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.
This versatile, active P/J-configured 4-string comes in at just over five bills and absolutely earns its name.
Recorded direct into Focusrite Saffire 6 interface into MacBook Pro using Logic.
Clip 1: Bridge pickup soloed with slight bass boost.
Clip 2: Both pickups engaged with EQ flat.
Clip 3: Neck pickup soloed EQ flat.
Fast neck. Clean tone. Wallet-friendly price.
Minor build issues on test bass.
Spector Legend 4 Standard
It’s been over four decades since Stuart Spector enlisted Ned Steinberger to design the NS bass, and, since then, the ergonomic instrument style has been offered in a multitude of options and price points. The company’s latest twist on the lauded template is an upgrade to their Legend 4 Standard, providing frugal musicians a taste of Spector’s approach to the 4-string.
Making a Legend
Essentially, the built-in-Asia Legend 4 Standard is a bolt-on version of Spector’s NS-2. Spector enhanced this latest iteration with a carved-ash body and topped it with flame maple. The 24-fret neck also received an upgrade in the form of maple and padauk. Amara, a species of ebony, is the fretboard wood.
Spector basses have come with a variety of electronic packages (notably EMG, Bartolini, and Aguilar pickups), but the company opted for a proprietary P/J set for the Legend 4 Standard. The split-coils are installed in a traditional configuration—with the bass side closer to the neck and treble side closer to the bridge—as opposed to the NS-2’s reverse orientation. Powering the pickups is a 2-band preamp. The active system has dedicated volume controls for each pickup, along with bass and treble controls for 12 dB of boost or cut.
Additional features include a locking hi-mass bridge, graphite nut, and die-cast tuners. Our test bass came dressed in a cool black stain, but the Standard can also be had in blue, black cherry, and tobacco sunburst, all with high-gloss finishes.
Not only does the Standard have cool styling, but it lives up to its NS counterparts ergonomically as well. In a seated position, our test bass was motionless, balancing perfectly on my thigh. And when strapping the Standard to my body, it hung just right at my preferred playing angle.
The Standard’s neck is impressive. Its 16" radius will please fans of Ibanez Soundgear basses, while the 1.57" nut should satisfy J-style disciples. Though the 24-frets made the bass feel longer in scale (it’s a conventional 34"), the Standard’s sleek neck design allowed me to maintain a relaxed fretting hand shape. Every note was easily accessible, and string skipping and arpeggios were accomplished with ease. As great as the neck felt, however, it was a touch disappointing to find a few rough frets, as well as loose washers on the tuning pegs, which rattled a bit while playing.
I plugged Spector’s latest into a Bergantino Forte HP, which was paired with a Bergantino HG410 cab. With both pickups engaged, the Standard’s electronics produced a clean tone with a piano-like timbre and just the right balance of lows and mids with a bell-like top end. The test bass also provided excellent sustain, which is not always the case with instruments at this price point. As I gradually turned up the bass control, the lows blossomed into a thick blanket of warmth. The treble control enhanced the finger attack nicely and introduced some higher midrange content to the ringing top end.
I also took the Standard to a show with a corporate band, which provided an ideal setting to assess its live tendencies. An Ampeg SVT-4 amp paired with an Ampeg 4x10 was the provided backline. The first tune was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” where I soloed the bridge pickup with a slight boost of the bass control for punch. The combination created a similar tone to Ross Valory’s, while the fast neck made the familiar bass line effortless to execute.
Meanwhile, the P-style pickup on its own was excellent for blues jams and old-school songs for the gig, and, with a big boost of the bass EQ, I concocted a killer tone for thump-y reggae. From punk to funk, the Legend had just the right tonal versatility and smooth playability to cover the wide-ranging styles.
Spector continues to expand (and improve) their bass offerings with the Legend 4 Standard. It has looks and tone that get pretty damn close to its spendier family members, but with a price point set at a penny under $550. Beginners would find it a great starter instrument, while seasoned players could employ it as a rugged workhorse. If you’re looking to break free from the usual vintage instruments and seeking a bass inspired from the creator of a modern classic, put the Spector Legend 4 Standard on your short list. You might find it strapped around your shoulder more often than not.
After 15 years of slugging it out through failed record deals, Nashville studio trenches, and endless writing sessions, the Australian picker has finally discovered the sound of his soul.
“I realized, holy shit. I've never done this before." Jedd Hughes is still buzzed about not only rocking a packed house at Nashville's 3rd and Lindsley but doing so with … a string quintet. The added textures augmented Hughes' working band with lush soundscapes that gave the tunes a bit of a movie soundtrack vibe. “It worked beautifully," says Hughes. “Everybody just tamed their velocity a bit and I had to be really conscious of sticking to the arrangements."
Those arrangements on his new album West don't directly deal with the long journey Hughes took from the Australian countryside to Nashville, but you can hear the work he put into it. “Thinking About You" is a jaunty pop-rock tune buoyed by a bouncy string arrangement that meshes with drummer Matt Chamberlain's propulsive beat. Out of nowhere, Hughes appears with an introspective fuzzed-out solo that brings to mind a subdued Billy Gibbons lead.
