Where do I start on this one. This pedal has had a lot of things written about it, recorded about it and maybe a little over the top hyped about it. The 1981 Inventions DRV is a three knob distortion pedal made by a guy named Matt in his garage. He makes them in small batches and they sell out incredibly quickly. This isn’t an altogether interesting or unique story in our current guitar pedal climate – there are a lot of people doing exactly this. However, something about the DRV that has resonated with people a lot more than some other releases. I think this can probably be attributed to the fact that it isn’t marketed as anything genre specific, or even sound specific this is just a drive pedal with three knobs done as well as possible.
I know this pedal has been described as a Rat clone a lot, which even Matt admits is partially true, the pedal was originally intended to be a clone of his 1985 white face Rat, but this pedal doesn’t sound like that so either he didn’t do a very good job on this clone or it evolved into something different. I’m guessing the latter.
The main thing that I’ve found from playing this is that its controls are incredibly powerful. There might only be 3 controls on here but the range within them allows you to make some very drastic changes to the way this pedal sounds. I’ve honestly struggled with this, I feel like the pedal sounds thin at times, or muddy some other times. Within mixes it always tends to shine but I have issues with tracking and feeling like what I’m recording sounds thin or “wrong”. I’m usually not very on the fence about pedals, I tend to either absolutely love them or hate them immediately so this one has baffled me. In order to do this review in somewhat of a coherent way I decided that the best option was to just let the pedal cover most of the ground. There’s going to be a bunch of audio down here so if you’re not interested in hearing this please skip to the end or maybe you’re lost. Either way, good luck!
Moving into this, I recorded a few audio samples using my PRS Swamp Ash Special which I now realize was probably a bad idea because it’s not really single coils and it’s not really humbuckers either, but whatever it’s my favorite guitar and I think it sounds the way a guitar should. These quick little audio clips will showcase the sound of the guitar clean and then have me kicking on the pedal.
Disclosure: I didn’t make the guitar absolutely clean on these, there’s some reverb / compression because I like a demo of what you’d want a guitar to sound like, not a scientific test.
First clip is the neck pickup with the gain set to be rather low. This is how I’ve had the most success with this pedal, as the gain starts to increase the issues that I’ve found seem to become more apparent. I love this tone, it adds a bit of character on top of the guitar signal.
Turning up the gain a bit more, still on the neck pickup. This still has the feel of the dirt signal and the clean being separated a bit, but starts to step away from that as we increase the gain more and more.
Moving onto the bridge pickup, this is the exact same setting as the previous clip but just showing how pickup selection changes this so much. The pedal seems to accentuate the characteristics of the guitar itself.
This is now up to about 70% of the gain this pedal has to offer. Here we start to get into some recording issues where I probably should have run some type of low cut on this, still a solid sound though but very different from a lot of OD pedals available today.
How does it play with others? Taking the same tone as the previous recording I just kicked on the Old Blood Noise Endeavors Rever for some backwards guitar fun. This illustrates pretty well how nicely this pedal plays with others, the dirt is pretty overwhelming but the delays and reverb doesn’t get washed out or anything. This is super useable.
Showing a lead tone on top of a simple loop. This actually was an accident, I recorded this by mistake with the Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl turned on – I think this is my favorite tone of everything showcased here though. The WV really warms up the DRV and takes away some of the shrill top end in a different way than the cut knob on the DRV itself.
This is the same as the above clip essentially (improv lead aside) just without the Warped Vinyl turned on. This shows a bit of how this can sometimes sound a bit thin to my ears. I don’t think I’d use this tone but also its very easy to eq this back to something useable.
This is a really hard one for me. I really like the sounds in these tracks but this pedal is very expensive and really only has a single purpose. I’m not sure that I could justify this since I don’t just absolutely love every single sound coming out of it. It’s a very interesting pedal and I absolutely love the idea of a small independent builder being able to support his family by building just a straightforward really damn solid drive pedal but I don’t think it’s the pedal for me.
Writing this was surprisingly hard since I don’t really have any issues with this pedal and being indifferent somehow comes off as negative, I’m not trying to cut this thing down by any means but I just don’t vibe with it.
More proof of it living within a mix below – little melodic sketch. For more information check out the 1981 Inventions site – sign up for their mailing list to avoid the outrageous pricing on Reverb.