I’m doing my Jeopardy version of gear reviews again. We’ll start with my conclusions.
The Recording Man’s Conclusion
I’m playing guitar quite a bit again, but I refuse to be a guitar player. I’m a recording guy and so that means I get to sit up on my perch and look down on the lowly world of people who refer themselves as guitar players. (Okay, like 2% of you can sit at the table with the big kids). The rest of you can stay at the diaper table.
Here are my conclusions:
- If you’ve had boxiness problems in your electric guitar recordings, tossing the Dynodrive in front of the amp is THE solution. I don’t think it gets better than this. In fact, this booster may be life changingly good! Seriously!
- If you’ve struggled with getting this harmonically dense tone without giga-gain (and all the boring fizz that comes with it) the Dynodrive is THE solution.
- The boxiness I’m referring to can happen on all amps. I’m talking high end amps like: Rivera Knucklehead, Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, Hughes and Kettner Triamp, Peavey 5150, etc. This boxiness is not a flaw in a few amps I’m using. It’s more of an issue of the importance I place with boosting with the right pedal.
- Before buying new/fancy mics, preamps, etc try tossing the Dynodrive in front of the amp. God knows I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to get this from recording equipment.
- If you are a guitar player who frequently uses high gain sounds, the Modtone Dynodrive is absolutely required.
- If you are a recording engineer frequently recording high gain guitar sounds, the Modtone Dynodrive is absolutely required.
I’ve been using the my yellow Boss SD-1 as a boost in front of a high gain amp since Clinton was in office. I’ve always liked the Tube Screamer style pedal in front of the amp. Up until now I’ve always felt that a Tube Screamer rip off is a Tube Screamer rip off and the differences between them are what the little fairy prince guitar wienies do on guitar forums when they aren’t arguing about Star Trek or trying to guess what “warm apple pie” feels like.
I stand corrected and I did it with out a guitar forum. (Thank God!)
Today I discovered the Modtone DynoDrive. It also takes on the yellow overdrive pedal look. However, this thing is NOT a Boss SD-1. It’s not a Tubescreamer. It’s not a Maxon OD-9. For my money it’s 10,000 times better.
I was playing my Fender Strat USA with a Duncan JB Jr in the bridge. While I’ve always loved boosters for studio work, I always go out of my way to avoid having to press 40 pedals in a live / jamming situation. It sucks the fun and life out of playing. I set my Rivera Knucklehead to sound about right without any boosting in front of it. This tone is no slouch. It’s a tone that people shell out the big bucks for.
However, it can also be a hair on the boxy side at times. It doesn’t have quite the sustain I want and there can be a blurred middle ground between too much gain causing fizz and not enough gain causing boredom.
The second I plugged into the Modtone DynoDrive I knew I had found a mate for life (at least the next decade). The Modtone DynoDrive adds some gain and solves all the sustain issues. My Boss SD-1 does what all the Tube Screamer knock-offs do. The DynoDrive does two other big things that I’ve not heard out of a booster pedal.
Good Bye Boxiness
The Dynodrive completely pulls out ALL the boxiness. When I turned on the Dynodrive, the sound was instantly what I had always wanted. It’s a sound I’ve been attempting to EQ out or use weird mic placements to overcome. I’ve spent thousands on preamps, EQ, and mics to solve this specific problem. I’d guess I’ve lied awake in bed maybe 400 times wondering what the hell is causing this problem over the past 8 years or so. This is BIG BIG BIG for me! It’s the difference between kinda cheap tone and “Holy Shit Tone!”.
In addition to all the boxiness being kicked to the curb, the harmonics get way way way richer without any of the fizziness that a gain boost requires. This is the sort of thing that people expect from the impractical world of cranking amps to 10. It’s the kind of thing I’ve been chasing since some of you reading this were still crapping your pants.
When I first stepped on the DynoDrive with my tone on my Rivera set to mostly work without it, it immediately screamed Breaking Benjamin style modern rock tone. For my tastes, that tone is a hair scooped, but I can’t count the times I’ve recorded the kids over the years where both of us knew the tone just wasn’t quite their yet. The tone wasn’t “finished” sounding. The DynoDrive finishes it. I adjusted my settings a bit on the amp to compensate for the scoopage and I was in heaven. This pedal makes playing more fun and it’s going to make it look like I’m a genius to the guitar players I record.
The Percussive G String
The thing I really hate about not using a booster on a high gain amp is the boring sounding G string. I always find that if the G string is boring I end up sounding more like the Almond Brothers or something. (Nothing against the Almond Brothers, they just ain’t Van Halen or Dragonforce.) With the DynoDrive, the G string string becomes percussive. Palm mutes on the G string jump out just like like the do on the lower strings. 16th note palm muted leads sounds go from useless to world dominating when I engage the Dynodrive.
I would have shelled out big bucks for that years ago. This is the kind of thing Cher sang about.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I have a different take on clean sounds than most guitar players. I’m a recording guy and I’ve ACTUALLY LISTENED to a few recordings. I’ve come to the conclusion that clean sounds are always a little dirty. At least the clean sounds I like are always a little dirty. The illusion of a clean guitar sound that has less distortion than a Apogee converter is hog crap. It’s flat out inaccurate in my view and it’s almost unheard of to find this squeaky clean sound.
What makes a clean tone work is not necessarily the amount of distortion, but the harmonic structure of that distortion. That chimey sound requires a little bit grit to it, but that grit has to be in the right place. If you’ve got boxiness in it, you are done. Forget it. Guess what. I just happen to be reviewing a pedal that is badass for pulling out boxiness. So yup, you guessed it. I’ve finally found a booster pedal that I can leave on all the time in a live / jamming situation.
I’ve had to be careful with this one maybe getting a hair more distorted than I really wanted. However, when the harmonic stuff is right, I could have Dimebag level mega gain on my clean and not loose sleep over it. The Dynodrive has a way of getting that right.
In real recording situations, I’d definitely use the Dynodrive on my clean tones even if I pulled the gain way back.
An Overdrive Pedal
I guess I should at least mention what the Modtone does when you use it like it was actually designed to work. I have to say that I’ve always considered my Boss SD-1 completely useless as an overdrive pedal. Taking a clean amp and expecting to get anything that doesn’t make you feel similar to reading the latest sex offender story in the local newspaper is difficult. I have emulators that sound better without a doubt.
So my luck with overdrive pedals is limited.
Once again, the Modtone has made me a believer. Running the Modtone into a clean amp was more than usable. It was very, very pleasant. None of the boxiness of the SD-1 was there. None! With the gain all the way up, you end up with something that Toad The Wet Sprocket or Counting Crows could use and it sounds legitimately good. Is it as good as a mega tube amp gain? Hell, I don’t know. Maybe. Regardless, that “harmonic structure” thing is there. As a purist, I’d be more inclined to set the amp with just a bit of grit and go back to using this thing as a booster. However, the thing does work in “standalone” mode if you want to go there.
If you dig in you can do some really cool blues rock type stuff if that is your bag.