Each of the tracks on West not only tell a story but have a story behind them. A late-night acid trip in Vegas gave inspiration to the instrumental title track, while the magic of an afternoon collaboration with singer/songwriter Sarah Buxton on “God Washed Up" was so special, Hughes decided to keep the “work tape" recorded shortly after the song was finished. (Listen closely and you might even hear Buxton's newborn in the background.)
Even Hughes is amazed this music made it out into the world. It had been 15 years since his last solo album, 2004's Transcontinental, and although he saw minor success, Hughes nearly became another music industry statistic. He was passed around a few times as various labels merged with each other leaving him quite disillusioned with the whole idea of being an artist. Hell, there's an entire album with Tom Petty drummer Steve Ferrone that has yet to see the light of day.
But the material on West comes from a different place. Collaborations with Parker Millsap and mentors Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell gave Hughes the time to allow the music to come to him. “Getting to this point kept me up at night," he says, “just trying to figure out how to write and record music that felt like me." We caught up with Hughes while on tour with Vince Gill to discuss his love of bluegrass music, tweed amps, and why you should never give up on yourself.
When you moved from Australia to rural Texas for college, how different was the culture for you?
I'm from a tiny town outside of Adelaide, called Quorn, which is just a little farming town of 800 people. Funnily enough, flying into Lubbock and looking out the window I was thinking, “This is not that dissimilar from the desert in South Australia." I'll never forget that. I told Guy Clark this story—we actually wrote a song about it—where I landed in Lubbock and saw a guy with a machine gun strapped to his chest at the airport, a security guy. I was like, whoa, we don't see that at home.
What were the big lessons you took away from your college experience?
It was the first time I really got to play bluegrass music in an ensemble. I had some friends that played bluegrass in Australia, but it's not a very popular thing down there. When I went to college, I was really looking forward to meeting other people my age that were as passionate about playing bluegrass, country, and whatever else, as I was. All I did for a year and a half was just play music. They had some great audio engineering programs and I had a real curiosity about recording. So, I threw myself into those classes and the ensemble classes. Alan Munde, who I knew was a great banjo player, taught me a lot. He had a really great background in jazz guitar and introduced me to a lot of players I hadn't heard of, like Jimmy Raney, Lenny Breau, and Ted Greene. He showed me what was going on inside of those chords. It was like, “Oh my god, there's a whole other planet in there."
In Australia, who were some of the early country guitarists you listened to?
I listened to Albert Lee a lot. Then there was Danny Gatton, Vince [Gill], and Clarence White. It was a bit harder to get the Clarence White stuff, but I found bits and pieces. If it sounded like a Telecaster and country guitar, I would geek out.
As you were discovering all this new music, was there a point where everything just clicked?
Yeah, the first time I got that thrill was playing the intro and solo for “Folsom Prison Blues." I was probably like eight years old and my dad and I sat down and figured it out. He helped me stop the tape, hum the notes, and try to find them on the fretboard. He really taught me how to listen like that. After that I thought, “Holy shit. This is fun."
You left college early. What prompted that?
In college I met Terry McBride, who came down from Nashville. He was a friend of one of the other teachers at the school, Steve Williams, and Steve, unbeknownst to me, called Terry and told him about me. Terry was getting into producing and he came down to the college to give a workshop. We hit it off and became mates and stayed in touch. He asked what I was going to do after college, and I said my plan was to either go to Austin or Nashville. I didn't know anyone in Austin, and Terry was the only person I knew in Nashville. Terry offered to write songs with me and introduce me to other writers. I was hoping to get a gig to pay some bills, so I thought that might be as good of a start as any.
TIDBIT: Famed studio drummer Matt Chamberlain contributed to several tracks on West. “Both 'Animal Eyes' and 'The Dreamer' were tracked live with just me and Matt," says Hughes.
At that point did you think you were going to make a living more as a songwriter than a guitarist?
I got signed to MCA when I moved to Nashville, and my goal when I came here from Australia was to be an artist like Eric Clapton, or Mark Knopfler, or Vince Gill. I wanted to write my own songs, play my own guitar solos, and get out there and sing them with a kick-ass band. I got a record deal. I mean, everything was just falling into place, man. It was amazing. Even down to the fact that all my favorite artists were on MCA.
Then it just came crashing down. I lost my record deal, my label merged with another label, and suddenly I was like, “Oh yeah. Reality." I had to survive by leaning on my skill set, which was being able to play guitar and write songs. Rodney Crowell took me under his wing. We kept writing songs and playing shows, and I got another record deal—this time with Capitol. I was really excited about that because I had some good friends working there. I made a record and Steve Ferrone flew in the play drums on it. It was his first session in Nashville, and he was playing on my record. But it never even came out. It got caught up in a bunch of political bullshit and I was just totally disheartened. For all I know, it could have been in that big fire in L.A.
After that fell through, did you take time to get your head straight before diving into another record?
A good 10 years to be honest. I was pretty disillusioned and disenchanted with trying to get my own music out. I just didn't know how to do it. I didn't know how to do it independently, and I was just tired. I was burnt out. I was giving everything to this process and feeling like I was getting nowhere. So, I decided to go play guitar for people and I threw myself into the session world. I was getting called more and more to work on sessions. I just thought at least most of these records are going to come out. At least I'll get to hear my guitar solo every now and then.