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The Zen­drive has four con­trols: Vol­ume, Gain, Tone, and Voice. Bat­tery access is the old-fashioned way: unscrew the bot­tom of pedal. Oth­er­wise there’s a 9v DC jack below the input jack. For test­ing I used a Michael Kelly 1957 gui­tar, a Telecaster-like design with a flame maple top, Michael Kelly hum­bucker in the neck posi­tion and Sey­mour Dun­can Lit­tle ’59 in the bridge (with coil splits for each pickup), through my Mar­shall DSL50’s clean channel.

The first three knobs do pretty much what you’d expect, although they seem care­fully voiced to never, ever make you suck. The fourth is really fun because it utterly revoices the pedal. Turn all the way to the left and the sound becomes very dark and deep, yet it never looses power. Go all the way to the right and it becomes extremely edgy and cut­ting, with that same hair and grit around the edges that you would expect from a very high-quality valve amp turned up very, very loud. The Zen­drive has a cut­ting upper-midrange poke, and this voic­ing is slightly decep­tive in that it makes you feel like you’re play­ing through more gain than you are, per­haps at louder vol­umes than you are as well. It seems to goose the gui­tar sound in just the right fre­quen­cies to give you that same kind of con­fi­dence in your play­ing that you feel when you’re hid­ing behind a wall of gain, and yet it pre­serves every lit­tle detail and nuance and makes you want to play at your best.

There are some really amaz­ing tones lurk­ing in the extremes of the Tone and Voice ped­als, espe­cially when you max out one and turn the other right down. In other words, if you’ve got the Voice con­trol cranked to its edgi­est, you can soften the cor­ners by turn­ing down the Tone con­trol. Or if you’ve cranked Tone to ten, you can get a smooth, creamy, sunny-sounding solo voice by turn­ing Voice all the way down. There are also var­i­ous ‘sweet spots’ here and there that you’ll find as you explore dif­fer­ent bal­ances of these two con­trols, and some of them are empha­sised more when the gain is lower rather than higher. It’s kind of amaz­ing that a pedal designed with one par­tic­u­lar sound in mind is so very inter­ac­tive and adapt­able, but there it is. And the Zen­drive pumps out enough out­put to work really nicely as a boost push­ing an over­driven amp into distortion.

This is one of those ped­als that rewards you for invest­ing time in it and for lis­ten­ing to it and react­ing to it rather than sim­ply play­ing through it. It’s def­i­nitely one for those who want to be heard rather than play­ers who want to mesh into the musi­cal landscape