Posts Tagged ‘keeley’

Keeley Luna Overdrive

Summary: Two-and-a-half years in the making and combining what Robert Keeley feels are the best in overdrive pedals, tube amps, and tone stacks. The Luna overdrive is the result. This pedal covers a wide range of overdrive possibilities, from light grit to fuzz-like, square-wave distortion.

Pros: The Baxandall tone stack is KILLER and totally sells me on the pedal. On top of that though, the pedal reacts to attack and guitar volume adjustments just like a tube amp, so you’ll be right at home.

Cons: It’s pricey for one, and the tight interplay between the EQ, Drive and Master controls makes it difficult to dial in just the right amount of overdrive. But these aren’t big enough cons to give it a lower score.


  • Hand-made in the USA
  • Op-amp clipping and JFET gain stages
  • Baxandall tone stack
  • Drive and Master controls
  • Classic and Modded overdrive modes

Price: ~$219 Street

Tone Bone Score: 4.75 ~ This is a great pedal. I’d give it a 5 on tone alone, but I knocked off just a bit for making it difficult to get a decent tone out of my amp. I suppose that’s part of the fun in playing around and discovering what a pedal can do, but I have to be fair. It got a little frustrating as the Drive knob is pretty sensitive.

After my beloved Timmy pedal, I thought I was done with overdrive pedals! 🙂 I should know better because I’ve been a slut for overdrive pedals, and I guess there’s really no cure for that. Playing around with the Keeley Luna Overdrive has been a joy, though I will admit I did briefly get frustrated while trying to dial in the pedal. It simply took a bit of time to get used to the active Baxandall EQ. Unlike other EQ’s, it’s not a cut type of EQ, where the EQ knobs turned all the way up give you flat response. With a Baxandall EQ, the 12 o’clock position is flat response. Turn up an EQ knob and you get a boost, turn it down, and you get a cut. But the midrange is left alone. That means that if you turn both knobs fully counter-clockwise, you get a midrange hump; fully clockwise, and you get a scooped tone.

This is a totally different animal from other EQ’s, and it takes awhile getting used to. However, despite the learning curve, this type of EQ provides a much better way of dialing in your tone to fit your guitar, amp, and cabinet. For instance, for my test, I played the pedal in front of my DV Mark Little 40, which goes out to a 1 X 12 cabinet that has a Jensen Jet Falcon speaker, which has a pretty big bottom end. Putting the pedal in flat response made my tone sound really muffled because of the lows (I had my amp’s EQ completely flat). But after playing around, I found that placing the bass at 11 o’clock and the treble at 1 o’clock brightened up the tone just the right amount, then it was all about getting the Master and Drive knobs set.

About the Drive knob… it’s super-sensitive, and you’ll start getting breakup as soon as you start turning the knob clockwise from its minimum position, which is about 7-8 o’clock. I found that the sweet spot for me was the Drive just past 9 o’clock and the Master set between 2 and 3 o’clock. With my amp set at just the edge of breakup, the boost from the Master got the tubes overdriving, and the combination of distortion from both the pedal and the amp was quite pleasing to my ears.

How It Sounds

In my First Impressions article that I wrote earlier today, I said that the pedal adds some color. I’m going to retract that now because depending upon where you set the EQ’s, you can have a transparent tone, or add as much color as you want. I like to err on the side of transparency with most overdrives, and when it came down to it, this pedal was no different. I originally had a nice treble boost, but when I did some test recordings, found that I didn’t like how I had set the EQ’s because of the color. Here are a couple of test clips. Note that both of these were done in the Classic mode, and I was using my Gibson Les Paul ’58 Historic Reissue.

In the first clip, I do a quick clean rhythm riff with an almost imperceptible grit, then do the same riff with the pedal to add some dirt.

With the next clip, I decided to do a dark rhythm track then play a lead alongside it. In both rhythm and lead, the pedal was set the same way, and I vary the amount of overdrive simply by adding more guitar volume or hitting my strings harder. This clip was made purely to demonstrate the pedal’s dynamic response. I also added just a touch of reverb to grease the sound a bit,.

I absolutely love the tone of the lead track. I started out with my LP in the middle position, with the neck pickup at 5 and the bridge pickup at 6. Then when I started driving it harder, I switched to the bridge pickup entirely and dimed it. From there I just closed my eyes. The sonic content that the pedal produces is amazing. There are lots of little harmonics and overtones in the signal, and the note separation is awesome. The note separation takes a little getting used to as well. But this is a good thing because this pedal does not produce mush – even at high gain settings.

In this third clip, I just do a few seconds of a Journey riff. here the tone is scooped with both the EQ knobs at about 2 pm, the Master cranked wide open and the Drive at about 10 o’oclock. Unfortunately, my mic didn’t pick up all the little harmonics and overtones, but the point to this one was that even pushing my amp hard, and with much more gain, the note separation is still maintained.

I know, I only have a couple of clips, but admittedly, I’m still playing around with the pedal. I want to try it front of one my Plexi-style amps to see how it performs.

I did take it through its paces with the Modded mode, and that mode with my amp just past the edge of breakup created some real aggressive overdrive; not over the top, but I have to play around more with this mode and cranking up the gain to experience the upper limits of the pedal.

Overall Impression

As I said above, this is a great pedal. It’s a little steep in price at $219; Keeley pedals have never come cheap. But that said, I’d totally add this to my board to stack with my Timmy (hmm… going to have to try that out). It has been a long time since I’ve been jazzed about an overdrive, and I’m really jazzed about this one.

Interestingly enough, besides a few video reviews out there (that do nothing but blues licks), and one that I saw done by Musicians Friend staff member, there’s not much in the way of reviews, which is surprising. Some of the feedback I saw on a couple of forums said it didn’t work well with people’s amps. I think that has more to do with not playing around with the pedal enough. That Baxandall EQ takes some getting used to, but once you “get it,” this pedal rocks!

For more information, visit Keeley Luna Overdrive product page!

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One of my bandmates showed up at our weekly church gig this past weekend with the Keeley Luna Overdrive on his pedal board. He normally plays clean, and wanted to have something that he could get a gritty sound with, but he hadn’t really set it up, and frankly, it didn’t sound all that good, but I knew that it had more to do with the pedal being new and him not having time to dial it in than with the pedal himself. So I gave him a few pointers on how to set up his amp and the pedal, and we were able to get some real usable overdrive tones out of it.

After service, Dave handed me the pedal to do a test drive on it. He wasn’t sure he’d keep it, as it was pretty expense (he paid $219 for it and wasn’t sure it was worth it), but wisely, he wanted to get my feedback on it before he made a decision. It’s still a bit early to give him a definitive answer, but I’m probably going to recommend that he keeps the pedal after I had a chance to play around with it last night. Or if he still doesn’t want to keep it, I’ll take it off my hands and add it to my board to play after my Timmy. 🙂

So what’s so special about this pedal? It’s the same thing that I find special about the Timmy: It’s the tone controls. With the Timmy, to get a flat response you keep the tone controls wide open, then bleed off the highs and lows to adjust for amp/guitar. The Keeley on the other hand uses a Baxandall tone stack. Flat response is with both bass and treble knobs at noon. Moving either knob past noon adds boost, and vice-versa for moving the knobs before noon. Turning them all the way down will give you a big mid-hump, and cranking them will give you a scooped tone (though note that you’re boosting, so you’ll get more gain as well).

And it’s a different overdrive sound altogether. I detected a slight coloring, even at low gain settings, but it was very pleasing. High gain settings get you into fuzz/square-wave stuff, but nothing like a real fuzz pedal. Furthermore, try as I might, I couldn’t get any compression in Classic mode; even the Timmy compresses ever-so-slightly. This is a different overdrive animal entirely. Though it does add a bit of color (I heard it as a little top-end sparkle; almost like the sparkle you get with an optical compressor), it’s really made to work your amp, and your fundamental tone doesn’t really change all that much. That’s what I dig about the Timmy, though the Timmy is pretty transparent.

No, I don’t have any sound clips – yet. I just spent an hour twiddling knobs and finding the sweet spot on my LP. One thing that I can say that also impresses me is that it’s VERY responsive to input gain and pick attack, and it’s truly a joy to play with low gain settings. Then turning up volume knobs adds more grit and drive – very responsive and VERY expressive.

With respect to the Classic/Modded switch, since I didn’t have any documentation on hand, I can only tell you that it seemed to me that the “Modded” side added more gain and a bit of sustain. I suspect a little compression is also happening as the tone seems to be much more full and “in your face” in Modded mode.

I have to admit that before I played it, I really was trying to be unimpressed with this pedal, but after just playing with it for a short time, I can’t help but to be impressed. Just when I thought I’d heard everything with respect to overdrive, the Keeley Luna Overdrive provided yet another way of looking at overdrive.

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