Driftwood Purple Nightmare Tube Preamp Pedal review – all the guts and glory of the full-blown PN head's Burn channel without the $3,000 investment

 Driftwood PurpleNightmare preamp pedal.
Driftwood PurpleNightmare preamp pedal.

There are many here among us who feel that tube amps are the only way to go, regardless of how good digital modeling amps and apps may sound. One of the few problems with tube amps is that they can be pretty damn expensive, and for some of us the prospect of buying a new amp demands sacrifices like walking to work or going without food for a year.

Fortunately, the Driftwood Purple Nightmare Tube Preamp Pedal offers a more pleasant alternative thanks to its ability to function as an additional fully independent amp channel or even as a standalone guitar amp itself, in addition to the usual front-end preamp applications.

This is no solid-state or digital preamp masquerading as a tube preamp – it features a pair of 12AX7 tubes driven by 250-volt plate voltage to deliver true tube tone and performance.


The Driftwood Purple Nightmare Tube Preamp Pedal is essentially the Burn channel from Driftwood’s mammoth Purple Nightmare amp reconfigured in a preamp pedal format.

Gain, Bass, Mid and Treble controls and a High/Low gain voicing switch provide fundamental tonal and textural shaping, while the master section’s Rumble and Sharp knobs (similar to resonance and presence controls) and a three-way Sizzle switch further refine the sound while the Master volume control dials in the overall output level.

Driftwood PurpleNightmare preamp pedal
Driftwood PurpleNightmare preamp pedal

A built-in T/S overdrive (as in “Tube Screamer”) with Gain, Volume and Tone controls and its own on/off switch is also included. A T/S Sep toggle switch allows the overdrive to operate independently like a standalone pedal (up) or be used only when the preamp is on (down).

The back-panel jacks are where most of the Purple Nightmare pedal’s versatility lurks. Standard ¼-inch Input and Output jacks allow connection to an amp’s front end like a typical stompbox application.

To use the pedal as an entirely independent additional channel, you can employ a four-cable setup using the Input, To Amp Input, Send (to an amp’s FX loop Send jack) and Return (to the FX loop Return) jacks. The 2W Out To Cab jack lets you connect the pedal directly to a speaker cabinet to use the pedal as an amp for practice or recording. An External Switch jack on the side lets you control bypass and T/S on/off with an optional footswitch controller.


Pure and simple, this pedal gives guitarists all of the guts and glory of the Driftwood Purple Nightmare head’s Burn channel without the $3,000 or so investment. The pedal produces tight, sparkling clean tones, but let’s face it – 99 percent of the players interested in this pedal will use it for its mammoth, face-melting high-gain distortion tones.

The differences between the middle and lower Sizzle settings are subtle (with the lower setting sounding tighter and more focused), but the upper setting pulls out upper midrange sparkle and, yes, sizzle that cuts through a mix.

Remarkably, the pedal delivers absolutely noise-free performance even with the volume and gain knobs dialed to the most extreme settings, eliminating the need for a noise gate.

The T/S overdrive section works best, or at least is most noticeable, when used with the preamp dialed to low- to medium-gain settings. At higher gain, it tends to blend with the overall sound and the boost is barely noticeable.

By far the best way to use this pedal is by employing the four-cable setup with an effects loop so it can perform as an additional channel

By far the best way to use this pedal is by employing the four-cable setup with an effects loop so it can perform as an additional channel. This allows you to experience those Purple Nightmare Burn channel tones in their full, unadulterated glory.

The pedal sounds good and is quite versatile when plugged into the front of an amp like a distortion pedal, but I generally preferred how the pedal sounded on its own in an effects loop rather than how it sounded when blended with an amp’s tone stack and gain settings.


  • PRICE: €599

  • TYPE: Preamp pedal with two-watt Mosfet power amp

  • FEATURES: 2x 12AX7 preamp tubes, illuminated display, onboard T/S drive section with Drive, Volume and Level Controls, effects loop, connections for four-cable method

  • CONTROLS: Master, Bass, Middle, Treble, Gain, Rumble, Sharp, Hi/Lo gain switch, 3-way Sizzle switch, T/S switch, Bypass and T/S footswitches

  • CONTACT: Driftwood Amps