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VHT V-Drive Pedal Review

VHT V-Drive Pedal Review

The VHT V-Drive is a stompbox crammed with goodies, including a fundamentally unique method of tweaking the V-Drive’s distortion character.

One of the best ways to make a distortion pedal stand out in a crowded market is to give the player more tone-shaping control than your average 3-knob stompbox. The trick is to enable more tweaking without sacrificing what’s good about the pedal in the first place. The VHT V-Drive is a stompbox crammed with goodies, including a fundamentally unique method of tweaking the V-Drive’s distortion character. And in doing so, the V-Drive almost turns the player into a pedal designer by enabling on-the- fly selection of clipping diode configurations— one of the fundamental aspects of a distortion pedal’s voice.

Driven to Please
The first thing I noticed as I unboxed the V-Drive was the vast array of knobs. Aside from the standard Volume, Tone, and Drive controls, you get a Depth control that pinpoints the low frequency roll-off point, a Texture control for dialing in varying levels of harmonic content, and the Select knob, which handles diode-type switching and configuration. The sleeper in this mix is the voltage control, another unique feature that cuts or boosts the standard 9V power level.

After grabbing a Les Paul, I went straight for the Select switch and set it to position 11, which functions as a clean boost. With the diodes bypassed, I was curious to discover just how many little nasties might be added to my signal. I was impressed—the pedal was low in noise and very transparent. With my Champ’s volume maxed out, the V-Drive’s boost offered a significant increase in volume and a slight increase in gain, with increased high-end clarity. Switching to position 9 and setting the Drive to 5 yielded a slightly scooped classic overdrive, easily tailored through the Tone and Depth knobs. The Texture control was especially cool on this setting, and rolling it back a bit from the maximum smoothed out the sound considerably, moving it from bristly and biting to steamy and evil.

Power at Your Fingertips
Things got really interesting when I reached to the back of the pedal and started fiddling with the voltage knob. Eric Johnson, Duane Allman, and many others have sung the virtues of powering pedals with drained batteries, and the V-drive allows you to experiment with this concept. Dropping the voltage down slightly gave my overdrive tone a wetter, warmer quality, while somehow becoming more visceral. Lowering it all the way down to 5 volts gave me a strangely cool buzzsaw sound that was eerie and dark in dropped- D tuning. Even at low voltage, there was no loss of gain or sustain.

With the Drive knob on 4 and the voltage at a middle setting, I switched to position 3 on the Select control. Suddenly I had a convincing Trey Anastasio lead tone, rich with Tube Screamer-like, midrangey rasp. Juicing up the voltage knob to just shy of the 16-volt maximum dramatically increased the treble response and tightness. And as I increased the Drive and Texture controls, the tone erupted with awesome feedback and ringing musical harmonics. The ability of this pedal to simulate the complexity and sustain of fully saturated tubes is excellent, and I was further impressed by the fact that it stayed faithful to the sound of my instrument. Even at the highest gain settings, the resonant and open-sounding character of my bolt-on Peavey Session guitar was distinct.

The Verdict
In total, the V-Drive is a sonically inspiring tool and its many voices encourage musical exploration. It’s not only fun and intuitive from a usability standpoint, but conceptually exciting as well. Knowing you’ve got the freedom to modify the electronics under the hood is a great leap forward in the democratization of tone.
Buy if...
you’re looking for a do-it-all distortion box with immense tweakability for dirt cheap.
Skip if...
you tend to get lost or distracted with highly adjustable equipment.

Street $99 - VHT Amplification -

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