? There’s no mention that I can see.

My Rig Today

Today, I’m playing:

  • my Les Paul and my Telecaster
  • into the Axe-FX 3 (for the tuner and some EQ toys)
  • out to my pedalboard
  • back into the Axe-FX 3 (for amp, cab, delay and reverb)
  • out to my audio interface
  • and into my DAW.

My Les Paul is fitted with vintage-voiced, vintage-output humbuckers (aka “PAF-like” pickups). I’m playing in the middle position, with both volume and tone controls rolled back to taste (exactly like I would with my beloved Sweet Honey Overdrive).

On my pedalboard, I have the Ceriatone Centura and the DanDrive Tweedy 5B3 in separate loops of my trusty Gigrig G2. When I’m not using the Centura, it’s completely out of the circuit, so that its buffer cannot colour the sound at all.

The Axe-FX 3 is running an experimental version of my new pedal platform preset. As this is a tweed-tone amp-in-a-box pedal, I’ve got it dialled in for vintage ’57-ish tones.

All of the delay and reverb is coming from the Axe-FX 3. The only post-processing that I might do is level-matching the demos (to avoid the louder-is-better trap).

Initial Thoughts

A couple of minutes of tweaking the amp controls … and suddenly, there it is: that is a glorious tweed tone. I did not expect this pedal to sound this right. Add the Centura in front of it to improve the note definition, and … yeah.

I just want to spend the rest of the day playing it.

Maybe it’s just the timing. I only finished dialling in this new preset for tweed-tone pedals a few days ago. Last night, I was revisiting another tweed-tone pedal that’s just as disappointing as it was when I first got it – even with some important new advice on how to approach it. And today’s the second day in a row where I’m stuck in all day waiting for a rescheduled parcel delivery.

So I’m definitely in the kind of mood where I’m almost desperate to be impressed. But impressed doesn’t cover it. Not by half.

It’s not just the sound. This pedal also feels really good to play through. “Feel” is such a difficult experience to convey through the written word; I’ll do my best. There’s more than enough picking dynamics to keep me happy, and yet it does feel like the pedal compresses nicely when I dig in. I certainly don’t feel the need to kick in my Mary Cries compressor to help in any way.

Is that what people mean when they say “amp-like feel”? If so, I’ll happily take it!

How Does It Sound?

Let’s explore how the pedal sounds, both on its own and with some tone-shaping tools thrown in to really get the best (that I can) out of it.

I Wonder What The Settings Are?

I have the Tweedy 5B3 dialled in like this:

  • Tone just below 11 o’clock
  • Drive around 12 o’clock
  • Level down around 10 o’clock

My amp is dialled in like this:

  • Bass at 4 (out of 10)
  • Mids at 6 (out of 10)
  • Treble at 6 (out of 10)
  • Depth at 0
  • Presence is at 2.9

I’m playing through the Axe-FX 3’s 1×12 Deluxe Tweed DynaCab impulse responses.

With My Les Paul

First off, let’s hear those settings with my Les Paul in the middle position:

  • Neck pickup volume is on 7
  • Neck tone control is on 7.5
  • Bridge pickup volume is on 9
  • Bridge tone control is on 9
Les Paul (middle position) > DanDrive Tweedy 5B3 > Axe-FX 3

Given that the 5B3 (reportedly) wasn’t known for its low-end, I’m surprised at just how much bass this pedal outputs. It’s probably spot-on for a Telecaster bridge (I’ll come back to that later on), but perhaps a bit much for the middle position of my Les Paul?

Just in case you’re curious, here’s how the pedal sounds when I switch to the bridge pickup of my Les Paul. I haven’t touched any of the settings on the guitar, pedal or amp.

Les Paul (bridge position) > DanDrive Tweedy 5B3 > Axe-FX 3

That’s more overdrive than I need, for sure! This can be tamed just by rolling back the bridge volume pickup – and/or by adjusting the Drive control on the pedal itself. I haven’t tried that, because I want to stick with the current settings for the rest of these demos.

