Video: Dr. Z Amplification Z-Drive Overdrive

Designing a pedal had been on the docket for Dr. Z Amplification for a long time, but the idea only came to fruition when Dr. Z joined forces with Jamie Stillman of EarthQuaker Devices to build the Dr. Z Z-Drive.

"There is a lot of emphasis today on pedals, so I thought the time was right," Z says. "With my single-channel amp line a pedal is a natural accessory to add versatility in a live performance, and who better than me to design it to use with my amps?"

The EarthQuaker / Dr. Z affiliation grew from a supplier relationship — in which Z provided amps for EQD at trade shows — to a collaborative one after Z approached Stillman to help build a pedal that would befit Z’s single-channel amp line, Z explains.

They wanted to create something versatile, Stillman says, that would let the sound of the amp come through when pushing the preamp into overdrive, and during the collaboration, the two took a slightly different approach than normal to designing the Z-Drive.

"I usually like my drives to be a little gritty and almost border on fuzz at max settings," Stillman says, but during the collaboration he created something cleaner. "I usually design with Fender amps in mind. With the Z-Drive, the idea was really to design something that would become an extra gain channel for existing amps. In the end, it turned into two extra gain channels for maximum flexibility."

With the Z-Drive, the idea was really to design something that would become an extra gain channel for existing amps. In the end, it turned into two extra gain channels for maximum flexibility." - Jamie Stillman

Dr. Z believes they hit the mark. "We developed a great, useful pedal that will fit on everyone’s pedalboard," he says. While both the Z-Drive and each of Dr. Z’s amps play well with gear of all kinds, the Z-Drive and Z’s MAZ 18 are a particularly potent pair. "All Dr. Z amps are built to be pedal friendly, but the MAZ / Z LUX front end works great with the Z-Drive and really expands their operation," Z says.

The Z-Drive’s dual channels consist of one mosfet channel for aggressive, hot, high-gain action, and a germanium channel, using NOS diodes, which offers a lighter drive. While each channel has its own drive and level controls, the universal EQ gives you control over the treble, mids and bass of your entire sound.

The universal active EQ in the Z-Drive works very well with Dr. Z’s single tone control amps, such as the Ghia, the Stangray, Mini Z, Mazerati and Monza, Z says, to take on a new dimension of tonal control. With an impressively wide reach, the Z-Drive can give you everything from the most subtle bite, with its germanium diodes, to an all-out, no-holds-barred fuzz.

So how did the collaboration fare for the two gear creatives? "Jamie was great to work with," Z says. "His design chops are second to none, and his build facility is first class."

Stillman was equally enthusiastic about the collaboration with Dr. Z. "They really let me work away at my own pace," Stillman says. "I would bring prototypes up every few months and we would all play them and address things we liked and didn’t like. It was very natural and we did it my favorite way: using our ears."

Does this mean another project is on the horizon for Dr. Z and EarthQuaker? While nothing is set in stone, Stillman says that’s always a possibility. "While we have no immediate plans, but anything could happen!" he says.

Take a look at the video above to hear how much variety the Z-Drive can give your tone, and then click below to shop for new and used Dr. Z Z-Drive pedals.

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