DCW "woodsman" - Classic MIAB Goodness you should hear!

Discussion in 'Reviews of Pedals and Effects' started by snow and steel, Jan 9, 2019.

  1. snow and steel

    snow and steel Supporting Member

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    Are you looking for a great "Marshall in a box" drive pedal, but find yourself frustrated by the huge number of pedals out there promising 'that' tone? Maybe you are looking for an overdrive that captured the classic Marshall tone but have been frustrated by a bloated bass response - or too deep of a bass cut - found on many MIAB pedals? Or perhaps you need something that hits a little harder than the average overdrive but find that most distortion pedals are a buzzy mess, and no longer have that classic sound? The DCW "Woodsman" might be the pedal for you!

    The DCW "Woodsman" is a classic "MIAB" pedal, that is painstakingly hand made, with some thoughtful features and great tones. Let's get to know this great pedal that you might have missed - we'll explore this simple yet clever pedal, get a look under the hood, and listen to a sample.

    If you're not familiar with DCW Pedals, they hand build pedals in Camden WV [and when I say hand build I mean "HAND BUILT" - more o this later]. Owned and operated by Dustin Wagoner [hence the 'DCW'], with a focus on offering classic tones that any gigging guitarist needs, these are great pedals at exceptional prices. They are all built, hand wired, hand finished and tested one at a time, with exceptional detail and high quality parts. The result is a fantastic piece of kit made to last a lifetime, with a classic and classy look, that sounds great to boot. Let's dig in!

    [​IMG]

    The pedal arrived in a white box, with a "DCW Pedals" sticker containing the model and day built on one end. Inside the box was the pedal in a protective bag, along with a business card, all of which was well packed for protection in shipping.

    If you have handled a lot of pedals then some things should immediately jump out at you when you first handle this pedal. It is immediately evident this enclosure is not some mass produced box straight from China. Built on a standard 1590 Hammond enclosure, it is drilled and finished by Dustin, with a nice and easy to read waterslide style decal applied over a "hammered" style finish with a nice clear coat to seal everything in. I'm reasonably sure the enclosures are heat treated to harden the finish as well. This gives a classy look without looking gaudy or tacky, where everything isclearly marked and easy to read.

    The pedal has a top mounted power jack that takes a standard barrel center negative pin. It's interesting to note there is no provision for a battery - not a problem for your average gigging guitarist who will slap this on the board, but worth noting. Considering how terrible batteries are for the environment, and how I personally run everything off power supply, I certainly don't miss it.

    The input and output jacks are side mounted. I know some folks get all worked up about top mounted jacks, but there have honestly been times I have found top mounted jacks wouldn't work so well [like when I need to run from pedal on the bottom of my board to a pedal on the very top]. With today's space saving flat plug patch cables this is really a non-point, and for where I would put it on my board I would actually prefer this arrangement.

    The pedal face has knobs marked Volume, Gain, Tone and Fat. Most of this should be relatively self explanatory - volume and gain are exactly what you'd expect, Tone controls and fine tunes the top end. The interesting bit is the "Fat" knob. This controls the lower end of the tone. We'll get into this shortly. A bright blue LED indicator when the pedal is 'On' rounds out the look which is something I really appreciate - I find I really need a bright LED to know if my pedals are 'On' or 'Off' when I play in bright sunlight outside. Most of these features are pretty standard, so lets switch our focus and get to some of the really interesting stuff - Let's take a look under the hood!

    [​IMG]

    If the face of the enclosure didn't scream "Hand built", then the inside of the enclosure is certainly a dead give away. It was also evident to me by the couple of marks on the jacks that the pedal was thoroughly tested, and not simply 'assumed good'. Anything that could potentially move or rattle has been glued down.

    Now I'd like to draw your attention specifically to the wiring - close inspection will show you very neat, tidy and well dressed wiring, clean breadboarding [no cheap Chinese PCB here!], and well executed solder joints. The LED clippers are evident, as is the resistor for the LED. None of this is a simple, "paint by numbers" assembly, but rather is a sturdy assembly by someone who truly knows and understand the circuit. Very nice! Fans of hand made and "old world" craftsmanship take note!

    But how does it sound?

    In short - fantastic! The gain knob here is great - you can get very light break up for a clean amp, or light grit and volume boost to really drive your 'warm' amp, and it all sounds very natural and great. The "Woodsman" can also produce a crushing mid heavy gain that nears the realm of a distortion pedal, but it never looses definition or turns into a buzzy mess. I found it worked well into both a clean amp and a warm amp as well. The amount of gain variance here is really stunning! The clarity and note definition through the entire range of the gain knob is really exceptional.

