We review German manufacturer Lehle''s newest switching boxes, and discover just how versatile they can be.
Lehle (pronounced Lee-La) based out of Germany, manufactures switchers based on the needs not just of rock stars, but the everyday musician. Sleek design, solid powder-coated steel enclosures, large, cool LEDs and innovative new switching technology give these pedals instant allure. Not only will they not interfere with your tone; they may actually improve it. Founder Burkhard Georg Lehle has built his switchers from the ground up, filling a much needed gap in the music equipment industry. [For more about Lehle’s designs and company history, see our Builder Profile “Switch Hitter” in PG’s August, 2008 issue.] While the runaway hit of Lehle’s SGoS line of switchers is the Dual, I wanted to take a look at the D.Loop and the 3at1 first, to see what they brought to the lineup. But before we get to them, let’s look at Lehle’s new Sunday Driver.
The Lehle Sunday Driver is a compact, no-frills preamp providing two modes of operation; you can use it as a buffer or booster. The Driver mode amplifies the signal path from your guitar to your amp, mixer or computer. This is to strengthen a weak signal caused by routing your guitar through pedals, and it offers true tone and clarity. The second mode, or the Sunday mode, multiplies the input impedance by four, and is designed to bring out subtle tones and warmth that were previously unheard. Running the Sunday Driver between my guitar and amp using gold Monster cables, I was surprised by how well defined my tone was—my signal was stronger and clearer. At first, I couldn’t believe my ears, so I plugged my guitar directly into the amp. To my surprise, the notes just sounded dead by comparison with the unmodified signal boost provided by the Sunday Driver. Plugging it back in, I could hear that my ears weren’t deceiving me; my overall tone was better.
Switching to the second, or Sunday, mode my signal was not only louder, but even more defined, providing more sustain from each note played. The guitar signal remained clear throughout the process, and no distortion was ever present, even when turning the +15dB buffer all the way clockwise. I tried this out on two guitars with different pickup arrangements— one guitar with a Rio Grande Dirty Harry single-coil (bridge position) pickup and a Fender Jumbo humbucker (neck), the second with two Seymour Duncan humbuckers (bridge and neck). The results were the same, no matter what combination of pickups; both guitars sounded better than they had without the help of the Sunday Driver.
My only qualm with this preamp is that I wish it were in pedal form. The switch is between the 1/4” jacks at the back of the unit, which doesn’t allow the user to switch between the two modes by foot. Maybe an auxiliary pedal input could be provided as a feature for guitarists who may want this option. I presume Lehle designed this preamp with the idea that you would find your setting and just leave it, and maybe that’s why there isn’t a bypass mode. No problem here, because after hearing what the Sunday Driver can do, there would be no reason to turn it off.
you're looking to boost your guitar signal through a pedal chain, or just looking for a great preamp.
you need a preamp that can be controlled via footswitch.
Street $190 - Lehle Gitarrentechnik - lehle.com
The D.Loop is part of Lehle’s SgoS, or Second Generation of Switching, line. All SGoS pedals are fully MIDI compatible with each other. They can be easily synced with other Lehle SGoS pedals and still keep their own settings. The D.Loop provides an In/Out and two separate Send/Returns. Also provided is a buffer switch with volume, which provides a +12dB boost. You’re also provided with three separate, fully programmable switches, three bright LEDs for status indicators, and program switches. By default, the Buffer switch is for the buffer, Loop A switch for loop A, Loop B switch for loop B—which may make it look like less than the highly versatile pedal it is. But looks can be deceiving: each switch can be programmed to any combination of Loop, A, B or Buffer. Programming this pedal is as simple as pushing a button. I can even imagine changing the programming of the switches between songs, it’s that easy. And as compact as this thing is, it saves you from buying a larger rackmount switcher that you still need a MIDI controller for. If three switches is not enough, the D.Loop SGoS can be controlled with separate MIDI controller so you can program even more combinations, and it still retains its settings on its own.
The D.Loop is completely silent and clears your signal chain (it sure made my pedals sound better). Plugging a distortion pedal into one loop and a delay into the other, I was able to switch back and forth, or combine the two, with no extra switching hums or sounds, and my volume remained constant throughout switching. If you do have some volume loss between pedals, there is a buffer volume to even things out. Overall, this is an indispensable switcher for any guitarist’s pedalboard setup.
you need to tame an unruly pedalboard and provide yourself with a more versatile way of switching.
you need more Send/Returns (or buy two, and network them together).
Street $370 - Lehle Gitarrentechnik - lehle.com
The 3at1 SGoS has three separate inputs and two outputs, allowing you to run three separate instruments and 2 amps, or an amp and a tuner. Each switch has three modes. For example, by pressing A once, you route the signal to Output 1, indicated with an orange LED. Press A a second time, and you route the signal to Output 2, indicated by a blue LED. Press A again, and the signal is turned off, indicated by no LED. This works the same for all three switches. Also provided are two potentiometers to reduce gain for the inputs A and B accordingly. This unit does not run both outputs at once, nor will it run more then one instrument input at a time. The 3at1 SGoS is designed to provide silent switching between instruments, amps and/or a tuner, and does so flawlessly without loss of tone or volume, and in stereo if necessary.you want to switch between multiple instruments, amps or a tuner with no added switching noise or hum.
you want to switch between multiple instruments, amps or a tuner with no added switching noise or hum.
you don't need to switch between instruments and already had a tuner routed another way—save your money for the Sunday Driver or D.Loop.
Street $320 - Lehle Gitarrentechnik - lehle.com
The most exciting feature for me was MIDI syncing the D.Loop and the 3at1 together using a standard stereo cable— that’s right, no MIDI cable required. Networking any combination of Lehle’s SGoS pedals together, including the Dual, is easy to do, even if you have little or no experience with MIDI. Lehle has done all the work already, saving the rest of us from the headaches involved.
I connected the MIDI jack of the D.Loop to the MIDI jack on the 3at1, instantly networking the pedals together, and used both hands to press down on all six switches until the lights went on and off, to let me know I was in program mode. Say you want to have Input A of the 3at1 to use Loop B of the D.Loop. First activate Input A of the 3at1 (the orange LED will light), then press and hold the Loop B program switch until that LED blinks on and off. That’s it; you’re done—Input A is now routed to the D.Loop, and the D.Loop can still be programmed and used on its own.
The Final Mojo
Lehle pedals are high-quality switchers and preamps that provide plenty of versatility and lots of imagination. I’ve never come across gear of this type that offers as much functionality between each and every unit, and with the simplist MIDI programming I’ve ever encountered. These pedals improved my tone and breathed new life into a growing pedalboard setup. I couldn’t stop myself from imagining all the pedal combinations I could get with two D.Loops. I will say that I was a bit overwhelmed by the manual, and didn’t fully understand the capabilites of these units until I watched the video provided on Lehle website. After that, I didn’t even need a manual. Lehle makes some great gear that actually works and is compatible with every guitarist’s setup. And with such an indestructible build, they’re sure to provide years of “cool switching.”