Tapestry Audio developed an amazing sounding overdrive. Definitely not a one-trick pony, you have three types of drive with a very useful EQ; and the drive sounds good even when turned all the way up (no harshness, muddiness or over-saturation). The three types of modes are based on the classic Marshall Blues Breaker circuit, but with added LED (light emitting diode) clipping similar to the Turbo Rat circuit and a transparent op-amp boost that breaks up without affecting the original guitar tone and amplifier. In fact, it was interesting to hear how using full Drive sounded like the original amp I was using when the guitar’s volume was dialed back. In other words, and this is shown in the demo video, I cranked the Drive full on a slightly dirty amp channel (channel 1 of the Kraken V4 preamp), and the result was grainy and distorted – sounded great and as though you gave Channel 1 of the Kraken some steroids (same tone, but just more intense). But as I dialed back the guitar’s volume to a bit less than half-way it sounded like the Kraken V4 without the Fab Suisse.
Now, the three modes of Drive do vary. The center position is in boost position (op-amp clipping) and it very much retains the original tone of your amp, albeit with some extra balls and depending on how much Drive you add to it. The toggle switch right position produces soft clipping, which helps to soften the tone a bit, which is good for high-gain amps that need taming for a smoother and more melodic lead (or less aggressive rhythm). The hard clipping (left toggle switch position) has more edge or bite. The EQs produce very smooth changes in tone and while pushing or cutting select frequencies in your other gear. Overall the various drives with the EQ work well together and in harmony. Lastly, the Fab Suisse can get really loud as you mix the Volume and Drive knobs, although it does not produce a lot of headroom (this allows you to set the controls to the max).
OVERALL IMPRESSION: There are a number of great drive pedals out there, and the Fab Suisse is destined to be among the best (also ideal for bass and keyboards). Not only can you chose from a transparent boost with added drive, but the option of having a soft or hard push helps to make any amp far more diverse as it seems to add tonal qualities that are unique from the amp, and yet sounds like it’s part of the amp. Some drives simply do not work well with some amps, and maybe this is the case with the Fab Suisse. However, I hooked it up to three different tube preamps, and even linked it before other drive pedals and it merged so seamlessly that it has become a regular part of my pedal board. At $149 USD it is a solid buy, offering various qualities of drive and the ability to fine-tune the EQ to best match amp settings. The locking screw (knob stop) with each Fab Suisse’s knob is a nice touch (and feels good to the touch if you leave the screw semi-loose so that you can feel the grooves in the knob click against the screw). And for those who like to push an amp to the limits, the Fab Suisse is very low noise (an important factor when added to higher-gain amps). What I think may be overlooked by some is the fact that you can dial back your high-gain amp (for better clarity and less saturation) and then crank up for the Fab Suisse for added drive without the saturation or muddiness. As an example, I find my Kraken V4 preamp (channel 2) sounds great at 2-o’clock gain – anything more and you lose a touch of note clarity due to saturation (typical of many high-gain amps). With the Fab Suisse I can put the Kraken’s gain at 12-noon and add in some Fab drive (around 12-noon or less) with great results.
GENERAL USE: All knob controls include locking screws or ‘knob stops’ to save your settings, if preferred. Each screw can remain lose or fully tightened, although I like them semi-snug so that as you turn a knob you can hear and feel the ‘clicks,’ like gears rotating (or the opening of a safe). Semi-snug allows for more secure settings without being locked into place and you can feel the rotation adjustments in minute degrees.
The EQ knobs work as any EQ does and I recommend setting everything at 12-noon to hear how it coordinates with other gear before increasing or decreasing any frequencies. When working with clean amps or amps with only slight gain, the Fab Suisse’s Drive easily can be cranked to the fullest and sound great; turned low (e.g., 9-o’clock) does produce just a hint of added gain for a slightly broken up clean tone. I recommend the Drive and Volume knobs be at 9-o’clock when first connecting and turning everything on until you get accustomed to the settings and how it works with your gear.
As Tapestry Audio suggests, this pedal is a Swiss army knife of overdrives. Not only does the Drive and EQ settings work so darn well with both clean and driven amps (including high-gain amps), but you can customize the quality of the drive. There is a 3-way toggle switch, and with it set to center you not only get a great sounding boost, but you are able to color your tone by mixing the Drive with the EQ settings while retaining your amp’s original character. Toggling to the right produces a soft push, which increases your amp’s output, but which softens the tone (a fatter and thicker drive without the edge). I notice this with grainy high-gain amps, in that it makes the tone smoother for a less aggressive lead or rhythm, but while adding some fat to the mix. Conversely, toggling over to the left produces a harder push and more bite to your tone (particularly as you add some treble via the EQ). As you can imagine, the Fab Suisse works exceptionally well as an additional channel for lead, thick and heavy crunch rhythms, etc., all at the click of a foot switch.
OTHER DETAILS: The Fab Suisse is of standard pedal size, measuring approximately 4.5 (L) x 2.25 (w) x 1.5 (h) inches or 11.43 x 5.7 x 3.8 cm. The faded blue-jean name print looks very cool and stylish (and Victorian) against the light grey paint of the metal chassis. The footswitch has a solid click (noiseless in the signal) and is far removed from the most precarious part of the pedal, the toggle switch (buried nicely among the knobs). The toggle switch also has a good click to it and with enough height for easy adjustment (some toggles are rather small and you have to pinch them between thumb and forefinger to get a grasp). The knobs are of good quality, complete with a little Tapestry Audio logo on each, which helps to tell you what the pedal’s settings are from a glance. As well, each knob has a locking screw with shield (knob stop), which acts like a kick plate to some degree, thereby adding further protection (particularly to the EQ knobs that are closest to the footswitch). The LED on/off is closest to the footswitch of all the controls/elements, but it is countersunk and below the metal chassis. The input/output both are located along the sides near the footswitch, and so some modest care needs to be taken. The power input is located on the back of the chassis, requiring a standard 9VDC power supply (50mA consumption).