Let’s go back to my Les Paul’s middle position, and see what I can do to reduce the amount of low-end that’s being captured in the recordings.

Thanks to the versatility of the Axe-FX 3, I’ve got a few EQ options available. After a bit of experimenting, I’m going with some EQ between the guitar and the pedal: a slight upper-mids bump at around 1.5 kHz, and a slight lower-mids cut at around 220 Hz. This is what that sounds like:

Les Paul (middle position) > Axe-FX 3 (EQ tweaks) > DanDrive Tweedy 5B3 > Axe-FX 3

In the room, that felt like a significant EQ change. Listening back to the recording, there’s still plenty of bass being captured. Just illustrates how different things can sound simply by moving around the room.

I want to quickly demonstrate how this pedal goes with my Telecaster, before I go any further with the Les Paul.

With My Telecaster

I’ve switched over to my Telecaster. I’m on the bridge pickup, with the tone control rolled down a little.

Telecaster (bridge pickup) > DanDrive Tweedy 5B3 > Axe-FX 3

Doing the playthrough, it sounded almost clean to me, but I think there’s a really sweet amount of grit to that recording. I would very happily use that as a low-gain rhythm tone.

I have also experimented with using the Axe-FX 3 to provide a clean boost in front of the pedal, to give the Telecaster a bit more output. (Something like the MXR Micro Amp pedal would do the same role.)

Here’s my favourite: a 3 db boost before the Tweedy 5B3:

Telecaster (bridge pickup) > Axe-FX 3 (+3dB gain boost) > DanDrive Tweedy 5B3 > Axe-FX 3

To my ears, it’s still got the same tone as before; it’s just got a bit more overdrive too. I think that’s really tasty. Have I found my new go-to tweed tone for my Telecaster, perhaps?

Does It Klon?

I’ve already given this answer away, but hey – let’s actually hear it.

I’m using my Ceriatone Centura, which (to my ears) sounds identical to my real Klon KTR. It’s dialled in for the classic Klon clean boost settings:

  • Gain around 8 o’clock,
  • Treble around 1 o’clock,
  • and Level aiming for unity at around 9 o’clock

I’m back on my Les Paul in the middle position. I’ve got a little EQ tweak on in the Axe-FX, to do a small cut around 220 Hz. Otherwise, the guitar, pedal and amp are all using the settings that I started with in the first demo.

Les Paul (middle position) > Ceriatone Centura > DanDrive Tweedy 5B3 > Axe-FX 3

Arguably, that’s a little much. If anything, I think it almost sounds too tweedy, if that makes sense. I’m not hearing enough low-mids foundation for my taste, while the note attack sounds a little too sharp now.

To dial that back, I’m going to:

  • get rid of the EQ cut between guitar and pedal (lets more low-end reach the Centura, and reduces the mid-range push a little),
  • turn down the Gain on the Centura to below 8 o’clock (reduces how much low-end the Centura cuts),
  • add a -3 dB cut between the guitar and pedal (mellows things out a little bit; could also be achieving by turning my bridge pickup a smidge or two)
Les Paul (middle position) > Axe-FX 3 (-3db cut) > Ceriatone Centura (tweaked settings) > DanDrive Tweedy 5B3 > Axe-FX 3

This is the sound that I was gushing over at the start of this blog post. It exactly how I want tweed-tone to both sound and feel under the fingers. It makes me want to just bottle it up and keep it forever.

Which is why I’m not going to explore the interaction between the pedal’s tone control and drive control today after all. That will have to wait for another day, I’m afraid.

Final Thoughts

I’m genuinely in shock. The Tweedy 5B3 is that good. I didn’t expect this at all.

That’s it. That’s the final thought. For the second time in a week, I think I’ve found something that really does sound perfect for what it does.

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