Paul Cochrane’s Tim overdrive was one of the original boutique overdrive pedals, generating a dedicated following based on its open, un-compressed drive tone and good EQ options.
The larger enclosure size put some off, however, and the boost wasn’t necessary for those who were using other pedals to stack with the Tim - one of its main strengths. As a result, Paul also offered the smaller, four-knob Timmy, which became possibly the first ‘transparent’ boutique overdrive.
The Timmy is squarely in the Tube Screamer family tree, but lacks the pronounced ‘mid-hump’ bump of the Tube Screamer, and is less compressed, particularly at lower gain levels. With the clipping options set to minimum, it’s a very potent boost, useful for driving tube amps into valve saturation.
Even after it exploded in popularity, the Timmy stayed at a reasonable price point, with the units still produced by Paul himself. Although it’s relatively easy to get hold of a Timmy either used or via a US stockist, it’s become much more common for players to build their own, or purchase a clone.
As many companies aren’t exactly transparent about what they’re basing their designs on, any time you see a boutique transparent overdrive layout with volume, gain, bass and treble, there’s a good chance it’s either based on a Timmy, or a straight-up clone of one.
Moreover, Paul has continued interacting with the DIY pedal community helping them with designs that are Timmy-like. This year, he collaborated with MXR to release a widely available, mini pedal-sized Timmy.
Three great alternatives to the Paul Cochrane Timmy
MXR Timmy - street price $/£129
If the waitlist and the enclosure size have been putting you off pulling the trigger on a Timmy, MXR has the answer, with this downsized take on the classic formula, approved by Paul himself. Despite its size, it's pretty damn versatile, thanks to three clipping options.
Love Pedal Amp 11 - street price $/£225
Side-by-side schematic analysis has shown that the Amp 11’s main drive circuit is a Timmy Clone. Now, you might think that would mean the boost would be that found in the Tim, but you’d be wrong – supposedly it’s based on the Electra, which makes the Amp 11 a bit of a different beast with that into the gain-stacking equation.
Caline Pure Sky - street price $32, £26
The Caline Pure Sky is a straight-up Timmy clone without the clipping options. Also, where the original Timmy had both EQ options functioning as cuts, the Pure Sky has them operating perhaps more intuitively; that is to say that turning bass or treble clockwise increases that level, as opposed to cutting it.
Walrus Audio Mayflower - street price $179, £169
The Walrus Audio Mayflower is a Timmy with additional power-line filtering and signal chain buffering, and it’s also been suggested that their Warhorn is a Timmy with the additional clipping diodes permanently engaged. It certainly sounds very Timmy-like to us.
Low Gain Drive
First, note that the Timmy’s EQ controls are cuts, making them function ‘backward’ to controls that increase the level of an EQ band.
Depending on the type of your amp, you might need to adjust treble and volume to taste; we prefer a punchier, brighter sound.
For a more classic blues tone, pull back the treble. To let a valve amp do the heavy lifting, push up the volume, and pull the gain back further.
Depending on how your amp responds to having the front end smashed, you might need to alter the EQ.
Ours tend to brighten up at higher volumes, so we pull back the treble, and add a bit more of the pedal’s gain to compress the signal going into the amp.
While this creates singing tube saturation, bear in mind it’ll also be a big jump in volume!
If your amp is particularly dark, you might need to pull the bass back a bit so it doesn’t get ‘woofy’. We tend to think of 90s US-sounding grungy bands with a bit of a classic rock vibe to them when we use higher-gain settings on the Timmy into a tube amp, like Pearl Jam or Swervedriver.