Price paid: € 90
Purchased from: Private owner
Ease of Use: First of all, I must say a few words about this pedal. It's a Lehle Sunday Driver SW, which is, more exactly, a high-end preamp for electric, acoustic and bass guitars, and other stringed instruments as well. It's made in Germany, in 2009. I bought it from a friend of mine, a reputed Pro player and guitar guru. Its original price is about 175 euros, but he offered me a friendly price, although the pedal was in pristine condition (no scratches, no stains on its yellow paint), after 2 years of using it into his rack.
As any other German device, it is meanwhile simple and complicated. For a German mind, I guess it's simple: it operates in two modes. In Driver mode (dubbed D), the input signal is amplified without any modification, in order to eliminate the signal loss associated with long cables or effects chains. The signal remains powerful and crystal clear, with natural dynamics. In mode Sunday (dubbed S), it multiplies the input impedance up to 4 MOhms, making audible details who were previously inaudible. No distortion whatsoever in mode Sunday neither, even when the maximum gain setting reaches to 15 dB. No background noise neither.
But the guys at Lehle are German. After conceiving the pedal, they've tested it against all types of effects pedals and discovered it didn't work properly with some of them: treble booster, fuzz, Vintage chorus and Vintage echo. So they've thought of a way to use the pedal with these effects too. They've introduced a True Bypass function, which can be used when the pedal is Off: all negative influences have gone and you can still use the driver for its main function WITH the pedals who weren't accepted before. In order to make the whole machinery work, Lehle has provided the Sunday Driver SW with 2 controls and a LED on the front panel, 2 on/off switches, an input and an output switch on the back of the pedal.
First, you have the On/Off switch. If you select the position Off, the LED will be green; if you select On, it will be red. When you select On, the rotary gain control on the front panel is active and you can control the gain. Also, the Sunday/Driver function is active. When you select Off, the True Bypass/True Sound functions are available. According to the manual, all contacts inside the pedal are gold-plated and the switch technology makes switches virtually indestructible.
Another fabulous feature is that you can plug it into ANY kind of power source, AC or DC, from 9 to 20V (or a 9V battery). The supplied voltage is internally filtered, rectified, stabilized and doubled to 18V. The pedal comes with an extra connector, so you can use both types of jacks most commonly used on power supplies.
If you get out of the German logic, though, the pedal is complicated by the fact that, in order to achieve one goal, you sometimes need to press 2 buttons and turn one knob too. But you can simplify your life by designing the effects pedal in such a manner you can avoid the need of constantly adjusting the controls (Anyway, treble boosters, Vintage choruses and delays are rare, and the fuzz is more and more often completely replaced by various distortion pedals). If you do this, the pedal is a marvel of simplicity. The manual it came with, in English and German, is as complicated as the mastermind who conceived it. But, if you allow it a good hour of practical study, you'll find out it's very easy and most pleasant to work with the Lehle Sunday Driver SW. // 8
Sound: I bought the pedal in order to use it as a driver, in front of my effects chain (see the complete list in my profile). As a driver, its input impedance is 1 MOhms, which is the same input impedance of my amp (Vox Night Train). I can use now any pedal I like, any combination of them, the whole chain or no pedal at all: the signal getting into the amp will have the same level all the time.
Of course I've tested its other mode and functions. Using the Sunday mode, the input impedance reaches to 4 MOhms and you can hear the tinniest detail of your guitar sound. As a booster, when you crank the gain knob up, it overdrives the amp amp without making it sound thin or noisy, because it cleverly amplifies less treble than bass. The amount of harmonics is the highest I've ever heard in a booster.
As I've said, Lehle Sunday Driver SW is a high-end device. It's completely "silent". The quality of its components, the switching technology and the attention they've paid to details when they've conceived it is amazing, and the price - even when bought new - is just ridiculous, especially for something which proudly exhibits the logo "Made in Germany".
You don't know it's there, but it brings to life your entire effects chain. Everything sounds rounder, warmer, silky and rich in harmonics. The natural dynamics of the guitar sound is faithfully respected. I can say it's the best investment I've made in the Quest for a Pro sound. // 10
Reliability & Durability: The Sunday Driver SW is something any player using more than 1-2 pedals should try. The pedal can be used in both live and studio work (as a recording preamp). It's more than a simple preamp with 1 MOhm input impedance. My sound has gained a lot of natural freshness after plugging the Sunday Driver SW in front of my pedalboard.
It's also impressive Sunday Driver's overall build quality. TB/TS and S/D switches are tight and precise, the rotary Gain knob is smoothly but firmly turning in both ways, the On/Off switch is simple and smart, the case is made in thick metal, the paint job is fantastic for something that shouldn't normally be an aesthetic masterpiece.
Lehle Sunday Driver SW also impressed me with the number of safety systems it includes. If the pedal suddenly fails to work at a certain moment, it's completely True Bypass. If the voltage of your power supply drops below 9V for some reasons, it automatically switches, via a gold-plated contact, to battery mode. If you use batteries, the LED will automatically turn off in True Bypass mode and your batteries will last longer. I could go on with this for hours. // 10
Overall Impression: I play Progressive, Classic Rock and Blues. I've always had a problem with my effects chain, because playing Prog means using a lot of pedals, while playing Blues means plugging the guitar straight into the amp. When I was turning off all the effects pedals, the volume was rising and the amp was gaining treble. When I was turning on some or all of my effects, the volume dropped and the amp was rebalancing the trebles. It was a nightmare. Not to mention the guitars: two of them are Strat-type, one is Tele-type and the fourth is Les Paul-type. Plus the electro-acoustic, which requires a wholly different amplification.
Now all these problems are solved... And for good! Previously, I was using an MXR MicroAmp (see my review here at the UG) to bring the chain at 1 MOhms. The MXR did the job, somehow in a rough and unbalanced manner. But the MXR is slightly adding an amount of distortion to the dry signal, when turning the gain knob over 12 o'clock. Although being reasonably silent, it is noisier than the Lehle. Etc. Etc. The Sunday Driver SW is a Pro tool which does its job in the most brilliant way (people who read my reviews and comments know I'm not that kind of person who gets enthusiastic about everything).
The only pedal I'd compare to is Pete Cornish LD. It has more functions than Pete's pedal, but it lacks the RFI/EMI filter and the secret-spec hand-made components you can find in a Pete Cornish product. Otherwise, Lehle offers 99% of Pete's LD at 2/3 of its price. I guess it's more than satisfactory.
If stolen, I'd buy another one immediately. Thank God I can buy a Lehle in my country: the Germans have an official retailer, who also provides service and post-guarantee repairs as well. All in all, I'm glad I took the chance of buying the pedal from my friend, even if it's the most expensive pedal I have. The yellow box lays quietly in front of my pedalboard and it will stay there as long as I'll play the guitar. // 9