Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Top Finds of 2009 / Double Drive 3X

Tech 21 NYC. One of the heavyweights of our time and true innovators of the gear world. I will never forget the first time I had a chance to try the Tech 21 SansAmp. It was about 20 years ago while rocking out in a garage playing Metallica and Slayer covers. My friend had always used a SansAmp pedal as part of the massive sound he would get from his dingy little setup. It wasn't until I took a close look that I realized it wasn't just some ordinary distortion pedal. I took the SansAmp, plugged it in to my solid state Fender amp, then low and behold the heavens opened up. I couldn't believe I didn't have one of my own, and couldn't believe what sound was coming from my amp. Today Tech 21 continues their mission to create awesome product after awesome product. In the last few years alone Tech 21 has delivered some of the most spectacular gadgets to ever hit the gear scene, and I don't see them slowing down anytime soon. From their entire new line of guitar and bass pedals, to their amps, midi gear, cabs, and studio equipment. Tech 21 is on top of it, and taking it beyond.


Tech 21
New York, NY
Creator: Andrew Barta
Years in the Game: 21
Double Drive 3X
Programmable Overdrive/Distortion

* 3 Channel, fully programmable OD/Dist
* Captures Class A and Class A/B amp tones
* 100% Analog
* Use channels in any combo for limitless tone variations
* Features active 3-band EQ
* Capable of up to 10db of boost
* Input: 1megOhm high impedance/Same as tube amps
* Output: kOhm low impedance
* Drives long cables without loss of signal integrity
* LED is highly efficient and low power consuming
* Power: Standard 9V battery or Tech 21 #DC2 power adapter
* Power Consumption: Approx. 5ma


The Double Drive 3X can only be described in one way, and that is as an absolute monster of a tone machine. The build quality is top notch, it is extremely user friendly, and it sounds like a touch of amp heaven. After all, if there's one company that knows how to build a product that can get a great sound out of your amp it's Tech 21. Dialing in and programming your own sound with this pedal is as easy as turning the knobs to your liking, then if you really dig those settings you can keep them forever more. Ok so here's how the pedal works. The Double Drive 3X's controls from left to right are Drive A, Drive A/B, Bass, Mid, Treble, and Level. At the heart of this pedal you will find two different overdrive/distortion flavors, but there's more, a lot more! Along with the two different OD/Dist flavors that there are three footswitches which can be dialed in/programmed to your liking to give you three different custom tones from one pedal. The way you work the two different OD/Dist flavors is very easy. On the pedal you will find a Drive A which emulates Class A type amplifiers, and a Drive A/B which emulates Class A/B amps. Along with the Drive knobs there is also a traditional tone stack of Treble/Mids/Bass and a Level. Each knob's settting can be assigned to a footswitch by holding down the footswitch for a couple seconds. You can do this from switch to switch without worry of disturbing any of the different settings. The really cool thing about the Drive knobs is you can use them one at a time or blended to create a symphony of different dirt tones. Here's an example on how to run this badboy so you can get an idea: You can use the first footswitch with only Drive A to get a mild gritty rhythm tone. Then set the eq warm by rolling the Bass and Mids slightly higher than the Treble, and keep the Level knob at unity. Last hold down the switch and you're done with the first setting. Next move on to the second footswitch (middle switch) and use Drive A/B to get a more aggressive rhythm sound, something for chorus's and build ups. Take the eq stack and turn everything just part noon for a more biting tone, and set the Level a bit higher. Set it by holding down the switch again. Last you got your last footswitch and what will be the lead tone. Now you can take Drive A and Drive A/B to create an in your face, balls to the wall, screaming lead tone. Jump the Mids to a snarl, set the Treble at about 3'o'clock, Bass at noon, and Level knob to ride just above everything else. That's that, easy as pie. Here is another super awesome feature to this pedal. Once you have a tone programmed you can always get back to it by having the LED's guide your way. If you move a knob the LED assigned to that switch will start to blink. The further you get away from the programmed setting the slower the blinking gets, as you get closer to the programmed setting the blinking speeds up until you're back to your sound. If you decide you like what you changed simply hold down the switch and you have a new setting. You can do this with each knob all across the pedal.

