Price paid: € 29
Purchased from: Thomann Cyberstore
Ease of Use — 10
The pedal is about as easy as possible. Drive, Tone, Volume - not much one can mess up with those controls. No fancy, confusing buzzwords were used, the knobs are labelled as what they are. A red lamp indicates whether the pedal is on or not (and supposedly also the battery status - I haven't had an opportunity to test this, as the battery hasn't run out of power yet). The IN and OUT jacks are also clearly labelled. I think nobody can mess up with this one. Even people with no knowledge of pedals will have those controls figured out within ten minutes. 10/100 for simplicity and labels.
Sound — 10
I ordered this pedal to complement my distortion pedal and to enhance my sound repertoire with softer tones, and I wasn't disappointed. Anybody looking for lots of drive will be, though, since that's not what the pedal was made for. Over the course of the drive knob's way, any sound from just the tiniest bit of gain to soft and smooth overdriven is possible. I use the pedal for blues, rock'n'roll and similar styles. With the right amount of drive, it can do blues rock and perhaps hard rock (think ZZ Top or AC/DC), with less gain, it'll make the sweetest lead and blues sounds. I usually turn up the tone knob all the way to brighten up the sound of my SG humbuckers.
Due to the low amount of gain involved, the pedal introduces little noise. When turning up both tone and drive to max, the noise is audible but not overly annoying - nothing a gate pedal (live) or noise remover plugin (studio) couldn't fix.
Unlike a distortion pedal, the Vintage Overdrive - when used with the right amount of gain - doesn't mud up everything but power or major chords. I've played complex chords on it, such as m7, m7b5 or maj6 on it, and they all got a little drive while still sounding clear. The overdrive compresses the sound, but not too much, so there are still some dynamics left when the sound leaves the pedal. It sounds nice as well when using the overdrive with a little gain to dirty up "clean" passages and using a distortion pedal for the real deal. Think grunge or punk rock. 10/10 for blues, rock 'n' roll and hardr ock.
Reliability & Durability — 6
The casing seems to be made of metal and looks/feels solid enough. Surprisingly, it weighs about half as much as my distortion pedal (same size). The footswitch appears solid as well, however, it is placed close enough to the knobs to make me worry about accidentally hitting the potis - I would've preferred a BOSS-style switch there. The cables sit tight in the input jacks without moving. The knobs are equally hard to move over the entire way, which I consider a good thing, meaning it's hard to accidentally mess with the settings.
The downside is the battery. It's easy to put in a battery, as there's just a plastic cover (like the one on your TV remote) that can be removed by fingers. However, the battery is "held" by the circuit board's edge - I'm afraid one day it might damage the circuit by pressing against it. On top of that, I couldn't remove the battery again, as it appeared to be 1/1000 of an inch to big. It was kept inside by a piece of foam meant to keep it from moving inside, which also kept me from removing it. I had to screw open the casing and get it out - afterwards, the little plastic cover wouldn't go back, which means I now have a pedal that's open from the bottom. 6/10 for overall solid but a bit cheap.
Overall Impression — 9
The pedal does exactly what I expected - giving my sound a sweet little drive without messing up chords or sounding muddy. What little noise it has don't matter as I filter that out anyway. It's made in a rather cheap way, though, as seen with the battery - to be expected when buying for 30 bucks.
When it arrived, I playtested it for two hours straight - I don't think I played that much blues in a long time. Depending on the settings, it puts thoughts of Gary Moore and ZZ Top in my head, which I assume is a good thing. If you're looking for punk or harder hard rock, you're wrong though - get something more dirty, as this won't satisfy your needs. Anybody looking for a sweet lil overdrive for little money, I'd say you found what you're looking for. I certainly have.
The pedal is - of course - green, and it has a graphic of four monkeys printed on it. I thought that ought to be mentioned. 9/10 for sweetness, monkeys and ZZ Top. Playtested with an SG copy, no additional pedals and a DIY-amp made out of wood and a speaker.