Tube tone emission machine
Every once in a while in this gear review business, something (or indeed someone) emerges from the hordes of boutique builders and production pedal pushers with a musical device that simply commands attention. In this case, we are referring to Jon Dickinson and his first production pedal—the D1 Overdrive.
Dickinson Amplification has built a name over the years with point-to-point wired, overspec amps, preamps and pedals that are sustainable, beautiful and bombproof (Dickinson amps are housed entirely in aluminum). The Dickinson name revolves around the axis of simple operation, tonal flexibility and musical machines that are built to top specification, not to a price cap. This new production version of the D1 Overdrive is no exception.
The first thing one needs to understand about the D1, is that it operates at proper high voltages and employs two 12AX7s (or ECC83s as they are known in Europe) much like an amplifier preamp section. The D1 is capable of slight clean tube compression, beautifully dynamic overdrive, and full-on furry flurries of full frequency saturation with the on board boost engaged.
Earthy girthy amp extension
There are so many uses for a device of this caliber. Toting around a D1 opens up so many toneful options to the player, the most obvious being a proper bridge between guitar, pedal and amp. Most overdrive-addicted pedal hounds spend a lifetime (and a ton of money) sniffing at the trail of transparency. The quest for the perfect complimentary overdrive that blends into a favored tube amp without coloring over its tonal character can be nearly endless. A few transistor circuits have come valiantly close (the Hot Cake and Timmy come to mind), but I am here to say that the Dickinson D1 is the be-all end-all in this application. With a quick twist of the top control and some gain and output adjustment, the D1 will melt into the signal path like a cube of sugar dropped into a hot drink…delicious. The built-in adjustable boost control provides extra sweetness, turning even the cleanest single channel amp into a tri-tiered tone machine.
Now, don’t think that the D1 is only about chameleon capabilities. It has plenty of character when used on its own as a tube preamp. Out of curiosity, I patched the D1 into the effects return of my solid state Orange Crush Pro 120. Bypassing the CP120 preamp section turned my good sounding transistored practice amp into a great sounding, touch sensitive tube monster. The resulting tone to my ears sounded like a JTM 45 and a 6V6 Tweed Champ had a baby and weaned it on steroid milk.
What we like: The gorgeous stainless steel enclosure, custom-milled aluminum antenna knobs, track-line tube protectors and bright white LEDs exude pure class. The craftsmanship on display here harkens back to the days when ex-military engineers were the ones building British audio gear. This latest evolution of the D1 utilizes both circuit board mounted and hand wired top-shelf components for a tonally pure signal path that leads to real tube tone Nirvana. Investing in the D1 is like having an insurance policy against unpredictable gig backlines, one-dimensional amplifiers and even sterile DAW plug-ins. Did I mention you can get fantastic results by recording direct to a cab simulator?
Concerns: This isn’t a small investment by any means, but if one considers how much is invested in the development and construction of a piece like this, it all makes sense. This isn’t a mere overdrive pedal. The D1 is an overall signal sweetening modular expansion of not only amplifiers, but also musical inspiration itself.