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The (R)Evolution of Signature Gear: A Review of the Keeley D&M Drive

By Andy Perrin | May 15, 2017

Keeley Electronics D&M Drive

It’s undeniable that social media has forever changed the guitar gear industry. Yet even in this new era, the Keeley D&M Drive signals something entirely new and represents an industry first. The pedal is a signature effect not in tribute or partnership with Rock and Roll Hall of Famers but with a new generation and type of music industry royalty: YouTube’s Mick Taylor and Dan Steinhardt of “That Pedal Show.”

Robert Keeley Strikes Again: Design, Function, and Parameters of the D&M Drive

The D&M Drive is a multistage and tandem overdrive pedal inspired by the complementary yet distinctly different gain preferences and tastes of Dan & Mick. On its left side you’ll find a multistage gain (“Dan here!”), with a mid-humped boost neighbor to the right (“Mick here!”). Both sides come fully-equipped with independent level, gain, and tone knobs, which allow you to tailor your overdrive across an incredible spectrum of sounds.

In addition to stellar sounding and expertly crafted gain structures, which more than hold their own when used independently, the D&M Drive is fully stackable. In short, each side can be used by itself—which is not always the case with drive-plus-boost pedals—or easily stacked in either direction. A mid-ship toggle quickly reroutes the chain to either push the drive into the boost or boost into the drive. If you’re a drive-stacking-addict this switch is brilliantly convenient: it enables instant experimentation of configuring the direction and interaction of the wo stages with the flick of a switch on the fly. No more pausing, setting on standby, disconnecting, reconnecting, repeat.

While this dual directionality is already a major plus, the fact that the level knob of each side retains its independent functionality adds even more value. In short, when stacked atop each other there are infinite options of blending and mixing the desired amount of each side. Very diplomatic. Very sophisticated. Very Dan & Mick.

D&M Drive

Favorite Settings

You know you’re in for a good time when a new pedal sounds rich and has a discernable character when everything’s locked in at noon. As always, that a great place to start but in the few weeks that this pedal has been on my board I’ve already discovered some favorite settings that at once capture some of the core sounds of the D&M as well as provide but a few snapshots of its versatility. Here’s a brief rundown of four settings where I found the pedal performed best with both humbuckers and single-coils.

  1. Springy and Cleaned Up

Settings: Boost into Drive; D-Side: Level 10:00, Gain 10:00, Tone 12:00; M-Side: Level 12:00, Tone 1:00, Gain 10:00.

This setting showcased the range and responsiveness of the pedal, both in terms of its evolving edge when rolling back my guitar’s volume as well as in the way it surged with a strong pick attack. With my guitar’s volume set around three, the D&M provided a springy yet edgy drive that paired perfectly with rhythmic strums and finger-plucking bluesy riffs. Rolling the volume up pushed the pedal into a moderate gain that was perfect for adding dynamics into heavier rhythm or running riffs into the progression. Since the boost is already in the mix, everything was already there when I needed an added punch when the volume was turned up to ten.

  1. Opposites Attract

Settings: Boost into Drive; D-Side: Level: 1:00, Gain, 9:00, Tone: 1:00; M-Side: Level 11:00, Tone 11:00, Gain 3:00.

It’s no secret that, in many ways, Dan & Mick have opposite overdrive preferences. Dan’s a confessed fuzz-fined and Boss Blues Driver or Fulltone OCD type of guy, while Mick gravitates to the sounds found on the Ibanez Tube Screamer and Klon Centaur side of things. In light of their preferences and personalities, I thought I’d experiment with dialing in the sides of the D&M in mirror-image, so each parameter was set the exact opposite as on the other side. The result was a setting that is definitatly a strong contender for my “go-to” setting on the D&M.

With these settings, the overdrive provided was edgy, but not harsh. It sounded a little pissed off, but still articulate and focused in its aggression. As a setting for rhythm, this configuration retained the clarity and character of individual notes yet readily served as a full-bodied overdrive that held its own in riffs. Of course, for a bit more punch for lead or solos, the flick of the switch to have Mick’s boost budge in front of Dan’s drive added just the right touch.

D&M Drive

  1. Mick’s Side for Singing Single Coils and Less Harsh Humbuckers

Settings: M-Side Boost Only; Level: Noon; Tone: 2:00; Gain: Noon.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this setting retained the warmth and spring of my single-coils. Yet when plugged into a PRS (or Les Paul) it also softened the bite of a set of humbuckers to make the output a bit more inviting. Without getting into the territory of adjective-laden tone descriptions, simply put, this subtle boost took the best of my clean signal and topped it up a little with a touch of overdrive that appeared mostly on pick attacks. Added to this, I found the lower to mid gain settings on Mick’s side of the pedal made for a great palette to add color from other pedals. I tag-teamed this setting with my EHX Memory Man 1100-TT and a splash of reverb from my Boss RV-6 and was happily lost for a few hours.

  1. Dan’s Side for Therapeutic Loudness

Settings: D-Side Drive Only; Level 3:00; Gain: All-In; Tone 3:00.

To me one of the things that sets a good pedal out from a great one is the overdrive architecture. I’ve always wondered about some pedals that have a lot of gain on tap yet crap out when cranked. Keeley pedals have earned a permanent place on my board because they do the exact opposite: the built-in spectrum of gain is designed with the full-range of volume level in mind. In the case of the D&M Drive, when Dan’s side is dimed out on gain and the tone is set to bring out a nice bark from your pickups—particularly humbuckers—the pedal delivers a rich drive with almost a hint of fuzz. Added to this, the intense gain provides sustain for days which blossoms into natural and controllable feedback. To me, this is the ideal setting: it’s equally therapeutic at the end of a work day or ready to jump-kick a gig later that evening.

It’s difficult to overstate the amount of ways to configure the D&M—it’s an excellent playground for the pedal tinkerers, drive stackers, and gain aficionados. Robert Keeley knocked it out of the part on this one and the partnership with Dan & Mick added true inspiration and insight into the caliber of the pedal in a way that is unprecedented in the traditional heritage of signature gear items.

D&M Drive