Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Freekish Blues Alpha Drive

As pretty much everyone must know by now this pedal was a re-badged Joyo Ultimate Overdrive with 3 resistors added, and that in turn is a very lightly modded OCD.  But the TGP favourite Freekish Blues Alpha Drive does still have a lot of fans who will argue to their back teeth that the sound in more important than being deceived, bent over and shafted by a builder.  So I thought I may as well include a layout so we can build one and see for ourselves whether it is indeed worth losing all self respect over.

This could have been made simpler by using pot values which more closely matched the originals + parallel resistors but I didn't want to do that because this method will give you odd tapers which may be part of the "magic", and so I wanted this to be exactly as per the Alpha Drive.

The Joyo UOD made a couple of small changes from the OCD, including a couple of value swaps and a slight variation in the mosfet clipping.

I do expect this will sound and feel different than both the Joyo and the OCD, so certainly worth a build even if it's just for comparison purposes.  But I would like to stress that the $35 Joyo is extremely close to the $160 Fulltone OCD for those in the market now Voodoo Lab has stopped making them.

Amusing original BS:
Freekish Blues is proud to present one of the best overdrive pedals on the market:

The Thaddeus Hogarth Signature Pedal: Alpha Drive

Working closely with the east coast singer-songwriter, guitarist and Berklee Guitar professor, Freekish Blues has developed an ultra-sensitive, clear, amp-like overdrive pedal that cuts through where others fall short.

Thaddeus, an award winning guitarist has been using high end Dumble or "D-Style" amps such as the Two Rock Custom Reverb Sig 1, Ben Harper's 100 Watt Custom Reverb Sig 1, Bludo Bludodrive, and the Quinn SDO in his line-up for some time.

He had been in search of the ultimate versatile pedal that could deliver those tones along with a wider range of tones from rock to blues, from classic to contemporary and fusion. Even a relatively clean boost is possible with this pedal! The Alpha Drive has a very smooth but articulate quality that one will find pleasing.

This pedal has been played against some of the finest Dumble style amps and pedals on the market today. Pedals such as the Ethos Overdrive, Zendrive, Dumkudo & Zenkudo pedals. That being said the Alpha Drive at this price can't be beat.

The controls - Volume, OD and Tone - actually make a difference, and the pedal cleans up with a lowering of the guitar volume. Featuring a true mechanical bypass foot switch and internal components normally found in the circuits of tube amplifiers, this pedal is built like a tank! The battery can be changed in seconds with the easily accessible secure battery cover. No screwdriver required.

The Switch: The Rock up switch gives a little bit more of a midrange presence edge allowing you to cut through. The Blues down switch gives you that warm brown bluesound. This would be great for the folks who have single coil vs hum-buckers or just to get an extra bite, depending on the instrumentation in your band...I like both, depending on the song.. The switch acts very similar to a Dumble Mid Switch.

Here's what Thaddeus himself said

"After a lifetime of amps and pedals, I was in search of the ultimate do-it-all overdrive pedal. Of course I had been using Dumble-inspired amps for many years, but my love for the traditional sounds of the tube-screamer and even the sound of a cranked deluxe reverb fueled my desire to create a high-quality pedal that covered all the bases. I think of this pedal as an extension of my instrument rather than an effect. You can leave it on and turn the OD control all the way down to get what amounts to a clear boost, or you can dial in varying degrees of overdrive all the way to full sweet fat saturation! The overdrive and the volume control are interactive, very much like tube amplifiers with a gain and master control. The tone control actually works! I am very proud to have my name associated with such a high quality product created by my family at Freekish Blues. I hope you all enjoy many great times making music with this pedal!" - Thaddeus Hogarth



Thanks Ken







43 comments:

  1. Mark, best pedal intro ever, bravo!

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  2. Now I am going to have to build an OCD and this one.
    Thanks IvIark
    : )
    Which OCD version is the better? I, II, or III ? for sure will skip version IV

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    1. Each one has its own set of fans, but I'd probably say V3 was the most popular. I thought V4 was bloody awful.

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  3. Incidentally if anyone would like to build the Joyo Ultimate Overdrive, just remove the 330K, 1K5 and 470K volume 3 resistors, and omit the OD 3 wire. That's it.

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    1. So, if I take a UOD to obtain a AlphaDrive I have to put a 330K R across OD pot, a 1K5 R across Tone control to ground and connect a 470K R across Volume pot to ground ...right?

      (the tone control become something like a 1300 ohm when full on, seems a bit low)

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  4. Well, I've already built an OCD and it squeals at high gain. Perhaps the resistor changes in this version removes that defect in the OCD? I'll wait to see if others are successful with this. Or I can mod my existing vero circuit...

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    1. This has much less gain than the OCD so oscillation is unlikely

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    2. Yes. I saw the 330K resistor in parallel with the 1 M gat pot. That'll cut the gain for sure! I guess I can just try a 250K gain pot on my build :)

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  5. THere´s a interesting vid about Freakish x Joyo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkebhYMOpcI

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    1. Those on the video are the "Alpha Drive II" which was still a modded OCD/UD, but tuned for even less gain. I don't know if GMD was pretending not to know or if he's just that dumb not to notice those Alpha II's were clearly being made by Joyo.

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  6. I recently modded a Joyo to make it an alpha drive, the difference was pretty worthy, it sounded better IMO once modded.
    But I still prefer my OCD 3

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  7. I know this isn't directly related to the subject being discussed, and I apologize if this offends anyone, that's not my intent.

    I've always wondered if Mr. Hogarth was really embarrassed by the whole UD/FB fiasco.

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    1. Possibly when you consider how it turned out and the fact he seemed to endorse it so enthusiastically, but I don't think too many people would have thought the Alpha Drive was actually what it turned out to be and as someone who would probably have no interest in the circuit at all and only focused on the sound, you can't knock him for his (paid for) opinion any more than you could knock any other artist for having their praise bought. Landau as far as I know is still having pictures of himself taken with his Vertex Boost and modded Arion Chorus with a big smile on his face and wad of cash in his back pocket despite the fact that Vertex are the latest Freekish Blues who have conned their customers.

      I think all it really tells us is to never in a million years trust any endorsement because they really are just prostituting themselves and as such it's totally meaningless. Better to look at the ever present pedals on their boards and learn their technique if you want to sound like the endorser.

      As someone who is now probably more interested in the circuits (based on how long I spend doing this kind of thing compared to how long I spend playing guitar), the really amazing thing to me is the power of that 330K resistor and how much it took an effect that I have pretty much always thought was shockingly bad, and made it into something which I think in the clips at least sounds great. All it is at the end of the day is a limited OCD, but for me that stops it getting into the harsh and unlikeable area of tone which I found disagreeable about the OCD.

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    2. Why be embarrassed if they actually made some adjustment/ improvement?

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    3. "Why be embarrassed if they actually made some adjustment/ improvement?"

      If I bought a decent sounding Chinese Strat knockoff for $200, swapped out the pickups for some Seymour Duncans and tried to resell it for $2200 as a hand made boutique guitar that I had spent 10 years perfecting every curve and joint, totally hand wired, using only pickguards made from unicorn skin, and a tone cap containing a glass vial with the suspended tear of a seraphim..

      It would obviously sound better than the stock Chinacaster, but, yeah, I should be embarrassed all the same.

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    4. And you would be not the first selling these chinese knockoffs as hand crafted luthier works, just take a look to some webs and second hand forums :P

      J.

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    5. I didnt mean the freekos shouldn't be embarrassed. I meant Mr. Hogarth had no need to be. He listened to a pedal that sounded good to him and didn't realize he could've had the same tone by using some self control on the gain pot of a different pedal. No biggie.

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    6. My bad, smark. I find that the majority of professional musicians don't really seem to be gearheads. Someone says "This is the to have!" The musician tries it and it either impresses or it doesn't. Either that, or, as Mark said, "Here's free stuff and money to pose smiling with my product." Potentially famous but still starving musician says "Hell, yeah!" Honestly free gear + money would tempt me as well! :p

      But, yeah, I would never find fault with an artist who has been handed a good sounding but re-branded product. No loss of respect from me to Mr. Hogarth, not that I really know who he is.

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    7. I would never want to be put in that situation. I got really slow ears, it takes me a long time to decide if I like something or not and by then I can't return it aanymore and I'm stuck with it. Thats partially why I like building it myself. Minimal investment. Minimal regrets. I feel for guys like Satriani who are beyond unbelievable musicians, but when it come the gear they endorse, wow thats bad ears man. Makes me glad noones ever going to offer me an endorsement. Ever.

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    8. Don't mean to stir up trouble, but what's the issue with Vertex?

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    9. The Axis Wah is a rebadged and gooped BBE Ben Wah with no changes. The NOS version is the same, with no NOS components and just a different pot

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    10. Ha! I was wondering as much. Obviously their VP is just a rebadged boss (though probably buffered or something) and of course the Landau chorus is presumbly modded Arion

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    11. Originally they said they gutted the VP and totally rebuilt it in sunny California, but it turns out if I remember correctly they just removed the tuner out components and everything else was the stock Boss pedal. So they took a Boss pedal, removed a few components and said they rebuilt it.

      I'm a firm believer that people should always be judged on what they do. And from what we know about the Boss volume pedal and BBE wah they've been selling, I wouldn't trust Mason to know his arse from his elbow, never mind having the ability to reverse engineer Landau's favourite chorus pedal.

      More fool Landau for associating himself with a charlatan for profit.

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    12. Oh and he also told everyone he had a degree in electronic engineering, and when someone performed the search it turned out he had a BA in sociology. He's a proven liar who is hoping it gets swept under the carpet, and this industry needs less of them.

