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Review: Emerson EM Drive

Jesse at Rogue Guitar Shop here, and we are proud to bring you the EM Drive by Emerson Custom Guitars.
This is a really unique type of overdrive, known as a “transparent” overdrive. This means it adds gain, but
doesn’t do much coloring of the tone. Thus preserving your guitar and amp’s original tone. Sort of like
adding an additional gain stage to your amp.

This is a very simple to use pedal. You have Volume and Gain controls, it really couldn’t get much
more simple than that. The controls are however highly interactive, which I will get into below. It takes
standard 9v power or 9v battery.

The EM Drive could easily be used in just about any genre or musical situation. Use it as a warm low gain
overdrive for blues or jazz. Use it to boost your amp into light crunch, or boosting it into light crunch with
added gain from the pedal. The whole purpose it sound exactly like your amp, but with added gain. So
the possibilities are near limitless. I notice little to no eq change when engaged, which is part of why it’s
so versatile. Lack of tone controls in this case is a very very good thing. It also works great in front of a
raging high gain tube amp, with the gain cut and the volume boosted. This use will tighten up the amp,
making perfect tones for any sort of metal or rock you desire. The Volume and Gain are highly interactive,
getting different levels of boost and thickness.

At Rogue Guitar Shop, we have a lot of overdrive pedals, so we’ve just about seen it all. It takes a very
special overdrive to be taken notice to around here. When we heard Emerson Custom Guitars was working
on one, we couldn’t help but be interested. Especially after hearing it was supposed to be a “transparent”
overdrive. Upon plugging it in, we were pleasantly surprised to hear no mid hump, no cut low end, and
no weird spikey added treble like many other overdrives. This truly exemplifies the descriptive term
of “transparent” overdrive. I’ve got a lot of use out of this so far, which says a lot about it. Because I
personally am very picky about what an overdrive does to my sound. This is a low to medium gain OD,
but don’t let that fool you. It has a pretty decent amount of gain on tap. I start with the gain low and
volume set rather high. Effectively boosting my signal into sweet tube crunch. I back the volume off a bit,
a little past unity volume, and turn up the gain to around 9:00. This is when the pedal’s gain really starts
to creep in. A little higher around 11:00, we get a nice sweet low gain OD. Perfect for blues, country, or
anything in that gain range. At 12:00 or a little higher, you really start to notice the pedal’s gain kicking
in. 3:00 to all the way up, the pedal of course gets gainier. But you don’t lose any of the touch sensitive
feel that you get with lower gain settings. It surely doesn’t get to metal territory, but at max you do have
a rather decent amount of gain for classic rock or straight up rock n’ roll. The grind this produces is as
amp-like as I’ve ever heard from a pedal. Lack of pedal tone controls makes it especially responsive to
the amp’s own EQ and tone controls. Need more mids? Simply roll up the mids on your amp. I was most
impressed with how it can take a cooking amp to beyond the stratosphere. Since the pedal’s clipping is so
amp-like, unlike most overdrives it doesn’t even sound weird if you add some gain from the pedal, when
you do this. Added noise from this use is also much less than expected. Though it was designed to get
your amp to similar to cranked sounds at a low volume, it operates very effectively at high volume. I was
able to dial in very Death Metal sounding tones on my amp cranked, with this bad boy boosting it.

Final Verdict:
I highly enjoyed using this pedal over the time we’ve had it. I rated it an 8 out of 10 because some might
find the lack of tone controls to be a problem. Though as stated above, I found this to be liberating, as
you’ll spend less time dialing in your EQ and more time spent playing! If this sounds like something you
could use, chat with us here at Rogue Guitar Shop and get the best price and service in the business!

Rating:  8/10

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