Tested with a Collings City Limits guitar with Lollar Imperial Humbuckers into a Mesa/Boogie Fillmore 50 combo set to clean.
0:00 – Amp clean, OD off, bridge pickup
0:08 – OD on, drive 11 o’clock, treble and volume at noon, bridge pickup
0:18 – Drive turned up to 2 o’clock
0:35 – Switch to neck pickup
0:41 – Drive 4 o’clock, treble 1 o’clock, volume 11 o’clock, bridge pickup
0:51 – switch to neck pickup
1:04 – switch back to bridge pickup

Ratings

Pros:
Well-conceived and well-built “tweed in a box.” Versatile drive dial.

Cons:
Tweed-specific sound might not suit guitarists seeking a broader, more general overdrive tone.

Street:
$169

Greer Tomahawk Deluxe
greeramps.com


Tones:


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Though initially known for a lineup of vintage-leaning American- and British-influenced tube amps, Greer Amps of Athens, Georgia, now has a reputation for creative, compelling pedals. The Tomahawk Deluxe Drive is an enticing addition to the roster. Billed as a “second-stage” medium-gain overdrive, it purports to offer a pedal route to cranked-tweed tone, while eschewing the tired, over-used circuits at the heart of many other overdrive pedals on the market.

Stage Right
Gain staging is a familiar concept, but what is a gain stage really? In the case of the Tomahawk, says Nick Greer, “second stage” refers to popular perceptions of how to wire a pedalboard with multiple overdrives. “A second-stage overdrive is a term that comes from some of our customers. A lot of people view a first-stage drive as a light overdrive, a second stage is a light to medium, and third stage is medium to high gain.”

Greer also emphasizes that the Tomahawk is resolutely not EQ-neutral. It’s designed with an intentional mid-forward tone shift and chunky, granular distortion characteristics that place it squarely in the tweed-voiced camp. In addition, the Tomahawk’s playing feel changes subtly depending on how you power it. Inject it with a 9VDC supply, and it compresses while maintaining tightness and articulation enough to cut through a mix. Feed it with 18 volts and it’s notably tighter and stiffer, but still dynamic and touchy-feely enough to inspire you to dig in.

The Tomahawk gave each amp the barking and gritty edge you’d expect from a narrow-panel tweed Pro or Super pushed to the point of anger.

Controls for volume, drive, and treble look pretty standard, but, as we shall see, they enable a broad range of sounds. Inside the 4 3/8" x 2 ¼" x 1 1/4" die-cast metal box, a compact, neatly laid-out printed circuit board is loaded with a single Texas Instruments TL072CP op amp mounted into a socket for easy swapping as well as a couple of red LED clipping diodes. There’s also space, and a clip, for a 9V battery if you want to forego the 18V supply option (or just have the cell loaded for backup).

Middle Rage
I tested the Tomahawk Deluxe Drive with a very Les Paul-like Collings City Limits (fitted with Lollar Imperial humbuckers) and a Fender Stratocaster. Guitar and pedal output was fed into the clean channel of a small-box Friedman head with a 2x12 cab, and a Carr Mercury V 1x12 combo. Though you can keep the level low for a kind of low-gain thick boost, the little box lives up to its filthier intentions when you wind the level up past noon, which summons the raw, mid-heavy punch and grind typical of a tweed. Regardless of test guitar and amp combination, the Tomahawk gave each amp the barking and gritty edge you’d expect from a narrow-panel tweed Pro or Super pushed to the point of anger. It’s a classic rock ’n’ roll tone for sure—one that virtually drags you unbidden into Stonesy rhythm chords and twangy unison bends, or raucous Replacements-like garage rock. Max the drive and adjust the output accordingly, and there’s all kinds of vintage-voiced fun to be had. Better still, the Tomahawk never seems to induce the unappealing low-end break-up you can get when you push a real tweed too hard.

To test the “second-stage” application the Tomahawk was born for, I ran a Wampler Tumnus Deluxe and an Xotic EP Booster alternately into the front of the Tomahawk, achieving juicy, saturated tones that were delectably dynamic and pliable. Using the 18V output from my Voodoo Lab Pedal Power supplier—after a 9V session—did increase headroom and tightness, though not dramatically. Still, it provides another option for perfecting the overdrive’s playing feel. The passive high-pass treble control performs much as you’d expect, although it remains more useful at the extremes of its range than most similar one-knob EQs.

As I hinted earlier, the Tomahawk is useful as a semi-clean boost. And just enough of its inherent tonality shines through at these levels without kicking you completely into the tweed corner. In this capacity, I really liked using it to nudge the Friedman’s lead channel or the Carr’s boost mode into more singing and saturated versions of themselves.

The Verdict
The Tomahawk Deluxe Drive may not be particularly versatile, although it is extremely effective at both low gain and its highest gain settings. But it lives up to its promise of delivering an appealing pushed-tweed tone in a compact and easy-to-use pedal. It’s great for anything from always-on tone massaging or as a mild—or maxed-out—lead boost that can kick you right through the center of your band’s mix.

 

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