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Got my Zendrive: Gain Stage Red and Zendrive comparison

kingsxman

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,879
Suprisingly...my Zendrive arrived from Al only a few months after it was ordered. They must be catching up. I've read so much about the Zen that I figured I'd throw my name in. I was expecting a call maybe this summer.

Anyway, after all the fuss over both these pedals, I was excited to do a side by side comparison. Both pedals have thier camps. What I found is this: They are very similar and you wont go wrong with either! Hows that? But seriously, you can get each pedal to pretty much sound like the other one by playing with the tone and voice nobs.

I tested them with a Strat, Les Paul into a 68 Super Reverb. This is a very initial testing, I'll do more later. I found that overall the GSRed to have a bit differnt kind of midrange. Maybe a bit clearer mids. I thought overall the GSRed was a bit more articulate. Both pedals had that "chirp" that Robben Ford is famous for. The GS Red was much more articulate on the lower register. With tone and voice at Noon, the Zen was a bit muddy on the lower 2 strings. However, bringing tone up to 3:00 it cleaned up really nicely.. but still not the same as GSR.

I really dug the voice and tone controls on the Zen. They offer alot of different tonal colorations. I prefered that over the tone and hard/soft of the GSR. But....the GSR just sounded better. The Zen was a bit "sweeter" though.

Both pedals have their plus's. I havent heard anyone break these 2 pedals down with this comment..but to me...this sums it up: The Zen drive excels on the top 3 strings. The GSR excels on the bottom 3. In other words...if your mainly going to play leads.....the Zendrive may be your pedal or choice. I just found it to be maybe a bit sweeter with leads on the top 3 strings. If your going to be doing alot of chording and rhythm work...the GSR really outshone the Zen becuase of the clarity on the bottom 3 strings. If I had to only pick one...I'd stick with my GSRed because it seems a bit more versital.

I also played through with my Les Paul. Pretty much the same there, although the Zen seemed a bit "thinner" in gain with humbuckers. I preferred the strat sound with the Zen.
 

jb1911

Member
Messages
5,192
This is a very good comparison and one that I agree with 100%. I couldn't find anything that I didn't agree with, even the fact that the Zendrive sounds better with a Strat than with a Les Paul. The GSR is on my board because of it's superiority when chording.
 

RCstudios

Member
Messages
303
i have both of the above pedals. and would completely agree with your comparison. Both of those pedals are great....

RC
 

rob13v

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,498
I've found similar results between the Small Fry & the Zendrive. The ZD sounds better for solos, the SF for rhythms. At least, that's how I use mine.
 

imguitardan

Member
Messages
4,001
I've found similar results between the Small Fry & the Zendrive. The ZD sounds better for solos, the SF for rhythms. At least, that's how I use mine.
How do you dial in your Small Fry to sound like the Zen? I have a SF on the way and my friend has a Zen. Would love to compare them. Sorry for the hijack.:eek:
 

rob13v

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,498
I don't. Haven't even come close. The SF has more bass / low mids (to my ear), the ZD is brighter.
 
Messages
1,910
i dont get that dumbly sound as much when im using my zen strat combination, although it still sounds good, but i do get that chewy tone using my strat and GSR, i can get that classic dumble sound with my GSR using a strat or humbucker guitar so in that way, the GSR is more versatle. The GSR only has 3 knobs so its quicker on the fly to dial a great sound in. I think my Zen sounds great with my LP or 335. The bottom strings on the GSR do sound more dynamic on the GSR. To my ears, the GSR rounds out of mellow outs the top 3 guitar strings where on the Zendrive, the top 3 strings have a slightly brighter E/Q, I agree with you there. If you cant afford a Dumble, get both these pedals and youll always have a rubics cube of Dumble combinations using these two pedals. Both great, just apples and pears, both sweet and good for ya in a different way
 

BillyK

Member
Messages
2,582
I am the Anti-Christ on this topic, and I figured I'd post since I spent months using the Red and Zen side-by-side.

