Note: this article was already published in my old Spanish Version of this blog, around September 2011. I am just revisiting it here, in English.
One of the kind of effects I love the most is a good overdrive. The OD allows you to simulate the sweet spot of tube amps, without having to go so louder in that amp.
There are a lot of overdrives and, while some just try to "push" the tubes (as the Ibanez TS-808), others just overwrite amp's sound (as Boss SD-1). There are transparent (like the Timmy) or coloring ones (the most).
To my ears, those overdrives that push tubes sound best, because they can force the tube itself to extract its rich harmonical content but, of course, you need a certain minimum volume in your amp to have a good sound with some of those.
In other side, those that overwrite the sound can work really good with solid state amps, since they deliver a tubular sound to those.
A transparent overdrive is what we need if we love the natural tone of our amp but, for this, a nice clean booster can work, also. A pushing colorant overdrive will push the tubes but will add something else to the sound and, that's something that we want some times.
Probably the most classic overdrives are the Boss SD-1 (overwriter), MXR Distortion+ and Ibanez TS-808 (and family).
Most of overdrive pedals that you can find in the market are just a redesign off one of those, trying to remove something that the maker didn't liked and to add something else that the maker wanted to hear.
From all, the TS-808 is probably the "father" with more "childs" world wide. It seems to be the "barely perfect" overdrive but, everybody tries to make it perfect (to his/her hearing!).
Yes, I've got an Ibanez TS-808 reissue and, it brings you that well known bluesy and rocky sound, with recesed basses and trebles and a good presence in mids and an overall tasty warm tone. But, it tends to go undefined when pushed hard, and specially when combined with other gain pedals.
Also, it delivers its best when your amp is already boiling, with a good volume level so, for quieter applications, if your amp has 30W or more and you have a quiet volume, this is not the best OD to choose.
I've got an OCD, also. Versatiler than the TS and, which can work better at quieter volumes. But, this is a pedal that tends to have some impedance issues and that react very differently depending on which pedal is stacked before and after.
The OCD has a broader dynamic range and a wider gain range, but it has excesive low content to my ears.
When pushed hard, it enters in tight distortion territory, with asymetric clipping (sharper and coder than TS).
As none seems to fully satisfy me, I am in the market again, searching for alternative overdrives. I was after some TS-alike overdrive but, clearer and with a better dynamics.
After watching some Youtube videos, three names where sounding as candidates: Paul C's Timmy (or Tim), Klon Centaur and Hermida Audio Zendrive.
As a transparent overdrive, probably the Timmy is the natural election.
To me, the Centaur and Zendrive sound similar but, I liked more how the Zendrive seems to retain the dynamic range and, its voice sounds more interesting to me, at this moment.
In other side, as classic distortions, the Boss DS-1 and MXR Distortion+ are the platforms that everybody seems to take as a basis for a re-design. The ProCo The Rat is a (successfull) derivate of the MXR Distortion+ and, from those, The Rat is the one that more organic and powerful sounds to me.
There are more modern designs, that more or less, try to mime the sound of the high gain channels of a certain amp (Mesa Boogie, Soldano, Diezel, Bogner, 5150, ...), totally overwriting the natural sound of your amp.
So, once more, I am in the market for a distortion unit, with a classic vibe (as the Rat) but, with a better EQ control, better note to note definition and more usable gain range. Hermida Audio Tiki Drive seemed to me so interesting as to try it.
So, I've finally ordered both pedals, the Zendrive and Tiki Drive and, that's all about this article.
Hermida Audio's (lack of) Customer Service
Before going to my impresions about his pedals, I would like to complain loud about the lack of customer attention of Hermida Audio.
Since you cannot buy his pedals thru any distributor but, only thru his web site, you have no other options than order there your pedals.
I've placed my order on 26th July but, because of an Internet issue, my order was duplicted.
Intantanely, I've sent a mail to Hermida, warning about the issue and, explaining that the first order was already paid but, that I needed them to delete the second duplicated one.
Up to now (September), they didn't answered back to that email and, my duplicated order is still there, in there web page.
I was also interested on to know if there was waiting queue and, which would be the expected delivery time.
A week later, I've received an standard mail saying that my order would be delivered soon, answering NONE of the questions in my mail.
On 10th August, I receive a Paypal mail saying that my order was delivered, via US Postal Service, with the tracking number and link to USPS page.
I was checking the status every day and, it never changed from "delivery documents received", as if Hemida wasn't delivered the parcel at all.
While I was waiting without news, I've sent one more mail asking for techincal questions, as the recommended way to stack both pedals and, asking about the status of my order.
On 25th August, already upset because the lack of attention and information, I've sent one more mail to the three addresses listed in Hermida's page, warning them about the fact that during 15 days, the tracking information didn't changed its status and that, in my understanding they didn't deliverd that parcel to USPS and, if they did it, I would like them to talk to USPS and investigate about my parcel situation.
On 28th August, without any mail, I see that USPS tracking page is updated. The parcel was received on 26th August so, just one day after my last mail and, the 28th it was ready on Spanish Customs.
The 31th August, I had those pedals at home, after clearing Customs taxes.
- Mr. Hermida answers no mail back. It doesn't matter to me if he is really busy. It's his function to delegate to someone else that task. Otherwise, the customer feels like a shit and, with the suspect of 'I've lost my money'. Maybe he is really friendy by phone but, he cannot pretend that we waste more money in transcontinental calls than the pedals cost themselves!!!.
- I supose that, to "calm down the beast", he indicated a false delivery date 15 days before the delivery took real place. If the intention was to calm, results were the oposite because, that lack of feedback was making me really nervous.
Seen that and, taking into account that the Zenkudo sounds as good or even better than the Zendrive and that, it's more versatile and every customer knows the status of his order at any moment, I will choose another continent next time.
Even knowing about the existence of that Zenkudo, I went for that Hermida Zendrive because some kind of "hispanic patriotism". I wanted to help to a smart hispanic with its business.
I am today doble upset with my decision, even that those two pedals sound really good.
Both pedals come in an annonymous cardboard box, without any indication, neither the maker or model.
Inside, the pedal wrapped in bubble plastic and, nothing else.
I am missing few words about how controls interact and, some sample settings to have a reference about possibilities of each pedal.
Size is more or less as MXR pedals and, they are coated just in the front side of the pedal but, with really good looking motives, to be honest.
They look sturdy and, made of quality pieces.
Inside the sensible components or key design parts are covered with some plastic substance to hide design decisions. Something that, seeing the amount of clones available in Internet, wasn't so successful.
Hermida Audio Zendrive
The Zendrive was designed to emulate the sound that Robben Ford was achieving in a very determined song, thru his Dumble amp.
At the end, Hermida ended with some kind of Dumble-in-a-box pedal.
I cannot confirm such a thing and, I doubt there is a lot of people that could ever compare his pedal to a real Dumble amp.
Controls de overall output level of signal.
Controls the amount of gain given to the signal and, responsible to push the amp to excite its own harmonics.
Controls de amount of trebles and basses and, it's highly dependent on Voice settings.
This knob changes the overall character or voice of the overdrive. On left positions, the sound goes darker and warmer, more like a Bassman or Dumble. To right, the sound seems to bump mid-trebles, going closer to a Marshall.
Easy. You set the output volume and setup the gain level and, tweaking together Voice and Tone you look for your desired foundational tone for this overdrive.
This pedal clearly colors the sound but, its clear and defined at same time. Without having the oportunity to plug my guitar in a Dumble, the sound can cover from Bassman to Marshall with a great detail and a very human-like voice.
The overall sound resembles an old-school tube amp, simple design, harmonical rich and very vocal sounding. It gives to me the impression of to be playing an amp on its right spot, where you can control the break up level with the strenght of your picking.
The pedals has great dynamics and perfectly responds to the strenght and attack of your picking, without loosign definition and, with that kind of "micro-tubular-explosions" that I love to dead.
Stacked with other gain pedals deliver excellent results. I've tested it with a RAT2 into the Tiki and into the Zendrive and, finally those to a Xotic EP Booster and, even that the resulting sound has an expectacular gain, it never looses note to note definition. Just what I was looking for.
Even with that excesive gain, to clean the sound with your guitar's volume knob is quite easy.
It delivers a great amount of middle-lows (similar to TS-808), which can make it a tad difficult to cut the mix but, with the help of Voice and Tone knobs, it's possible to find the right place in the EQ field.
Essentially, this pedal seems to get all the best from the voice of a TS-808, removing its deffects and enhancing its bests.
Hermida Audio Tiki Drive
That high gain ratio is achieved cascading a couple of amplification stages, each one with its distinctive voice.
Controls are exactly the same as the Zendrive but, with the exception that the Tiki Drive adds a second gain pot.
Each gain control has a slightly different voice so, you should check different mixes of Gain 1 and Gain 2 until you achieve the exact gain character you are after.
With Volume, we set up the output level and, with Voice and Tone we get the overall character and EQ of the distortion.
This pedal delivers a gain very close to a RAT but, with posibilities to cover from the typical Zendrive settings (with Gain 1 off) up to the high gain levels of RAT but, always maintaining an outstanding definition.
As a difference respect to Zendrive, there are light touch of "fuzz" effect, that pops up sporadically.
The sound remains well defined note by note, even in extreme gain settings.
To play a bit, I've stacked a RAT 2 into the Tiki Drive, this into the Zendrive and, this into the Xotic EP and the results were impressive!. A massive gain but, with outstanding definition, like in a good Peavey 5150.
Even that it sounds awesome alone, I am really happy to see how good it stacks with other gain pedals.
A couple of pedals of this quality well deserve a detailed video, covering the full range of each control and, checking how well they combine with rest of pedalboard.
In those videos you will hear and see each pedal in detail so, you can take your own conclusions.