MXR Sugar Drive: Mini Review

Discussion in 'Pedal Pushers Forum' started by Synchro, Jul 26, 2021.

  1. Waxhead

    Waxhead Country Gent

    Aug 30, 2014
    yes I agree Fulldrive 3 is not good for music you play :D
    It is great for classic rock of the 70s though - killer for Led Zep, Floyd, Doors or anything similar
  2. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    The Boss OS-2 in overdrive mode with the drive at about 50% is about as much overdrive as I ever use, and I think that I use it on, perhaps, three songs for a two hour gig. The Sugar Drive is mellower yet, almost more of an always on filter against harshness.

    Surfy Industries makes a pedal called the Blossom Point which is meant to emulate the sound of a Brownface Showman at the top of the clean range, where there is some natural compression, but it’s not breaking up. This is very close to what the Sugar Drive did, when running through my ‘68 CDR. You could push it to light breakup, such as with double-stops or octave-fifths, but overall it’s not really meant for that duty.

    I come out of the era when clean guitar sounds were pretty much the order of the day. The Ventures, Duane Eddy, Chet Atkins, Grady Martin, all those guys. The Rock n’ Roll before ‘65 was mostly clean, and I was exposed to this early on, by an older sibling and older cousins. I may have been the only one, but when the Stones did Satisfaction, I wasn’t all that crazy about it. Likewise, I was never into Hendrix. Terry Kath, I liked, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Larry Carlton and Robben Ford, as well. So that’s where my sound will go.
    pmac11, blueruins and Waxhead like this.
  3. Pine Apple Slim

    Pine Apple Slim Country Gent

    Dec 14, 2011
    North Alabama
    Ive found that as long as you and your board are no more than 15'-20' from the amp, and you are only using 6-8 true bypass pedals, it really doesnt matter that much. The signal loss is there, but I actually preferred the slightly bassier overall tone with no buffers. I don't really do that, it was just an experiment when I bought a buncha cheap mini pedals and made a mini board with stand alone buffers at each end that I could add or remove. With 2 buffers, the tone was too bright for my taste. Ok with just one, beginning or end of chain wasn't much different, but I actually preferred the sound without one and decided it wasn't worth the power block space. Of course I could have rolled back some treble on the amp and left the buffers in.
    Seems to me the whole buffer issue is pretty insignificant unless you have a giant board with 15-20 all true bypass pedals and your amp is a million miles away.

    But right now Im using mostly Boss pedals so there's buffers everywhere.
  4. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    Looking at it strictly from the perspective of electrical characteristics, any long cable should probably be buffered. Every cable is somewhat capacitive in nature and caps bleed highs to ground, plain and simple. That’s just basic electricity, applied to audio signals. However, if you desire a bassier signal, that loss may be desirable. There is, however, one important thing to remember, and that is the fact that once those highs are lost, they are gone for good. Boosting highs at some later point in the signal path cannot restore that which no longer exists, so it pays off to preserve as much of the signal as possible, until the last possible moment. Translated into a sound bite: you can always tame the highs at the amplifier.

    One problem is that pedal quality varies all over the map. Likewise, not all buffers are created equal. I’ve seen buffers advertised which had a level control. That is a clean boost, which can act as a buffer, but a buffer, by definition, is a unity gain device, so a buffer should not have a level control. The signal amplitude of a buffer should be identical at input and output.

    Pedals can be anywhere on the continuum and pedal makers want their pedals leave an impression on the users, so some pedals are deliberately meant to color the timbre, whether that is desired, or not. The term “true bypass” is bandied about, these days, but I don’t know if it means the same thing to every manufacturer. When you see the term “natural” on a food product, do you know what that means? It means whatever the producer of that product wants it to mean. There is no industry-standard definition of “natural”, when it comes to food products.

    Likewise, there is no absolute definition of “true bypass” for audio devices, except that it is supposed to mean no buffer. The problem is, that even is there is a change in impedance when a signal enters a pedal. This is basically inevitable, because unless you knew the impedance of the signal source ahead of time, there is no way that you can match that impedance precisely. However, in the real world, it probably doesn’t matter to that level of precision.

