Get the Fulldrive 3 overdrive pedal here: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/FullDrive3Bk
In this video, I’m test-driving the Fulltone Fulldrive 3 overdrive pedal. It’s an extremely versatile overdrive that has three voicing modes and an independent boost. It has the same basic circuitry as the highly-popular FD2 from the ’90s, but with significant upgrades. The FD3 started out as a 20th anniversary, limited-run, custom shop pedal for Fulltone. It’s design was in response to customer feedback and when the FD3 sold out in record time, the FD3 became a full-on production model. There’s a lot of good stuff to dig into with this pedal so let’s get started!
Like the FD2, the FD3 has a genuine, NOS JRC4558D chip at it’s core but there are now three distinct overdrive modes to choose from. Flipping the mode switch all the way forward puts the pedal in ’90s mode, which gives you the warm, original FD2 sound. This is the sound and feel of classic overdrive pedals that every guitarist knows and wants. The center position is Comp Cut mode which removes all of the diode clipping from the opamp. It’s a not-so-clean boost that gets more aggressive with higher gain settings. This mode is on the FD2 and it’s also a serious volume boost from the other two modes.
With the mode switch all the way down, you’re in the Wide Asymmetrical mode with Class A, even-order harmonics. This brand-new mode has a nice openness, with great, top-end sparkle. The lows are focused and the mids have a certain transparency that allows the notes to speak clearly. There’s plenty of gain available, but the character of it is best described as “clear.”
A completely separate, Clean Boost section has also been added to the FD3. It’s a JFET circuit that can be used on its own or in conjunction with the overdrive side of the pedal. It has its own level control, indicator light, and footswitch. The Clean Boost is an ultra-transparent, high-headroom boost for either raising your overall level or driving the front-end of the overdrive section of the FD3.
That can be accomplished with the Order Switch, positioned next to the Boost control; it changes the placement of the Clean Boost in the signal path. OD-Boost puts the Boost last in the chain, so it’s a preset volume boost that would be perfect for going instantly from a rhythm volume to a solo volume. With the switch in the Boost-OD position, the Boost section is actually driving the Overdrive section, giving more gain and sustain with a slight volume increase. This mode would be perfect if you wanted to switch between a dirty sound and saturated sound. I had great results using this setting in conjunction with the WIDE ASYM mode. Kicking in the Boost took me from crunchy, crisp rhythm with great note separation to fat, sustaining single-lines.
Another feature on the FD3 is the Dynamics control. It’s the little knob directly beneath the Boost control that is a Germanium Diode limiter. It works with the Boost side of the pedal and is specifically designed to tame the spikey transients that are often associated with clean boost pedals. I found that setting it in the 10 o’clock position was just enough to even-out the highs without being noticeable. I experimented with higher settings and the best results for me were in Boost-OD mode where the Dynamics control added a sludgy attack to the notes, causing the distortion to react in more unpredictable ways. Pretty cool, considering every other sound on the FD3 was fairly controlled but cranking the Boost and Dynamics gave the pedal a different profile.
You’ll notice that I ran the pedal at 18V, which gives a little higher headroom and sounds a bit clearer in every setting to me. The FD3 operates fine at 9V too, so feel free to experiment and see which works best for you.
The FD3 is like every other Fulltone pedal in that the build-quality and overall integrity are of the highest order. Fulltone pedals are also built and designed from a guitarist’s perspective, so every detail makes sense and is practical for a working musician. Hope you enjoy the Fulldrive 3 as much as I did and thanks for checking out the video!
— Don Carr