Price paid: $ 200
Purchased from: GC Braintree, MA
Ease of Use — 9
This is easily one of the easiest to use pedals I've owned. Others I've used have really made me sit and tweak to get the sound I'm after, and even then I'm not really convinced. With the Plexi-Drive, after it's set, you can do most of your tonal contouring right from your guitar controls. Starting with all the knobs at noon, I had my tone dialed in about 30 seconds. My recommendation is to start with a dead clean amp, and set the pedal's volume and gain so that all the dirt is coming from the pedal - don't set it so hot that it's overdriving the amp, unless you want some coloration of the distortion from your amp. Then just tweak the tone (it's very transparent right around 12:00), and you're good to go.
Sound — 9
The Plexidrive captures the "JTM" era crunch that guitarists lust after. This pedal is great for anything one would use a plexi for - blues, classic rock, country, and other styles. I use this pedal through a 2x12 PRS head/cab, or a heavily modded Epiphone Valve Jr. 1x12 head/cab, with a variety of guitars, including a 57/08 loaded PRS singlecut, and a strat with Fender CS '54 pickups. With these more vintage voiced pickups, the Plexi-Drive is a dream - it gets the classic crunch, without the high end fizz that many pedals and modern tube amps have. The trick to the plexi sound is capturing that crunch correctly, and this pedal does it well. Even compared to the Plextortion, the Plexi-Drive had a very different gain structure.
Through my 2x12, this pedal sounds crisp and full, with lots of authority and cut - just like a real plexi. Through the 1x12, the pedal still sounds great, but isn't quite as authentic, though the bass boost really fills out the sound and gets about as close as one can get to making a single 12 sound like a raging 4x12. Part of the plexi effect is sheer volume, so the sound lends itself to bigger cabinets and louder volumes. However, when I say loud volumes, I don't mean actual ear-shattering plexi volumes, just a step above bedroom level. At band/gig levels, this pedal really nails it, which is the great thing about having the authentic tone in a pedal - one can play at a reasonable volume and still get the goods.
This pedal can be used to emulate many of the classic tones guitarists love, Hendrix, Bonamassa, AC/DC, The Darkness, and so forth. It sounds authentic at all gain levels, and can even be used with the gain rolled back, or by simply rolling back the guitar volume, to get plexi-esque clean tones. In fact, it could conceivably just be left on for a whole gig if one wanted that flavor for the whole set. However, as with a real plexi, it can also get fuzzy and nasty with excessive gain and hot pickups. If you can master that, it can be a fun sound as well, and with the right overdrive pushing it, this pedal will SCREAM.
Overall, this is hands down the best sounding "Marshall in a box" pedal I've tried, and one of the best overall dirt pedals I've used as well. It reacts very well to an amp that has a touch of mids dialed in, and once plugged in, there's not much knob fiddling needed to get to plexi nirvana.
Reliability & Durability — 9
As one would imagine for a boutique built pedal, the Plexi-Drive comes in a robust casing with very sturdy jacks, switch, and knobs. It's survived a few months on my board no problem so far. My only concern is that the bass boost switch is fairly long, and I could see a stray stomp causing some damage. But that hasn't happened thus far. The inner workings are equally clean, neat and robust. A bright blue LED easily tells you when the effect is engaged. The finish has also held up very well. Overall, the construction matches the tone in quality.
Overall Impression — 10
I play the standard fare - rock, classic rock, blues, etc., and this pedal quickly became one of my favorites. After 15 years of playing, it's the best breakup tone I've found. It has the gritty crunch without being harsh, and yet will cut through a mix no problem. Don't think of it as a pricey boutique pedal, think of it as an alternative to dropping well over a grand on a Marshall reissue or clone, plus you can use it at any volume, which makes it much more useful than a real plexi! If you want the versatility of having all the goodies of your current amp, plus being able to tap into the classic holy grail of crunch tones, this pedal is the ticket.