Price paid: $ 125
Purchased from: Used
Ease of Use: With just four self-explanatory knobs - Volume, Tone, Drive, and Boost - the Box of Rock is very easy to dial in. Drive sets the amount of crunch, and in conjunction with the volume knob lets you dial in the overall amount of gain. The tone knob dials in more high end as you roll up (though I notice the bass sticks around, which I like). According to Zvex, the Boost, which is engaged by a second footswitch (independent from the Drive side), only affects the volume of the sound coming from the pedal, leaving the tone unchanged. But for anyone who runs this into a tube amp (like me), hitting the boost drives the amp harder and adds fullness/crunch to the tone.
Also, be careful with the boost. Settings below 12 o'clock on the dial don't add too much, but above that volume gets piled on very quickly. You can damage both yourself and your amp if you're not careful.
I'm not aware of a bad sound in this pedal, even with the tone very high up. It never becomes too brittle, and always maintains enough low end. // 9
Sound: I run a stratocaster with SD lipstick tube pickups or a stock Les Paul 1960's reissue into a few ODs (Sparkle Drive, Si Fuzz, Big Muff, and Tube Driver), then the Box of Rock, then modulation (Delays and chorus) and finally into a Mesa Boogie Maverick Dual Rectifier.
The most important thing to note about the Box of Rock is that it really melds with The amplifier. Whatever bypass tone you dial in will affect the character of the BoR's tone enormously. For this reason, I didn't like the BoR when I had a Fender Deluxe Reverb, but I love it now with the Boogie. If you own a Fender amp and think this pedal will give you a Marshall JTM45-in-a-box tone, you're right only to the extent you know what a real JTM45 sounds like. For this reason, try the pedal with an amp similar to yours before you go out and buy it, otherwise you risk being disappointed.
If you do match it with an appropriate amp, the tone is narrow, but excellent. There aren't very many different sounds you can get from this - you can basically get "Clapton in Cream" to "Clapton in Cream with more treble" - but the sound you do get is both fantastic in its own right and serves as a great platform for creating new sounds. I especially love this with the strat with the bridge tone rolled off: with the Tube Driver in front and a Delay behind, it really does sound like Eric Johnson's violin lead tone. With a fuzz in front (I use a Dunlop Hendrix Si fuzz), it's very easy to dial in a Red House or similar tone. I also really like how it responds to the Sparkle Drive (essentially a tube Screamer): the bass tightens up, I get more crunch and a sharper tone, but the Original flavor is still there. Keep in mind that I've played that Sparkle Drive in front of a Deluxe Reverb, the Mesa alone, a Hot Rod Deluxe, and a JCM2000, and the first time I really like it is when it's stacked with the Box of Rock!
As for artists, if you play well you can get some very good Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, ZZ Top, and AC/DC type tones from this thing. Basically, anyone Who plays a relatively low-gain Marshall can be copped with the BoR, especially if stacked with another pedal.
Also, the Box of Rock still sounds good at low volumes, but sounds better at high ones. I'm able to play in my bedroom in my frat, while still sounding very good, without pissing anybody off. But it does sound better on a stage!
Finally, it is dead silent, and compared to my Keeley DS-1 it remains silent when stacked. This is a brilliant pedal for playing crappy rooms.
Almost forgot: it cleans up very well with the volume control on your guitar. Scarily well. Not as good as my Fuzz, but close. At all levels you get a different kind of distortion, and just from your volume knob you could conceivably go from clean, to rhythm distortion, to lead if you set your overall volumes right. // 8
Reliability & Durability: I would absolutely gig this without a backup. I dropped it from my hip level on a concrete floor, and besides being scratched a bit it's fine. Construction is top-solid, and the switches are some of the sturdiest on my board. // 10
Overall Impression: I play classic and instrumental rock (Led Zeppelin, Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, fill-in-the-blanks) and have been playing for about 4 years. The Box of Rock suits the softer side of my style very well, and when stacked gets me into passable Surfing with the Alien territory. I'd consider it low gain, but given how well it stacks the sky is really the limit.
If it were lost or stolen, I'd look into the Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret, but probably end up buying it again.
About the only thing I wish it had was a bit more crunch on its own, but this is rectified by playing the Les Paul instead of the strat (forgot to mention, it's very sensitive to your choice of guitar).
As a final word of caution, I want to say that no one should buy this thinking it will make them sound like ____ artist unless they first know how to play like _____ artist. The fact is, if you can't play well you will be disappointed in the BoR. But if you can, it will open up a lot of tone territories for you.
[Word on the rating: I don't trust 10's in most reviews. In my estimation, 8 is about as high as a non-holy-grail pedal can go. The Box of Rock is not a Holy Grail, but it's fantastic, so don't be turned off by my giving it an 8.] // 8