Ease of Use: This pedal is designed to take a clean amp and turn it into a 2 channel medium gain amp with a volume/distortion boost. There are four knobs: Overdrive (gain), volume, tone and boost. The first three do what you would expect, and alter both the default and boost sounds. The boost knob determines how much volume and gain the boost adds. There are two foot switches: on/off and boost. No surprises there. There is also a mode switch, offering three modes: 'comp cut', 'flat mids' and 'vintage'. This pedal has a lot of options for an overdrive, but it's not hard or confusing to use. // 8
Sound: My setup is a variety of guitars into a CAE 3+SE into a Rivera TBR5 (aka Hammer 320). Each mode of this pedal has a different use:
'comp cut' is a clean boost. It sounds good, but since the pedal can only be in one mode at once, and I didn't buy it as a clean boost, I never use it. I might give it a try in the studio some time.
'flat mids' is the 'FM' in the pedal's name. This mode is somewhat similar to a tubescreamer in terms of gain and texture, but lacks the mid-hump found in tubescreamers and the old Fulldrive 1 pedal. This mode is billed as being transparent, and I guess it is in as far as any Overdrive pedal can be transparent. This is the mode I typically use.
'vintage' mode is like 'FM', but with added mids like a tubescreamer. It works great with Marshall style amps, but since I use a Fender-voiced preamp channel with this pedal I never use it. I know from experience it's very good for getting classic rock sounds out of a plexi-type amp.
The boost function just gives you more of whatever mode you're set to. I never use it since I have the pedal rack mounted with a looper. // 9
Reliability & Durability: Fulltone makes tough pedals - good jacks, switches and pots, solid sheet metal enclosures. I've played many gigs with this pedal, and never had a problem. // 10
Overall Impression: Various pedals in the Fulldrive line have been a staple on the pedalboards of Nashville and LA session players ever since they came out. I own one because it's almost expected that you have one, and it sounds good, and it's not going to die on me. I use it in the context of a three channel rig (roughly set to blackface cleans, brown sound, over the top lead) to turn the clean channel in to a medium gain sound for blues, country, and classic rock. // 9