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Animals Pedal Tioga Road Cycling Distortion

A bear on a bike? I smell a rat... 

  

 

by Phil O'Keefe

 

Collaboration can be fun, and can lead to things that might not have  happened if individuals (or companies) stuck to solo efforts. Case in point: the latest offering from Japan's Animals Pedal, a company I wasn't really familiar with previously, but that apparently has, in a few short years, built a reputation for making straightforward, great-sounding pedals without a lot of unnecessary frills. Animals Pedal was founded in 2015 (they were formerly known as Ninevolt Pedals), and in that time they've collaborated with a couple of big name boutique builders, bringing their designs to the market at impressively low price points. The Tioga Road Cycling Distortion - the distortion pedal we'll be looking at in this review - is another example of just that kind of collaborative effort.

 

 

 

What You Need To Know

  • The Tioga Road Cycling Distortion is a collaborative effort; while it is built in Japan by Animals Pedal, it was designed by Matthew Holl from California-based boutique pedal company Wren And Cuff.
  • The Tioga Road Cycling Distortion is built into a small metal housing. It measures approximately 4.38" L x 2.35" W x 1.95" H. As far as I can tell, the pedal's weight isn't listed on the Animals Pedal website, but it feels substantial; it's a bit heavier than I was expecting based on the pedal's relatively small size.
  • As with all of the Animals Pedal offerings, the graphics were created by Jonas Claesson. https://www.jonasclaesson.com/  The pedal itself is light blue, with black and white graphics. What does a bear on a bike have in common with electric guitarists? The only connection I can see is that both spend a lot of time stepping on pedals…
  • The control labeling is done in white, which can be difficult to see against the light blue paint, but there's not a lot here to remember, so that's a minor annoyance at most. The bear-themed graphics themselves are rather unique (and apparently something Animals Pedal is known for) and while it's subjective, I like the overall look of the pedal quite a bit, even though the pleasant and fanciful image is rather incongruent with the sound of the pedal. 
  • The input and output jacks are mounted on the pedal's sides. The input jack switches the battery on when you plug in a cable, so be sure to unplug the input whenever you're not using the pedal to conserve battery life.
  • The Tioga Road can be powered with either a 9V battery or with a external power adapter, but neither one is included, so you'll need to provide your own power source.
  • The 9V power jack is located on the side of the pedal, next to the input jack. It uses the industry standard 2.1mm center-negative format.

 

 

  • The 9V battery compartment is located inside, and is accessed by removing four screws and the pedal's bottom plate. 

 

 

  • There is a lot of similarities between this pedal and a classic Rat, but there are some differences too, with the Tioga Road featuring beefier lows and some slightly tweaked component values throughout the circuit. The biggest difference comes in the form of a three-way toggle switch that you won't find on the pedals that inspired this one.

 

 

  • The toggle switch lets you select between two different types of diode clipping distortion (asymmetric and symmetric clipping) and also provides a third option that removes the diodes completely and lets the opamp take care of business by itself. This gives you a cleaner sound that is more like an overdrive rather than a more heavily distorted sound. This adds significantly to the pedal's sonic versatility and makes it better suited to a wider variety of musical styles and situations.
  • Toggle switch setting 1 gives you the classic sound of symmetric clipping, while toggle switch setting 2 bypasses the clipping diodes and lets the opamp do the work alone for more of an overdrive sound, while the third switch setting calls up the asymmetric clipping option.
  • There are three knobs on the Tioga Road Cycling Distortion pedal. All three are clear with black indicators. These aren't push-on type knobs, but are held in place with a small metal set screw.
  • In case you're wondering, no, they're not illuminated knobs - there are no LEDs located beneath them, and they don't light up.
  • The knob on the far left is a classic Tone control, which lets you roll off some of the highs to tame the edge of the distortion and make it a bit smoother sounding. At high Tone settings, the pedal has plenty of snarl and bite.
  • The center knob controls Volume. At all but the lowest settings on the Distortion knob (below about 9 o'clock), there is plenty of volume available to get a significant boost above unity gain if you want.
  • The knob on the far right is the Distortion control. The amount of distortion available and its general character will depend on where you have the three-way toggle switch set, but you can go from lightly overdriven to distorted to nearly fuzz-like sounds, depending on how you adjust the pedal.
  • Switching is true bypass. A white LED to the left of the footswitch lights up whenever the pedal is active.

 

 

Limitations

  • The side mounted power jack that's closer to the front of the pedal than the rear can be a bit of a pain - especially if you use a daisy chain to power your pedals.
  • I'm not sure if it contains the coveted LM308 opamp or not - I wasn't able to disassemble it far enough to get a view of all of the components. 

 

 

Conclusions

I smell a dirty rat… and that's a good thing! But the fact is, this is really a different subspecies altogether. Sure, it can do all of the classic rodent type sounds that you're familiar with, but the addition of the asymmetric clipping option and the ability to defeat the diodes completely gives you sonic options that you won't find on the originals.

 

I also really like Tioga Road's artwork. A cartoon bear on a bike? It's unique, and totally incongruent with the sounds the pedal makes, which is kind of fun in a twisted way… and it fits in with the Animals Pedal theme. But it's really just icing on the cake - it's the sound that matters most, and if you are looking for a classic rodent with a few new tricks up its sleeve, look no further. The Tioga Road Cycling Distortion gives you great sound, with bigger lows and added versatility thanks to the design tweaks by Matthew Holl. Animals Pedal bring their manufacturing prowess and efficiency to the collaboration, allowing you to get a boutique Wren And Cuff designed pedal at a very attractive price. Like I said, collaboration can be fun - and this one is a win for guitarists. What's not to love about that? -HC-

 

 

Want to discuss the Animals Pedal Tioga Road Cycling Distortion pedal or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Effects forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!

 

 

Resources

Animals Pedal Tioga Road Cycling Distortion ($149.00 MSRP, $119.00 "street")

 

Animals Pedal website

Animals Pedal product web page         

Animals Pedal products are distributed in North America by SFM 

 

 

You can purchase the Animals Pedal Tioga Road Cycling Distortion from:

Guitar Center     

Reverb     

Musician's Friend     

 

 




__________________________________________________

 




Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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