II has found a home on my pedalboard.
With a drive that ranges from mild to moderate, it provides a good
â€˜zingâ€™ to clean channels, so that you have something between clean and
far, so good, and the quality of the drive is excellent with its mild grain
that also has a hint of smoothness and warmth in its character. When it comes to dirty channels, particularly
those dark in quality (or perhaps a tad muddy, particularly when combined with
speakers or guitar pickups that are on the dark side), Val Drive II is
incredible sounding. It not only adds a
bit extra hair to the dirt, but it clears the signal so that it cuts through
the mix even better. That may sound
redundant, in that it adds dirt and clears up the signal, but thatâ€™s exactly
what it does, and without sounding trebly.
In one sense it has a slight treble booster character in how it gives
that perky spark or clarity to a guitar tone, yet its effect is more robust throughout
the entire EQ spectrum. Interestingly,
the Tone knob sounds very different (in scope) on my clean vs. dirty amp
channels. On the clean channels you get
a lot of bass or a lot of treble while dialing all the way back or
forward. Conversely, on my dirty
channels the entire EQ spectrum on the pedal is usable without sounding like
thereâ€™s too much bass or too much treble.
Iâ€™m uncertain why the Tone knob behaves differently in different
instances, but itâ€™s easy to dial in a good sound regardless.
A standard sized pedal, Val Drive II measures 113 mm
(L) x 67mm (W) x 48mm (H) or 4.4 x 2.5 x 1.88 inches, and weighs 230g/8oz. The heavy-duty metal chassis is powder coated
dark blue on sides and underneath with multiple colored graphics on top (of a
womanâ€™s faceâ€¦ it must be Val), white lettering and purple knobs. The three knobs (Level, Drive and Tone) are
heavy plastic and will withstand normal use and abuse. All
knobs have exceptional quality pots (smooth
and very solid when turned without any static or noise). The footswitch (on/off) produces a solid
click when engaged or disengaged without any unusual popping or noise. The chassis is a Hammond 1590B aluminum case
that provides shielding of the electronic card.
As well, Val Drive II also includes high-end audio components (carbon
resistors and Panasonic, Wima and Silver Mica capacitors), true-bypass Neutrik
jacks, Alpha 16mm faders, and is protected against overvoltage and reverse
polarity. The cable input/output and
power supply all are located along the sides, and so some modest care is to be
taken when used (to prevent foot slippage and possible chord input/output/power
output damage). Val Drive II does not
run on batteries and requires a 9VDC power supply.
Based on the
legendary sound of the JRC4558, Val Drive II has an asymmetrically clipping circuit
with silicon diodes on one side and a silicon diode in series with germanium
diode on the opposite side (giving it a more modern vibe). The JRC4558 integrated circuit was designed
by the Japan Radio Company and has been used in a number of famous effects,
including the Orange Squeezer, DOD YJM 30, Boss OD1 and the Tube Screamer. Val Drive II carries on that tradition as it
merges incredibly well with other pedals and preamps by respecting their
nuances â€“ in sum, itâ€™s like youâ€™re hot-rodding gear without losing the
characteristics of that gear. What you
hear is a clean channel with warm, crunchy attitude while a dirty channel perks
up and cuts through the mix like never before.
Doc Music Station, the creator of the Val Drive II, also suggests that
this pedal works very well with bass (up to 5 strings) â€“ its smoothness and
signal improvement certainly suggests as much.
$139 Euro makes this pedal a great buy.
Even up full on a clean
channel you would be pleasantly surprised as to how smooth and natural the Val
Drive II sounds (being a low to moderate gain pedal). It adds a warm grain with some headroom when
on low (e.g., 10-oâ€™clock) with a very acceptable drive and modest breaking up
quality when up full. Obviously the
cleaner the amp the more you can crank the Drive, which also depends whether
you want to add some glassiness to your tone versus making it more of a
crunch. With a dirty channel the Val
Drive II shines incredibly well, although how much Drive you want will depend
on how nasty your dirt channel is (or how much nastier you want it), and for
the most part Iâ€™ve been keeping it at 10-oâ€™clock, which seems to enhance the
dirt channels on my Victory V4 Preamps (I have all three, The Countess, The
Sheriff and The Kraken) in a positive way with no added saturation (in fact,
the preamps sound even clearer and cutting edge). As for the Tone knob, you can get a lot of
bass or treble for those clean channels, but with dirt channels (as least with
my gear) the signal becomes more pronounced on the high end that I keep the
Tone knob on the Val Drive II dialed back to about 9-oâ€™clockâ€¦ and on The Kraken
(which has a more harsh tone) I dial back the Tone knob all the way to full
bass. Iâ€™m surprised I had to do this
since on a clean channel dialing all the way back made the tone sound dark and
Brian Johnston is a guitar gear
enthusiast who likes to develop reviews and demo videos on stuff he likes. His YouTube channel is CoolGuitarGear.