Audio developed an amazing sounding overdrive.
Definitely not a one-trick pony, you have three types of drive with a
very useful EQ; and the drive sounds good even when turned all the way up (no
harshness, muddiness or over-saturation).
The three types of modes are based on the classic Marshall Blues Breaker
circuit, but with added LED (light emitting diode) clipping similar to the
Turbo Rat circuit and a transparent op-amp boost that breaks up without
affecting the original guitar tone and amplifier. In fact, it was interesting to hear how using
full Drive sounded like the original amp I was using when the guitarâ€™s volume
was dialed back. In other words, and
this is shown in the demo video, I cranked the Drive full on a slightly dirty
amp channel (channel 1 of the Kraken V4 preamp), and the result was grainy and distorted
â€“ sounded great and as though you gave Channel 1 of the Kraken some steroids
(same tone, but just more intense). But
as I dialed back the guitarâ€™s volume to a bit less than half-way it sounded
like the Kraken V4 without the Fab Suisse.
the three modes of Drive do vary. The
center position is in boost position (op-amp clipping) and it very much retains
the original tone of your amp, albeit with some extra balls and depending on
how much Drive you add to it. The toggle
switch right position produces soft clipping, which helps to soften the tone a
bit, which is good for high-gain amps that need taming for a smoother and more
melodic lead (or less aggressive rhythm).
The hard clipping (left toggle switch position) has more edge or
bite. The EQs produce very smooth changes
in tone and while pushing or cutting select frequencies in your other
gear. Overall the various drives with
the EQ work well together and in harmony.
Lastly, the Fab Suisse can get really loud as you mix the Volume and
Drive knobs, although it does not produce a lot of headroom (this allows you to
set the controls to the max).
Fab Suisse is of standard pedal size, measuring approximately 4.5 (L) x 2.25
(w) x 1.5 (h) inches or 11.43 x 5.7 x 3.8 cm.
The faded blue-jean name print looks very cool and stylish (and Victorian)
against the light grey paint of the metal chassis. The footswitch has a solid click (noiseless
in the signal) and is far removed from the most precarious part of the pedal,
the toggle switch (buried nicely among the knobs). The toggle switch also has a good click to it
and with enough height for easy adjustment (some toggles are rather small and
you have to pinch them between thumb and forefinger to get a grasp). The knobs are of good quality, complete with
a little Tapestry Audio logo on each, which helps to tell you what the pedalâ€™s
settings are from a glance. As well,
each knob has a locking screw with shield (knob stop), which acts like a kick
plate to some degree, thereby adding further protection (particularly to the EQ
knobs that are closest to the footswitch).
The LED on/off is closest to the footswitch of all the
controls/elements, but it is countersunk and below the metal chassis. The input/output both are located along the
sides near the footswitch, and so some modest care needs to be taken. The power input is located on the back of the
chassis, requiring a standard 9VDC power supply (50mA consumption).
There are a number of
great drive pedals out there, and the Fab Suisse is destined to be among the
best (also ideal for bass and keyboards).
Not only can you chose from a transparent boost with added drive, but
the option of having a soft or hard push helps to make any amp far more diverse
as it seems to add tonal qualities that are unique from the amp, and yet sounds
like itâ€™s part of the amp. Some drives
simply do not work well with some amps, and maybe this is the case with the Fab
Suisse. However, I hooked it up to three
different tube preamps, and even linked it before other drive pedals and it
merged so seamlessly that it has become a regular part of my pedal board. At $149 USD it is a solid buy, offering
various qualities of drive and the ability to fine-tune the EQ to best match
amp settings. The locking screw (knob
stop) with each Fab Suisseâ€™s knob is a nice touch (and feels good to the touch if
you leave the screw semi-loose so that you can feel the grooves in the knob
click against the screw). And for those
who like to push an amp to the limits, the Fab Suisse is very low noise (an
important factor when added to higher-gain amps). What I think may be overlooked by some is the
fact that you can dial back your high-gain amp (for better clarity and less
saturation) and then crank up for the Fab Suisse for added drive without the
saturation or muddiness. As an example,
I find my Kraken V4 preamp (channel 2) sounds great at 2-oâ€™clock gain â€“
anything more and you lose a touch of note clarity due to saturation (typical
of many high-gain amps). With the Fab
Suisse I can put the Krakenâ€™s gain at 12-noon and add in some Fab drive (around
12-noon or less) with great results.
All knob controls include locking screws or
â€˜knob stopsâ€™ to save your settings, if preferred. Each screw can remain lose or
fully tightened, although I like them semi-snug so that as you turn a knob you
can hear and feel the â€˜clicks,â€™ like gears rotating (or the opening of a safe). Semi-snug allows for more secure settings
without being locked into place and you can feel the rotation adjustments in
The EQ knobs work as any EQ does and I
recommend setting everything at 12-noon to hear how it coordinates with other
gear before increasing or decreasing any frequencies. When
working with clean amps or amps with only slight gain, the Fab Suisseâ€™s Drive
easily can be cranked to the fullest and sound great; turned low (e.g.,
9-oâ€™clock) does produce just a hint of added gain for a slightly broken up
clean tone. I recommend the Drive and
Volume knobs be at 9-oâ€™clock when first connecting and turning everything on
until you get accustomed to the settings and how it works with your gear.
Tapestry Audio suggests, this pedal is a Swiss army knife of overdrives. Not only does the Drive and EQ settings work
so darn well with both clean and driven amps (including high-gain amps), but
you can customize the quality of the drive.
There is a 3-way toggle switch, and with it set to center you not only
get a great sounding boost, but you are able to color your tone by mixing the
Drive with the EQ settings while retaining your ampâ€™s original character. Toggling to the right produces a soft push,
which increases your ampâ€™s output, but which softens the tone (a fatter and
thicker drive without the edge). I
notice this with grainy high-gain amps, in that it makes the tone smoother for
a less aggressive lead or rhythm, but while adding some fat to the mix. Conversely, toggling over to the left
produces a harder push and more bite to your tone (particularly as you add some
treble via the EQ). As you can imagine,
the Fab Suisse works exceptionally well as an additional channel for lead,
thick and heavy crunch rhythms, etc., all at the click of a foot switch.
Brian Johnston is a guitar gear enthusiast who
likes to develop reviews and demo videos on stuff he likes. His YouTube channel is CoolGuitarGear.