Updated: Jun 2
I was definitely excited about this distortion pedal as, although Keeley has been in the pedal arena for many years, this is the first real dedicated high gain offering.
Initially famous for his modded pedals, like the Boss DS-1 and Blues Drive, Keeley also made a name with his compressors. However, from these modest beginnings, a pedal giant has grown and now it's pretty rare for a guitarist to not have at least one Keeley pedal in their collection.
In recent years, the company has expanded not only in terms of size but also in its offerings with the Workstation series and other new pedals coming out every other week. Keeley Electronics have even expanded into amps with their relationship with Supro.
But for all this, there was still something missing in their line up - a full blown, full-bore distortion pedal that could cover everything from early Metallica up to modern Djent. Enter the Filaments.
Layout and Controls
The Keeley Filaments has a plethora of controls which will please the most dedicated tone seeker all laid out in a small pedal format. However, if you don't like tweaking too much, don't worry as I really couldn't find a bad sound in this box.
The controls consist of 6 dials:
Level, Presence, Gain, Bass, Body, Treble
And 3 mini toggle switches:
Boost, Bright and Crunch
9-18v centre negative - 18v gives more volume and power. No battery option.
As ever, I fired up my Two Rock Studio Pro 35, which is a fantastic pedal platform amplifier, and set it up just on the edge of breakup. The guitars used were a 7 string Waghorn custom and a PRS 20th Anniversary Standard.
I started with everything around 12o'clock with the toggle switches off and was rewarded straight away with a searing tone that was very impressive. Adding gain gave a lead tone that was creamy with plenty of sustain, but was also highly articulate, and there's plenty of volume on tap to really push the tubes in the amp pretty hard.
The bass, body and treble EQ controls do as you'd expect and are very responsive. The Boost switch adds a small amount of volume, which wasn't quite as noticeable as I'd expected, whereas the Crunch switch adds a serious bump so be careful with that control! These two controls also change the compression of the gain, slightly altering the feel of the pedal. The Bright switch adds a little treble, particularly useful with a duller sounding guitar or to just make a part pop in the mix.
The Filaments easily handled the low end of the 7 string, sounding huge and yet detailed, but still had the ability to supply creamy lead tones with ease. The Filament's layered 3 gain stages are so tube-like that it was easy to take the sounds available for granted, and it'll be when you turn off the pedal and listen to just your bypassed signal that you'll truly realise what a great job the Filaments is capable of.
I was also amazed at how low the noise floor is in the pedal, although with a tonne of gain on tap you'll need to make sure you have a decent power supply to ensure quiet operation, without a gate, this pedal was about as good as it gets.
Another point worth mentioning is that this pedal really isn't just a one trick pony. Maybe Keeley shot themselves in the foot a little with the finish of this pedal as the appearance is clearly aimed at a specific market, but you can definitely get some nice overdriven sounds too. With the gain rolled right back there are some good blues tones on offer, so it's worth experimenting with the controls with a view to other genres than metal.
In some ways, this pedal was a bit of a risky step for Keeley. Not being known for high-gain offerings, there was always a chance the Filaments would be overlooked by both high and low gain aficionados. The former as they might not even look to Keeley, preferring pedals by known gain masters such as Bogner, Mesa and Diezel to name but a few, and the latter as they would be more likely to be looking to Keeley for pedals like the Super Phat Mod, Oxblood or TS variants.
However, if you're in the market for a high gain pedal, this one needs to be more than just looked at - it needs to be played. Once you've played it, I don't doubt you'd want it in your collection and very likely on your board. A fantastic offering yet again by the engineers at Keeley and I for one am very glad they're dipping their toes in the pool of righteous metal tones.
Check out the Keeley site for more info: