BLACK AND GOLD FROM THE DAYS OF OLD
Anyone who has had the pleasure of plugging into a four-hole vintage Marshall knows the age-old secret of bridging the inputs. The yin and yang spicy crunch blend can be seasoned to taste with just two controls. Volume 1 can be dialed in for sizzle and slice, while Volume 2 controls body and heft. This salt and pepper tone dialing experience gives you immediate control of all the essential guitar frequencies, without having to faff about with a troublesome tone stack. It is amazing to me that few pedal companies have managed to can this tasty tone experience in just the right way…until now.
The Marvel Drive from Ramble FX absolutely nails the chime, purr, rumble and roar of our favorite British stacks of yore. It indeed sets the new black and gold standard for the stompbox Plexi. Ramble FX even went so far as to feature a real slab of golden Plexiglas right on the face of the pedal, with period-correct knobs and a red square miniature pilot light to boot. This shows how serious they are about giving us the full authentic experience of listening with our eyes, as well as our ears.
KERRANG IS THE THANG
Using 4 separate JFET gain stages, the Marvel Drive reacts to the player’s touch in much the same way that an all-tube amplifier would. Dig in for dynamic shades of dirt, or clean up with the guitar volume knob. This is the sort of cliché claim that you will find in every overdrive product description, but the Marvel Drive contains none of the op-amps or clipping diodes that can neuter the nuance of the pick attack.
While most Marshall-in-a-box manufacturers are trying to bottle the lightning and thunder of the JCM800, Ramble FX goes for the looser, hairier and more haywire grind of the early-'70s 1987X (at least to my ears). I may be biased slightly hot for my review of this pedal, because this is my absolute favorite guitar amp of all time.
The magic of these non-master volume brutes was that you could almost immediately hit that sweet balance of preamp and power amp breakup and dial in how much body and bite you needed with Volumes 1 and 2. Perhaps the coolest thing about the functionality of the Marvel Drive, is that all the essential controls have been distilled from the old Plexi amps. With just the High Treble, Normal, Master and Presence controls, you can dial in Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, early Judas Priest and Bon Scott-era AC/DC effortlessly. You could even plug in a bass, dime the dual volumes and get fast and loose with some Lemmy Kilmister approved iron horseplay.
What we like: For a mere $159, you get Switchcraft jacks, NOS Fairchild JFETS, metallized polyester film capacitors and Alpha potentiometers, cleanly laid and displayed in a powder coated aluminum enclosure. Even the bypass supersedes the noisy, clunky true-blue standard with a slickly silent relay based true bypass switch. Ramble FX spared no expense on cosmetics or components. The tones are so rich and real, you could put it in front of a cab simulator and commit the dirty deed of amp-less DAW recording, and do it dirt cheap.
Concerns: If you are after super-tight 80s Marshall tone for thrash or hair metal, or need to put a slight scoop on the midrange, this isn’t your box. However, for my money, this gets closer to the vintage Marshall flavor than the original black box Guv’nor or the Box of Rock. You can stick your nine-to-give livin’ with the Marvel Drive…it’s bloody brilliant.