BACKGROUND: This pedal is built by Alfonso Hermida, a gear head who wanted nothing more than to work for Electro Harmonix. Tragedy struck and Electro-Harmonix went out of business so Hermida settled for second best: NASA. Retiring from NASA, Hermida set out to create a Robben Ford-tone-in-a-box. His creation: the Mosferatu. As rumor has it, Hermida sent the pedal to Robben Ford and his reaction was “It’s great but it has too much gain.” So Hermida created the Zendrive, which has earned a huge following.
THE AMPS: 1985 Mesa Boogie Mark III and a 65 London.
THE GUITARS: Gibson Custom Classic Les Paul (Silverburst; the color is important because, as everyone knows, silver Les Pauls have more sustain than black Les Pauls) Fender Eric Johnson Sig Strat.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I love that it is silver. I love silver gear, so this pedal has it good with me right away. At first though, it didn’t sit well with me at all. It sounded sterile and lacked character. I felt like I was just putting a blanket on my tone. I think that was because I had only used a tube-driven pedal, I wasn’t used to using a pedal based on circuits and transistors. Once I started getting used to how the pedal worked, I started to become a huge fan.
PROS: This pedal can be hard to make muddy and since I am primarily a Les Paul player this is a strong plus. The Les Paul sounds clear and smooth. The high frequencies are articulate without getting harsh. The low frequencies are tight and perfect for blues and worship players. Metal players, don’t even bother with this one. The EQ is very well rounded; although it leans more on the bright side, no frequency dominates another. It has a beautiful and unique sound “color.” It is no wonder it has such a loyal fan base.
CONS: The voice knob is one very noisy piece of plastic. The more I turned it clockwise the more hum and hiss I got. I didn’t start to really like the pedal until I started to turn the Voice knob all the way down. I have since turned it to 10 o’clock and appear to be finding a sweet spot that way. My thought is that the voice knob should be used sparingly.
Gain is designed to be low on this pedal. At first I felt this pedal had too little gain and thought I would be more happy with the Hermida Distortion or the Mosferatu, but I wanted an overdriven flavor. I then experimented with stacking the Zendrive with a tube screamer. It gave it more saturation without losing it’s original identity which is great for solos or whenever you need to go to eleven.
FINAL IMPRESSION: Quality little pedal with a Dumble flavor (I should confess that I have never actually played a Dumble or heard one live, so perhaps I am completely wrong). It is currently the core of my tone right now. For a Dumble-in-a-box type sound this pedal delivers and deserves the hype.
P.S. I’m working on a post for Monday called “Does Tone Really Come From The Hands?” It promises to be an interesting read. Keep on the look out for it.