Chandler Limited Germanium Drive & Little Devil Colored Boost
By: Michael Molenda
Guitar Player - September 2012
Chandler Limited products are prized by professional producers and engineers, audio geeks, and Beatles-obsessed tone freaks because owner/designer Wade Chandler Goeke makes brilliant, retro-style studio gear, such as the Abbey Road Special Edition TG channel strip. Recently, Goeke started branching out into guitar gizmos, and the Germanium Drive and Little Devil are his company’s first stompboxes. They certainly aren’t inexpensive, but they are built with all the toughness and quality of the Chandler studio hardware, with tank-like casings and studly knobs and switches. Both pedals are true bypass. The Germanium Drive runs on two 9-volt batteries or two separate 9 volt power supplies (not included), while the Little Devil is powered by a single 9-volt battery or an optionalpower supply. The Germanium Drive and Little Devil were tested at live shows and recording sessions. Guitars included a custom LÂG Jet, a California Guitars Tele style, a Hanson Chicagoan with mini-humbuckers, a PRS Mira, a Framus Earl Slick Signature with P90s, and a Gretsch Electromatic Pro Jet. The amps were a Marshall 50th Anniversary JTM-1H, a Fender Hot Rod DeVille, a Mesa/Boogie Stiletto, and an Orange Tiny Terror.
Every studio rat has his or her secret weapons for transforming a bland guitar sound into something stunning, and a great guitar tone into
super-bliss overdrive. One of my main wonder boxes for such chores is the JMI Mick Ronson Signature MK1 Tone Bender. That sucker can transform sonic dandruff into pure platinum etched with gold. But the Germanium Drive ($375 retail/$335 street) is now my new number one. It’s more a versatile tone shaping tool than the two-knob Tone Bender (Level and Attack), offering a 3-way switch to adjust overall highs (Smooth, Very Bright, Bright), a 3-way switch for choosing the frequency response of the level boost (Highs, Mids, Full), and cool chicken-head knobs for adjusting gain (up to 37dB) and negative feedback (which determines the nature of the gain, frequency response, clipping, and harmonic distortion).
The manual does a good job of describing what all these controls do, but it’s way more fun to just dive in and see what mayhem you can cause. The Germanium Drive can be a bitnoisy when it’s idling, so although I didn’t hear any unwanted noise while I was playing, when recording, I did need to erase or mute the tracks before the guitar parts fired up. In 99-percent of the cases, the Germanium Drive added more impact, funk, and vibrancy to the amp sound. (There was one instance on a rhythm-guitar part where an articulate and zingy amp tone won the A/B comparison against the GD sound.) The smooth, silky tone of the germanium circuit absolutely brought on some vintage, ’70s style overdrive timbres, but dialing in fuzzier and ruder tones was simply a matter of playing with the Feedback knob, and finding the appropriate EQ emphasis with the Highs and Boost Range switches. A lot of joyful spectral wackiness can make the scene depending on the pedal’s settings, the amp and guitar you’re using, and your playing dynamics. If there were /more/controls on this pedal—like some of Chandler’s studio devices—I might never have come up for air, fed myself, or written this review. Yeah, it’s that much fun crafting sounds with the Germanium Drive.
KUDOS Excellent tone shaper. Bulletproof. Vibe for days.
CONCERNS Expensive. A tad noisy.
Little Devil Colored Boost
Both the Germanium Drive and Little Devil are more like savvy boosters than conventional overdrive devices, but Goeke’s brilliant approach to tonal coloration makes each of these pedals versatile and aggressive rock machines. The silicon circuitry in the Little Devil ($375 retail/$335 street) produces slightly edgier, in-your-face sounds as compared the Germanium Drive, and it also offers a bit more gain (39dB). This is probably why Goeke didn’t name the pedal “Sissy Boy.” The Little Devil offers the same two Highs and Boost Range switches as on the Germanium Drive, as well as Color Boost and Feedback & Bias knobs. As cranking the Color Boost also causes the sound to get brighter, tweaking the two frequency-emphasis switches to taste is one of the “tricks” of crafting guitar tones with the Little Devil.
Once again, the manual is a nice roadmap for understanding where you’re going, but why read when you can get down and play? Going full cowabunga with Color Boost and Feedback & Bias dimed, I got a vicious, aggro buzz from the LÂG Jet and Mesa/Boogie Stiletto combination along with a singing, screaming, almost endless sustain that provided bountiful feedback on cue. Man, I could stand there for months messing around with that tone for solos, riffs, and raging, Sonny Sharrock-esque atmospheric spells. Slightly more timid approaches delivered a bounty of edgy rhythm tones á la Keef or Malcolm Young or Steve Marriott, as well as bluesy stabs, metallic skanks, and ballsy single-note lines. Like the Germanium Drive, the Little Devil is a devilish tool for seducing magnificent mischief from just about any amp.
KUDOS Excellent tone shaper. Bulletproof. Vibe for days.
Worth the Price?
At $335 street, the Germanium Drive and Little Devil Colored Boost are at the mid-to-high expense level for boutique-style pedals. And, as tone is subjective, it’s always a nail-biter to recommend that someone check out a device costing hundreds ofdollars. What sounds awesome to me—and both of these pedals absolutely produce awesome and useable guitar tones to my ears—can sound like elephant dung to another player. There’s also a cost/benefit equation: Is it worth theinvestment to get the tonal payoff? I wish I could definitively answer that one. What I can say is that the “Chandler Limited” sound is it’s own thing, so, like those Dyson vacuum ads, if you want what it delivers, you can only get it here. If you can make that decision, the next choice is whether the smoother, more organic Germanium Drive floats your boat, or whether you want to rock with the harder, edgier Little Devil. You may end up wishing and hoping for both!