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Brian Wampler - King of Drive!

12 Degrees of SaturationBig Muff Style FuzzBlues Driver Style OverdriveBoostBoost and OverdriveBrown Sound DistortionDistortionDriveDual-DriveDumble Style OverdriveEffects Pedal MakersFuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionKlone and Transparent OverdriveMarshall Style DistortionMetal DistortionMulti-DriveOpAmp FuzzOverdriveRat Style FuzzSilicon FuzzTubescreamer Style OverdriveVox Style DistortionWampler+-
2018GPXWamplerKingOfDrive700V4-min 2.jpg

I have a lot of respect for Brian Wampler and his pedals, and already have five in the collection. It is with some sadness that the last active one of those in my chain - the long-serving Mini Ego Compressor is on the point of being ousted by the Jackson Audio Bloom. But Brian of course is still a master pedal craftsman and no one on the boutique side or any side for that manner has as many well-loved overdrives and distortions. And a Wampler pedal will soon appear once more on active duty in my chain in any case.

 

I have a Dracarys, Mini Ego Compressor, Euphoria and both Mini and Deluxe Tumnuses or Tumni even! Most of Brian’s pedal have been mentioned numerous times on this site - and included in the relevant category overviews - and my 9 favourite ones pictured above are either already in the collection or on the Wishlist. I really love the sound of the Pantheon and think that will relatively soon occupy slot #12 in the pedal-chain which is currently mostly featuring the Basic Audio Futureman and Spaceman Aphelion on rotation - and a little Hamstead Odyssey. It has a beautifully articulate and textured core tone - with enormous versatility - so you can easily smooth it off or crunch it up to pretty significant levels of distortion. The Pantheon will definitely be my next Wampler acquisition, while I’m keen to get a Sovereign and Triple Wreck too at some stage, the others are not so pressing - but I occasionally see the discontinued SLOstortion pedal on Reverb.com - and I’d quite like that one too.

 

I have arranged the 9 pedals in roughly ’12 Degrees of Saturation’ order - or Klone > Tube Screamer > Dumble > Bluesbreaker > Plexi > Brown Sound > Heavy > Djent > Extreme. I first list out my 9 favourites, then the other 9 drive pedals in the current range followed by notable discontinued pedals and then the 2 Fuzzes. I have also long enjoyed Brian’s many exemplary videos on pedal circuits and tone-chasing / tone-questing and I fastidiously follow the Wampler Tone Group on Facebook and recommend you all do the same.


Tumnus Deluxe (Klone)

After toying with the TCE MojoMojo and EHX Soul Food in both stock and JHS modded versions - I really properly got into my Klon love with the Mini Tumnus - which was pride of place in that slot of my chain for a good 18 months - then briefly swapped with a Foxpedal Kingdom Combo before the Tumnus Deluxe arrived. I've also been rotating in the excellent Greer Lightspeed every now and again before settling on my current favourite - the Mini Decibelics Golden Horse - there's no doubt though that the Tumnus Deluxe has more range and more gain on tap - so that will still remains a major rotation option on slot #9.


Clarksdale (TS808)

I have considered Brian's Tube Screamer clone on numerous occasions - its 3-band EQ and voicing toggle helping to raise it well above its original root limitations. Yet I went first for the Foxpedal In The City V2 - which has similar range plus a second boost footswitch, and then I acquired the excellent all-rounder that is the JHS Bonzai - I do still intend to get a Clarksdale at some stage, it's just nowhere near the priority list currently.


Euphoria (Dumble)

This equally superbly versatile Dumble-esque pedal replaced my Mad Professor Simble in that same slot - I currently have no proper Dumble clones in the chain, but a couple of the current pedals sort of broach that territory and I have further Dumble-style pedals in reserve. Nevertheless this one does get fairly regular rotation in the chain even though there is no longer a dedicated 'Dumble' slot. It took me a while to figure out the 'Bass' dial - which is entirely additive - meaning that most will want it turned significantly anti-clockwise - 12 o'clock is definitely not '0' it's just a question of how much Bass you want to add into your signal - and for most guitars it really does not sound good in the centre position!


