Hermida Audio has made some pretty bold claims, suggesting to users the Dover Drive pedal will provide gainy bliss evoking artists ranging from Pink Floyd to ZZ Top to Eric Johnson. Amazingly, they pretty much deliver.
The Dover Drive is a surprisingly compact (but dense) pedal that is modeled after the Butler Tube Driver, which was a favorite of David Gilmour, Billy Gibbons and Johnson, among others. But it’s much more than that, as it’s emulates Eric Johnson’s sound of stacking a Tube Driver with a Fuzz Face. My recollection of that pedal is that it was rich, dark and had a lot of depth. But it’s actually designed to emulate Eric Johnson’s sound by stacking The Dover Drive is rich and dark, but it doesn’t have the Tube Driver’s depth or two-band EQ (or an actual tube), so let’s take the pedal on its own merits (and, for the record, I think the Dover Drive’s merits outweigh the merits of the Tube Driver as I remember it).
The Dover Drive is wonderfully amp like. When I use the term “amp like,” I’m really thinking amp-and-cab like, because one of the raging-amp byproducts I love most is the subsequent speaker compression that smoothes (some of) the edge and provides nice, fat low end. In keeping with these characteristics, this pedal blooms when hit hard, offers additional low end muscle and cleans up based on attack alone (or volume knob, and does a nice job, at that).
However, if the Dover Drive is “amp like,” that amp is a high gainer. The pedal’s gain range is somewhat narrow: it ranges slowly from pretty high gain to very high gain, but I found that worked well in conjunction with the Tone knob. The tone control is very well voiced: The bass roll off is minimal as you turn the tone control up, and is easily compensated for by turning up the gain. The increased compression brings up the low end without adding too much shrill top end. Meanwhile, the added high end brings out additional detail rather than spiky unpleasantness. The midrange stays clear and articulate throughout. I don’t recall the Tube Driver having such useful top end, nor do I recall it having so much gain on tap so, in both cases, the Dover Drive offers “more” (although those hoping for a mellow low-to-mid gainer might be disappointed).
I loved the Dover Drive on bridge pickups of all stripes, and thought it was fantastic on single-coil neck pickups, where the Tone control could easily compensate for that position’s darker character. When playing full-on rhythm, the modest nature of the Tone control was unable to overcome humbuckers in the neck position, but with the volume on a Les Paul rolled back, a nice, biting tone was achieved. Additionally, rolling the guitar’s volume all the way up delivered a nice variation on Clapton’s “woman tone” with Cream, which certainly was useful for leads.
Speaking of, Lovepedal says the Dover Drive “walks a tightrope between an overdrive and a fuzz.” There absolutely are fuzz-like qualities when the pedal is cranked, but I found the top end got swamped when I reached that point in the gain range, and the tone control was powerless to give me the bite I’d expect from an actual fuzz. Playing with the internal bias trimpot helped bring out even fuzzier characteristics, but those same settings seemed to further drown out the high end. As an inveterate fuzz lover, I’d suggest those who buy a Dover Drive hoping it will do double duty should be thrilled with the excellent overdrive on their board, and save their pennies for a dedicated fuzz.
What we like: Great amp-like response from a pedal that manages to stay true to your tone while imparting its own characteristics, namely a rich, muscular overdrive that won’t shred your eardrums. Further, the heft of the build suggests it could be used for self-defense.
Concerns: In my view, the Dover Drive versatility is somewhat limited, if you re looking for a “jack-of-all-trades” type pedal but what the Dover Drive does well, it absolutely NAILS.