How does anyone navigate these waters?
The SS has a drop, doesn't have a drop, get an AM 'cause it's modded to not have a drop, which it may not have in the first place.
I am looking into Retrosonic and HBE as well at the moment.
Can't say about a new one off the shelf, but the one I got from Analogman with his mods sounds way better than the black SS I had, and fixes the volume drop that the black one had. I also had a old one I bought used in 87 that sounded great but had a volume drop too. I bought a Maxon AD9 with his mods and that does what it says too. Also, I sent my Boss Tremolo to him for the and his mod fixes that volume drop. He does good work.
i've owned a few MXR's, a russian small stone, and tourboxed a HBE, and to my ears the HBE can't quite get to Small stone's level of depth/swoosh. The HBE, again IMO, is like a very tweakable, top quality MXR 90 (or maybe 100).
i'm reconsidering a small stone, or maybe an HBE. so i'm watching this thread closely......
My Small Stone reissue has a very slight volume drop. Not enough to be an issue. I did have one unit which I received new and didn't have much effect to it (defective). The replacement unit works fine so far. So maybe some reliability issues as well.