Heavy Hatchet (Distortion by Driftwood Amps)


Well-known member
From classic rock to modern metal, Driftwood Amp’s Heavy Hatchet delivers a wide range of tonal qualities, and with a host of options. There are two ways of running Heavy Hatchet (and with 200 mA standard power supply), either in front of an amp or through an amp’s Send/Return (set via a toggle switch). You then have four Mode combinations – select between Vintage or Modern, and then select whether you want a high-gain or lo-gain response.

From there you begin sculpting your tone with several on-board tools. The Gain is pretty thick and meaty, even when dialed back and on Vintage/Lo-Gain setting. The three-band EQ is the typical Bass, Midrange and Treble, and they do produce a very large and usable range. Full bass and midrange are a bit much, insofar as I don’t think many people will go to those extremes, but those ranges are there if you need them. Regardless, pushing any of the EQs do not produce flubby bass or harsh treble.

There are three small knobs below the EQ knobs. Rumble adds depth, and its perfect for keeping bass tight and within reason in the mix, yet remain punchy with obvious bottom end. The Sharp knob is like a presence control, and provides that clarity and brightness. The internal Gate is wired in a 4-cable manner and it works exceptionally well – there does not seem to be any tone drain, or at least nothing noticeable to my ears, and even with very high gain on the Modern setting this is a darn quiet pedal without the gate on at all. With the gate up full, you can achieve some intense chugging attacks.

Finally, Heavy Hatchet comes with a boost, based on a Tube Screamer design (although without a middle hump honk). It engages separately (foot switch), with the blend controlled via the Boost knob. There are two things I like about the Boost’s knob control: First, as you crank it up, the signal becomes more aggressive, but not muddy and washed out; and second, there is only a modest volume increase, so that switching the Boost on/off does not produce a blatantly noticeable volume drop or increase if it happens to be up full. I find the Boost makes the signal hotter with more snarl, as opposed to making it significantly louder, which is how I prefer it. Also note that how the boost interacts with the settings vary, in that you do get a more vintage sounding boost on the Vintage setting, and a more modern boost on the Modern setting. Very cool, and I can hear this, as the Vintage remains a bit more open and flowering, whereas the Modern has a tighter, more aggressive, and saturated quality.

At 279€, Heavy Hatchet is very much on par with today’s boutique pedals, and it delivers for every penny. ‘Amp-like’ is a bit of an overused term, like ‘organic,’ but if the terms fit, they fit. With all controls flat, this pedal was impressive to the ears upon first plug-in. Thick, rich, sounding like a hi-gain distortion amp, and with clear detail and definition in the grain. I find it as impressive as the Purple Nightmare tube preamp, which I’ll be doing a sound comparison in an upcoming video. On that note Heavy Hatchet is not an exact replication of the Purple Nightmare preamp; they have similar qualities (maybe in the gain-stage structure, but I’m guessing), but are different flavors of that Driftwood sound. I find the Purple Nightmare preamp sounds warmer and more ‘gooey,’ and likely due to its tube and perhaps some differences in electronics, but you can be the judge. Overall, two confident thumbs up for Driftwood Amp’s Heavy Hatchet.
Some extras: Comparing the Heavy Hatchet distortion to the Purple Nightmare Preamp (pretty darn close), and hearing how the Heavy Hatchet cleans up, and if there's a sound difference whether in front of the amp (distortion mode) or in an amp's FX Loop (Preamp mode).