Resonant Electronic Design’s Peter Bregman and Wes Kuhnley started
building Field Effects stompboxes out of a desire to hear the sounds in
their heads, rather than emulate existing designs. And though their pedals—the Graviton Boost and the Manifold Drive, which we’re reviewing
here—serve fairly straightforward and traditional stompbox roles, they’re
designed to preserve a player’s voice instead of fundamentally altering
it. And with its highly transparent character, the Manifold Drive is an
excellent example of that principle in action.
To the Point
The Manifold Drive is built around a simple control set of two knobs—Gain and Volume—and a 3-way EQ switch that selects Dark, Bright, or
Flat settings. The EQ switch is the key to this little wonder of a pedal,
giving the player more control to fine-tune tones for various guitar and
amp combinations. For example, the Dark setting can be used to compensate
for the inherent spikiness of a Stratocaster neck pickup and a
Twin Reverb, while the Bright setting can enliven the wooly sound of a
15" speaker being driven by an ES-335’s neck pickup.
The pedal runs on a 9-volt battery and ships with a short adapter cable
that lets you use a power supply rated between 9V and 18V DC.
We Have Ignition
I tested the pedal with a ’60s reissue Fender Stratocaster, a ’65 Fender
Deluxe, a ’66 Fender Pro Reverb, and a Peavey JSX. It took very little
tweaking to make the Manifold Drive sound great right off the bat.
With the Gain set to about 1 o’clock, and the EQ switch set to Bright, I
got a smooth, but crunchy overdrive with a dash of top-end definition
you might ordinarily lose if you simply dimed your amp. Conspicuously
absent was the harsh midrange bump or grainy bass coloration you
sometimes get with other overdrives.
Setting the EQ switch to Dark creates a warmer sound that would be
ideal for taming a bright amp without sacrificing articulation or power.
The beautifully transparent Flat setting lends a rugged and earthy drive
to the amplifier’s essential voice, helping blues bends wail and power
chords pop and sizzle.
Increasing the level on the Gain knob transported me to a universe
of old-school crunch. And in this environment too, the EQ switch lent
impressive flexibility. With the Gain knob maxed, I summoned a very
organic, over-the-top fuzz with a touch of compression and Jack Whitestyle
truculence. The versatile EQ switch let me offset any tonal characteristics
I wasn’t crazy about without losing the amp’s unique identity or
any of the overdrive’s thrust or aggression.
One of most beautiful aspects of the Manifold Drive’s performance is
its transparency—it will add grit, dimension, and responsiveness to an
amp without stripping any of its fundamental personality. The flip side
of that equation, of course, is that it will not rescue you from a less-than-ideal
amp tone. But if you have a guitar-amp combination that you love
and want to expand its voice, it’s hard to surpass the Manifold Drive for
value, quality, or character.
you want to get crunchy, yet maintain
your amp’s sonic integrity.
you’re not quite in love with your amp.