Back in SOS May 2019, David Greeves reviewed Origin Effects' RevivalDrive pedal in some detail, and that depth was certainly justified — the RevivalDrive isn't just another case of combining gain and clipping diodes; rather, it recreates the complete signal path of a traditional valve amplifier using discrete solid-state components to emulate both valve and silicon rectifier channels. I know that both Tech 21 and Neunaber have tried similar topographies, but it is still a rare approach when it comes to drive pedals. Without a doubt, the Revival Drive is a wonderful and versatile pedal, but with a price tag higher than that of the amp I'd normally plug it into, it's not for the faint hearted! Fortunately, then, Origin Effects have distilled the essential features of the RevivalDrive into a single-channel version called the RevivalDrive Compact, and they've given it a rectifier characteristic somewhere between silicon and valve.
Defining the perfect overdrive pedal is tricky, as guitar overdrive is a symbiosis of guitar, pedal and amplifier. So it's not possible to design a one-size-fits all solution without incorporating some serious tweakability — and though this pedal is more streamlined than the original RevivalDrive, we certainly have tweakability here, and it's plain to see that plenty of thought has gone into the design of this pedal.
The I/O and power jacks (a standard 9V PSU is needed) are at the rear of the steel enclosure, which is handy for pedalboard layouts. On the top row of controls we have Output volume, Highs and Gain. Highs distils the original pedal's three preamp voicing modes to a single control, which you turn clockwise to go brighter. On the second row are Blend and Lows, and a knob labelled More to the left of centre and Pres to the right. Blend mixes in some of the un-distorted sound, to help maintain note definition in an extremely natural-sounding way. Lows affects the signal feeding into the drive stages, with lower settings leaning towards a Vox-type drive character and higher values taking on more of a Fender tonality. Somewhere in the middle is UK rock. The More/Pres knob controls the amount of negative feedback around the power amp, which on many classic valve amp designs includes the output transformer in the feedback loop. Anticlockwise from centre reduces the negative feedback, providing a lively sound with a smooth transition into distortion. Turn it clockwise and you get the effect of a Presence control, produced in valve amplifiers by making the negative feedback frequency selective to help lift the highs. Left set at midway, this delivers good balance of drive and touch responsiveness. The detail in the modelling of the power-stage behaviour contributes to the comfortable playing feel of this pedal, not just its sound, and it delivers a real sense of low-end weight that many pedals seem to lose.
The detail in the modelling of the power-stage behaviour contributes to the comfortable playing feel of this pedal, not just its sound, and it delivers a real sense of low-end weight that many pedals seem to lose.
Now we come to that three-way toggle switch, which offers three different post–drive EQ profiles: two for use with a guitar amp, and one designed for amp-less DI recording in conjunction with a speaker emulator (hardware or software). EQ 1 is designed to fatten up the sound of amps that have a naturally bright sound, while EQ 2 can be used to brighten an amp that leans towards a warmer sound. Further tonal adjustment is provided by the preset to the right of the switch, which can be turned using fingers or a guitar pick. The manual suggests this affects the way the highs sound, but I also found that higher settings really warmed up the low end, making the tone-shaping section very flexible.
The drive available here ranges from virtually clean to a nice bluesy sustain, and if you have a guitar with powerful humbuckers you can also move into classic rock territory. However this is not a high-gain pedal — it behaves more like a pushed amplifier. The EQ1 and EQ2 voicings are a big help when it comes to making the pedal match your guitar pickup type and your amp voicing, and overall the feel is very touch-responsive. I also found that the RevivalDrive paired nicely with other low-gain overdrives; I placed one before it just to add a little more gain for my Strat and it worked a treat, pushing me well into classic territory without sacrificing tone. Another pleasant surprise was using the DI setting in conjunction with my DAW's cabinet simulators, as I was able to get a wide range of amp tones just by switching speaker/mic emulations. In fact I found this to be one of the most practical DI solutions I've tried, and it proved far easier to dial in a good sound than wrestling with a multi-parameter modelling solution. Even this Compact version is not what you'd call inexpensive, but the price is justifiable; this is certainly one of the most flexible and musically appealing drive pedals I've tried to date.