Amptweaker TightDrive Pro Review
The TightDrive evolves into beast of overdrive versatility.
Take one look at the swarm of extra switches and knobs on the new TightDrive Pro and it becomes clear—Amptweaker was not content enhancing their signature overdrive with a few incremental improvements. With a boost circuit, the ability to place the boost before and after the overdrive, and super-tweakable EQ and drive functions, this is an exponentially more capable and flexible TightDrive that delivers everything from light OD to heavy distortion from its bombproof enclosure.
There’s a Switch for That
In the addition to the three-knob EQ, Amptweaker includes an onboard noise gate, high-gain mode, a “plexi”-inspired voicing switch, high-end cut, and two fat switches. On top of all that, the Pro also has three effects loops. The universal loop activates when you turn the unit on and the boost loop activates when the boost footswitch is engaged. You can situate the loops in your chain before or after the Pro’s gain stage using internal switches. The third SideTrak loop is activated when you turn off the TightDrive Pro. This loop may also be used like an A/B box by connecting the send to another amplifier.
The Pro can be powered at either 9 or 18V, and will accept batteries or a barrel adaptor. There are two 9V connectors under the magnetic door, so you can run this box at 18V with batteries for more headroom. There’s also a black switch at the crown of the box to cut battery connectivity to increase longevity.
Tweaker On the Job
I hooked the TightDrive Pro into an Orange OR50 head with a 4x12” cab loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s. A Stratocaster and a zero-gain setting turned the Amptweaker into a very transparent boost. Single-coils make light overdrive sounds shine too—especially with the gain right around the 9 o’clock position. Twisting the gain up into the 3 o’clock region yields a medium-hot overdrive that sacrifices none of the musical chime and clarity of the Stratocaster. This is a great setting for rowdy rock rhythm, arpeggios, and leads. Higher gain settings can become a little noisy with single-coils, but the noise gate clears the air pretty effectively and can be adjusted with an internal pot.
The tight knob that gives the pedal its name alters the attack and color significantly. Counterclockwise from noon the output becomes darker with a softer, more Fender-esque edge on the attack. When the knob is turned to the right things become brighter and more British sounding with a perceptibly more immediate attack.
The more extreme clockwise settings are a bit brittle for single-coils and a naturally bright amp like the Orange. Matching these settings with a Fender amp is a better bet here. Humbuckers, however, readily enjoyed high “tightness” settings, and my Les Paul was a great match for settings that would render a Telecaster harsh sounding. The great range of this control makes the TightDrive Pro a powerful weapon when facing changing backlines.
The high gain switch opens the gate to a teeming lair of distortion tones that can coax creamy, amp saturation from clean guitar/amp setups or push dirtier heads into a full-blown frenzy. Even with the Orange running at near-fuzz saturation, the Pro added a layer of sparkle that subtracted nothing from the amplifier’s voice.
Engaging the boost channel lights up the LEDs around the centermost knobs, which control boost gain and volume. Your choice of power supply really makes a difference here. An 18V adaptor gives what sounds like a lot of extra volume and I had to turn the boost volume to very low levels to achieve unity gain. If you want to put a solo through the roof, this is the way to do it. Activating the mid boost switch is an effective means of cutting through a mix too—lending a sharp, chiseled and not-too-brash midrange spike that lends presence without a mix-crushing bump in volume.
The two internal fat switches can be applied to either the regular channel or the boosted effect. Turning these on provides an extra dollop of low-end and nudges the Stratocaster towards more rounded, humbucker-like output. The same settings can make a Les Paul sound muddled, however—especially with naturally dark amplifiers or compressed amps. And though you have to crack the pedal open to employ this functionality it’s still a very practical and functional feature that adds range to an already impressively versatile pedal.
Amptweaker has gone above and beyond to create maximum utility in a drive box. This is about as “multi” as a multi-staged gain pedal can be. It can be extensively controlled to fit your playing style, and it works very well with all types of guitars and amplifier setups, provided you take the time to properly EQ. It can make smaller practice amps sound fat and huge and lend sparkle, dynamic range, and definition to big stacks. And the availability of three FX loops provides tons of extra possibilities for studio and live use, and enables you to recreate heavily effected passages without fancy footwork. At $300 it’s an investment. But it will be worth every penny if you rely on multi-dimensional dirtiness.
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