RimRock Effects is a small, boutique pedal maker that’s also a GuitarMoose partner.
I’m a big fan of the GuitarMoose Stickygrip picks, so I was excited to look at both their PT Drive distortion pedal.
This is our full review of the PT Drive.
Places to Buy the PT Drive
The PT Drive distortion pedal retails for $130, both from GuitarMoose and direct from the RimRock website.
We’ll look at features on the PT Drive and resulting sound quality to give you a sense of the pedal’s value and to pin down an ideal buyer’s situation.
At a glance, the PT Drive is a classic circuit distortion pedal with a shortlist of heavy modifications giving you tone profile that's similar to a vintage overdrive fuzz with more tone customization options.
Those options are the following:
- Volume Knob
- Tone Knob
- Gain or “Drive” Knob
- Clipping Switch (3 positions)
- Contour Switch (3 positions)
The three knobs are your baseline standard for distortion pedal controls.
Your volume knob on the PT Drive is really sensitive and almost seems to have a distinct swell when you go past 20% or so.
With the volume higher, I noticed a little more bite than I typically like with my distortion, so I marked the ideal spot with a dry-erase marker:
My "sweet spot" for the volume control. | View Larger Image
If you don’t want to limit volume, you can use the drive knob to cut down on the edge of the pedal when the volume knob is up.
All these adjustments will depend on your rig and what volume you prefer to play at.
Despite some definite edge to the distortion, the pedal’s default tone is warm, similar to an over-driven tube amp.
It’s not what I would consider “metal” or modern.
Think vintage rock and lighter-distortion with a lot of bluesy, almost fuzz-like tones.
RimRock Effects PT Drive Tone Specifics
It’s almost as though someone took the Boss Blues Driver and crossed it with a classic Fuzz Face pedal, like the one Jimi Hendrix used.
The result is a dirty blues sound, that still manages to retain a smoothness to it.
Tone-shaping via the drive and tone knobs is responsive, if not predictable.
Drive adds a thicker layers of fuzz or distortion to the signal, while the tone knob allows you to adjust the sharpness.
Cutting the tone knob down emphasizes bass while pushing it up emphasizes treble.
I found that pushing the tone knob high quickly became too piercing, while the lower cuts added a nice balance. In most cases, I just kept this knob at 12 o’clock.
As I mentioned, this is not what I would consider a heavy distortion.
Even with the drive knob cut all the way up, the tone still has a vintage feel.
You get more gain and not necessarily thickness, which is more suitable for blues, funk and classic rock players rather than modern metal guitarists.
However, the pedal does work well with other distortions and can easily be used as a boost for an amp’s dirty channel, or even another distortion pedal.
This is where the clipping and contour switch might really come in handy, as means for added tone-shaping.
So it’s not metal but, it’s also not trying to be.
Knowing the intended niche and genre of the box is important for prospective buyers.
The Clipping Switch
As you get into the pedal’s unique tone-shaping features, the clipping switch is our first stop.
The switch is located on the left side of the pedal with a waveform graphic beneath it:
The clipping switch has three positions:
- Up: LED Clipping
- Middle: Off (No clippers in the signal path, however the circuit will still clip when the gain is turned up.)
- Down: NOS Telefunken OA126 (Germanian based clipping diodes)
With the switch in the up position it sounds like you’re adding another layer of fuzz to the signal, similar to having the drive knob turned all the way up.
In the down position you’ll notice a drop in volume which I believe is because of the diodes used.
This creates a thicker bass-leaning fuzz that almost sounds like an octave fuzz box.
Both settings give the pedal a unique sound that you don’t really expect after exploring the traditional capabilities of the three-band EQ.
I also liked how the fuzz tones sounded messy while still preserving the integrity and definition of my clean tone.
It sounded like my amp and had a distinct analog feel, more like a tube amp than a digital circuit.
The Contour Switch
Like the clipping switch, the contour switch has three settings.
