Durham Electronics Sex Drive Pedal Review

To begin with, the Durahm Electronics Sex Drive is a transparent boost pedal.  This pedal is very simple and user friendly with just 3 knobs and a toggle switch.  To dial in a preferred sound, I can control gain, output level, and the tone of the pedal.  Gain controls the saturation of the drive output of the pedal, as the knob is turned clockwise, gain is increased; level controls the overall output volume, and the tone adds/removes bass or treble to the sound, 12 o'clock being a neutral setting on the tone control.  Something unique about this pedal is its 3 stages of built-in compression - compression bypassed, as well as soft and hard compression settings, all at the flip of a toggle switch.  The pedal is not true bypass; all of the pedals in the Durham line are built with line buffers, which can actually help to improve signal loss over long cable runs.  I had the opportunity to hook this pedal up to an amp when we got our first shipment and I'd like to go over what I noticed.

    What first got my attention when I engaged the Sex Drive was the transparency of the pedal.  This thing really maintained the original tone of the amp I was playing through, only adding more sustain, gain and level as I allowed.  I was immediately impressed with how natural the pedal sounded and felt as I played, even when switching guitars.  At this point, I asked Brian and John, two of my co-workers, to join in the fun and we tried a Les Paul, a Tele, and a couple of Strats, each through a Dr. Z Maz 18 Non-Reverb 2x10 and all sounded great.

    When using a Les Paul, we really heard how well this pedal works when the amp is on the verge of overdriving.  It helps to push the sound right up to the edge and hold it there, maintaining the warmth and sustain of a tube amp just beginning to break up.  If I increased the gain, the pedal even shined as a moderate overdrive, getting a bit meaner,  and taking the amp past the break up point; the sounds being very punchy and natural.  With a Tele, we noticed that characteristic "honk" of a Telecaster is still apparent and the pedal increased the biting and cutting sound, with all the punch of a Tele.  The biggest surprise was how well it responded to a Strat.  In my playing, it has been hard to find a pedal to use as a mild overdrive or boost with a Strat and not have your original sound messed up.  Some have added too much gain, some drop the low end and become too nasally, some even blow up the bass.  The Fulltone Fulldrive 2 has been a favorite overdrive of mine for some time now and I will always own one (I love how this pedal works with humbuckers or even P-90's), but there have been times when using a Strat that I wanted more drive and sustain with no coloration at all to the original sound.  As soon as we engaged the Sex Drive with a Strat, I knew this was a pedal I wanted to add to my board.  The only thing that changed from the bypassed sound and the effected sound was for the better.  It sounded like the amp was being cranked up, not that a pedal was in the signal path, which is what makes this pedal so attractive.  The tone knob came into great use here.  Rolling it back really added warmth to the lower notes of the Strat and full chords sounded really rich.  Increasing the tone added a bit more snap to chords and more cut to single notes.  The bass tones were never "blown up" and the treble was never annoying or nasal sounding.

    Even the compression works great with this pedal.  The bypassed and soft setting were the most natural sounding, the soft setting helped to even everything out a bit and when switched to the hard compression setting, the pedal was still smooth and transparent.  It seems like the compression comes in handy when increasing the gain of the pedal, keeping the sound controlled and even.  I prefer a more wide open sound myself, so I liked the soft and bypassed compressions the most.

    One thing that needs to be pressed is how natural this pedal is.  Before deciding if this pedal is for you, consider the amp you are using and what you are wanting out of a boost pedal.  If you are playing through an amp with lots of headroom like a Fender Twin, you are going to maintain that ultra clean sound.  This pedal would drive the amp very little and would work as more of a clean boost, still providing great tones and more sustain.  If you're playing through a lower wattage master volume amp, like a Vox AC15 or a Dr. Z Maz 18, this pedal will drive the amp harder, and not only work as a great boost but as a low to moderate gain overdrive as well.

    In short, I can see why this pedal is so popular and why many are calling it the most transparent boost pedal on the market today.

Josh Bates
Humbucker Music