Quick Hit: SoundBrut DrVa Review
A Swedish outfit’s debut op-amp drive and “Varitone”-style MOSFET boost serves up a refreshing array of lush-to-sick sounds.
The DrVa from Swedish SoundBrut makes no pretentions about transparency in its independently footswitchable drive and variable boost sections. Instead, the NE5534 op-amp gain circuit (controlled by highly interactive volume and gain knobs) revels in tones that tend toward either corpulent quasi fuzz or thin-ish nastiness when used on its own.
Meanwhile, the MOSFET boost side is all about coloration—though it is more than capable of subtlety at moderate settings: The 6-position “Varitone”-style tone knob gets progressively corpulent through its range and yields triple as many EQ options via the 3-position Q toggle, which goes from brash to tame. Some may view the number of tonal options here as excessive, but so many tantalizing tones abound in the boost side alone that you’ll puzzle over which one to leave on all the time. I found it tough to tear away from the spongy compression, warm resonance, and vintage-y mid scoop that the rightmost Q position imparted to Tele and Jazzmaster alike—yet neither instrument lost its trademark chime.
The potent boost section can also function as a radical re-voicer of adjacent fuzz pedals. And when you combine both sides of the pedal, look out—thar lies grand gnarliness! Again, the DrVa can play nice … it’s just that the quality of raunch on tap can be tough to resist.
Test Gear: Squier Vintage Modified Tele with Curtis Novak JM-V and Tel-V pickups, baritone Squier/Warmoth Jazzmaster with Curtis Novak Jazzmaster Widerange pickups, Jaguar HC50 with Weber Gray Wolf speaker, Goodsell Valpreaux 21 with Weber Blue Dog speaker, Jordan Fuzztite, MXR Reverb, Ibanez Echo Shifter.
Clip 1: Squier Vintage Modified Telecaster with Curtis Novak Tel-V bridge and JM-V pickups, in the middle pickup position, into DrVa—first bypassed, then with Va side engaged (with Q toggle in the 3 position, boost at 1:30, and Varitone on position 3), then with Dr side also engaged (with volume at 2 o’clock and gain at 3 o’clock)—then into an MXR Reverb routed to a Jaguar HC50 miked by a Royer R-121 and a Goodsell Valpreaux 21 miked by a Shure SM57, both feeding an Apogee Duet going into GarageBand with no EQ-ing, compression, or effects.
Clip 2: Squier Vintage Modified Telecaster with Curtis Novak Tel-V bridge and JM-V pickups, in the bridge position, into DrVa—first bypassed, then with Va side engaged (with Q toggle in the 8 position, boost at 2 o’clock, and Varitone on position 4), then with Dr side also engaged (with volume at 3 o’clock and gain at max)—then into an MXR Reverb routed to a Jaguar HC50 miked by a Royer R-121 and a Goodsell Valpreaux 21 miked by a Shure SM57, both feeding an Apogee Duet going into GarageBand with no EQ-ing, compression, or effects.
Capable of quickly veering from semi-transparent boosts to extreme EQ sculpting and fuzz-like fatness.
Varitone setup sacrifices EQ fine-tunability.
Ease of Use: