Pedals For Tweed Amp Tones

The early Fender tweed series amplifiers were among the first commercially produced amplifiers built specifically for the electric guitar. Before Leo Fender came on the scene, electric amplification was limited mostly to amplifiers that had been designed for public address systems or Hawaiian lap steel guitars. In fact, the early tweed amps were based off of some of these designs, schematics for which were widely published in design manuals supplied by tube companies looking to generate sales. Of course, Fender's tweeds were a huge hit and soon became fixtures on stages and in studios everywhere, solidifying the company's early reputation, as well as its place in history. Today, perhaps because of this early tweed history, these amplifiers conjure up near primal urges in modern guitarists seeking to reconnect with the simple, raw, tube tones that were birthed at the dawn of electric rock 'n' roll. Naturally, the original tweed amps built between 1948 and the 1960s are absurdly expensive on the vintage market, and far outside the budget of most of the players that might want one. There are reissues of course, of varying price and quality, but the fact is that, for many modern guitarists, a traditional tweed amp isn't very practical.

Tweeds generally are very simple, with no reverb and limited tone controls, and they are often low-wattage amps with very little headroom. This is great for players that just want to plug in, crank it up, and jam, but for players that use pedals and effects, or a variety of different guitars, traditional tweed amps are often less than suitable. Most players want the tone, but without the inherent limitations. Well, lucky for us, there is a solution, in the form of the many tweed-toned amp-in-a-box pedals being built today by a wide variety of manufacturers. Many of these pedals are shockingly authentic sounding, making just about any amp take on the character of a vintage Fender tweed combo with the stomp of a switch. Here's a few of our favorite pedals for vintage tweed amp tones:

Wampler Tweed '57

Wampler is all about amp-in-a-box pedals, with designs that emulate blackface Fenders, Marshall Plexis, Boogies, and Soldanos, among others, so obviously they couldn't very well ignore the tweeds. The company's Tweed '57 is designed less to imitate a specific amp than to offer a broad range of tweedy possibilities inspired by '50s-era Fender amps. Unlike those amps, this pedal is outfitted with comprehensive tone controls that enable it work equally well whether your bag is low-output, vintage style single-coils or hotter humbuckers. In addition to Volume, Gain, and a three-band EQ, it features an Input Simulator switch for selecting between Normal, Bright, and Linked inputs. The Linked position recreates the effect of bridging the bright and normal inputs on an old tweed, giving the player a boost in perceived volume and overall tonal gnarliness. Brian Wampler is truly a genius at capturing the tone and feel of a real tube amp in a compact box, and the Wampler Tweed '57 is a very authentic and touch-responsive tweed tone monster.

Catalinbread Formula No. 5

The 5E3 circuit contained in the early tweed Fender Deluxe Amp is often spoken of in the most hushed of tones by drooling vintage amplifier fanatics. From a technical design standpoint there's actually a lot wrong with it, including under-powered components, minimal power and tone filtering, and a general, widespread lack of efficiency, but therein lies the tonal magic, or so it seems. This amp is a firebreather when cranked to the sweet spot, with a squishy, filthy, and utterly explosive bark that only this circuit can conjure. It also generates a surprising range of clean and lightly gritty tones with subtle manipulations of the guitar's volume knob. Catalinbread has managed to capture all of this in their excellent, cascaded JFET-based, Formula No. 5 pedal, a seemingly simple box with a lot going on under the hood. Its design closely mimics the amp on which it is based, but with more available gain and a better relationship with different pickup types. Its tone control is a high-pass filter that becomes gradually less effective as the gain increases, just like the amp, and can work like a bright cap or a high-end rolloff depending on where the gain is at. At lower gain settings, it can be smooth and greasy, or bold and brash, but crank the gain and it gets loose and hairy real quick. The Formula No. 5 is instant Neil Young!

Way Huge Red Llama Overdrive

This pedal was the first release from Jeorge Tripps's Way Huge Electronics, way back in the '90s, and it was also, quite likely, the first tweed-toned overdrive pedal to ever hit the market. Despite its simple controls (just volume and overdrive) the Red Llama is a multi-hued tone generator of great versatility, whether one prefers a strong clean boost with just a bit of grit, or snarling, loose gobs of saturation with fuzzy tendencies. The latter side of its personality is where the Red Llama really starts to do its tweed thang, offering that same combination of thick, sweaty mid-range and sharp treble bark. Crank it up and use the guitar's volume and tone knobs to massage a million different subtle sonic variations from its simple circuitry. If you're looking for the Rust Never Sleeps sound in a box, the Red Llama has your back.

Lovepedal Les Lius

This pedal has gained quite a following for its range of tweed tones. Contained within its enclosure is the essence of the classic 5E3 Fender Deluxe circuit, as well as the 1950s High Power Twin. Its tiny toggle switch can select between these sounds, or combine them with the third "Master Volume Tchula" setting. Whether you're looking for that classic, no-headroom squash-and-grime of the tweed Deluxe, or the increased headroom and punch of the higher wattage '50s Twin, the Les Lius can do it. Stack them both together in Tchula mode and crank the gain, and the result is a scary-good representation of what happens when one of these fine, old tweed beasts is pushed to near-detonation levels, something most of us might be a little frightened to do with an actual vintage ‘50s tweed amp.

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