Review: Akai Drive3 Fuzz – Blues Overdrive – Deluxe Distortion

To a guitarist overdrive- and distortion-pedals are like handbags to women – you can never have too many!

No wonder, as distortions and overdrives vary widely in character and sound, while being the most important ingredients in most players’ tone.

The Akai Analog Custom Shop’s new range of effect pedals has recently arrived in Finland, which provided a handy opportunity for test-driving three of their shiny boxes.

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The Akai Drive3 Fuzz (current street price in Finland: 69 €) is Akai’s stylish solution to all your fuzzy needs.

The Drive3 monicker alludes to one special treat, called up by the mini-switch on the face of the pedal: the Fuzz-pedal is equipped with two different fuzz circuits – in Warm-mode the signal is run through a diode-based circuit, while Muffy (named in honour of a certain Electro-Harmonix classic) uses an LED to break up the sound. The centre position, named Boost, runs the signal through both circuits at once, which boosts the signal significantly, while providing yet another colour to play with.

All Analog Custom Shop pedals use bent stainless steel for their chassis, giving them a very sturdy and trustworthy feel. The whole range is build with true bypass, meaning that whenever a pedal is switched off, the signal is routed directly from the input to the output.

The Akai pedals are powered either via a 9 V battery (included) or a Boss-type power supply (optional).

The fuzz-effect is the forefather of all distortion pedals, and works by mercilessly clipping and overloading its internal circuit. It is the caveman of distortions and solves every job by using a big club, and loving it.

This is why fuzz-pedals tend to completely run the show once they’re engaged, negating much in the way of a guitar’s own character and inherent dynamics in the process.

The Akai Drive3 Fuzz is a stonking fuzz-pedal, and surprisingly versatile, mostly thanks to the Drive3-switch and its useful tone control. Set to Warm the Fuzz’ sound is just that and creamier than what I would have expected. The Muffy mode, on the other hand, gives you plenty of unruly bite. In Boost the Akai Fuzz turns into the mother-of-all-fuzz-pedals, a dense über-fuzz pumped up with an additional 6 dB worth of boost.

Rough and edgy is the name of the game with compression levels bordering on the insane – just what the doctor ordered! Keeping the fuzz control below 9 o’clock you can even play chords, but the Akai Fuzz’ bread and butter are dirty power chords and snarling lead lines – just like it should be. Fuzz-a-licious!

This is what my Strat sounded like played through the Akai Fuzz (all guitar tracks): Akai Drive3 Fuzz

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The Akai Blues Overdrive (current street price in Finland: 69 €) is the company’s offering for the purist. You only have to deal with two knobs – Drive and Level – that’s it.

The Akai Blues Overdrive’s sound is precisely what I look for in a good overdrive effect. The Drive-pot takes you from a warm clean boost all the way to creamy and chunky Bluesrock, with many different shadings along the way.

The pedal preserves all of your chosen instrument’s character, and responds very nicely to different playing techniques and dynamics, as well as to volume control use. Because of the Blues Overdrive’s warm nature I never felt the need for a tone control on the pedal.

This is truly a fine overdrive with a high goosebumps-factor!

Here’s my Strat plugged into the Blues Overdrive: Akai Blues Overdrive

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If ultimate versatility floats your boat, Akai’s Analog Custom Shop also has the right pedal for you: the Akai Deluxe Distortion (current street price in Finland: 79 €) is a control freak’s wet dream, offering 3-Band EQ (with adjustable mids), as well as switches for Drive3-selection, EQ-Mode, High Cut and Dir Rec (= direct recording).

Just as in the Fuzz pedal, the Drive3-feature allows you to select either diode- or LED-distortion, as well as using them both in conjunction. The High Cut switch is self-explanatory, cutting some top end off of the signal. The EQ-Mode-switch gives you access to three different types of EQ-curves, so you can tailor your sound more precisely to your needs. Dir Rec, for its part, engages the pedal’s analogue speaker-simulator, should you decide to inject the Deluxe Distortion directly into a mixing console or a soundcard.

Akai’s Deluxe Distortion is a versatility monster, with plenty of gain on offer to cover all bases. Coupled with the excellent EQ-section the pedal opens the door to the whole gamut of distortion tones:

– 70s Rock? No problem, man!

– Creamy Fusion-solos? Here we go!

– Mercilessly cutting Thrash Metal? Covered!

– Demented detuned Doom-riffs? Count it in!

In the highest gain settings there’s some hiss creeping into the picture, naturally, but it’s not really a problem. If you want one distortion pedal to do it all, you should definitely check out the Akai Deluxe Distortion!

Again, a Strat has been used for this bit: Akai Deluxe Distortion

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Akai Analog Custom Shop pedals

Finnish distributor: Studiotec

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Akai Drive3 Fuzz

street price: 69 €

Pros:

+ price

+ sound

+ sturdy build

+ versatility

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Akai Blues Overdrive

street price: 69 €

Pros:

+ price

+ sound

+ sturdy build

+ dynamics

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Akai Deluxe Distortion

street price: 79 €

Pros:

+ price

+ sound

+ sturdy build

+ versatility

+ speaker simulation

Cons:

– some hiss in higher Drive-settings

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