Friday, February 18, 2011

A Lesson in Splendid Tone


Handsome, well built, simple, and great sounding - is how I would describe the Manifold Drive if I only had a few words to do so. Everything on this pedal (and I mean everything) is super freakin' sexy and right on target. From it's gun metal grey finish and hip simple artwork, to it's very cool LED and tiny toggle switch. Right from the start it was clear this was no ordinary dirt box. Sporting a duo of controls for gain and volume, and a switch which dishes out dark-bright-and flat signals - the Manifold Drive is capable of a huge variety of sounds. The volume control alone has enough output to send your signal into natural grinding'n'growling overdrives, but it is it's gain control that really delivers the magic when introducing it into your amp's tone. The 3-way toggle works like an EQ for fine tuning and further shaping your overall sound. This comes in handy when having to compensate high and low frequencies in certain venues and rooms. The pedal rocks true bypass circuitry for keeping your treasured amp tones in check and untampered. The Manifold Drive can run off of a 9V battery or (+) DC adapter. The pedal ships with a (-) adapter for those using daisy chain power supplies and the like. Last but not least, these babies are built on a high quality PCB's, for durable and consistent designs. 

I began my rundown of this pedal with a custom built Tele and 15 watt head with 1x12 cabinet. The guitar's tapable neck bucker and hand wound bridge pickup made for a wide variety of tasty tasty tones that the Manifold Drive would easily accent and bring to life. The amp was set to a sparkling clean tone, with it's EQ stack at noon and volume at about 30%. I started with the Manifold Drive's toggle switch in it's flat setting, it's volume matched to the amp's output, and the gain control up to about 10-15%. Here the pedal kicked out a mellow very natural sounding grit which brought out all of my amp's smooth and chiming tone. The subtle grit that the Manifold created was exactly that of a proper tube amp on the verge of breaking up. In the bridge pickup position I was able to easily control the pedal's overdrive and able to get a perfectly clean signal by easing up on my pick attack. With the Tele's neck bucker the Manifold pushed out a thicker and even smoother dirt tone. The overdrive was still quite mellow, only now by digging in and grinding down on my guitar's strings I was able to bring out more of the pedal's character. In both pickup positions the Manifold Drive worked exceptionally well at maintaining my amp's natural tone and guitar's feel. All very good good stuff for such a mellow gritty tone. While in this subtle overdrive setting I also played around with the pedal's toggle switch positions, first with the dark setting, then the bright. In the dark setting the highs from the amp became more forgiving and much lighter. This made everything warmer and gave the overall sound more bloom and boom. This setting would later work beautifully at shaving off some of my AC15's treble frequencies, making it easier dirty up and play loud. In the bright toggle setting the pedal dished out more ear candy tones. Setting the Manifold Drive bright added a crisp top-end which helped make every string punch and stand out more. This was perfect for getting the pedal's overdrive to cut through any mix. Next I set the Manifold Drive's gain at about 30%, with it's volume a bit louder, and it's toggle in the dark setting. Playing this pedal setting through a Les Paul, with the 15 watter set slightly hot, and a 2x12 cab in the mix - created one of the best rock rhythm tones I'd ever heard. The combination of the 15 watt head's natural dirt and pedal's super smooth grime made for one grade A golden rock tone. Here is where I really began hearing the difference between this pedal and the average ol' TS808 style pedal.. I was able to hear these subtle harmonics, overtones, and undertones when digging into the guitar's strings and working complex chords and riffs. I was also able to hear the Manifold's signature sound when bending and double stopping. It was something in the actual grit that became accented and much richer. Pushing the pedal's volume even higher helped to create some creamy woman tones and violin-like lead tones. This would become bigger and much more focused as I began adding in more of the pedal's gain control. I also rocked this pedal through my upgraded and customized Hot Rod Deville. This is an amp I use mostly for clean tones and for getting pure pedal dirt signals, The four 100 watt 10" speakers in this amp give it endless headroom and make it the perfect amp for hearing what a pedal is really capable of. Here I played with the Manifold Drive in it's medium to highest gain settings. I began with my amp in it's home run setting (which I won't share with you) and the pedal with it's controls at noon and switch in it's flat setting. Bypassed the amp produced a huge booming clean tone that let every string come across with massive clarity. Stepping on the pedal introduced a tight rumbling overdrive that hit my chest like a ton of bricks. I went from one guitar to the next, and each time the pedal worked it's magic. Cranked to the fullest the pedal also surprised me. I honestly thought with as much output as it's volume had that the sound would become muddy. But this was not the case. All the way form it's tiniest sound to it's biggest, the Manifold Drive came through beautifully. My last test with this pedal was to see if it would get along in a pedalboard situation. First I just plugged it in to see if there would be any excess noise - and there was none. Stacking this pedal up with clean boosters and putting it in front of other dirt boxes also sounded quite nice. I was able to take my pedals into new heights and create wild and tasteful tones. I also matched it up with some delays, reverbs, and other modulation pedals which really sounded off the hook. In the end there was no way to get a bad sound out of this pedal. Electronic wizards Wes Kuhnley and Peter Bregman sought out to create a collection of pedals that would express the sounds and tastes they most wanted to hear. With the Manifold Drive they not only accomplished their mission to design something unique - they also created something for us tone hounds, something we could appreciate and incorporate into our own world of tones. Get some and get your rock on!


For more info on Field Effects/Resonant Electronic Design go to There you will find more cool info on the Field Effects line and some sweet insight on the Resonant Electronic Design amp collection. Check back with us soon for another Field Effects feature - coming atcha very very soon.

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