I’m occasionally chastised by readers for not featuring enough lower cost pedals on this site - which is a somewhat unfair criticism really as I try to be as value-minded as possible - and do genuinely love pedals at all levels - and am ever on the look out for a bargain or two for myself.
Most will already know Tone City as an even more affordable Mooer-style mostly mini pedal operation, while most are not aware that lead engineer / circuit-designer J. Wong used to be at Movall Audio, but fell out with the management there and struck out on his own - taking all his circuit-designs with him. So there was initially a lot of overlap between the Movall range and Tone City - for instance the Movall Minotaur became the Tone City Bad Horse. I personally liked / nay preferred the designs of the Movalls, while I find the basic Tone City enclosures not as aesthetically appealing - the typical fonts and elementary styling really don’t do much for me in the looks stakes. With more carefully applied design and a better choice of fonts, these pedals could really look quite classy, but such is not quite the case currently.
I personally have a significant number of mini pedals in my collection - mostly OneControl and Mooer, but several brands really - particularly across mini fuzzes. I’ve always liked the idea of Tone City, but their visual appeal - colour choices, fonts etc. comes across as rather too cheap looking - as in rather immaterial looking.
So I was pleasantly surprised when Pete Honoré and Rabea Massaad revealed their own ’collaboration’ pedals - essentially tweaked versions of original line Tone City pedals. The cynic in me initially screamed ’re-badging job’ but you can tell there is a little more to these. On the surface the pedals look very similar to the originals - each with identical control topologies from those original pedals, while a closer inspection reveals that Pete’s DP Durple Overdrive has Mid | Vol | Tone | Gain vs the Mandragora’s Pre-Gain | Volume | Tone | Gain controls. Rabea’s Wild Fro has Volume | More Gain | Tone | Gain vs the Wild Fire’s Volume | Clipping | Tone | Gain. The artist editions have a £5 premium in price over the originals, coming in at £45 each - and understandably, only available through the Andertons store!
So both Pete and Rabea state that while the internals are the same - the voicing and tuning/calibration profile of the new editions is significantly different to the originals. Of course right now I can’t tell if it’s just those artists’ superior playing which makes these pedals more enticing or whether there is significant substance here. Obviously a solid choice of colours - Pete’s usual deep purple, and an appealing Black and Gold finish for Rabea’s edition. These are now pretty much at the same level as older / more established Mooer models - like for instance you can get the classic Mooer Trelicopter for £42 and the E-Lady Flanger for £46. At this price Mooer has always been king for me, but I do concede that Tone City makes some pretty great sounding pedals at this price point - where typically Mooer is my first choice. Mini pedals range now all the way up to £200 and have just as many custom and vintage THT components as their larger siblings.
To my ears, and for my taste - these two ’collab’ pedals are the most appealing of the current Tone City Mini Pedals offering. I’m seriously considering acquiring these, but there are a lot of priorities already in my wishlist for the New Years - so not sure when the acquisition would take place. Note here also that the original Mandragora is somewhat based on the Lovepedal Kalamazoo pedal which has no other mini equivalents as far as I’m aware - bar the Movall Hornet Overdrive and this, while the Wild Fire is based on the Suhr Riot which Suhr has since had out in a very appealing mini edition of its own - but at 3 times the price of the Tone City equivalent.
Danish Pete obviously has various signature devices in his life currently - including the glorious ThorpyFX The Dane - you can get 5 Durples and still have change left over for the price of one ’Dane’. Rabea meanwhile has signature just about everything, but no signature pedal yet. So the Wild Fro is currently as close to a Rabea sig as you can get, and the Durple probably the most affordable of all of Pete’s affiliated gear. I’m sure many will just buy these as Andertons souvenirs - in honour of each guitar hero - but I feel that - at least judging by these two artists’ demo videos there may be some suitable merit to these pedals after all - I just wish they were more visually appealing.
There are several Mini Riot clones out there too like Movall’s Mini Demon and Mooer’s Solo - but I personally would probably rather have the official Suhr Mini Riot, while I’m unlikely to own an original full-size Kalamazoo - and I do like that purple colour - so possibly the Durple is the smart choice here after all! Both pedals are due in stock at Andertons on December 13th.