04 December 2013

Pedals: Suhr Shiva Drive, Suhr Riot and Xotic SL Drive - First contact


Here we are again, testing new drive pedals. I think I will never end!.
Well, Weehbo effects are absolutely top notch pedals but, I've found them difficult to drive with my needed amount of gain, without compromising their tone or having clear feedback.

To be honest, I was thinking on to get again a Mad Professor Little Green Wonder (which I sold to a friend) for that bluesy sound and, some clearer overdrive for opener and sparkly sound.
For Hi-Gain, I wasn't satisfied with the sound of the Bastard. It's eq'd in some way that sounds veiled to my hearing and, I am not able to dial a cutting EQ without going harsh.

Maybe, all that is my fault or, just because of my gear but, it clearly didn't worked for me so, I went back to the market looking for something else.

For clean overdrive, I've choosed the Jetter Gear Jetdrive, because in my book it seems that will fill that hole. For hi-gain, I wanted to check again the Suhr Riot, even that I remembered that the sound was a tad too much for what I was looking for and, for bluesy overdrive  I was angry to get again the Little Green Wonder, after selling it.

I was surprised seen that Suhr enhanced their Shiba and Riot pedals, this time renamed Reloaded. I've carefully heard some videos and was interested on to try those (so, I could forget the LGW, by now).

In other side, one of the sounds that I love more is the sound of a Marshall 1959 SLP.
The Weehbo JCM Drive goes really close but, once again, it hasn't the amount of gain I need and, as per other users comments, the JVM Drive is not the remedy.
Being familiar with Xotic effects, I saw they were delivering that new SL Drive and, after looking some videos, I thought it worths the try.

Today, those three came and, I had my first contact with them so, that's what I would like to share with you in this article.

I am still pending on receiving the Jetter Jetdrive, which I expect also for this week and, will do a review of such a pedal very soon, also.


Well, I know the picture doesn't makes justice to the nice look of this pedals but, my mobile's cam has serius issues trying to focus a pedal with some shinning metallic logo or part (as the SL) so, sorry.

Those Suhr pedals have the best presentation I've ever seen in a pedal maker. And, I am not talking about the appealing cardboard box, I am talking about how well protected the pedal remains inse the box.
The box has a preformed foam that completely envolves the pedal. Even the box' tap has a preformed foam pad.
Very good job, Suhr !!!.

When you remove the pedal, on the bottom there is a 9V battery, ready to use.
Pedals seem well made and with parts of quality.
No user's manual inside so, you have to go to Suhr' site and download the manual.

The Xotic SL comes in a very unpersonal white carboard box, with just an sticker on one side, identifying brand and pedal. Inside, the pedal is wrapped with paper (do you see the difference?). and, you can find the typical single-sheet user's manual and some advertisings.

While the two Shur pedals are light as helium, the Xotic is heavy as an output transformer.
After removing the battery from inside, the pedal still weights considerablely so, don't be fooled with its size because it's built like a tank.
I always wonder how that Xotic people is able to put so much tone in so little boxes.
While Lovepedal does the same, no Lovepedal of such a size works with a baterry, since they have no room but, Xotic always have room for a battery.


The three have three controls and, the same three: Volume, Drive and Tone.

Volume controls the overall output of the effect and, I've found them as working really nice. I was able to easily get the unitary volume level for each one so, it was easier to stack all them together.

Drive controls the gain or amount of distortion of the effect. All them have a nice range of gain, from subtle to beefy gain. Nice.

While the Tone control has a broad range, I find that in the three cases, the tone is reasonable between 10:00 and 2:00, before or after the tone goes or so muddy or so harsh. But, this will always depend on amp and guitar, at the end.

The two Suhr have a mini-toggle switch to choose between three different voices, that affect to EQ but, also to compression or clipping (more notable in the Shiba).

The SL has 4 internal dip switches to change the content in low, mid-low, mid-high and high frequencies.
I've tested it stock, with factory setting.

