Hiwatt tone pedal shootout

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by N.F.A., Mar 31, 2014.

  1. N.F.A.


    Jun 25, 2009
    In a blue funk
    Hi folks,
    I have been wanting the Hiwatt tone in my sound arsenal for ages. I can't afford a vintage amp right now, so I decided to try some various pedals and see how they stack up against the real deal. I just wanted to get a ballpark sound, because no pedal I've ever played has all the dynamics and response a real tube amp does. So, after some research I bought three pedals to try. Only the one I like best will stay.
    First up is the Tech 21 Leeds Character Series pedal - This is the one that I was most excited about since it is easiest to find reviews and soundclips on. It is supposed to emulate not just the Hiwatt amp, but the Fane speakers that sold with Hiwatt cabinets too. I found the sound to be very Hiwattish indeed, but only with the speaker simulation turned on. Also, there is way more gain in this pedal than you could ever get out of a real Hiwatt. This pedal just flat out gets the right sound, to my ears. You have to back off the gain though. There was still plenty of low end retained in my sound. No need for the Jimmy mods from Putnam on this pedal.
    Next up is the Catalinbread WIIO pedal. It is supposed to emulate The Who Hiwatt sound. It came in a close second. It also gets very much in the ballpark of the Hiwatt sound. It also has way more gain than a real amp has. I like it, but the Fane speaker simulation the Leeds pedal has, makes it sound just a tad more authentic than this one. This pedal also kept plenty of the low end. I didn't discern any low end loss. I am going to sell this pedal, even though it is also excellent at copping the Hiwatt vibe and tone.
    Finally, I read on TGP about the Amptweaker pedals and was told that the Bass Tight Drive pedal would get the Hiwatt sound. The pedal is great and I could do a review of just that pedal. It sounds great! It has an effects loop with a pre and post switch option. It allows you to dial in a clean blend and really shines with your playing dynamics. If you play hard you will get some grit, if not it stays clean. You can dial in lots of grit and it never loses note definition. However, I couldn't get a convincing Hiwatt tone out of it. I'm on the fence about selling this one. It's no Hiwatt emulation, but I've never played a pedal quite like this one. It is [email protected]@!
    Anyway, I'm keeping the Leeds and flipping the other two I guess.
  2. primussucks9126

    primussucks9126 Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2008
    Bronx, NY
    I have the Leeds and the Wiio as well (I now own a Reeves), and I agree with you. I was very satisfied with my Leeds pedal for Hiwatt sounds, especially when I ran it direct into the power section of whatever amp I was using. Absolutely killer sound for someone on a budget. A used Reeves was local to me, and I had the spare cash, so I splurged. That was even more satisfying.

    I felt that the Wiio was kinda scooped sounding, but the low end on it was massive. I use it for an old school type of overdrive sometimes.

    I've put both pedals away since I got the Reeves, but I'd suggest the Leeds to anyone looking for a Hiwatt sound on a budget.

    I was going specifically for a JJ Burnel/ John Wetton type of sound, and I got it with the Leeds.
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Dude, keep the Tight Drive, at least for now. You obviously love it, and copping the exact sound of a Hiwatt isn't as important in the grand scheme of things as just having a dirt pedal you really love.
  4. WhiteNinja


    Jan 20, 2011
    You could try finding an old Sound City amp, preferably a Mark 3 or earlier, which can get quite close to the Hiwatt sound (they have pretty much the same design). They will cost much less than a real Hiwatt, for sure. I have a L100 Mark 3 that I use on guitar, but it does sound really, really good on bass, too. It's the closest thing to a Hiwatt that I've heard. At 100 watt, it's really great to get most out of the tubes, and still plenty loud enough. These things are hard to get to clip and overdrive, though. They really loud and clean amps.

    That said, I'm sure that the Tech 21 and the Catalinbread pedals (Don't forget the RAH, which is a Wiio on steroids from what I've heard) can get very close. Did you try putting them straight into the power amp and circumventing the preamp of your amp? I've got both the Tech 21 VT Bass and Oxford and noticed a lot of difference when going straight into the power amp instead of putting them in the front.
  5. N.F.A.


    Jun 25, 2009
    In a blue funk
    I have not yet tried that WN, thanks for the tip. I am aware of the Sound City amps being close, but never knew which one of their gazillion models was the right one. So a Mark 3 or earlier. Thanks for the heads up! I could never figure out exactly which one was the closest to the Hiwatt sound. I did indeed research the RAH pedal, but it seemed like overkill for what I wanted. That Hiwatt clean, piano tone with maybe a small amount of overdrive.

    On a separate note, I also got one of those Joyo ACTone for the Vox AC30 sound. It gets in the ballpark, but still wanna try a Liverpool pedal when I run across one used. Still, I like it very much for the price. :)
    I may indeed keep the Amptweaker pedal. It is very nice and versatile as heck.
  6. amptweaker

    amptweaker Commercial User

    May 8, 2010
    Owner/Engineer: Amptweaker LLC
    Although it's called a 'Fuzz', check out some of the cleaner tones you can get on the Bass TightFuzz. I built in an auto-bias to the Fuzz control, so it can get cleaner tones....It sounds more 'normal' when it cleans up than the TightDrive, which is probably more like what you're looking for. Here's Juan Alderete playing it at NAMM...cleaner stuff starts about 1:00, and it gets some cool amp tones at about 2:00:

  7. andrew


    May 20, 2000
    Vancouver BC/Pacific Northwest
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar Amplification, Spector, Regenerate Guitar Works, Tech 21 NYC
    That sounds damn good.
  8. N.F.A.


    Jun 25, 2009
    In a blue funk
    Yes, it did sound very good.

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