Pantheon (Bluesbreaker)

Brian's new pedal is a thing of genius and I predict it will probably even exceed the enormous popularity of the Tumnus - so well voiced is this new Bluesbreaker style drive. It kind of takes the best bits of Analog.Man's Prince of Tone and Marshall's original Bluesbreaker circuit - and then runs with it somewhat - giving you everything from smooth to pretty crunchy hairy distortion. It features a really clever mix of controls - with 2 x 3-way voicing switches for ultimate versatility. The Presence dial is entirely additive - like the Bass dial on the Euphoria and in the same way you should start with it set full anti-clockwise.


Plexi-Drive Deluxe (Plexi)

Widely accepted as one of the best sounding Plexi clones out there - I feel that the new Origin Effects RevivalDrive somewhat outguns it nowadays, but that's 3 times the price. For many, the Plexi-Drive gives you the perfect balance of control and contour. I'm always keen on Marshall-style drives and always have several such pedals in my sights - including this one, and the various PedalPal ones from Venezuela. The advantage of the Deluxe pedals is that you get a separate footswitchable boost.


Pinnacle Deluxe (EVH Brown Sound)

Most agree that the 2 best Eddie Van Halen Brown Sound style pedals on the market are the official MXR EVH 5150 OD and this Pinnacle Deluxe version. While I go a slightly different route with my MI Effects Super Crunch Box - which features most of the same controls in a compact enclosure. I long weighed up the 5150, Pinnacle, Super Crunch, JHS Andy Timmons and JHS Angry Charlie - before I settled on the Super Crunch Box - but I probably still would like most of those others eventually for occasional rotation.


Sovereign (6L6 Power Amp Distortion)

Most describe this as a crunchy, dense and rich 6L6 Power Amp style Distortion with a really broad range of gain and tone. I've come across it several times and have been on the cusp of acquiring it when some other priority arose and diverted my attentions. This is probably next in line for acquisition after the Pantheon - it's a really versatile medium to high-gain pedal.


Dracarys (Ola Englund Chug / Randall Satan)

This Ola Englund-inspired Chug / Djent pedal does what it was intended to do really well - while I found the Empress Heavy and MI Effects Megalith Delta which replaced it just a bit more versatile and useful overall - the former has dual channels, and the latter has separate boost - meaning multiple voicings on each. While the Dracarys is a single format pedal with relatively limited scope comparatively - but still great sounding at what it does and it does get in on the rotation every now and again.


Triple Wreck (MESA/Boogie High Gain)

Based on a MESA/Boogie Triple Rectifier Amp sound - this is one of the ultimate extreme gain pedals - for that really tight and percussive dark metal sound. This has been on my wishlist for the longest time. Heading for 3 years now - it was one of the earliest pedals I intended to get, but others have somehow conspired to take precedence - this is really great at what it delivers and would make a good sometime rotation alternative for both my Empress Heavy and MI Megalith Delta primary pedals.


Other Drive Pedals in the Current Range

The following additional 9 are all that same excellent quality as the ones above, they just don't appeal to me quite as much:

  • cataPulp = Orange Amp Distortion
  • Dual Fusion = Tom Quayle Signature Pedal, the perfect Jazz/Rock Fusion pedal - consisting of Euphoria + Paisley Drive - where you can change the order of which half drives the other
  • Hot Wired = Brent Mason Signature Pedal, perfect Nashville country-style pedal, consisting of Clarksdale + Plexi-Drive - and you can change the order of which pedal / half drives the other
  • Paisley Drive = Brad Paisley's Signature Pedal is an evolution of the Clarksdale circuit (TS808) but very much honed towards Brad's core Telecaster tone
  • Paisley Drive Deluxe (per above demo) = Brad Paisley's Signature Pedal adds the discontinued Underdog circuit (Nobels ODR-S) to the heavily modified Clarksdale circuit - again with a toggle to set order of drives
  • Pinnacle Standard = this is the compact version of the Pinnacle pedal - minus separate boost switch and dial
  • Plexi-Drive Standard = same as for the Pinnacle Standard - i.e. minus separate boost and dial
  • Thirty Something = classic Vox AC30 + Boost sound - probably the best all-rounder of that type currently available - does both the sparkly cleans and Brian May style distortion brilliantly
  • Tumnus Mini = Brian's original Low-end-enhanced Klon(e) pedal - probably his current bestseller - excellent as a neutral / transparent drive and as a boost

