Friday, July 23, 2010

The Heart of your Tone

As long as there are builders like Johan Maertens around I believe I will always be excited about the stompbox world. Some cats take the pedals they come across and simply build their versions of them. Then there's the cats that take it a step further by taking the sounds that inspire them, those tones they've worked diligently to shape and mold from their favorite amps, then convert them into boxes for us to use. This is the main objective behind Valette FX and the wonderful pedals they produce. We can go onto any gear website and find a steady cluster of dirt pedals. At the end of the day, which of these pedals are the ones we end up bringing into our setups? This answer to this is easy. It is those few special designs that motivate and move us to create. Again this is where Johan ad his Valvette FX company come into play.


Valvette FX
Custom Drive

Features & Controls
* Power: 9-18 VDC power jack or 9V battery
* LED: on/off and battery status indicator
* Input & Output Jacks
* True Bypass Footswitch
* Gain: controls drive amount
* Volume: adjusts the effect output level
* Tone: controls drive circuit tone character
* Bright: extends high frequency range


Coming at us from the UK is another stellar creation of grit, grime, and soul. This black beauty had me sold within the first couple minutes I had it plugged in. I found the Custom Drive's control layout simple, familiar, and versatile. This pedal most definitely has a sound of it's own and is also capable of taking your tone into some of classic rock's most memorable overdrive sounds. The Custom Drive's gain control was capable of delivering anything from light gritty overdrives and distortions, to sustain soaked lead growls and squeals. This pedal's volume control has more than enough output to help your tubes sing with natural drive. The tone knob makes shaping a modern or classic dirt sound extremely easy. Like many of my personal favorite tube amps, the Custom Drive comes equipped with a bright switch for adding more sparkle and high-end definition to your tone. The Custom Drive sounded spectacular on it's own as well as with other boxes.

My gut told me that this pedal was going to sound great through whichever amp I threw it up against.... and I was right! It was quite clear from the beginning that it was going to be tuff to get a bad sound out of this pedal. I'll start with my AC15 clone and custom built Strat. As many of you way already know, getting a good sound out of a AC15, a decent axe, and guitar cable is not a hard thing to do. Using this as one of my starting points was an absolute blast! The Custom Drive was able to maintain my root tone's feel, while able to push and enhance everything that made the amp sound good. The end result was not just good, it was great. Starting with the amp in a hairy yet subtle overdrive tone really worked well when setting the Custom Drive to a mellow setting. I began with the pedal's tone knob at noon, volume at unity, gain at around 15%, and bright switch off. This worked beautifully for getting that little extra push that one needs from time to time. Something that really impressed me about this pedal was how well it adapted to each pickup setting. One might not think it but 5 different pickup configurations can be a lot. And I'm the type of player that likes to incorporate as many of them as possible. Next I pushed things slightly hotter by setting everything straight up the middle. Here I was able dial a killer universal dirt tone. The pedal responded really nicely to my guitar's volume and tone knobs, giving me enough ammo to gun down the blues, classic rock, hard rock, alt-rock, and everything in between. This is where the pedal's bright switch really came into play. I was able to roll off my guitar's tone knob to get warm and muddy dirt tones, and with the bright switch bring back a bit of the definition without affecting the targeted sound desired. Last I cranked the pedal's gain and volume to full blast. First starting with a medium gain setting and using the volume control to help push the amp. I really dug how the the Custom Drive's creamy analog feel sat inside the amp's warm tube tone, blending perfectly with the pedal's volume to help bring everything into an epic level. Then I began adding in more of the pedal's gain little by little. With every notch higher that I went I'd get a new level of sustain, dynamics, and harmonics. Giving the overdrive sweet undertones, overtones, and unpredictable accents. For those players who dig shaping and molding their distortion tones on the go this is the perfect pedal. When all was said and done it was the overdrive's character that really stood out to me. With some pedals you can crank them and can't hear what's there and what's not. Giving you a generic sound. None of that here! I also pushed the Custom Drive through my modified Hot Rod Deville, Twin, and my buddy's Super Lead. The end result with all these amps was same as the AC15's. Nothing but stunning, high quality, soul blooming tone. I found slamming the Custom Drive with clean boosters sounded awesome, as well as mixing it with fuzz boxes, modulation pedals, and a handful of other instruments. A couple other instruments I must share on were the lap steel, and playing slide guitar. Oh baby did I ever get that honking, rich, gooey, fat overdrive. I could literaly feel the Custom Drive's overdrive signal morph and change from note to note when sliding up and down the strings. The clarity and aggression was unbelievable. This is a great pedal for those of you looking for a single dirt box to do your work, as a pedal to help drive your amp even further, and as an overall killer gigging and recording tool. I found the Custom Drive pedal to be one of the most responsive and giving pedals I have every touched!


For more info on Valvette FX go to You can bet Analog War Cry will be on the look out for more from this killer company. Please make sure to check out the site and hunt down some Custom Drive videos on our Youtube search engine at the bottom of our site. Stay tuned and keep on rocking!



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