Price paid: C$ 130
Purchased from: The Arts - Newmarket
Ease of Use — 8
I do read the manuals that come with all my gear and generally have a good knowledge of what they do and how they work through reviews from great people that contribute reviews - thank you! Having said that, the manuals typically have little info and a few base settings. Try the suggestions first to get some excitement, then when time permits, sit with the pedal, put everything up at five and start tweaking. I do this with pen and paper to record the settings that I like so that the second pass just enhances.
The pedal is very easy to use and even though it has more controls than most in its class they make immediate sense. Volume makes it louder of quieter, Gain controls the grit, bass/mid controls the lows and mid frequencies and the treble the highs. The spark/flame toggle switches the clean boost to dist/fuzz. Very easy to understand and a lot of fun to tweak. The unit was bought from a music store and remains unmodded. Other than some of the controls size and placement it is very easy to use.
Sound — 10
I am tempted to state that this may be the only OD/Dist/Fuzz that you will ever need on your board, but I do maintain a few others that fill the voids. However, there are few that have the range that this one has. I play this guy through my board (generally only have my delay on though) into a pair of Beltone AP-22 tube amps. The pedal has two main modes which I will describe the sound that way to keep this brief.
Spark - Spark is the clean boost with some nice "dialable grit." There is a toggle switch that changes from Spark (clean) to Flame (wow...). The spark can just add a clean volume boost which can be used for both soloing and rhythm playing highlighting/defining each note with wonderful harmonics. Dial up the gain in this mode and you get some grit with can be tweaked with the two knob Bass/Mid and treble pots. This will give everything from bright, jangly down to muddy. Kudos for splitting the tone dials! Very rich sound that can exaggerate the bass while still being able to enhance the highs. Awesome array of sound. I have used this mode as an od for other distortions (DS-1, '67 Marshall Supa Fuzz) and it can brighten them up and make their notes more defined. Having said that, it takes a bit to dial it in as another pedal's overdrive - it plays much better on its own. There is zero noise from the pedal in this mode.
Flame: The flame mode is obviously the heavier distortion into fuzz sound. Holy cow does this sound incredible. Physically took my DS-1 off my board for a few weeks because I really didn't think I could go back to it after hearing this pedal in flame mode. The sound is rich, full and if you have your amp on the floor and stand close you can feel it on your legs even at lower volumes - that is a comment on tone because I haven't found that kind of bass tone from any distortion. Think of it as being a true spectrum, a thick rich background while the harmonics of all the other notes shining through. Tweaking the two pot eq will give you the tones from brown sound to Iommi and everything in between. Dial up the gain and this pedal goes through distortion to all out fuzz. Right up on ten you get an insane amount of fuzz, however, the clarity of what you are picking is right on. I have a '67 Marshall Supa Fuzz which gives that '60s sound (go figure), but it doesn't have the clarity and harmonics that this guy has. Like the Marshall though, I haven't accidentally stumbled into the horrible digital simulation sound that so many other dist/fuzz's use for their main tone. Could go on forever with the sounds that you can get from this one, but do yourself a favour - next visit to the guitar store try it out.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The pedal has the footprint of a standard boss unit and is in a similar heavy duty metal chasis. It has a single stomp switch near the front which is on the same level as the five controls so you could hit something with your foot. That being said, the two eq pots are tiny and a challenge to move anyway, the two large pots (volume and gain) have large white almost vintage looking knobs that may move if hit, but I don't think would be damaged it stepped on. Again, like a Boss - built like a tank. With proper care and not mashing your foot in the entire device to turn on/off it should be a lifer on your board. I did score this a little lower just because the dials could be easily hit with your foot and the flame/spark toggle could take the hit negatively.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall Impression? Sound - 10, Versatility - 10, Value - 10. Execution of design... less than ten. Why? Toggle switch for spark/flame (clean/dist) should be a decent stomp switch. It's placement could be troublesome and it requires you to hand switch it. Perhaps not a biggie though as you will likely use it in one of the two modes per song and when you do switch it you will likely (WILL) want to tweak the drive and/or eq knobs.
Which brings me to my second issue with this pedal... the two eq knobs. They are an essential part of this pedal and what makes it shine over others, however, they are tiny. You can get your fingers on them to move them, but they are so tiny it is very difficult to see their setting which could be exaggerated in a low light setting. Bigger knobs or knobs with a better indicator/pointer would help out. The big volume and gain knobs are the opposite - they look great, but also because of the white knob, black indicator and knob shape they are easy to use and easy to see.
I play mainly classic rock, Aerosmith to ZZ Top and everything in between from '60s to today. I have been playing guitar for over thirty years (with a break in the middle - wife, kids, divorce, life 2.0) and have been playing regularly for the past five or so. If lost I would buy another in a heartbeat. I have not heard anything else like this nor its broad range of sounds from one box.