Price paid: $ 120
Purchased from: The Trading Musician
Ease of Use: This is a distortion pedal built by some folks in Washington state. You can google Smart People Factory and it will take you right to their website, but truth be told it's... Odd to navigate and it's even harder to get a hold of those folks. I bought this pedal used from a wonderful shop in Seattle. It has a whole three knobs that are pretty standard fair for any dirt box; volume, tone and gain. Volume and gain (which, by the way, there's a crap load of both; you could use this as a massive boost pedal in addition to a killer distortion) do exactly what they say they do. The tone knob goes from dark (and really quiet) and a bit less crunch when counter-clockwise to bright, powerful and punchy (not to mention louder, MUCH louder, I haven't seen a tone knob do that before) when clockwise. Other than the knobs, just a stomp Switch and a boss-style power supply jack. // 10
Sound: The website describes this pedal as SPF's take on 'ultimate' high gain. With the gain knob fully counter-clockwise you get a gritty and slightly... well, unpolished Overdrive sound (I'm not a big fan of it, but some folks might find it useful). Once you hit about 1/3 of the gain knob's rotation in the clockwise direction you get a more saturated and just slightly less tight (and that will depend on your pickups) early Metallica sound. Seriously, from kill 'em all to and justice for all is right at your fingertips. The saturation is a good mix of not-to-dry and not-to-wet sounding if that makes sense. Anyway. For me, I don't like going much higher than 1/3 on the gain knob for a couple of reasons. 1. This pedal has far more gain than I believe I'll ever need, period. Seriously, I don't know if I could find someone who legitimately uses that much gain and saturation (on second thought, there are probably some folks out there who do). 2. At higher gain settings the pedal can be quite hissy. It's no worse than some Boss pedals I've heard, but it's enough that at high amp volumes you'll get annoyed pretty quick when you're not playing. Other the hissing noise (which is mentioned by a lot of people on forums I've searched through) I love the sound. But no piece of gear is perfect. One more thing, this pedal is wonderfully touch sensitive and loves to be played through a LOUD tube amp (just for giggles, I hooked it up to a solid-state Crate when I was at the shop where I bought it, and it sounded like doo doo). // 9
Reliability & Durability: Throughout my search for information on this pedal I haven't heard of any durability issues. But my pedal IS used and has a bit of wear and tear on it. A couple of small chips in the paint (which is blood red and has a communist symbol in yellow on the front by the way) and just a smidge of rust on the outside of the power input. The inside of the pedal looks great though, no complaints there. I am a little concerned that the stomp switch is not as 'peppy' as it probably was when brand new (but the date on the circuit board is 2007, so this just means the pedal has seen a few good years of use/abuse). So I guess you could say that I don't expect to see amazing durability for myself. But from the looks of the pedal I'd say it's held up pretty well and I don't see any reason it won't continue to. // 10
Overall Impression: I was looking for an awesome distortion pedal when I found this thing. I've heard many an amazing Overdrive pedal, but great distortion stomps are few and FAR between to my ears. Set it right and it's not over the top or unruly. My pedal in particular feels like an old veteran, a sound I know and love and can easily wield. It will do essentially any style of hard rock or metal you ask it to; from the aforementioned early Metallica all the way to the doomiest of doom sounds.
Me, I've been playing for several years now. Only over the last year have I stopped lusting after $2K plus hand built amps and started going the more affordable pedal route. And it's only now that I'm starting to find gear I'm truly happy with. This is one of those pedals that just makes me smile every time I stomp it on. If I'm ever not in possession of this particular pedal I will go straight to SPF's door and make them build me another one pronto.
I've already said what I love and don't like about the pedal in the sound section. This pedal was an unexpected winner. I compared it to about 10 different 'distortion' pedals from as many different manufacturers and most of them sounded like mucked-up, muddy messes. The clarity of this pedal was ultimately the deciding factor :) But if I could wish for one thing for this pedal I'd wish for no hissing. But hey, that's why people build noise gates. Normally when I review something I have nothing but positive things to say about a brand, spanking new piece of gear that's really unique and fun for a short while. But like I said earlier, this is a sound that (while it's got a crap load more saturation than I'll ever use/need) I know and love already. So despite the shortcomings of the cosmetics and electronic design I still love it. So for a few small flaws I'll say a nine, but this is my favorite sound. // 9