BY DIMITRI SIDERIADIS
One of the best ways to make a distortion pedal stand out in a crowded market is
to give the player more tone-shaping control than your average 3-knob stompbox.
The trick is to enable more tweaking without sacrificing what’s good about the pedal
in the first place. The VHT V-Drive is a
stompbox crammed with goodies, including
a fundamentally unique method of tweaking the V-Drive’s distortion character. And
in doing so, the V-Drive almost turns the
player into a pedal designer by enabling on-the-fly selection of clipping diode configurations—one of the fundamental aspects of
a distortion pedal’s voice.
Driven to Please
The first thing I noticed as I unboxed the
V-Drive was the vast array of knobs. Aside
from the standard Volume, Tone, and
Drive controls, you get a Depth control
that pinpoints the low frequency roll-off
point, a Texture control for dialing in
varying levels of harmonic content, and
the Select knob, which handles diode-type
switching and configuration. The sleeper
in this mix is the voltage control, another
unique feature that cuts or boosts the standard 9V power level.
After grabbing a Les Paul, I went
straight for the Select switch and set it to
position 11, which functions as a clean
boost. With the diodes bypassed, I was
curious to discover just how many little
nasties might be added to my signal. I was
impressed—the pedal was low in noise
and very transparent. With my Champ’s
volume maxed out, the V-Drive’s boost
offered a significant increase in volume
and a slight increase in gain, with increased
high-end clarity. Switching to position 9
and setting the Drive to 5 yielded a slightly
scooped classic overdrive, easily tailored
through the Tone and Depth knobs.
The Texture control
was especially cool on
this setting, and rolling
it back a bit from the
out the sound considerably, moving it from
bristly and biting to
steamy and evil.
Power at your
Things got really interesting when I reached
to the back of the pedal
and started fiddling
with the voltage knob.
Eric Johnson, Duane
Allman, and many
others have sung the
virtues of powering
pedals with drained bat-
teries, and the V-drive
allows you to experi-
ment with this concept.
Dropping the voltage
down slightly gave my
overdrive tone a wetter,
you’re looking for a do-it-all distortion box
with immense tweakability for dirt cheap.
you tend to get lost or distracted with
highly adjustable equipment.
or scan this QR code with a
mobile device to hear audio
clips of this pedal at
warmer quality, while somehow becoming
more visceral. Lowering it all the way down
to 5 volts gave me a strangely cool buzzsaw
sound that was eerie and dark in dropped-D tuning. Even at low voltage, there was
no loss of gain or sustain.
With the Drive knob on 4 and the voltage at a middle setting, I switched to position 3 on the Select control. Suddenly I
had a convincing Trey Anastasio lead tone,
rich with Tube Screamer-like, midrangey
rasp. Juicing up the voltage knob to just
shy of the 16-volt maximum dramatically
increased the treble response and tightness.
And as I increased the Drive and Texture
controls, the tone erupted with awesome
feedback and ringing musical harmonics. The ability of this pedal to simulate
the complexity and sustain of fully saturated tubes is excellent, and I was further
impressed by the fact that it stayed faithful
to the sound of my instrument. Even at
the highest gain settings, the resonant and
open-sounding character of my bolt-on
Peavey Session guitar was distinct.
In total, the V-Drive is a sonically inspiring
tool and its many voices encourage musical
exploration. It’s not only fun and intuitive
from a usability standpoint, but conceptually exciting as well. Knowing you’ve got
the freedom to modify the electronics
under the hood is a great leap forward in
the democratization of tone.