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Microphone Month 3

Tech 21 Character Series Leeds Overdrive Pedal Reviews

5.0 stars based on 5 customer reviews
Questions about the Tech 21 Character Series Leeds Overdrive Pedal?

Questions about the Tech 21 Character Series Leeds Overdrive Pedal?

Or call us at (800) 222-4700

  • from Twin Cities, MN June 17, 2016Music Background:
    Hobbyist

    Underappreciated Gem of the Character Series

    I've been irrationally obsessed with Tech21 products for awhile - I owned a Tri A.C. and Trademark 30 (amp) briefly, and have a few of the Joyo Sound pedals, which are more-affordable clones of some of the early version Character pedals. But I never actually owned a pedal from the Character series until pulling the trigger on the Tech 21 Leeds. I feel that Leeds is sorely underappreciated, and arguably the most versatile pedal in the Character lineup.

    I hadn't paid any attention to the Leeds for a long time because I don't have any particularly affinity towards the "Hiwatt" sound, which is the entire inspiration behind the Leeds. I'm not a huge fan of The Who or David Gilmour, and tend to prefer Fender, Vox, and (to a lesser degree) Marshall amplifiers. So does the broader public, by the way, which is probably why the Blonde and Liverpool seem to be the most popular Character pedals.

    But the Leeds is just fantastic, particularly as a direct box. Hiwatts are known for having TONS of clean headroom, and are considered excellent pedal platforms. Same with the Leeds - it has full and beautiful clean tone with substantial low and articulation and punch. Turning up either the Character or Drive knob (or both) produces some great distorted rock sounds. In fact, if you covered up the artwork, I bet you could confuse a few people into thinking that the Leeds was the better "British" rock sound versus the Marshall-inspired Character pedal.

    The speaker emulation button, which they added to the series after 2010, is a huge benefit. Technically speaking, it's basically a very specialized high-end roll-off/shelf that simulates the sound of a large cabinet for applications where you are skipping that step (such as plugging direct into an interface, mixer, or recorder). If you are running the Leeds into the front of a combo amp (or, arguably, even through the amp's effects loop), you can disable the speaker emulation, since you have an actual speaker involved in that setup. Tech21 explains that the pedal is brighter with the speaker sim engaged, since many guitar preamps have circuitry that emphasizes treble. But there are no set "rules" as to how you use the pedal, and the EQ controls are active and extremely powerful. I was amazed how much tonal flexibility I had with a simple setup (Gibson guitar w/ humbuckers -> Tech21 Leeds -> Reverb pedal -> Mixer -> Headphone monitoring).

    I'm likely to check out other Character pedals somewhere down the road. But as much as I like the Leeds, I'm a little skeptical I'll like the others as much as I like this one!

  • from January 15, 2016Music Background:
    Hobbyist

    Articulate Awesomeness

    The Tech 21 Leeds delivers focus, cut and articulate tone. The EQ controls are powerful, and it's easy to dial in precise amounts of gain, from clean to edge-of-breakup to full windmill. This pedal has a lot of sparkle and presence, and it takes pedals well. Running direct, it sounds much better than I expected. I'm sure I'll be back for the Tech 21 Oxford and Liverpool pedals, but I'm very happy I started with the Leeds. A very cool tool.

  • from North of Chapman Ranch, Texas April 18, 2014Music Background:
    aging pro

    More than just Hiwatt tone

    The Tech 21 Character-Series Leeds pedal is truly fine, particularly through a Tech 21 Power Engine 60. This setup (in my case with a 60th anniversary Tele) is great from bone clean to Jupiter. I always did like the way Hiwatt amps held together tone-wise, taking vastly longer to break up than a Marshall while delivering more solid, compact low end than a Vox. This pedal into a PE60 can really do just that, with the advantage it happens at all loudness levels instead of one magical setting as in the MIL-SPEC original. The 'Character' control functions brilliantly as it does on every Tech 21 device featuring this knob.

    The Leeds pedal is quiet and dirt simple to use. To disfigure another metaphor, the tonal range of the Leeds pedal seems to overlap each side of an actual Hiwatt by approximately 30% per side, clean to noise. Not so much difference with regard to the cleans. The cleans are robust and can be plenty pushy within the groove. The clean tone is a major strength of this box. It seems to do nothing poorly.

    The Tech 21 wall wart comes with an in-line connector which tends to interfere with the audio output jack. A better solution is Radio Shack 273-027 which is available with a 90 degree connector. If you want to make the parallel hook up cable, the RS unit will power three Tech 21 pedals of this general type. My only gripe.

    With the Tele it is necessary to be mindful of the treble component of the tone. The unit has more than adequate range to keep your scalp on. I suspect the Leeds pedal will really sing with double-coil pickups.

    I purchased my pedal from Sweetwater. The service was typically perfect.

  • from Grand Rapids, MI USA January 14, 2014Music Background:
    Rock Musician

    An Entire Amp in One Pedal

    I'm running the Leeds pedal through the effects loop of my Marshall Mode Four.

    I purchased the pedal (after a good deal of research) to try and fix what I didn't like about my current solid-state head. And it worked like a charm! It really warmed up my tone and gave it the tube feel that I had been missing. It really sounds like a completely new amp.

    I didn't really purchase the pedal for the purpose of trying to emulate a HiWatt, but more so to put a "tonal bandaid" on my head. And the result is that I now have something that sounds a lot more expensive than it actually is, all thanks to a pedal that you can pick up for less than $200. If you want an alternative to an expensive upgrade, this might be it.

    The DC port is in kind of an odd place, but that was my only complaint.

  • from Brooklyn, New York USA February 29, 2012Music Background:
    Recording Engineer, Musician

    Great Tone

    I use this onstage through a Tech21 Power Engine 60 with the cab simulation on. It easily cuts through with a full band and provides a wide palette of tone.

    Even though each of the Character Series pedals is designed to emulate a specific amp/speaker, they all cover a wide ground, tonewise. This pedal goes from mid-60s chimey to soaring Townshendesque power all the way to punk distortion. There is none of the harshness that can sometimes come with using digital amp modeling. The Leeds pedal, like its Character Series siblings, is all analog. And, not surprisingly, it works extremely well in tandem with the Power Engine 60. By comparison, when using a BOSS ME-70 with amp simulation into the Power Engine, I have to boost the treble EQ on the floor unit. Not a knock on the ME-70 - I still get great tone. But, it is illustrative of how well Tech21 has integrated the Character Series pedals and the Power Engine.

    One improvement I would like to see would be along the lines of what Tech 21 did with the VT Bass Deluxe - namely, to augment the functionality to include the ability to save user presets. Maybe in the next generation.

    Still, I am very impressed with the way this pedal performs. It's a nice addition to my tonal toolbox.

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