We rocked the Double Drive 3X through two different amps and with two of our favorite guitars. I'll tell you, the first time I heard of this pedal I thought to myself, "It has to be too good to be true." Boy is it soooo good and soooo true. Both my partner and I were stunned and the capabilities of this pedal. The first week we had it we shot it out to one of our gigs and put it to the test....... It passed with flying colors. The first setup we used (which was the studio setup) was a Twin Reverb and Lady, my red custom Tele. Straight from the box it took no longer than a few minutes to dial in and program the exact tones I wanted. I went ahead and worked in a good universal grit tone, a strong OD/Dist rhythm tone, and a rockin lead sound. The first switch produced a beautifully warm and lush overdrive sound that worked great as an all around sound. The character and dynamics of the dirt were that of a slightly pushed tube amp. With all the crumbles and crunchy whispers. I banged out on some chords and the results were magnificent. Moving on to the next footswitch I dialed in a thicker and much dirtier overdrive sound. I took the Drive A/B to about noon, rolled the mids and bass past my amp's so that I'd get more accents in the notes. Left the Treble matched to the amp's, and rolled the Level up a bit to help push the amp's tubes a bit further into natural overdrive. Here I was able to knock out huge sounding, fat'n'creamy, hard rock tones. The articulation in the strings sounded wonderful, everything stayed string and defined, and it worked great when rolling off a bit of the guitar's volume knob. With the second switch setting I was able to actually get a few different sounds by manipulating the guitar's controls. Last but not least was the third switch and my howling lead tone. I started by setting the Drive A/B knob into a healthy mass of saturated grime, then pushed the Drive A knob through it to give it warmth and richness. In the end the lead was a perfect balance between overdrive and distortion. Again I was able to get back to more subtle drive tones by working the guitar's tone and volume knobs. I found the Double Drive 3X to work great with both of Lady's single coil and humbucker pickups. With the single coil pickup I got a great collection of blues, classic rock, and dirty country tones. The humbuckers obviously had more size to them, producing some hard classic rock, alternative, and even metal tones. Then there was all the in-between tones that were possible, an endless sea of grit and grime. The DD 3X is also a very touch responsive/sensitive effect pedal. You can take the attack of your pick and control how much rumble you want to come through. The next amp and guitar we used was the gear we rocked at the gig, a 15/7 watt amp and Junior copy. The settings I set up for the gig we played were pretty much the same only I did have to tweak them just a tad to compliment the room. Here's where this pedal's capabilities and magic came into play. Since I already had my settings programmed it was much easier to dial in the sound I needed. This makes for some quick and easy tone sculpting. In the live setup I was able to get a great subtle gritty tone, a n aggressive rhythm tone, and a scorching lead. I was able to keep every tone in check which helped with dynamics and level changes. The quality of the overdrive and distortion of the Double Drive 3X sounds brilliant, it sits in the mix nicely and works great with the other frequencies that jump around from other instruments. Tech 21 deserves an award for this stunning effect pedal and I hope to see more and more like these. The Double Drive 3X makes for the perfect gigging pedal, hands you a wide range of usable tones, and it's a great pedal for saving pedalboard space or cats that only use a few pedals on stage. Both professionals and everyday players can benefit from this stompbox. I am definitely going to stay in touch with the good people at Tech 21 and try to bring you guys some more unique, innovative, and great sounding tone tools. Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for more, I'm sure Tech 21 has some treats in store for 2010.


For more info on Tech 21 NYC go to www.tech21nyc.com There is a huge collection of killer pedals on their site and for those of you who aren't aware Tech 21 has released a classic version of the original SansAmp. We'll be back!


  1. I just got one, they are AWESOME!!!

  2. Are you stilling using the tech 21 Double Drive?

  3. Great pedal, but I never hear anyone mention the sound dip you get when you change between channels. This makes it pretty unusable for more than one channel in a song. Very frustrating. Assuming it's not just my pedal, why on earth would this not be checked and addressed in the construction of the pedal.