Per the user’s manual, they are the following:
- Neutral - No color to the circuit’s base tone
- Bright - Dark amps and/or pickups
- Dark - Bright amps and/or pickups
Compared to the clipping switch, the impact of these three modes is more subtle.
It’s also a bit hard to tell which direction is dark and which one is bright, since the pedal’s switches aren’t labeled. Having both switches labeled would be a nice way to improve the user experience, as I found the actual settings a bit difficult to decipher.
I’m fairly certain the up-position is for darker amps, while the down position is meant for brighter amps.
Since I have a darker tone coming out of my rig, I found the bright-position (intended to brighten darker amps) to be the more amicable setting.
In most cases, I left the contour switch in the middle position (no color added) relying instead on the other options to shape the PT Drive’s tone.
Construction and Aesthetics
Like most boutique and hand-made pedals, the box itself is solid steel and feels like a brick when you pick it up. It’s not heavy though and is actually quite small, as it took up less space on my pedalboard than a typical Boss pedal.
It’s built similarly to the MXR stompboxes, with a small, rectangular metal chasis and the single-button engage switch.
Even the knobs and tone switches feel really solid and strong.
The green paint has a yellowish glow and a sparkle that comes out when the light hits it directly.
Input and output jacks are located low, near the bottom of the box, which I didn’t like since it made the process of lining it up via pedal couplers a lot more difficult.
Location of the i/o jacks on the RimRock Effects PT Drive. | View Larger Image
I ended up using two angled Hosa cables on either side to test the PT Drive while it sat on top of my wah pedal. In most cases, a shorter cable would be the best solution for pedalboard inclusion.
Overall, it’s an extremely solid, well-built and attractive box that feels good in your hands.
If not for the placement of the jacks and the mysterious omission of labels on both switches, it’d score a perfect 10 in the construction/aesthetics category.
Price and Value of the RimRock Effects PT Drive
There’s some novelty to be had with a lesser-known, handmade stompbox.
At the same time, a $130 price tag for a distortion pedal is tough to swallow, especially when you can get others for under $50.
However, there are some distinct advantages that the PT Drive brings to the table.
Those advantages are what should really matter to you if you’re going to get value out of this purchase.
#1: The Clipping and Contour Switches
These are the two most visible features that set the pedal apart from say, the Boss DS-1 or Blues Driver distortions.
For some, the added control won’t matter as much while others might be really taken by it.
Deciding how you feel about these two features will say a lot about how much you’ll get out of the PT Drive.
#2: The Vintage Factor
As I’ve been emphasizing, the real draw of this pedal is the fact that it fits so well within the classic rock and heavy blues genres.
Those who are looking for a distortion that can hang with those styles have a nearly ideal solution in the PT Drive.
#3: Clean Tone Preservation
While I only have my rig as an example, the PT Drive did a great job of preserving my clean tone. Most distortion effects that don’t come from an amplifier are prone to cover and muddy tone, especially when you’re dealing with a fuzz-style overdrive.
I can’t explain exactly how, but the PT Drive didn’t do that.
Paying for onemeans you’ll keep the definition and integrity of your amplifier front and center.
It’s clear that the PT Drive is not for everyone but, still accomplishes what it sets out to do.
Additional controls, a classic rock vibe and the happy marriage of high gain with your amplifier’s clean tone sets the PT Drive above many similar distortion pedals, making it an ideal fit for the blues and classic rock-leaning players.
A few downsides I want to summarize:
Cosmetic complaints include the I/O placement and guess-work involved with the clipping and contour switches (no position indicators).
Further, in an otherwise beautiful tone situation, the volume swells and harshness of the higher EQ limited the pedal’s usefulness and proved to be somewhat problematic.
But at worst, the setbacks are minor, doing little to distract from the focused mission and pristine sound quality offered by the PT Drive.
Buyers get a solidly-built, well-designed blues distortion that caters perfectly to its intended niche.
It proves that boutique, hand-made stompboxes can offer a significant quality boost and stand out, even in the congested distortion pedal market.
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