Today we'll be taking a look at the Sparkle Drive from Voodoo Lab! Does it have enough to stand out among the already crowded overdrive effects scene?
First off, if you don't know much about the guys behind the Sparkle Drive MOD, they are pretty well-known for their rugged, reliable and handmade professional electronics that go beyond just effects pedals. Touring and recording musicians from around the world have been using Voodoo Lab gear since the company’s inception in 1986. They continue to add to their success by delivering pure, richly detailed tones that can be heard on some of the biggest stages in rock today! Alright, now that we got that out of the way, let’s check out some of the finer points of the Sparkle Drive MOD Overdrive effects pedal.
The Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive MOD Overdrive
Essentially, this pedal is a modified version of the original Sparkle Drive, hence the MOD, meaning that you get everything from the forbearer but with an added twist, although it’s safe to say that the original was a solid success and made its way into the pedal boards of several famous players due to its versatile features and outstanding impact on tone. Add in three more unique distortion circuits – Lead, Rhythm and High Gain, along with Stock – and you have yourself enough versatility to satisfy almost any ardent tone-freak. Alright, let’s get onto the basics
When the original Sparkle pedal hit the market, it was immediately compared to other similar booster overdrive pedals such as the Ibanez Tube Screamer. Although I never had a problem with the Tube Screamer, I felt it had a very specific sound and although that sound is highly regarded, it reduced the pedal to what I feel was a ‘one-trick-pony’ type of status – perfect if you were in the need of that specific tone but didn’t offer much in the versatility department. With that said, it was the versatility of the original Sparkle pedal that made me jump sides and now that Voodoo Lab has added some extra settings, the breadth of sounds possible with this stompbox hits through the roof.
As far as the physical controls go, they are actually pretty straight forward all things considered. It has a Volume knob, Tone knob, Clean knob and Gain knob. The Volume knob controls the entire output of your signal while the tone knob regulates tone just like they do on your guitar. The Gain knob is where you dial in just the right amount of overdrive. The Clean knob on the other hand is a bit more important in that it gives this pedal the ability to blend any amount of raw, untouched signal with the effects drenched one. You also have the newly added MOD switch in the middle which is where much of the versatility in the pedal resides. This switch lets you choose from four different presets – either Vintage Mode which is essentially the original pedal or three other ‘Mod’ settings (Mod 1-3). In Vintage mode, you get the classic tube-style midrange grind that's great for blues or for boosting your solos. Mod 1 is the Lead circuit with extra gain, a thick and juicy bottom end, and smooth highs that are perfect for single-note melodies. Mod 2 delivers punchy "mid cut" Rhythm tones that are great for chunky rock power chords and funk. Mod 3 gives you the High Gain treatment with articulate highs and an aggressive bottom end.
As far as the build goes, this thing is as solid as a tank! Although I’ve only had mine for about a month, there is barely a scratch on it and definitely feels like it can take a beating. The pedal itself offers true bypass which by now should really be a set standard with stompboxes and although that unfortunately has yet to happen, most of today’s popular pedals tend to offer the feature. And in case you’re not too sure what true bypass is all about, it essentially means that your guitar signal is able to travel through the pedal and to the amp even when the stopmbox is switched off or completely out of juice – a very important feature for those of us who depend on our pedalboards and don’t always carry spare batteries. And just like the rest of Voodoo Lab’s pedals, the Sparkle Drive MOD is hand-built using a 100% clean boost circuit that offers tons of output.
Now when it comes to sound, the single best feature aside from the added Mod switches is this pedal’s ability to expertly mix both clean and overdriven tones to yield very unique tones that with an outstanding spectral range. This means that you can essentially chose whatever blend of raw signal and overdriven signal for a very particular sound. Add to that the very different tonal characters allotted by the four different Mod settings and you have a pedal that screams versatility. Love the grit of the High Gain setting but feel as though it’s a bit muddy? Maybe you feel as though the Rhythm mod needs a bit more attack? Need the sound of a vintage tube amp but with a bit more growl? Or maybe you want a simple but effective clean boost? Not a problem at all. Whether you need more gain, tighter bass response, a more vocal midrange, or a thick and juicy lead tone, the Sparkle Drive MOD gives you the tools to get there. But you’re going to have to mess with this pedal for a good number of hours to begin to have a feel for all entire scope of its range. If you’re the type of person that tends to go more towards a classic vintage sound but with the modern attack of today’s overdrives, this pedal delivers. From Jimi Hendrix to The Strokes, the tones this box can give you will definitely surprise you – although it must be said that those metal heads out there looking for a deep crunch should probably look elsewhere as the Sparkle Drive MOD might be a bit too tame for your taste. Blues and classic rock aficionados on the other hand will love it.
If you’ve been looking for an overdrive pedal that can give your tone amazing clarity regardless of your gain setting than look no further than the Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive MOD. While the clean control allows you to mix your direct signal back in – giving you the ability to create single notes and chords with amazing character and definition – the added MOD switches lets you dial in the several tones from the perfect amount of gain for articulate highs and some aggressive bottom end to a thick and juicy bottom end with smooth highs that are perfect for single-note melodies. All in all, the Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive MOD Overdrive is a stompbox that adds plenty of versatility to your tone that is definitely worth every penny!