Great River Electronics stalwarts Wes Kuhnley and Peter Bregman have been moonlighting of late, coming up with some promising guitar amp designs as well as a pair of fine guitar pedals. At first glance, the Graviton Boost and Manifold Drive stompboxes seem to be in danger of being variations of already-done-to-death pedals. But after putting these pedals through their paces, I found them to be beautifully crafted, major improvements on "the usual".
To check their fortitude, I took the Manifold Drive and Graviton Boost pedals out on a short Weisstronauts tour, replacing my usual Tube Screamer and Z.Vex Super Hard-On pedals, respectively. Boy, these are both super-easy to use and sound great; the Manifold Drive provides an unusually subtle, creamy drive/sustain with just gain and volume knobs and a three-way dark/bright/flat tone switch. Unlike a lot of Tube Screamer-type overdrive pedals, the Graviton Boost doesn't sound papery and ratty to my ears. It's one of the few I've tried that truly maintains my guitar's natural low-end tone, even when set to "bright". With just a single gain knob and discrete Class A circuitry, the Graviton Boost performs clean boosting chores admirably. But in addition, I found that by setting it to unity gain, it sort of "optimizes" my Telecaster pickups. I'm a big fan of this type of pedal - it's a subtle kind of effect that almost seems like compression and brings extra life out of single-coil pickups. Like its overdrive sibling, the Graviton Boost steers way clear of tinny, harsh tone. On single-note lead lines, my Telecaster cut through the mix, sounding brassy and twangy, not scratchy and plinky.
Both of these pedals are standard MXR-box sized - appealingly compact - and clearly built to last. All the components appeared to be of the highest, heavy-duty quality. They run on 9 volt batteries or by using a DC power supply. I was initially puzzled by the inclusion of a small, 3'' cable adapter that switches the polarity of the DC power input - necessary if the user wants to employ a commonly-available sleeve-positive 9 volt adaptor. The FAQ published on the Resonant Electronic website explains that Wes and Peter settled on a center-positive design because the beefy metal jack they chose for durability reasons can contact the grounded case. In practice, the extra cabling added to my already-crowded pedal board. A couple of times on stage, the bulky cable got jostled and popped out of the pedal, rendering it powerless (and useless). My inelegant solution was a swath of tape, which got me through the rest of the tour's shows. Aside from that, I found Resonant Electronic Design's first two pedals to be first-rate boutique boxes, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. (Graviton $165 MSRP, Manifold $200; www.resonantelectronic.com)