Price paid: $ 50
Purchased from: Musician's Friend
Ease of Use — 10
It has five knobs and the footswitch on the face (gain, master volume, treble, mid, bass), with the noise gate threshold and on/off on top. It also has an on/off switch for the whole pedal, which is pretty nice, since I can keep it hooked up and ready to use whenever I want, and warm it up before I plug in. It's simple and straightforward, like an old tube amplifier. Despite the flaws with the stock tube, this has quickly become one of my favorite pieces of gear.
Sound — 8
I just got this pedal this evening, and so far, I like it. I was able to quickly dial in a tone very reminiscent of a Fender Blues Junior (which I used to own, and miss a lot). That said, I'm definitely planning to change the preamp tube as soon as I can (thinking a JJ 12AU7/ECC82), because as soon as you drop the gain below about 6, the tube just starts to sound really weak. Above that, though, the stock tube isn't bad at all, quite the contrary, it sounds pretty good. I just want more range, and to be able to dial in bluesier tones. It definitely isn't noisy, and it has a built-in noise gate, which is a nice touch. It's also a big improvement over the solid-state overdrive of my Fender Frontman 212R, which, don't get me wrong, I like it, but the tones this pedal seems capable of far surpass the amp.
Reliability & Durability — 10
The case is steel, and it's pretty heavy. The knobs, while plastic, feel substantial enough that they shouldn't be a problem. My only concern is the fact that it's a vacuum tube powered pedal, and a starved plate system at that. That said, as long as you let the tubes warm up and cool down, and don't knock it around too much, it should be durable enough. I would definitely gig with this pedal without a backup. There isn't much else to say.
Overall Impression — 8
I primarily play progressive rock, blues, and punk, and this unit seems like it can cover all those territories quite nicely. The only thing I wish this had out of the box is a better tube. Seriously, it has to be the most cheaply made vacuum tube ever produced. It's not horrible, but there's so many better tubes out there, and even a JJ 12AU7 is only $10. I don't need anything with gold pins, or an NOS RCA tube, just one that works. If it were stolen or lost, I'd buy another, because it's a damn good pedal.