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Tech 21 Double Drive 3X

Sansamp TRI-AC
speaker listen to sample
speaker Clean Amp

Manufacturer's Site: http://tech21nyc.com

Reviewed by: A. Dorian

The Bottom Line
The Tech 21 Double Drive 3X is a great tool for players looking to add a myriad of distortion options to their sound, whether it is slightly overdriven or head-on distortion, this unit dishes it all.


  • Revolutionary switching and preset memory system
  • 3 programmable preset sounds
  • 100% analog path
  • LAZY POTtm technology
  • in-depth manual
  • made in USA


  • small sound cut-off when switching
  • battery lid fragile
  • hard to dial eq




The Double Drive 3X is housed in a sturdy metal box that looks like it can take some serious road abuse and still dish out the goods. The unit can be powered via a 9 volt battery, changeable from the bottom of the unit, or via an adapter (not supplied). The Double Drive 3X has one 1/4 input and one 1/4 output, 3 stomp-type switches, each illuminated by a corresponding LED to indicate when it is active.
This unit has two drive controls - Drive A (output stage distortion) and Drive A/B ( blend between output and preamp stage distortion). The unit has 3 tone controls (bass, mid and treble) and an output level control.

The Double Drive 3X is not just an ordinary stompbox but in essence a cascading distortion pedal with 3 footswitchable presets. Like Sansamp's TRI-AC the Double Drive 3X runs on a 100% analog signal path but uses digital switching and knob memory to "remember" 3 user settings. This results in the ability to store 3 preset sounds and seamlessly change between them by stomping on the corresponding switches. In order to save a setting the player needs to select one of the three channels by its corresponding switch, then dial in a sound that he/she likes and quickly tap twice on that pedal's switch, which results in saving that patch. The LEDs also let you find your preset patch's parameters by blinking faster the closer to the setting you get. When you're right on the money, the LED illuminates solid red. Then you can write down the parameters in the blank settings pages provided with the unit's manual. This is extremely helpful on a recording session where you need more than 3 sounds.
The Double Drive 3X also has another patented Tech21 function - the LAZY POT. What this does is save you some earache when you turn the volume or drive settings from a preset patch by gradually increasing the sound change so you can react if it happens to be too loud. I can't recall how many times that has happened to me, especially in a studio situation, so that that little feature comes in rather handy. The Double Drive 3X can go into bypass from its active preset switch by pressing it again.

I found this unit to sound best when used in front of a neutral sounding clean amp, whether tube or solid state. The best sounds I got on it were when bypassing the Marshall JCM900's preamp section and going through the FX loop return, thus only using the Marshall's power amp section. The Double Drive 3X also performed like a champ when plugged into my Peavey 50/50 tube power amp or in front of my Fender Princeton solid state amp. The Double Drive 3X can provide some heavy distortion but I felt like it lacked some focus for really heavy high gain metal sounds. It seemed better suited for classic and hard rock, or for some sweet sustaining lead work. It was especially handy when I needed to get "the brown sound" - clean sound with some very small touch of breakup. There are tons of tonal variations considering the cascading distortion effects that can be achieved by working with the different distortion blends of Drive A and Drive A/B and combining these in different amounts. I found the eq of this unit to be rather touchy - it was easier to cut than boost and a very small change went a long way. I cannot quite describe it but both this unit and the TRI-AC's eq section felt cumbersome and hard to work with compared to other overdrive/distortion units. Another small issue I had with this unit was the sound lag when pressing any of the settings. The unit seemed to cut off for a millisecond while switching. The lag wasn't as bad as some older pedal designs but it was noticeable. The battery compartment lid also seemed a bit fragile and I can see where that could be an issue down the road.
Overall the Double Drive 3X seems like a great addition to almost any guitar player's arsenal. There are tons of tonal options by working the two drive voicings and the switching system is unlike any other brand's product in this price range.

Similar products: Sansamp TRI-AC, Sansamp GT2, AMT DT-2 , Digitech DF-7, Hughes and Kettner Tubeman II

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