    The only real world recommendation that I’d make is that the patch cord from the guitar to the board should probably connect to a high impedance buffer. This preserves the highs into the beginning of the effects chain and, IMO, is the one place that a buffer is very important. It also makes practical the use of of a long cable from the guitar to the pedalboard. Unless the buffer is absolute junk, this should not hurt anything. The best way to ensure that this buffer is of high quality would be to use a dedicated buffer. I use a Temple Audio BufrMod, but if you are not a TempleBoard user, something like a TrueTone buffer should do the trick. If it has a level knob on it, it’s a preamp, and not a true buffer. If you are going to buy a buffer, look for high input impedance, low output impedance and no controls. Expect to spend $50 - $60 in 2021 dollars.

    Swapping to the other end of the pedalboard, a high quality buffer here shouldn’t hurt anything, but if you have a fairly short cable from the board to the amp, you may not need a buffer at all. Most amps have around 1 Meg Ohm input impedance, so it’s not much of a problem.

    In between is where it gets interesting, and my approach is to add one pedal at a time and see if the signal becomes dull at some point. If it does, the pedal that made the signal dull needs a buffer in front of it. Keep in mind that a properly designed buffer should not boost anything and nothing can recover potions of the signal which are already lost, but a buffer before the point of loss can prevent highs from bleeding to ground via signal patch capacitance. If you have a pedal that is literally always on, it should by nature have a high input impedance and a low output impedance. If this is not the case, and a pedal was draining highs when it was on, I would probably not use that pedal.

    The 1/4” phone jacks we use for high impedance are a solid, reliable form of connection and very reliable. However, any connection imposes impedance on the signal path and can be a source of signal degradation. So, while a buffer, in theory, should not degrade the signal and if you stacked a number of buffers it should not hurt unit signal, but there is a limit to this. Even perfect buffers would suffer losses from the impedance of the connections between them. With any signal chain, buffered, unbuffered or whatever, the greater the depth of the signal chain, the greater potential for losses. My pedalboards have 4 - 5 pedals, and work well. My larger board, the world-famous Swiss Army board, has ten pedals and I have given significant attention to ensuring that the signal was not degraded, by making certain that there are no long stretches without buffers. If I was going to record a solo album, or something of this sort, I would probably build discrete signal paths which used only the effects I intended to use for that song. Actually, more to the point, if I were doing a commercial recording, I would probably track it clean, direct to the recording interface, then re-amp it out through my effects and amplifier, recording a second track post-prod’ and either using that as the final cut, or possibly mixing the pristine direct track with the re-amped track.

    With regard to Boss pedals, I have no complaints. I’ve never had a Boss pedal that was ill-behaved in the signal path. The board I used last night has two Boss pedals and my big pedalboard has five Boss pedals on it, and this board is quit transparent when all of the effects are switched off.
  5. KelvinS1965

    KelvinS1965 Gretschie

    Jan 11, 2019
    Nice review: I very nearly bought a Sugar Drive myself at one point; I must have listened to dozens of comparison videos (on decent headphones) but decided in the end to go for the (very similar looking if not sounding) MXR Timmy instead. I do like their pedals and the Timmy gets used a lot on my set, sometimes stacked with an SL drive.

    I think I saw a post somewhere recently with the Sugar Drive stacked with the Timmy, so maybe it's something I could look at in future? I do have a Wampler Tumnus, so I'm not sure if this is possibly too similar to the Sugar Drive though as I thought they were both Klone types (might be wrong though).

    Regarding the buffering: All my single coil Fenders have an Eric Clapton mid boost fitted, which is on all the time I'm plugged in, even if the mid boost itself is mostly set very low or to zero (I like to use it to fatten the sound a touch). Effectively this puts a buffer straight from my pickups. I only have the Tumnus with an always on buffer, the other pedals have either true bypass or a selector switch. I did a lot of back to back comparisons and seemed to prefer them off rather than having 2-3 always on. I appreciate the comments about the buffer being on when using the pedal, but then the pedal controls allow me to dial the tone/drive to suit my taste already combined with the effect the buffer may or may not add.
  6. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    How would you compare the Timmy to the Sugar Drive?
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