Transparent crunchy overdrive

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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.

The Verdict
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.

Buy if...
you want to get crunchy, yet maintain your amp’s sonic integrity.
Skip if...
you’re not quite in love with your amp.

Street $200 - Resonant Electronic Design -

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