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    13. I don't follow the boutique pedal industry, but now that I think of it I do remember seeing YouTube ads for their volume pedal

      They made it seem like the most amazing thing ever. It's so obvious that it's a BOSS pedal though

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  8. I'm referring to his name being used to promote something was misrepresented. I have nothing against Mr. Hogarth, and wish him no ill will. If it had happened to me (not that it would. No one will be seeking me for endorsements) I would be pretty uncomfortable with it.

    Mr. Hogarth did nothing wrong, and bears no responsibility. It's just that when the whole debacle went down, he was nowhere to be found. Can't say I blame him, I just was curious about how he might have felt.

    I'm with you Mark. Never trust an endorsement. Always have doubts and questions when a new pedal makes its debut. I never had any faith in Wampler, Keeley, Lovepedal, Nick Greer or the like. Pedal makers for me are guilty until proven innocent.

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    1. Dont trust endorsements, but dont trust the companies either. Remember Gibsons jargon about solid mahogany being the only way to get great tone and its worth breaking your back for. Till someone found their 'tone chambers'. Remember Marshall carrying on about all tube distortion? Till someone pointed out their led clipping. And both these companies are flying high today cause of a single dude named slash and turns out his Les Paul was a fake and his Marshall was a hotrodded version with an extra preamp tube. But everybody needs a Les Paul and a Marshall on stage to sound 'good'.

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    2. Smarkalet, I LOVE that story about Slash's Les Paul, ha!

      I build guitars myself and there's a guy where I work who turns his nose up unless it's got an expensive brand logo on it. I built a gorgeous sunburst strat, logoed the headstock to complete the Fender look ( I would NEVER try to pass it off as a Fender product). He's got an American Standard that looks very similar. I told him mine was a American Deluxe Strat that cost $3400 and let him play them both. After playing them both and comparing, he started offering to trade/buy it from me.

      Funny thing is, if I removed the logo, added my own custom logo, or just stated very plainly that it is NOT a Fender built product and tried to sell it on Ebay I doubt I would get more $200 for it.

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    3. Worst thing is being aware of it and still being a victim of it. I wake up every day with GAS for a Les Paul just because my guitar hero played one (well, a fake one) but I refuse to give in. But I'm still gassing.

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    4. Best cure for that is Rondomusic.com :D Best non-Gibson Les Pauls I've ever played/heard. Kicks the shit out of an Epiphone LP (no disrespect to Epi meant). Absolutely stunning woods and finishes, pickups sound so good that I'm still on the fence about swapping them out. Plays like a dream.

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    5. ^^^
      I'll give you $200 for it :o)

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    6. Dirt cheap:
      http://www.rondomusic.com/product6800.html

      I've played Gibsons and at times I was impressed and at other times I just did not get the hype... especially not for thousands of dollars. I'm neither guitar-god nor guitar-newb. I own 40+ guitars ranging from a cheap super-modded Silvertone to a 1988 custom Fender Strat XII to quite a few I've built myself and I have to say, that Agile AL-2000 linked above, for a fraction of the cost of a Gibson LP, has absolutely blown me away.

      (in case anyone is wondering, I am not affiliated with Rondo Music or Agile Guitars in any way other than owning 4 1/2 of their guitars :p )

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    7. I've been looking at that site for a couple of years. Haven't been sure about whether I should take the risk on one of those LPs, but I just might now...

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    8. tinkercreak, just remember if you do, if it's not 100% perfect, no mater what price point, contact the guy, Kurt I think his name is, and let him know. He can be Mr. Crankypants sometimes, but he has always followed through for me and any of my friends who have bought from him.

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    9. Another vote for axes by Rondo Music. All of the guitars and basses I've bought from there look, play and sound fantastic.

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  9. Hey just wanted to add to the conversation that I built this circuit and it works. Sounds pretty damn good to me. I might even change a value or two and say I came up with a new circuit.
    I looked at the schematic of this pedal and it reminds me of what any EE student would study in their first year other than the clipping stage. Funny how far pedals have come. haha

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  10. Well, my curiosity is piqued. Or in internet spelling - peaked. So I'm going to build this thing.
    The OCD clone I have (Hustle Drive) sounds goo for rhythm, but it's spent the last year and a half in a box. So that's my estimation of it.

    I'm not familiar with the OCD revisions, but I'll give this a try. I see this AD is a revision 2. what's the difference?

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  11. Greetings! Forgive me if I'm a little late to the game here...

    All controversy aside - I have a Joyo Ultimate Drive, which sounds great to me. I've become interested lately in playing some Dumble-type sounds, which the Alpha Drive pedal claimed to replicate. I'm also a novice when in comes to electronics, so my question is:

    Do the Alpha Drive mods do anything but change the sweep of the controls? In other words, are there any sounds in the AD that I can't get from the Joyo by being a little more selective with the settings?

    Thanks in advance!

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