Welcome to my review of the EM-DriveTransparent Overdrive.
I wanted to buy a new gain pedal for my board, something that was a little different, and one that could deal a small amount of breakup with the valves of my amp as well as work well with the volume controls on my guitar to clean up well. Sounded like a simple task. However after trying a lot of boutique pedals (T-Rex, Analogman, Wampler) to name a few, I was finding it hard to get the tones I wanted.
I read a lot of reviews and watched a lot of youtube clips of the EM drive and have been following them on Facebook for a while. Everyone who has used one has said how good they are and how colourful the tone was. After more demoing of other pedals I decided to take the plunge. Unfortunately the only stockist in the UK is up in Manchester and I am based in London, so the only way to get one was to buy one.
Quite simply one of the best pedals I have bought.
First Impressions. The pedal is a good size, similar to a Boss pedal, great colour and nice easy to see controls. I like the side set power input as well. Many manufacturers are starting to use this and it means getting pedals on a smaller board is much easier. The build qulaity is also exceptional, high quality parts are used throughout from the NOS PIO capacitors to the handwired construction. Everything about it feels solid and durable.
I have had it on the board for a few weeks now and it is perfect for breaking up my amp just enough to add a bit of crunch and sustain. When I play with my 4 piece band I leave it on most of the time to add a bit of depth and colour to cut through the band.
With the gain turned up to about half (12 o’clock) it breaks up and pushes the amp just a little, sounding a lot like a fender tweed when pushed to 8. When pushed all the way it has a Clapton sort of tone, plenty of head room and very transparent. It doesn’t muddy the sound of the guitar or amp, just adds the dialled in amount of dirt.
Currently I am using this as my preset for everything that isn’t funk based chords. It is perfect for popping lines and single note lines and works best for this in front of my amp. When put through the effects loop it changes and becomes a great boost pedal, either working with the amp clean for a volume boost, or raising the volume of other distortion pedals that are straight into the amp.
Another thing that is excellent is that is stacks with other pedals extremely well. I run it as one of the first pedals in my chain after a wah and tuner and before a Zen Drive and Fulltone OCD. Coupling either the Xen and/or the OCD with the EM sounds great, adding not too much saturation but shapes the EQ really nicely, brightening up the sound and adding a more edgy sound to the gain.
If you are after a pedal that will do soaring solos and high gain performance then this isn’t the one for you. If you are after a pedal that will add a bit of break up and adds texture to your tone, this is perfect.
Pros: Nice compact size; Great clean/crunch boost; Easy to use; Transparent tone that doesn’t alter sound; Affordable price; Manufactured with high quality parts; Bright LED.
Cons: It wont do that high gain thing (if that is what you want there are far better pedals; Not really a “function” pedal, but perfect for an original sound.
Overall this is one pedal that almost certainly wont ever come off a board.
Picture taken from emersoncustomguitars.bigcartel.com