I like the Red, but IMO the very nice tendancy it has to provide that "horn-like" mid focus and sustain which is nice for single-note stuff, is the very characteritic that makes it sound closed, congested in the mids and not very good at chords. I find the Zen is similar in many ways to the Red, but it's more open, I can get that "chirp" that we all like sometimes, but for chords it's harmonically open. I also find the Zen to be more dynamic and way more versatile than the Red, as the Zen's barely-on low gain is to die for, it does not choke chords, and it can do the mid-gain thing much like the Red.

I no longer own the Red, and I've got two Zens (Z2 and original).

So, there's my opposite opinion on just about everything said above. Great that we have so many good choices in pedals, as we obviously hear things very differently!
 

StompBoxBlues

Member
Messages
19,959
Nice review, however the Zendrive more than ANY other pedal, honestly and literally, needs to be reviewed also playing it in a band situation,
this is where it shines like the sun.

I can get great sounds out of it at home, and have several times thought I had dialed some other pedal that is in the same ballpark pretty close to the ZD, but when playing with the band, the ZD outstripped them all, in "polite cut"...meaning it cuts through SO well, but something happens with the sound where it sounds cleaner, nicer, but more compelling as it somehow dovetails into the other instruments frequencies and smoothes out.

I use mine mostly with an american strat, often through a HR DeVille, but also with other Fender and Marshall amps as well as Peavey Classic 30.
 

jb1911

Member
Messages
5,192
Nice review, however the Zendrive more than ANY other pedal, honestly and literally, needs to be reviewed also playing it in a band situation,
this is where it shines like the sun.

I can get great sounds out of it at home, and have several times thought I had dialed some other pedal that is in the same ballpark pretty close to the ZD, but when playing with the band, the ZD outstripped them all, in "polite cut"...meaning it cuts through SO well, but something happens with the sound where it sounds cleaner, nicer, but more compelling as it somehow dovetails into the other instruments frequencies and smoothes out.

I use mine mostly with an american strat, often through a HR DeVille, but also with other Fender and Marshall amps as well as Peavey Classic 30.
Yes this is all true. When the ZD is run with an amp at gigging volumes, it really comes alive and it's a whole different ballgame than at bedroom volumes.

I am gonna add that I don't even like the Dumble sound/tone, I like these two pedals for the chewiness/smoothness.
 

BillyK

Member
Messages
2,582
BK - How do you like the Zens on the lower end when using the neck pickup?
Hey Ron,
The Z1 and Z2 work great with my neck pups, as it has more definition than the Red, or any other pedal I've owned for that matter.

Another Anti-Christ position I have (forgot to include it in my previous post) is that I love the Zens with Strats. I often read Zens only go with HB's. Again, it's a matter of taste. I love the Zens with SC's or HB's. Different vibes, but all good.
 

kingsxman

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,879
Yes this is all true. When the ZD is run with an amp at gigging volumes, it really comes alive and it's a whole different ballgame than at bedroom volumes.

I am gonna add that I don't even like the Dumble sound/tone, I like these two pedals for the chewiness/smoothness.
Most of the Jetter pedals are described as being the same way: need gig volumes to get them to shine. So..I figure its an apples/apples thing.

Except the Jetter gold and purple are supposed to be more bedroom level.
 

kingsxman

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,879
Played more with it last night. Zendrive has great harmonics on the high strings...but still its mushy on the bottom. If I wasnt comparing the two I'd be in love with the Zendrive. I think they each may still have a spot on my pedal board.

I played both through my Lil dawg yesterday also. they both sound just phenominal through that amp. Very thick and full. I wonder what it is about that amp that just gets pedals to sound so thick?
 

kingsxman

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,879
FYI, tried the Zen yesterday with a buddies Peavey Penta (not a bad amp by the way) and the Zen sounded much better. Little more definition on the low end than it had on my Super Reverb. Interesting.
 




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