The following article is composed of an assortment of essentially unrelated Overdrives which have recently caught my eye - albeit a couple of these have been around for a while.
The only common element here is that each of these has a distinctive bite to its output and correspondingly interesting textural character.
3 of these are multi-stage clipping drives, where two have separate controls for 2 of their stages - namely the AJ Peat Screaming Flamingo and Balaguer Fission Drive. The former is not related to, but reminds me a little of the Fulltone Plimsoul in its setup - i.e. 2-stages with individual gain controls out of 4 overall controls.
Pricing varies from $135 to $209, with the Japanese overdrive here the most pricey while still around standard compact boutique pricing - with a couple of these priced somewhat keener.
I’m not sure I will acquire all of these eventually - but all are currently on my wishlist. Each of these is solidly within the Mid-Gain spectrum through to significant crunch - while the Flamingo and Fission deliver decent levels of distortion too.
I will probably go for The Litigator first in any case - while each of these has significant appeal for me.
As mentioned in the intro - the Screaming Flamingo is somewhat superficially similar to the Fulltone Plimsoul in its control topology - albeit the latest version of that now has an additional Bass boost switch.
Both though have Volume, Tone, and separate controls for each key stage - here labelled as Overdrive and Distortion. This is a 3 x 2-stage Opamps circuit in stacking configuration with lots of combinations and range on-tap.
I would imagine its operation would be very similar to the Plimsoul - where you can turn the respective dials CCW to switch out either stage.
This is not too materially different to the Screaming Flamingo - where the two key gain stages are labelled Pre and Post. Master is the output volume, and it has 2-Band EQ - Bass and Treble, as well as a Modern/Vintage voicing switch - which delivers different gain structure - with Modern being very much pushed and higher gain distortion - while the Vintage is more restrained and open sounding.
Overall this is slightly denser and higher gain than the Screaming Flamingo, but both those pedals have enormous range and actually fairly significant tone-shaping too.
The Litigator is directly targeting that Eric Clapton Beano Sound as notably used on the classic 'John Mayall Blues Breakers' album. It has that distinctive bite and edge to the sound - and is very elegantly realised with just 3 controls - Volume, Gain and Tone.
Underneath this is a very finely calibrated 2-gain-stage overdrive circuit with actually quite a bit of gain on tap and more versatility than you might expect with just those 3 controls.
The Dhyana is actually a classic 'Dumble in a box' style overdrive - and is indeed an evolved replica of the celebrated Smoky Signal Audio Tubeless Overdrive - or at least the D-style variety of that rather broad lineup. There were several varieties of Tubeless Overdrive - typically based on vintage amp tubes - e.g. EL84.
I obviously don't particularly need another Dumble Style pedal as I have a number of favourites in that area already - while this one is quite special too in its own way. The key special sauce here besides the NOS components and precise calibration is the AMC knob (Amplifier Matching Control) which brings in more texture and crunch as you wind the dial clockwise.
The pedal's 4 controls are Level, Gain, AMC (Amplifier Matching Control / Texture), and Tone. This being a Japanese import it typically is a little harder to get hold of - and I'm not sure I would recommend it over my favourite Demon Pedals Kondo-Shifuku at this size - but it's definitely well within the upper echelon of Dumble-Style pedals.
Each of these has its own significant appeal and they are all quite a bit more versatile than most typical 3-knob overdrives. There are some overlaps in structure and topology while each has its own distinctive voicings and flavours.
Right now there's something abut The Litigator and Dreaming Flamingo that I really like. And I will likely be targeting those two first - with The Litigator being the one I want most at this particular moment. We all know how quickly prevailing moods can change, and I still have a lot of Priority 1 pedals on my wishlist to sort / source first!
Do you like the look / sound of any of these? Or have you succumbed to their charms already?