Price paid: $ 200
Purchased from: Sam Ash Charlotte NC
Ease of Use — 9
Because of the full tone stack and clipping selection switch, the Clarksdale is the easiest to use of any TS type box I've owned. Starting with the knobs at 12:00 and seasoning to taste is very effective. I also had a Lovepedal Eternity for a while (another boutique TS variant), and found the Clarksdale to be MUCH more user friendly in terms of dialing in pleasing tones. The manual gives basic instruction and some suggested settings, which were surprisingly accurate. It boosts amps and even other pedals well, and is not sensitive to buffers and such, which was another problem I had with the Lovepedal. My only complaint is the other new Wampler feature, top-mounted jacks. They just don't work well with the current layout of my pedalboard, and also limit the type of patch cables I can use because there is limited room on top of the pedal for the patch jacks and the power supply. I prefer to use the patch cables with the pancake-style jacks, but can't with this setup. However, that issue goes a lot further than just this brand, and I don't think my preference for side jacks is the norm, so I will leave it at that.
Sound — 9
This pedal is the classic Tubescreamer tone through and through, but with refinements that make it a much more useful and practical effect. Players that find other TS type pedals thin in the bass registers or too piercing can use the full tone stack of the Clarskdale to coax classic blues and rock tones from rigs that don't play well with the limited EQ range of the original green box.
No matter where the knobs are adjusted on the Clarksdale, it will always sound like a Tubescreamer - boosted mids and tighter bass specifically. The difference, to me, has been that in situations where similar pedals cut bass and drop the floor out of my tone, the Clarksdale can be easily set for a full drive or boost sound, while still providing the bite and presence one wants. For example, traditional TS pedals often take a tight, percussive, bridge pickup rhythm sound and make it shrill and unpleasant, but the Clarksdale can give a nice fat mid boost. On the other hand, bass tones don't get boomy or woofy either - it seems this pedal filters out the ultra low frequencies, and also allows adjustments of the bass frequencies above that cutoff. The bass control has made this pedal much more useable to me than others I've used. The mid control can also tailor the sound, and the included manual highlights some tone settings for emulating famous players - tweaking the mids is the key for nailing those sounds. And, of course, the treble knob is the familiar "tone" adjustment.
The drive sounds on this pedal can range from a bold, fiery blues kick, to a warm and velvelty jazz drive, via the "Smooth/Lift" switch. Mild to moderate breakup settings are all very pleasing. Unfortunately, I disagree with Wampler's advertising of the drive staying well controlled at higher gain levels - I feel the clipping gets jagged and fizzy with the knob near max. However, that isn't a big issue, that level of breakup is better achieved by boosting the signal with the volume knob and hitting the tubes harder, which is the traditional way of using a TS type pedal. Mixing the pleasing drive tones from this pedal with the right amount of breakup from an amp is a beautiful thing.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This is the first Wampler pedal I've owned that has the soft-switch type footswitch, and it's holding up very well. In more traditional Wampler fashion, the knobs, casing, and jacks are all high quality, and the finish is both very cool and very durable. This pedal hasn't had any hiccups at home, in the studio, or at gigs. Of course, I'm careful with my pedalboard, but I don't really worry about any of my Wampler pedals sustaining catastrophic damage from normal use, which is certainly not the case with all brands.
Overall Impression — 9
This pedal has become my staple for Tubescreamer tones. My previous favorite was the Visual Sound Route 808 circuit, which had great drive and boost, but was too limited in EQ tweakability. Wampler has succeeded again in what I believe their forte is - combining excellent overdrive with EQ's that mesh seamlessly with amplifiers. I love not having to compromise my clean or rhythm tone to make a pedal work. For blues, classic rock, jazz, or even boosting a hot modern sounding amp, this pedal is where it's at.