A few months ago I acquired the two little pedals you see in the photo. My beloved Ibanez SD-9 recently stopped functioning (after 20+ years of service) and so I was looking for something to use while I got it repaired.
So far, I’ve been quite happy with them, especially since my total investment in both of them is somewhere around $65. The word on the Internet is that the “Vintage Overdrive” is a knock off of the original TS808 Tube Screamer and the “Ultimate Drive” is a clone of the popular Fulltone OCD pedal.
I often use two pedals on my board, setting one for higher gain and another set with with gain down low, and sometimes use one to slam into the other. Since I have a mixture of guitars I use with a wide range of output levels, I also find the multi pedal setup useful in terms of having a setting that works without a lot of twiddling.
I sometimes leave one overdrive on for an entire song and change from clean to dirty with the volume knob on the guitar, or sometimes leave both pedals off and just step on the appropriate one for solos, sometimes using both pedals when I really want some meat in my tone. The two pdals work togther quite well when in tandem. Takes a little while to work out the settings, and I take digital photos of settings I like, so I remember them.
The difference between them is the VO has a little more midrange and seems to have slighly less bass; the UD does have more gain, particularly with the micro-swtich in the high position, and a flatter tonal response.
My main requirement for a pedal is that you can control it with the volume pots on the guitar and adjust the tone on the pedal so it sounds good both clean and dirty. Both of these pedals will do that, so then it does become a matter of finding the right settings. I use the pedals along with my tweed Deluxe clone, which has a great overdrive voice on it’s own, as a way of adding some additional flavors to my tonal palette and the convenience of getting a fixed level of boost without having to take my hands off the guitar strings to manipulate a knob. To use a popular phrase that I really don’t like: the 5E3 “takes pedals” well. (To me it sounds like the tail wagging the dog. I view pedals as seasoning, not the main course.) Both these pedals blend in with the amp’s own voice without completely overwhelming it, at least at the settings I use. I’ve experimented with high gain settings on the Ultimate Drive, (with the micro-switch on the “HIGH” setting) and found some very Marshall-ish sounds reside in the little box.
Reviewing pedals is sort of a crap-shoot in that you are dealing with a fantastic range of variables. Not only are you dealing with both different amps and guitars, but an infinite range of settings on both. If you add differences in picking attack and style, it’s a amazing there aren’t even more opinions out there. I once purchased an Okko Diablo afer reading great reviews and watching a lot of sound clips on You Tube by Greg Hilden of Greg’s Guitars. He uses an amp similar to one of mine and gets a great tone out of the setup.
When the Diablo arrived, I found I couldn’t manage to get it to make a sound I was happy with. I wasn’t expecting to sound exactly like him any more than I’d expect to sound like Robben Ford if you gave me a Dumble (or a Deluxe Reverb and a Zendrive), but I was expecting to be at least in the ballpark. I tried every single setting I could imagine before the realization I paid $250 (bought it used) for something I’d never likely use hit me. (I ended up selling it on E-bay for what I’d paid.)
It really boils down to using your specific amps, guitars and your own fingers to evaluate these things. I’m using these two pedals, at this point in time, with my two 5E3 clones and at home with my little Greta. I haven’t had time to use them enough with my Bandmaster Reverb Combo (mainly because the amp’s at my bands rehearsal space and I’m too lazy to drag it’s heavy ass home) to be totally happy with the tone as they don’t seem to blend as well with it. They sound like distinct entities. But that’s likely because the BMR is so clean at the levels I play at that all you’re hearing is the pedals. It reminds me of the sound of a distortion box in front of a clean SS amp. Further twiddling may improve this impression.
Joyo is making an amazing array of pedals of all types and if you look at their website, ( JOYO WEBSITE ) You’ll discover an expanding product line including some hand wired amplifiers that look suspiciously familiar:
Obviously, it’s a knockoff of the Deluxe Reverb. I haven’t seen or heard one of these, nor either has anyone else outside of China, for all I know. There are people in the US who are building versions of Fender products that also look similar to this, so I’m not certain if these would cause legal problems for Joyo if they started full on importation of them. From reading about them, they look like they might be something people would be interested in since it looks like they could make one and sell it here for a lot less than Fender sells it’s PCB replicas of the same 60’s era Fender Deluxe Reverb. I’ve heard people say they’d pay the extra $300 or so to get the “real thing”, which raises the question of which one might actually be the “more authentic” replica. If you go to the JOYO website, you’ll also find a couple of Tweed replicas as well.
This raises the “China” question of course, and this become more interesting as time goes on as now that those who own the rights to the Fender name are putting the “Fender” name on products being imported from China (and Mexico) which is something they only used to do with the budget oriented “Squier” line, one does wonder where this will all lead.
If the Chinese follow the lead of the Japanese and the Koreans before them, they will increasingly move upmarket and eventually make products that will be able to stand on their own merit. As Fender (and others) increasingly seem to turn to Asian factories to source product, one wonders how long people will be willing to pay more money for the Fender nameplate. I don’t know if it helps that Fender increasingly is a nostalgia driven company that continues to exist mainly be selling replicas of it’s past success.
Back to the matter at hand, (Or is that “at foot”?) both pedals seem well made with quality finishes, cast metal housings and decent switches and pots. The only problems I’ve had so far is the velcro pads I added to the bottom have pulled off the foil labels on the bottom of the pedals. I prefer the sound of them to a couple of (considerably)more expensive pedals I have at my disposal: which may be on their way to E-bay or a CL near you.
I still haven’t found the motivation to take the SD-9 to the shop.