Purchased from: Thomann
Ease of Use — 10
It took me all of about 10 minutes to set both channels to absolutely perfect for me. The only thing that took a little while was balancing the volume with each channel and my clean signal, as the volume controls seem a bit sensitive and also seem to have a certain threshold beyond which they're either too quiet or too loud... That may just be my ears! I don't think it came with a manual, but if it did, I had no cause to look for it... If you know the first thing about guitars and pedals you can dial this baby in within minutes, no fiddling around for that secret sweet spot as there is with some pedals.
Sound — 10
I play a lot of blues/rock, and man this pedal nails it! I put it into a Marshall JCM900 (4100 model) on the clean channel and absolutely love it. I use the overdrive channel for a mid kind of overdrive, that's got some balls but you still have plenty of definition. Kind of like a cranked Marshall with the guitar's volume rolled off a little.. The blend knob is amazing for bringing in just that little bit of dry signal to define everything a little more, without overtaking the overdrive and making it just sound like a background buzz.
The distortion channel is much more "plexi-like," going from a similar kind of mid rang overdrive to proper balls-to-the-wall rock n' roll tones. With the distortion knob all the way up it gets a bit noisy, but anywhere up to about 4 o'clock it's great. For channel stacking, you need the gain controls on both channels to be anywhere behind 1 o'clock, or it is very, VERY noisy! It makes an amazing sound with my settings, which are both quite high on the gain controls, but is horrific when you stop playing even for a second between phrases. Go careful with that one, if you like high gain from either channel. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't stack with my settings, but it's not exactly a primary feature.
A word of warning, if using humbuckers like I do, then you'll want the fat switches! I have both of mine set to "fatter" but I like a thick sound. Ignoring the inability to stack channels with high gain, I am in love with these sounds!
Reliability & Durability — 10
I've only had this pedal for a week, but it's looking pretty damn tough so far! The chassis is sturdy, the knobs are firm and switches are strong. The footswitches are obviously heavy duty too, which is nice. I'd love to afford a backup for this, just in case, but I'm pretty confident I'll never need it unless I build a smaller board in the future as a "grab and go" set up, in which case I wouldn't hesitate to buy a second one! I'll be using this baby on my live board for the foreseeable future, I don't see it failing on me any time soon!
Overall Impression — 10
For blues and rock this pedal is incredible. If you want some proper high gain then this isn't for you, but for a classic plexi kind of valve sound then this is definitely worth the investment. It carries all the natural tones of your guitar beautifully through the dirtiest of settings, and if that still isn't enough then the blend knob lets you put even more natural sound into it.
The only thing that really bugs me is how great the stacked channel sound is, yet I can't use it without it hissing like crazy. That's just a misunderstanding of features I guess, but it's a shame nonetheless.
Of all the overdrive and distortion I've tried over the years, this is my favourite for a long shot! I hate noise, I hate having so much gain that you can't hear the actual guitar, but I hate having to sacrifice the smooth sustain in order to avoid either of these. The Hot Wired avoids all of these problems brilliantly!