Admin Post This little pedal has intrigued me for some time, so I decided to pop for one. I’ve never been into heavy distortion. When fuzzboxes came into vogue, I never cared for that sound, but by the late ‘70s, I recall taking note of sounds that were along the lines of natural overdrive, which I found much more pleasing to the ear. For overdrive which retains its clarity, there’s always the Dumble Overdrive Special, which goes for around $70,000, the last time I heard. Well, I hate to spend small change like that because it’s hardly worth the ink to put in my checkbook register, so the Dumble is off the table. Then there’s the Klon Centuar pedal, which can easily go well into four figures. Of course finding just the right amp and turning it up will work, but even in the countryside, that can result in unhappy neighbors, although my 5 watt Typhoon works pretty well in this case. But I wanted to be able to duplicate some of the clearer overdrive sounds on any sized amp and have experimented with several pedals, including the Boss SD-1, the EHX Soul Food and, most recently the MXR Sugar Drive. All three are pretty great pedals, but each also has its limitations. The Sugar Drive is a very small pedal, about the size of a candy bar. The finish is light blue and there are three knob, Level, Tone and Drive; pretty standard fare for overdrive pedals. There is also a recessed slide switch on the side of the case to choose between “true bypass” and buffered bypass. I greatly appreciate this feature and hope that more pedal manufacturers will adopt the idea of making this not only selectable, but also easily selectable. In the case of this pedal, it’s place on the board is behind the input buffer, which gives the patch cord from the guitar a high impedance interface, to minimize the effects of capacitance in the guitar-to-board patch cable, so there’s no need to buffer, but I left the buffer on anyhow, because the next two pedals in the chain are true bypass and the lower the output impedance of the pedal, the better chance that there will be no loss of highs as the signal traverses those two pedals. I tested this board which all pedals bypassed and compared the sound to just a straight 15” patch cable and there was no apparent losses through the board, so I’m happy. The Sugar Drive itself was setup to unity gain, or very slightly above. The Drive control is where most of the action is. At lower settings, the Sugar Drive adds a bit of character to the sound, but it is not readily apparent that an overdrive is in use. It’s more like an amp at the point where the sound “blooms” slightly, but isn’t really breaking up, unless you play hard and hit the pedal with a very abrupt input from the guitar, such as a double stopped Blues lick played with great force. Surprisingly, this setting works quite well in realms usually thought of as reserved for sparkling clean sounds, such as Jazz. If the attack of the notes is not to forceful, the result is a sound I would associate with ‘50s or ‘60 Jazz guitar. Some Wes style octaves, picked with the bare thumb, sounded perfect. This level of Drive smooths the rough edges, chases the icepick effect straight out of town, and manages to do so without imposing a noise floor, which is something I prefer to avoid. At medium Drive settings, the sound is a very natural overdrive, again with no noise floor. Playing through the Custom channel of my ‘68 Custom Deluxe Reverb, which had the volume set well within the clean range, the sound reminded me for all the world of Freddie King playing Hideaway through a Blonde Showman. (I was using a Custom Telecaster FMT HH for the signal source. The volume of the guitar was at about 50%.) If you take a moment to listen to Hideaway: and Funny Bone: , you’ll get a pretty good idea of what I was hearing. The pick dynamics determine the degree of overdrive, which is very similar to Freddie King’s situation. In these examples, King seems to straddle the line between clean and overdriven, pretty much without effort, and he’s certainly not fiddling with any equipment while he plays. I believe that this is simply a Blonde Showman working for a living, but that’s not always an easy sound to achieve, unless you actually have an early ‘60s Showman and a room that lets you turn it up. This pedal could useful for any number of musical genres, Blues being obvious, Soft Rock, Country and Jazz-Rock Fusion, but also for just softening the sound slightly, but remaining fundamentally clean. The selectable buffer strikes me as a big plus. The pedal seems well made and I have detected no background noise or white-noise hiss. A player could do a lot worse for $119.