The two Shur have an input jack to switch the pedal on and off remotely, depending on the position of the 3-way micro slide switch, beside the DC input jack.


Suhr Shiba Drive Reloaded

I find the Shiba Drive in the ballpark of enhanced Tube Screamers. It goes very close to the best settings of the Wampler Paisley and, even being less versatile than the Little Green Wonder or the Rihno, it sounds plainly awesome.

Not tweakable but, the sound is really good from the beginning and really easy to achieve. There is no need to move highly dependent controls to one and the other side (as in the case of the Wampler). Just a sound, but a good one!.

Weehbo has nothing in the line of TS but, the left voice of the Shiba Drive remembers me the sound of Dumbleish pedals, as the Dumbledore, Zendrive and Euphoria (smooth voice). This position has a clear roll out of highs and a hard compression that tames your attack.

The other two positions are more dynamic and, very specially the middle one (which is the one I am using).

It was very easy to get my wanted sound, while other cryptic pedals drove me crazy during days.

The voice is a tad boxy, as if you were running your amp in a closed back cab but, not muddy.
The sound is rich in harmonics and, goes apparently undefined, because of this but, if you hear the sound carefully, you see that definition note to tone is there, even in open or disonant chords.

While I had issues trying to make the Paisley or the Dumbledore to cut the mix, this pedal cuts it with attitude, from second one.

Stacks really nice with the other two and helps them to go just a spot higher in their gain dial, liquifying solos and increasing the sustain. Pushes other drives really nice.

Suhr Riot Reloaded

To be honest, since most of the videos I see related to this pedal are made shredding or doing metal with drop-d tunings and alike, I thought that probably wouldn't work for me.
But, man, it does!.

Once again, the voice switch allows you to choose one of the three different EQs and clipping levels. To me, the middle position worked the best.

As the Shiba, the foundational voice of this pedal is boxy, as if you were running your amp in a closed back cab but, surprisingly it cuts the mix without issues.

It's very easy to dial liquid sounds and, easy to get pinch harmonics. Overall, the sound is well bodied and, solos are a pleasure.

I had no issues stacking the Shiba or the SL before. Each one gave a different nuance to Riot' sound and, both worked really good, pushing the Riot into a very controlled and musical feedback.
The SL into the Riot sounds more like a Marshall driven  hard, while with the Shiba before the sound is less classy but, incredible good also.

Xotic SL Drive

Well, does it sounds like a Super-Lead?.
Really close, yes and, even if not... who cares?.
Sounds really good, this little monster!

The closer pedal I personally know is the Weehbo JCM Drive but, while I had serious problems trying to dial a nice gain with the JCM Drive, in the Xotic was ridiculous easy.
It sounds awesome alone and with some pedal stacked before or after. No issues.

If I have to find something not so exciting in those pedals, this would be that they don't clean really good.
I needed to roll out the guitar volume practically to mute levels to be able to clean the sound and, even cleaining it, there was always some kind of extra harmonics or clipping.

The SL Drive, with the guitar volume at maximum sounds a tad compressed (over-beefed), compared to the sound that you can get just slightly rolling out the volume one or two numbers on the dial.

Comparatively, Weehbo pedals clean way better. Most of Wampler's also.

Overall, I would say that the sound is less refinated than in Weehbo or Wampler pedals but, I think results are easier to achieve and the three sound very musical and cut the mix so...


Since there are a lot of videos demoing the sound of those pedals and how their controls give you this or the other sound, I've just focused on how these pedals work in my pedalboard.
I've just set up each one with the sound I liked more and, unitary volume level.

The video starts with a couple of free downloadable mp3 tracks, based in a couple of songs of Eric Clapton (Cocaine and Old Love). Specially, the second song has a lot of dynamics and, allows me to try a broader range of picking strengths.

After those couple of backing tracks. I am just testing each pedal, first separately and then one stacked into the other.

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