Price paid: $ 20
Purchased from: eBay
Ease of Use — 9
The Blues Drive is simplicity itself, yet has plenty of versatility in its 3 knobs (tone, gain, and level) along with a switch for "warm" or "hot" levels of drive. The manual is small, but most guitarists will know those controls without needing the manual whatsoever. I've spent all my time in "warm" mode thus far, as my Orange brings all its tubey goodness to my higher-gain situations, but this little pedal was instantly and easily giving me a medium-gain option to my sound.
It's small, it's a helluva deal for the money, and I'm very impressed with it. I just wish it was made stateside... But that would likely double or triple the price.
Sound — 9
In a financial bind and needing an overdrive pedal to give me a gentler option than the gain channel on my Orange, I gave this little pedal a try. I have to say, I have not been disappointed. I've generally had it in middle-of-the-road settings, something to use for bluesy songs that don't require my Rockerverb 100's full fury. Its controls are very straight-ahead, and gives a nice, clear bit of boost where I need it. I currently use it most on some Who and Audioslave songs, and it does both the needed drive for "The Seeker" and the little bit of grind I like to add to "I Am the Highway" equally well. It does respond well to pick attack, so you can exploit its dynamics with your playing intensity.
Reliability & Durability — 9
These are tough little boxes, with nothing they don't need. Metal frame, solid-feeling jacks and button, smooth knob travel, all good. I'm a seriously big guy, and my stomping on this pedal through 3-4 hour rehearsals hasn't fazed it a bit. I can and do depend on it, as this band is my latest and my first foray back out into the musical world since some medical drama; I have to pick my gear very carefully as my funds have been brutally drained. So far, it and the tuner I got from the same company still look and work as-new after several long practices in which they get constant use. No complaints at all thus far.
Overall Impression — 8
As I play all over the various rock genres, this pedal was going to be for "gentler" drive situations... so I haven't tried its more extreme settings, yet. While it does seem awfully small to my eyes, it's a good match to my overall sound and doesn't add any untoward noise to my rig. I fully admit that I would like any number of higher-end overdrives as much or more, but I got this for a fraction of what a new OCD or similar would have set me back... so I admit to being very impressed with the value. If lost/stolen, I would likely replace it... which I could do several times for the price of a new OCD. I'm not saying it's better, but I'm saying that it's very good for the price.
I love and hate its size, because it works fine and takes up a tiny amount of space on my pedal board... but it looks so TINY, especially with my size-14 shoe hovering over it. I also should add that it has no battery compartment; you need to have a power supply (typical Boss plug type). That said, it doesn't add more noise than my other pedals, it takes up half the room of a typical stomp box, and really owes no apologies in terms of sound or usability. I'd definitely recommend these for anyone curious about Donner pedals.