The Em-Drive by Emerson Custom Guitars is a transparent overdrive that has become one of my favorite pedals. I have a lot of overdrive pedals on my board and laying around from makers like Keeley, Walrus Audio, Fulltone and others, but the Em-Drive that I will review here today bests them all for my ears for its versatility, silent operation and incredibly rich overdrive sounds.
The first thing that impressed me about the Em-Drive was how quiet that it operated. I run a Fender John Mayer Signature Strat into a Two Rock Studio Pro 35 through a Morgan Amplification 2×12 cabinet. The pedal was virtually noiseless. Even when it was running in my pedal board chain the operation was silent.
Second, I normally run a Keeley Katana at the beginning of my chain to add a little oomph to the signal. The Em-Drive has changed that. I keep the Em-Drive on almost all the time because of what it adds to my tone. It makes it sound more clear, crisp and punchy. Running the Volume at 9:00 o’clock and the Gain at around 2:00 o’clock gives me a transparent overdrive just at the cusp of breakup. Roll off a little volume on the guitar and you have an incredible clean sound.
The final reason why I like the Ed-Drive is that with very little tweaking I feel like I get three totally different sounds. Like having three pedals on the board. The first is a transparent boost that I just love. The second, with the Gain at 3:00 o’clock is a great dirty overdrive sound and still it is quiet when I am not playing. Roll the Gain to 4:00 o’clock and you get a luscious fuzz tone.
I hooked this pedal up after a gig and had the other guitar players in the band come over and check it out. Within 2 minutes they were both sold and asking me where they could pick one up. One of them usually runs several Keeley modded Tubescreamers, a Bluesdriver and a Fulltone Plim Soul. His happiness with his tone is week-to-week. He is the lead guitar player and plays consistent leads throughout. I feel like he is always fighting knobs to dial in his tone. The second guy runs a Keeley modded Rat and Fulltone OCD. He is the rhythm guitar player and he was able to dial in some great sounds quickly. He has been unhappy with the Rat and loved how easy it was to dial in so many great sounds.
Bottom line on the Em-Drive is it is a must have. This pedal will free up some space on your board and give you access to tone you didn’t know was just laying around. I picked my Em-Drive up at Edmond Music in Edmond, OK, although there was a Prymaxe Vintage card and sticker in the box. I love both of these stores and have bought plenty of gear at each. Edmond Music is my go to shop for Strymon gear and Prymaxe Vintage is where I have purchased my Jackson 2×12 cab and several pedals. Either way, I am beyond excited to have added the Em-Drive to the board and look forward to surprising others with its incredible tone.