    The key to this clarity and definition is the simple but very effective "Fat" knob. I have had MANY issues with some of these "MIAB" pedals either having WAY too much bass or too much bass cut. Of course you can't sculpt that out with just a tone knob, and to further complicate matters sometimes the bass response is great on one amp but bloated or thin on another amp - which makes it hard to tell someone in a nutshell how a pedal is going to sound on their amp. To further complicate issues with a lot of these "MIAB" style pedals if your amp is already cooking and you hit the front end and add some gain, it's very easy to start turning your tone into a mushy mess, and likewise when running into a truly clean and pristine amp sometimes a more full sound is what's called for - here we can quickly and easily adjust these with the 'Fat' knob.

    With the 'Fat" knob on the woodsman the user now has the ability to control that, essentially acting like a bass knob. So in this case the user can tune it not only to their own ear, but also their own amp as well - very simple but convenient. One can even run the tone and 'Fat' knobs high and even out the EQ [like having a 2 band EQ in a way] if a less pronounced mid hump is desired [although why anyone would want that - especially if they arrived at a MIAB style pedal - is beyond me].

    Something that immediately struck me on the "Woodsman" was that regardless of gain setting, the pedal has the elusive "kerrang" to it's overtone, fade and sustain, and just the right amount of sizzle to capture that authentic tone - two things that most MIAB pedals drop the ball on.

    Of course all this is very well and good, but for most of us the REAL test of any piece of gear is how it sounds live, with a band and in a mix. Every gigging guitarist knows that what sounds good in the bedroom does not always equate to good stage tone. The band mix, other guitarist's tone [when applicable], amp volumes and more all affect how well a tone sits in the mix. So while there are plenty of videos out there that will showcase what a pedal sounds like by itself, I've chosen to show you what it sounds like LIVE in a band mix.

    Below is a clip I cut from a live show. I recommend you listen with a good pair of headphones for a true "in the audience" experience. You can even hear some crowd noise if you listen closely! It was recorded in WAV format [24 bit, 96khz - This is actually higher than CD quality]. Although there is some compression that happens when transferring to youtube audio, so we do lose a touch of that in the transfer - it is, however, the most convenient format for most folks these days to listen on nearly any device. No EQ or other adjustments made - only cut for time and dropped into youtube format, with a fade in and out for ease.

    I'd also like to point out the rhythm player is using a Stephens Amplification hand wired plexi clone running full tilt - where as the lead track is the "Woodsman" being played through the clean channel of my Roland Blues Cube Artist - so you're hearing this pedal directly against the "real deal" for the tone it emulates, and in my opinion it holds it's own with ease.



    Overall I'm very impressed! This is a hand built, great sounding pedal, that works well on clean amps, cooking amps and more, sounds authentic, and is built road tough - all for $120!!! This is an amazing value! There is also a "deluxe" version which features a foot switchable "boost" circuit which allows you to place the boost before the drive circuit for a more gain, or you can place the boost after the drive circuit for a built in solo boost. The amount of boost is adjustable using the Boost knob. Even cooler - the boost circuit is completely independent of the drive side, meaning that even with the drive turned off you are able to switch on the boost side for a stand alone volume boost, or to push other pedals!

    I hope you enjoyed this review, and thanks for reading!
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2019
  2. 83stratman

    83stratman Member

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    The resistor is the current limiting resistor for the LED. Nothing to do with "pop-free switching".
     
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  3. snow and steel

    snow and steel Supporting Member

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  4. OotMagroot

    OotMagroot Supporting Member

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    I really want a Mountain Lion, a Woodsman, and the ZAZ drive - all deluxe versions! I'd like to try the Tradition drive too. Clips sound good - congrats OP!
     
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  5. InAbsentia

    InAbsentia Member

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    Sounds killer, great solo too!

    I still haven’t gotten through the second bit of stuff you sent me, so I shall get back to you soon about that ;)
     
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  6. snow and steel

    snow and steel Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the kind words everyone!
     
  7. grizz

    grizz Member

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    If this is a secret contest, I still want a Hands of Time!
     
  8. snow and steel

    snow and steel Supporting Member

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    No secrets here, just a hidden gem of a pedal I did a review on
     
  9. Snare227

    Snare227 Vendor

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    Very in depth write up @snow and steel. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with everyone. That clip sounds great and I still want to sit back with a beer and catch one of your sets. :beer
     
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