Price paid: $ 40
Purchased from: Amazon
Sound — 9
This is where this is pedal is gaining it's notoriety: a very impressive sounding middle ground between an Overdrive and distortion pedal much like the template it borrows from but for a fraction of the cost. I tested this through a Fender Deville 2x12 and a Marshall 1960 4x12 running the Deville pretty much set up clean. I'll start with the gain knob. When turned it can add or subtract smooth sounding distortion or just slightly "hairy" sounding chords while dialed back or in "Low" mode and when dialed past noon, rich sounding mild distortion with cool overtones. Switching from "Low" to "High" basically boost the Drive added at all stages, regardless of setting, this pedal maintains a nice full sound that is surprisingly transparent in front of my amp. I find it is aptly named due to the simple variety of tones you get much like it's cloned circuit template but for a fraction of the cost. It's more than likely due to slave labor of some sort but I'd much rather not think of that at this moment and enjoy the pedal(go away conscience!). The volume works as any standard pedal would, boosting or cutting the signal volume respectively to the knob position. I like to set it just above my amps volume for a nice powerful boost when I need it. When I first got this I set the dials to the exact same settings as my Plimsoul by Fulltone and I found myself somewhat pleased and unhappy at the same time. The Joyo sounded VERY similar to my Plimsoul and switching back and fourth really provided no clear winner but simply a very slight difference in the "dark" sound between the two with the Plimsoul being slightly darker. I spent $170 on the Plimsoul and $40 for this Ultimate Drive which sounds just as usable for a much marginal price. Unbelievable.
Overall Impression — 9
I own many higher dollar items and can be guilty of being a "cork sniffer" from time to time. I enjoy brand names and I also enjoy underdog, out-of-right-field pedal makers who can produce a great sounding product at an affordable price. For me, sound matters and this pedal delivers on all fronts. It's usable throughout it's entire range and isn't noisy at all in my rig. It's great for stuff from Thrice to The Strokes; a lot of range with this pedal. I do not like the graphic design on this particular one or on most of their current line of pedals but it would be fun to repaint or rehouse in the future. This maker is quickly getting known for these awesome pedals and I fear once the fever catches on to more people like it did me, we might see some lawsuits/prices going up on these things. So do yourself a favor and Pick one up if you want an OCD type pedal without breaking the bank or sacrificing sound or build quality.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Unlike other brands in this price range, you can expect your Joyo pedal to be encased in a metal enclosure with some simple design on it. This one is black with some sort of red tribal, Darth Maul looking face on it. Not the biggest fan of looks but for some people like myself, it isn't all about hand painted enclosures. The knobs are firmly put into their places and the toggle switch moves up and down firmly without any "wiggle" or looseness. Same can be said for the input and output jacks, firm and seating strongly. The on and off latch works great and shows no signs of malfunction. As with the Joyo Vintage Overdrive, I put this pedal through multiple continuous hours of use before firmly believing this is just as sturdy as any Boss or EHX pedal out there.
Ease of Use — 8
Joyo has certainly hit gold with this pedal. I had first heard of the Ultimate Drive and Joyo's line of pedals after a big uproar about a boutique pedal maker, making a small diode mod more than likely costing less than 5 dollars to this pedals circuit, rehousing this pedal and selling it for a couple hundred dollars. If you look at this pedal, it seems to be a very blatant clone of a Fulltone OCD or at least appears to me to be so. It has three knobs: Gain, Level, and Tone, as well as a "High" and "Low" toggle switch. With each knob controlling it's respective aspect and the switch changing the "tone" from a higher gain setting to a lower gain setting. It has a red LED light that shows when it is active and is turned on and off via latch switch whenever it is depressed by a foot or otherwise. Standard In and Out jacks as well that work with your usual 1/4 type cable. All of this and it is also true bypass!