Catalinbread Formula No. 55 Overdrive – Vintage Tweed in a Box
Next-generation 5E3 Tweed Deluxe inspired Foundation Overdrive with incredible range – from Grant Green to Crazy Horse, Turn your amp into a 100 watt tweed Deluxe.
Well no, but that’s what it’ll feel like when you plug into your new Catalinbread Formula No. 55. Big and powerful, yet refined, the Formula No. 55 melts into your amp, transforming it into a wide ranging tweed monster capable of everything from smokey, clean Grant Green jazz tones all the way to full on raging Crazy Horse excursions!
The old amps from the 50s were primitive beasts and the 5E3 Deluxe was no exception. Its preamp section let a lot of low frequencies through but then it would encounter an output section (power tubes, output transformer, and speaker) that couldn’t handle all that low end, often resulting in a flubby response, especially if you turned the Volume up. In fact, if you look at the manual from an old 50s tweed, it advises you to “turn down the Volume should you experience any distortion”. Of course, a lot of guitarists ignored that advice and cranked it up anyway, much to Leo’s chagrin, and the sound of rock was born. The Formula No. 55 gives you that huge low-end response but was specifically voiced for touch-sensitive dynamics and a fat, but tight and punchy sound. You can play a palm-muted boogie-woogie rhythm pattern, for example, and if you don’t bear down too hard with your picking attack you’ll get a big chunky, woody sound, the kind of sound that you’d think would flub out if you suddenly started strumming harder. But start thrashing away and the response will get tighter instead of flubbing out! You just have to try it for yourself to see!
The Formula No. 55 is a Foundation Overdrive that reproduces, in exacting detail, the preamp section of the classic Fender™ tweed 5E3 Deluxe using an all-discrete JFET-based signal path. The Volume and Tone controls replicate, part for part, the circuitry of the 5E3, giving you authentic tweed amp response. The output section is designed to give you lots of punch and volume with a low output impedance to drive your amp perfectly. Set the Hi-Lo button to “Lo” for the cleaner response of a vintage tweed. “Hi” is like hot rodding your amp by swapping in higher gain tubes.
Like all Catalinbread pedals, no SMD parts are used for audio circuitry. Only through-hole components selected for tone and response are used such as carbon composition resistors and premium capacitors. We hand-build them and we tone-test each one to ensure you get the best we can offer.
- Volume: From warm fat jazz clean to thick horn-like barking overdrive.
- Tone: Noon for flat. Turn down for warm, smokey tones. Turn it up to boost upper mids and cut through the mix.
- Presence: Adjusts ~ 5khz range. Set to noon to start. Turn it up for more bite! Turn it down to warm things up.
- Master: Sets output level. Lots of boost on tap.
- Hi/Red: Like swapping in hotter tubes, for more gain, overdrive and attitude
- Low/Green: Low gain mode from clean to overdrive
A NOTE FROM THE DESIGNER – Howard Gee
I’ve been designing pedals at Catalinbread since around the beginning of the Obama administration and, wow, now it’s 2017 and I’ve certainly learned a lot over my two terms of designing pedal circuits. Just as it is with songwriting or guitar playing, as your skills mature you don’t necessarily get more complicated, but rather, your work becomes more refined, more elegant, more essential. So, when I was informed that some of the parts we were using for our first tweed-inspired design, the Formula No. 5, were no longer available and could I approve some substitutions, instead of doing that I jumped at the opportunity to take what I’ve learned and apply it to the concept of a tweed-inspired Foundation Overdrive. My mantra as I started from scratch with the circuit design was, “I want to be able to go from Grant Green to Neil Young”. I wanted to make it even more accurate to the 5E3 preamp design. I wanted it to have a wider clean-to-overdriven range. I wanted it to have more output. I wanted it to feel even better to play. I wanted it to stack even better with other pedals. I dove into the breadboarding process with all this in mind. After two or so months of intensive development, which means sitting in front of a breadboard with a guitar in hand and playing and tweaking the circuit until it SOUNDED right and it FELT right, I emerged with a simple, elegant circuit that has the widest range of clean-to-dirty yet. At Catalinbread, we do everything in-house, so then our hardware development team set out to do the circuit board layout and all of the other details to transform the circuit into the pedal you see on this page. We care too much about the sound and quality to let anyone else have their hands on the process! The production team hand-calibrates each Fn55 to the spec I laid out so you know you’ll be getting what I intended.