Expansive EQ- and drive-shaping capabilities meet studio-level precision. The PG Origin Effects RevivalDRIVE Compact review.
Extraordinary build quality. Super thoughtful design and execution. Lots of range and nuance in individual controls. Splendid, powerful EQ.
Costs nearly as much as the gold brick its construction evokes.
Origin Effects RevivalDRIVE
Ease of Use:
Back in 2018, we reviewed the RevivalDRIVE Compact’s big brother—a super-high-quality analog amp-in-a-box unit that generates many authentically Vox-, Fender-, and Marshall-like tones, right down to super-specific rectifier and EQ characteristics. The new Compact version delivers much of the same in a more streamlined unit. But while these approximations of classic amp behaviors and sounds (the RevivalDRIVE is not a modeler) are impressive and convincing, the best feature of the RevivalDRIVE is the measure of creative control and fine-tuning power it affords.
The RevialDRIVE Compact doesn’t overflow with tone-sculpting bells and whistles like the full-featured RevivalDRIVE does. But its streamlined control set is still powerful—and creatively empowering—when it comes to precision tone-sculpting. Indeed, working with the RevivalDRIVE Compact can, at times, feel more like shaping sound with a high-end recording console or, more specifically, like controlling your amplifier output via a high-end studio signal path.
Robust and Range-y
The RevivalDRIVE Compact’s similarities to studio outboard gear aren’t confined to control responsiveness. Like just about everything Origin makes (most notably its line of Cali76 and SlideRig compressors, which actually ape the performance of the UREI 1176 outboard compressor), the RevivalDRIVE also possesses the high-quality feel of an expensive precision studio tool. You know the satisfying sound and feeling of closing a door on a ’70s Mercedes Benz? Well, just about every action you perform on the RevivalDRIVE feels like the stompbox equivalent. Switchwork is smooth and sturdy feeling. Even the EQ mini toggle feels robust. Knob action is smooth and wide raged, and each has a satisfying long-throw taper. The overall fit and finish would likely make even an old Mercedes engineer envious.
The control set itself isn’t especially complicated. But the considerable range in each knob means it takes time to get a feel for its performance parameters, sensitivity, and interactivity with guitar, amp, and the pedal’s other controls.
Some controls are less intuitive than others, too. The post-drive EQ has three positions, but one of them configures the EQ for a power amp or interface, while the other two offer basic brightening or darkening settings to suit your amplifier’s voice. An adjacent knob helps you fine tune the high-frequency response for each setting. These controls aren’t difficult to use, but the degree to which they interact with other elements in your chain isn’t always obvious and requires practice, experimentation, and adjustment by ear and feel rather than visual reference and knob position. The “more/pres” knob, which shapes break-up characteristics, can also feel vague—largely because it helps shape the pedal’s response to picking dynamics as much as any specific tonality. Mastering it, though, yields many extra colors and tones.
The rest of the control array is pretty self-explanatory. Low- and high-band EQ controls and gain and output knobs mirror the functionality of scores of overdrives. The wet/dry blend is more unusual, but intuitive and powerful. While these controls are more familiar, getting a grip on how they work together is a more thought-and-attention-intensive process. Thankfully, the RevivalDRIVE Compact pays many sonic dividends, and deciphering its secrets and navigating its nuances is fun, addictive, and musically rewarding.
The Sensitive Kind
Approaching the RevivalDRIVE compact as if it’s, say, a Tube Screamer, can yield underwhelming results. Setting the controls to noon as a baseline, as you might with a simpler drive or boost, delivers some of the pedal’s least remarkable tones. It does, however, provide a useful departure point from which you can shape and color the output. RevivalDRIVE is a comparatively low-gain affair, and at moderate gain settings you’ll likely have set the output well to the right of noon just to reach unity gain. But this is where the RevivalDRIVE Compact’s likeness to outboard studio gear comes into play, because the super-responsive EQ controls can do as much to shape overdrive color and gain characteristics as the gain and output controls themselves. The low and high controls make the tone filters on simpler drives feel about as sophisticated as a wool blanket over your speaker cabinet. Adding copious-to-maximum high-end output, as a few of the manual’s sample settings suggest, not only gives notes a hot, volatile edge but lends perceptible depth-of-field to the overall sound image and extra headroom for picking dynamics. The RevivalDRIVE Compact’s low-end control, meanwhile, can feel downright alchemical—making 8" speakers feel like 12" or 15" units situated in large-appliance-sized cabinets and providing a deep, complex, and colorful bed of bottom end that never obscures the aerated, detailed fireworks from the top-end.
Needless to say, all of this fine-tuning capability and dimensionality makes the RevivalDRIVE Compact a potentially indispensible studio tool. Once you’ve mastered the EQ and the more nebulously functional but equally critical presence control, you can carve super-precise tones to fill very specific niches in a mix. And, with the invaluable blend control, you can inhabit the familiar tone worlds of your favorite amplifier and judiciously add colors that make it more distinct in a mix—or explosive in a lead situation— without straying from your core tone or completely disrupting your signal chain. (The RevivalDRIVE interacts beautifully with, and often enhances, fuzz, distortion, and complex modulation textures.)
While the RevivalDRIVE Compact is expensive, it could probably effectively replace every overdrive you own. The quality and design are superlative. And while it’s not as easy to master as the average three-knob overdrive, it is light years more dimensional, sensitive, and organic sounding. If you can spare the cash up front, you may make it back by selling all the overdrives the RevivalDRIVE Compact will likely replace.