Two gain stages wired in series Voice control for fine tuning
BY STEVE OUIMETTE
It’s not uncommon for guitarists to be impressed with the work of Alfonso Hermida.
The aerospace and electrical engineer turned
pedal designer has won over such tone-obsessive
pros as Robben Ford and Brad Paisley, and his
Zendrive and Mosferatu pedals have garnered
raves among players and reviewers alike.
Even knowing that reputation, I was knocked
flat by the Hermida Tiki Drive. It was designed
with input from the Cars’ Elliot Easton and was
built to satisfy his desire to color an essentially clean
amp with multiple shades of overdrive and distortion. But it was also built to deliver extremely high-gain tones while retaining clarity, focus, and attack.
It’s an ambitious agenda for one pedal, but the Tiki
Drive pulls it off with little compromise.
Built to Be Flexible
The Tiki Drive control layout merits a little
more attention than your average overdrive.
Controls for Volume, a first and second gain
stage called Gain 1 and Gain 2, Tone, and Voice
are arranged in two rows on the top of the pedal.
The Gain 1 and Gain 2 are wired in series
and voiced independently to give the pedal the
potential to move from slightly overdriven to
higher-gain, metal-style overdrive. The Voice
control helps fine-tune the pedal for a given amp
by manipulating midrange harmonic content.
To evaluate the Tiki Drive, I ran it into a BC
Audio No. 8—an amp with beautiful clean
tones—through an Eminence Governor 1x12
cab, as well as a late-’60s Marshall basketweave
cabinet with original G12H-30s. I set the BC
for a full, clean tone that didn’t break up unless
hit very hard, then turned all five of the Tiki
Drive’s controls to noon. The sound that leapt
from the speakers was a classic hard-rock distortion with just the right amount of bite and
crunch. But the sound was far from generic, and
I particularly liked the way the pedal enabled
me to work with the intrinsic touch sensitivity
of my Tom Holmes 455 humbucker-equipped
Epiphone Sheraton and explore this semi-hollowbody’s harmonic complexity.
Though twisting the Voice control back and
forth didn’t produce a dramatic effect, the knob
was very handy for shaving off a bit of top end
or adding a slight bit of brightness to the signal.
It was also useful for helping me find the sweet
spot on my amplifier as it worked with the Tiki
Drive and the Sheraton. And at a setting of
about 1 o’clock, I found a perfect recipe that was
neither too bright nor too dull.
One real surprise and bonus was the effectiveness of the Tone control, which adds a nice
amount of sizzle within a frequency range that
suggests a high presence knob. Cranking the Tone
all the way yielded a sound that wouldn’t be a
stretch to call Dumble-like.
The Gain controls are wired in series so
they cascade into each other for more distortion
potential, and the distinctive voice of each stage
enables delightfully complex tones. Pegging