Warm Audio Warmdrive review: An amp-in-a-pedal with that ‘Special’ overdrive tone
The signature amp of guitarists such as Santana, Larry Carlton, John Mayer and Robben Ford is out of reach of most players, but Warm Audio tries to recreate the sound in pedal form
⊕ Pre- and post-gain EQ circuits
⊕ Elevates sounds in the low-mids
⊖ A limited ‘sweet-spot’ of sounds
⊖ Awkwardly-positioned 9v socket
Warm Audio has added to its increasing line of drive pedals with a recreation of an emulation of a ‘modern classic’ that’s actually designed to sound like an amp. The Warmdrive is inspired by the Zendrive, a pedal made in small numbers by Hermida Audio from 2004, and which now regularly sells on the second-hand market for over £500. However, the original pedal is actually inspired by something even rarer – the Dumble Overdrive Special Amplifier.
Dumble amplifiers were made by hand – personally by Howard Alexander Dumble, who passed away this year – for individuals and studios so the total number ever made is in the low hundreds. The resale value of a Dumble amplifier often fetches for more than £100,000 and is really only attainable for megastar musicians – it’s certainly not accessible to the home producer. A market therefore developed to try and recreate that tone in pedal form, and Warm Audio’s Warmdrive is emulating one of the most highly-regarded attempts at the sound.
We connect Warmdrive to Logic Pro via an Audient iD44 interface and first send through some electric guitar. We don’t own an original Zendrive (or a Dumble for that matter) but we do have access to another Dumble-style pedal in the Mooer Rumble Drive.
Our first observation is that the Warmdrive is significantly louder than the Mooer equivalent; the preamp circuit in the Warmdrive is pushing things a lot harder. The tonal difference between the two emulations is relatively slight, but the Warmdrive has more depth to it and rounds out the lower-mids to provide a slightly fuller guitar tone.
We find the Warmdrive’s ‘sweet spot’ is with the gain and volume set between 12 o’clock and 2 o’clock, and the Tone and Voice controls rolled off to create a slightly fuller tone. The choice of two tone circuits is an uncommon feature – one is before the gain stage and one after – and allows you to drive certain frequencies harder than others. However, we actually keep both relatively neutral and just use them to brighten or darken the signal.
We run some drums through the Warmdrive to create some crunchy, saturated drum loops. This works really well and, because of the tone shaping, it creates a mid-focused sound on the drums. Therefore, the Warmdrive is an excellent tool for creating dirty, lo-fi drums. On an electric piano, however, it’s slightly too heavy on the distortion – the subtlety and clarity get submerged by the clipping.
The Warmdrive is an excellent overdrive pedal and sounds noticeably thicker than the equivalent (and cheaper) circuit from Mooer. Comparing the Warmdrive to a plugin emulation of the original amp sees it stand up admirably. The plugin has a lot more functionality but the tactile nature of the pedal means that it’s much quicker to dial in tones. The Warmdrive is a fantastic all-round drive pedal and, despite its narrow sweet spot, it adds a lot of depth and pleasing overdrive to a signal.
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