Price paid: $ 180
Purchased from: Pro Guitar Shop
Sound — 10
This pedal was designed to sound so close to a cranked Marshall plexi that you can't tell the difference. In fact, Pro Guitar Shop did a blind test between the Hellbender through an AC30 and a cranked reissue Plexi. The differences were minimal at best. At the lowest gain setting (the gain knob fully counter clockwise) you'll only get the lightest of grit, but it's wonderful none the less. At about the half way mark you're in ACDC heaven, all day long. And when the gain is dimed you get a sound that's fairly close to a JCM 800 in my humble opinion. I've only heard this pedal in person with my warmoth tele (humbucker in the bridge), but I've played it through several different amps and it makes ALL of them sound like a huge, cranked marshall. I love this, unquestionably, but I love the sound of a cranked marshall. The ONLY complaint I have about the pedal is that on some amps you loose a bit of bottom end when you kick on the pedal. At first, this was a huge turn off for me and I almost sold the pedal. But then I learned how to effectively use my volume knob to clean up my signal (traditionally I rip the volume and tone pots out of my guitars, I'm a little crazy like that) and I don't realistically see how I'll ever not need this pedal. It's a bit noisy at the highest gain setting, but nothing more than you'd expect. But if you're considering buying this you only need to think about one thing; Do I want my amp to sound like a cranked plexi? Perfect for me, the pedal does it's intended job amazingly.
Overall Impression — 10
For me, it's simple, I NEED this pedal. I don't like carrying around a huge amp, and this pedal has made every amp I put it in front of sound huge. It does rock, blues, and more rock. Again, the only thing I dislike is the ocassional loss of low end with certain amps, other than that I see no flaws with this pedal (it's kind of like having a wonderful girlfriend who has a big, un-sightly booty; she's still HOT and a wonderful person, you still can't stop thinking about her, she just has a quirk). Before I bought this pedal I was looking at Rothwell's Tornado Overdrive (which, I still might buy, it just wasn't what I was looking for at the time) and a Jetter Gain Stage Gold (decent sounding pedal, but the bottom end is flabby and floppy). When I compared the three the Hellbender was the clear and distinct winner. No pedal I've ever owned has made me this happy this consistently.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I don't see too many people using Rothwell's pedals here in the states, mostly because PGS is the sole US supplier. And only time will tell, but this pedal is built just as tough as the best pedals on the market, so I don't doubt its durability. Ask me in a year.
Ease of Use — 10
This pedal is pretty standard fair for an overdrive. Three knobs: gain, tone and volume, and a stomp switch. Killer easy to use. It does come with a small manual, but I haven't found the need to read it. As far as I know this is the only version of the pedal made thus far. A plug and play pedal, wonderful.