When I did my recent Aleks K Production Range Overview I had obviously had my 2 favourite Aleks K pedals in the chain for a while - the Maple Leaf Royal Drive/Distortion and Red Scorpion 2 Mega Distortion. I noted how there was a sort of shared family tonal character between the pedals - with a pervasive smooth, long-sustaining musicality with a definite hint of compression.
I reaffirmed my choices as to which were my favourites and why, and indicated I would like to add the Honey Moon 2 to create a reference library that best represents the Aleks K Production pedal lineup.
I detailed the characters of each of the pedals roughly as follows:
The essence of this pedal is the appropriate combination of the Darker/Harder Drive 1 with the Sweeter/Brighter Drive 2. For my preferences I prefer to let the Drive 2 dominate and set that first to around 10 o'clock - and then bring up the Drive 1 to around 8:30 o'c for added body - too much of Drive 1 though and the body can overwhelm the finesse of Drive 2 - with is probably advantageous for single-coils, but less desirable with humbuckers. I keep the Tone dial fairly neutral at around 12:30 o'c, and rely on the Filter at around 2 o'c to further smooth my signal. The result is a lovely smooth sustaining and articulate creamy bluesy drive as prescribed. There's actually a very significant amount of gain on tap here, but for my preferences I find there's plenty of saturation well before you approach 12 o'c on the Drive dials. Because of the differing voicings of those 2 drives there are lots of different tonalities possible here - in conjunction with the Tone and Filter Knobs - beware though that the Drive 1 can all too easily overwhelm and dominate proceedings - which is possibly what some want, but for my taste can kind of over-egg the pudding!
This is still my favourite favourite Aleks K pedal - I just love that singing liquid distortion - this is that flavour of the 80's you always loved but never knew how much you needed it. Mechanically it's not dissimilar to the Honey Moon - in that you're best off starting by setting the balance between Drive 1 and Drive 2 - here Drive 1 is the thicker more saturating drive and the one that sets the key character for me - I currently have that at 10 o'c, with the Drive 2 set to 8 o'c; Low is at 9 o'c, High at 12 o'c, and Auxilliary High or 'Sizzle' as I call it at 9 o'c too - note that the Aux High can significantly alter the tonality as well as adding more saturation, gain and compression. I've noted before that this is not a particularly high output pedal - whereas the volume ranges on the Honey Moon 2 and Red Scorpion 2 are perfectly within standard deviation, the Maple Leaf is probably at around 80-85% of those - which means that I run it at the higher permissible level of 12 Volts, but also with a post-cleanish-boost. In any case this pedal is endlessly fun to jam with - it just has a really wonderful way of reacting to your playing - so it's the least likely of the Aleks K's to be rotated out.
As I mentioned before - I occasionally have more fun with this than the favourite Maple Leaf, even though that gets most of the attention. You don't get that same fun dynamic of combining 2 different Drive voicings, but you do get a wonderfully balanced and even-tempered high gain character. Dynamically and frequency-wise this is quite different to the REVV G4 it nudged out of rotation - I like both, but the Red Scorpion is often easier to get along with. When I say full-bodied I mean the distortion character moulds well together and you get a really solid core to the tone which produces that bark-like grunt, but retains articulation and note definition. Far too often High Gain pedals can become strident and discordant or overly boomy and woofy, but that is not the case here - this is a really finely balanced tonality which has that satisfying solid core!
The dual-drive pedals from the Aleks K range are really the more interesting ones here, and I believe that this will become a more significant theme for 2020 as pedal-makers move on from single varietals to more 'fusion' sounds - finding inventive and ingenious ways to stack 2 complimentary circuits together. There are lots of innovations that can be done here - separate footswtiches to select each circuit independently and in tandem - along with a 3-way selector for each-way serial or parallel stacking.
I've spent some quite considerable time with the 3 Aleks K pedals I now own, and even though I'm more aware of nuance, range and balance, it still hasn't changed my overall take or appreciation of the range. I still feel that the Maple Leaf is the star of the show - even though it could do with some sort of built-in clean boost in my opinion (more output) - while I manage to get the best out of it with the clever tone-components placed throughout my pedal-chain - strategic placements of pre- and post- boosts and EQs.
Second favourite is still the Red Scorpion - for which my appreciation grows every day - it has some nuances to it that I wasn't initially aware of. And finally, similarly with the Honey Moon I'm discovering more and more each day with prolonged use - as recorded above I believe I have now achieved the optimal settings for me for now, but will experiment further for sure - those two quite different Drives really could do with an additional 'Density' control to take some of the lows and lower mids out of the circuit on occasion - other than that it already delivers a really rather fantastic smooth and creamy bluesy tonality which should appeal to those more bluesy aficionados.
One thing I really can't get enough of is the quality and attention to details on these pedals - this is the only maker I know of which ships a spare OpAmp chip with each pedal - in case the installed one gets somehow damaged in transit. That should tell you all you really need to know about these pedals - it's a family company that lavishes attention on its individually hand-crafted pedals, and it's so evident that they really do care and want the best for you!
In any case I'm really delighted with all 3 of these pedals just on the merits of how they sound - let alone finish, look, feel and service - and they are truly fine ambassadors for the Aleks K pedal range - get yours now from the Aleks K Production Store.