Notable Discontinued Wampler Drive Pedals

It's ironic that there has been a recent rise in enthusiasm for Tweed-style pedals, as Wampler had one of the best a few years back. I also really like the sound of the discontinued SLOstortion pedal- and may just pick up one of those on Reverb.com:

  • Black '65 = this is modelled on a classic clean and sparkle Black-Face Fender Amp
  • Tweed '57 = modelled on the classic original Rock'n'Roll sound of those Fender Tweed Amps
  • SLOstortion (per above demo) = superb American high gain distortion based on the Soldano SLO-100 Amp
  • Underdog OD = another Brad Paisley favourite - modelled on the Nobels ODR-S pedal

Wampler Fuzz Pedals

To my knowledge there have only been two Wampler fuzzes - both pretty unique circuits which though not really modelled on specific Big Muff circuits are closer to that kind of circuit than say a Fuzz Face or Tone Bender. I have considered both of these fuzzes, the former of which is discontinued now. The Leviathan is somewhat rougher and rawer with elements of Rat OpAmp distortion quite heavily in the mix - while the Velvet Fuzz is somewhat smoother, but still very much in Fuzzy-Drive territory - I can't decide which one of these I should have or if I need both!:

  • Leviathan Fuzz (discontinued, per above demo) = unique fuzz circuit which occupies sort of Big Muff/OpAmp/Rat -style territory - with more in-your-face spikey fuzzstortion
  • Velvet Fuzz = unique fuzz circuit which is closer to traditional Big Muff territory - not as raw as its predecessor

Other Pedals in the Range

Brian doesn't just make exceptional drive pedals, he has 11 further excellent pedals in the range which cover time-based and ambient effects along with superior Compressors and a cool new Semi-Parametric EQ (per above demo):

  • dB+ Boost and Independent Buffer
  • The Doctor LoFi Ambient Delay
  • Ego Compressor
  • Ego Mini Compressor
  • Ethereal Reverb and Delay
  • EQuator Advanced Audio Equaliser
  • Faux Spring Mini Reverb
  • Faux Tape Echo V2
  • Latitude Deluxe Tremolo
  • Latitude Standard Tremolo
  • Reflection Reverb

Final Thoughts

I think you would struggle to find a finer assortment and variety of drive pedals. Each boutique pedal builder tends to have their own specialisms and even though there are some really decent Wampler modulation, delay and reverb pedals - and an excellent new Parametric Equator EQ - there's no doubt really that Brian is the King of the Drive Pedal. There are several Kings of Fuzzes - say Mike Piera and Marc Ahls included, Robert Keeley is the King of Compressors. I guess Josh Scott over at JHS Pedals runs Brian fairly close - but I think Brian still pips it overall.

 

I never have any qualms about buying Wampler pedals - you know what you're getting and the quality is always top-notch and fully reliable. And if you aren't getting great tones out of those pedals it is typically because you haven't dialled them in properly. With Wampler all the pedals have 'range' and all the switches and dials do something significant - so you can indeed sound horrible if you really don't know what you're doing. For me though the pleasure of owning Wampler pedals is that you pretty much always know what you're getting and you get used to just how to dial them in - with a couple of exceptions as noted above.

 

At one stage I had 4 Wampler pedals in my chain, I will likely have '0' for a short interim period while I swap out the Mini Ego for the Jackson Audio Bloom, and before I acquire the Pantheon for slot #12! I feel most of you could to with at least one Wampler pedal in your rig - I used to think that was either the Mini Tumnus and or Mini Ego, but now I reckon it's most likely the Tumnus Deluxe or Pantheon - depending on how smooth or how much harmonic content you like.

 

In terms of my Wampler acquisition list - it currently runs to Pantheon, Sovereign, Triple Wreck, SLOstortion and Leviathan. That should cover most of my favourites.

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