Thursday, February 25

Gear Review: Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOSFET edition

Continuing in the vein of things that every other electric guitar player has known about for years, I picked up a Fulltone Fulldrive 2 (MOSFET edition) for a good price, because dang it, everyone has said it's so great. Everyone has also said that they're bored with it because it's not boutique anymore because everyone has it. That has in turn lead to a lot of people choosing more boutique overdrives (like the Tim, which likely won't be boutique anymore by the time I'm done typing this sentence) and taking it off their boards, meaning, huzzah, I'm special again! Nevermind that no one uses a Fulldrive's just so 2007.

But, yeah. Bonus for me, because I get to pick up one of the most celebrated (at one time), most versatile overdrives available for less than I would pay for a lot of pedals, AND I also get to laugh when people say that this isn't the cool 'drive anymore. Cool enough for me. It sounds amazing.

I've recently gotten some time to myself, so I've been playing around with the Fulltone Fulldrive 2 (MOSFET), which I run at 12v for some reason. Everyone says "more headroom" which makes, maybe, a little sense to me. I haven't switched between 9 and 12 volts (though with my power supply, it's literally as easy as flipping a switch), but I like it at 12v and I think it plays really well with everything. And holy crap, do I love this thing.

Why? It's 3 pedals in one. A clean boost, a top boost and a Tubescreamer. Not literally any of those, but functionally. And you can tack on another boost to the end with another stomp. Classic rock? Vintage. Some kind of shimmery, sparkly drive? FM (Flat-mids, though because it's a lot flatter, and because of the way that humans perceive sound, the top end sticks out beautifully). Just something clean to push your tubes? Comp-cut mode. And mine being the MOSFET edition has an additional flavor to add. Standard mode is, supposedly, very much like the original Fulldrives, and it is a good tone. Switching over to the MOSFET mode, I find the drive to be a bit smoother, but also the individual strings are a bit better defined. Mostly just different flavors, being hard to say that one is "better" than the other. Oh, and being that that particular switch deals with the clipping that happens under distortion, it doesn't do anything (or rather, not a noticeable anything) in the clean boost (comp-cut) mode.

I have found that using the standard overdrive "clean boost" mode, (i.e., volume all the way up, drive at 0) introduces some compression, something that is unaffected by the drive mode (indicating that the three drive modes are flavors of the overdrive knob, and not of the pedal in general). I actually get a nice clear, uncompressed sound in Comp-cut mode by using the volume and overdrive knobs as I'd use the volume and master volume knobs on an amp, respectively. I'll have a whole post on that subject later, but for now we'll say that putting the volume at around 9 o'clock and pushing the drive all the way up results in a very clear sound in Comp-cut mode, much clearer than zero drive and all volume. That's good, because that's almost exactly as I'd expect the pedal to behave, since all overdrive pedals will add some of their own character when the volume is pushed, be it grit or compression (or both).

The boost section feels identical to the "volume" knob, in that it's pretty clean but when you push it, it starts to compress, even (mostly) independent of tube compression. But where I'd like the volume knob to be transparent, having the boost knob compress a bit is actually a good thing, since that's what you're largely looking for in a solo tone. The boost section also feels like it's inputting into the overdrive section, in that it really amplifies the character of whatever mode you've set your overdrive to be. The Comp-cut mode is the cleanest (albeit, compressed), with the FM and Vintage modes adding more and more grit as you raise the boost.

The tone control is pretty unique, at least compared to the crap I've been playing with. In some boxes, the tone control is pretty extreme, going everywhere from ice-pick to woolly by actually boosting or cutting fundamental frequencies. It seems to me that the tone knob on the Fulldrive works more subtly. Everything I've read has said that it plays with the harmonics rather than the fundamental frequencies, which makes sense if you take a listen. Granted, you have to know what you're listening for, not to mention have a decent understanding of Physics and sound to really even know what I'm talking about, but to me it seems like something of an "overtone" control; turn it down, and you get a very straight-forward tone, cutting out a lot of the harmonics, but crank it up and you get a lot of overtones. Again, there are times when you like overtones (playing particularly clean, they add a lot of depth and beauty) and sometimes when they get in the way (heavy distortion), so it's nice to have a control for them. I think all tone controls do this in a way, but where most brute-force it, the Fulltone is more precise. As a result, I can comfortably turn the tone knob all the way up, something that would cause me physical pain with some stomp-boxes.

Having all of those valid tonal options in one box is just incredible. Between this and my Keeley DS-1, I can get pretty much any tone I'd like. The only thing it won't do is the stacking-overdrives thing that's become popular, but that's just because it's physically one stomp-box. If I had two...endless possibilities!

And I'm sorry, I know I use a lot of words. I guess when I don't have a great method of recording what I'm doing, I need to be as descriptive as possible. Actually demoing the pedal would be way more informative, but I hope my descriptions were at least helpful! This one gets a huge thumbs-up. It just gives me so many options while conserving pedalboard real estate and playing well with tubes and pickups. It will probably never get replaced. Until next week. It's a sickness.

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