Stompbox Fever: Hermida Dover Drive and Pigtronix Rototron

Hermida Dover Drive Alfonso Hermida came to prominence as the creator of the Zen Drive: the first “Dumble in a box” pedal.
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Alfonso Hermida came to prominence as the creator of the Zen Drive: the first “Dumble in a box” pedal. His new Dover Drive ($199) combines the sound of the B.K. Butler Tube Driver— a 12AX7- driven stompbox made famous in the 1980s by Eric Johnson—with that of a vintage Fuzz Face, a pedal that EJ often paired with his Tube Driver. The Dover Drive, which eschews the tube in the interests of making it more compact, has Drive and Volume controls, along with a Tone knob that replaces the original Tube Driver’s Hi and Lo frequency controls. An internal bias control provides yet another means of fine-tuning the circuit.

The Dover Drive is dynamically responsive even at fairly high gain levels, cleaning up easily through manipulation of touch or my guitar’s volume knob. Like the original Butler pedal, it evidences a low-mid bump that remains regardless of the Tone control setting, giving it a warm, full sound—even when set for maximum treble and using single-coil pickups. This mid-frequency enhancement adds girth without muddying the sound, allowing the distortion to stay clear and articulate throughout its range.

Turning the bias control fully counterclockwise creates a spitting, bit-crushed sound that can be occasionally useful, while moving it clockwise affects the tautness of the sound as well as the playing feel—much like changing the 12AX7 in the original Tube Driver to a lower-gain 12AU7 or 12AT7.

The Dover Drive gives you easy access to some specific, highly desirable sounds—including EJ’s “100-pound violin” tone—making it a very useful pedal for anyone seeking classic Eric Johnson-style distortion tones.

KUDOS Captures the famed Tube Driver/Fuzz Face sound.

Given the backache that the effort entails, the only thing that has kept anyone carting a genuine Leslie cab around is the otherworldly glory of its genuine rotary speaker sound. Several pedal makers have tried to crack the code, but Pigtronix’s Rototron ($319 street, including 18V DC adaptor) packs more versatility into a compact enclosure than any other unit I can recall.

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The brainchild of legendary effects designer Howard Davis (progenitor of many classic Electro- Harmonix creations) and Pigtronix’s David Koltai, the Rototron is an all-analog effect that combines frequency modulation, phase shifting, tremolo, bucket-brigade chorusing and a three-way crossover to achieve that illusive, magical Doppler effect that’s at the heart of the rotary speaker sound. Beyond that, though, it gives you added control parameters and enhanced connectivity to take you beyond the preset slow/fast/brake settings of the standard Leslie, to a realm where you fine-tune all aspects of the effect to suit your own unnatural aural desires. Controls for Slow and Fast govern the speeds achieved via the Slow/Fast stompswitch, while Ramp determines the rapidity of the shift from one to the other, and Depth does as expected. In addition to stereo outs (which can create a stereo effect from a mono input) there are dual inputs to receive signals from preceding stereo effects, plus connections for a remote Brake footswitch and expression pedals for remote control of both High and Low rotors.

In use, the Rototron sounds superb through a single amp, and utterly divine through two. It captures that multi-dimensional rotary speaker sound extremely accurately, while being capable of some trippy and ethereal sounds when you get creative with the knobs. The Rototron’s tone is rich and lush throughout its range, and the control parameters offer sky’s-the-limit flexibility that behooves much exploration. Listen closely and you might hear the rotary “woosh” die off at the lower ebb of the note’s decay (particularly at low Depth settings), but that won’t bother your sound in normal use, so for tone, flexibility, and sheer inventiveness, the Rototron earns an Editors’ Pick Award. —DAVE HUNTER

KUDOS Great analog rotary speaker sounds and unprecedented flexibility in a compact unit.
CONCERNS Rotary “woosh” dies out at low ebb of note decay.