Price paid: € 75
Purchased from: M & C Musical, Bucharest, Romania
Ease of Use: It is, as all Seymour Duncan pedals, simple and effective. Three knobs: Volume, Gain and Rumble, and an On/Off Switch, which also acts as true bypass (a feature I don't apreciate, since it modifies the impedance reaching to your amp and the load on your pick-ups; neither does my sound engineer, who has to deal with a variable signal).
First two knobs do exactly what their names say. The third one allows you to modify the texture of overdriven sound. It has 6 positions, ranging from thin, jazzy-bluesy overdrive, to deep metal distortion.
It is very easy to use it, as long as you know what kind of sound you want to get from the pedal. But all combinations and all types of tones have a common characteristic: Lava Box is acting more like an all-tube amp, adding flavor to your sound, no matter what amp you are using. Of course, an all tube amp will "extract" more flavors from the Lava Box than a solid state, but it's a great improvement of your general sound if you can only afford a SS amp.
The unit was presumably built at the end of 2010 (couldn't find where, although I've read the manual and the cardboard box 10 times) and, since it was bought new, is in pristine condition. // 9
Sound: I'm currently using a pretty good setup, except for the practice combo. I have two heavily modified Yamahas (with Seymour Duncan and Wilkinson pick-ups, respectively, Jinho Locking tuning pegs and internal insulation) and a stock Vintage V-100. I also have a Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster, an Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phaser and a Mad Professor Compressor. I also use, at the end of the set, a Rocktron Hush Pedal. Cables are Evidence Audio Forte (from the guitar to the first pedal) and Evidence Lyric HG from the last pedal to the amp.
The weak point in the setup is the practice amp: a Vox Pathfinder 15. Solid state. I gig with a borrowed Kustom Coupe 72. The Lava Box is noisier than I expected, and it gets noisier when you crank the Gain and the Rumble knobs. But it's more silent than any of my other effects, except for the Mad Professor. It's the most silent Overdrive I've ever seen.
All settings sound good, because they add harmonics, flavors and warmth to your sound. It's an Overdrive pedal, not a genuine metal distortion. It enhances the natural harmonics of the guitar, while still preserving all instruments' particular characteristics.
I can get all the sound I want, given the fact that my music - ranging from classic rock, blues, to old prog - needs overdriven sounds, but I could play metal with the right guitar, if I wanted to. There's nothing bad about this pedal, except for the exceeding noise I wasn't expecting on a Seymour Duncan. But, hey, if you want a Pete Cornish pedal, prepare yourself for paying some 500 euros. // 8
Reliability & Durability: I depend on it very much, since it's the core of my entire pedalboard and the essence of my sound. Of course I gig it without a backup: have you seen amateur player carrying two pedalboards at small gigs in 50 persons clubs? Seymour Duncan pedal effects tend to be very attractive. I also depend on the Pickup Booster. // 9
Overall Impression: As I've said, I play Classic Rock, Blues and Old Prog. I write songs of my own. Lava Box is THE match for my modest playing. I've been doing this for about 30 years, so I chose it precisely for its features. If stolen, I'd replace it. It's not so expensive. I like it as it is. I wish it was more quiet, but it's still the most silent pedal except for Mad Professor (which is 3 times more expensive, and there's a waiting list too). // 9