Price paid: $ 35
Purchased from: wtfaccessories.com
Ease of Use — 9
It's pretty damn straight forward and idiotproof other than bulletproof. It has your everyday 3 knobs - Volume, which can get the thing as loud as fuck (I compared its gain with my Nano Compressor, and it sounded waaaaaay louder, with the Nano boosting it by +24db); gain, already explained; tone, actually a mids knob, already explained too. It was a bit hard getting used to it, being it my first pedal, but you should be all right from the start if you're a bit more experienced. There's a manual, but nothing special. Your everyday safety instructions and stuff like that, nothing that is actually explaining how to get some kind of a particular sound out of the black box. In the end, if you're looking for a disarmingly simple and pocket new distortion for your rig, or you want to get into the pedal world and have no more than $35, look no further. If you like to turn knobs instead, have a look at the JF-17.
Sound — 8
So, I'm playing a Xaviere XV-835 Telecaster through a Blackheart BH5H 5w all tube amp into a generic, cheap 8" speaker found inside my small Randall SS combo, and you know what? I love it! With the gain on 7:00, which should be the minimum possible, it still adds a bit of dirt and makes the sound darker. Nice if you wanna use it as a boost, though don't expect anything really clean. Turning up the gain to 9:00 you get light distortion, good for light rhythm parts if you ask me but nothing special. Ya know, something like the Stones' "Doom & Gloom." The gain on 12:00 gets the thing going - you get something similar to a heavy rock distortion, more similar to the preamp's than to the power amp's. I didn't really play a lot of Marshall DSLs but from what I remember, they kinda sound like this. The bit of harshness from the transistor gets it crunchier though. Around 3:00 you get your everyday 6505-like distortion, but harsher. Hey, what did you expect, that's still transistor-driven. Also, it's juicy as hell, can easily get it to sound like Nightwish' "I Want My Tears Back." Dime the gain on that motherfucker, and the result will basically be no more gain, but more compression. That's good for your leads' sustain. Thing is, the pedal also have a tone-labeled knob, which is in fact a mid knob. Dunno if that's just my amp, but it just sounds exaggeratedly boxy past 11:00, and even that is a lot. At 9:00 it's your sound, at 7:30 it gets your mids scooped and at 10:30 it makes your mid shine. I find the last one especially good sounding when you have your gain between 8:00 and 12:00. It also doesn't make noise unless it's cranked (gain past 1:00 and volume high) if you're using a battery. My cheap power supply gets it buzzing with the gain and volume at 12:00. Boosting it is pretty nice, it gives it more gain and a lot more sustain (I'm boosting it with a compressor, that helps too). Last thing I love about this thing is that you can supercharge (whatever :P) it to 12v and get a higher headroom without any problem (I've been doing this for 6 months and nothing bad has happened yet). It's a shame, but it isn't perfect. The biggest flaw in it is that it gets muddy. That's partially a good thing, because it gets your leads and your power chords juicy, but don't expect a lot of clarity when playing chords with the gain past 11:00. Also, it darkens your sound with the gain before 9:00, so I wouldn't use it as a boost.
Reliability & Durability — 10
It seems solid as hell to me. Full metal chassis, heavy duty switch, nice solid knobs, seems like it's built to last. Stepping on it made nothing happen, and the worst that would happen if I dropped from the 3rd floor would be a scratch or maybe a broken knob. I opened it to see if I could find out if it would have had any problems putting 18v through it, and the PCB didn't seem to have any flaw to me. The components are surface mounted so don't even think about modding it unless you wanna go through a biiiiiiig hassle. I haven't seen any complaints about the reliability of this bad boy, nor I have had any problem with it and I would gig with it if I had the chance to - though I have had it for less than a year and I don't gig, so I can be 100% sure about the reliability.
Overall Impression — 9
I bought this because I wanted a metal distortion, and the variety of sounds I can get out of it is amazing, especially for 35 bucks. You can get a lot of nice sounding sounds out of this mofo, and it's pretty simple, too. If I lost this thing I would probably buy the version with more knobs (the JF-17 Extreme Metal, which I think is copied by the MXR Metal Muff). I didn't really compare it to anything else outside a friend of mine's Boss DS-1, which in my humble opinion sucked ass through 12" bricks ABed with this.