Two thumbs up for the Maple Leaf Royal Drive. This amazing drive/distortion allows for anything from mellow and melodic to a smooth and powerful tone, as demonstrated in the YouTube video below:
What I first noticed is how much lead playing ‘sings’ out with a fabulously organic sound, in large part of Aleks K Production’s pedal building skill and also in part of the Maple Leaf’s guts and the quality of components contained therein. As well, there are a number of factors that make this pedal so versatile when it comes to tone. First, the Low and High EQ are very responsive, although full Low and it does not sound muddy, even when the Drives are up max; as well, full High and you don’t get a brittle treble (do note that his control is both ‘mid’ and ‘high’ as you rotate from one end of the spectrum to the other). Second, there are two Drives that run parallel – you can mix them as you like, or keep one fully off while adjusting the other. Drive 1 is a smooth and hard overdrive, and when up full it sounds pleasantly thick. Drive 2 is a light to medium gain overdrive. When combined you get a very massive distortion that remains clear in the mix (and there is no noise when turned up full – a very quiet pedal indeed!). Third, there’s an Auxiliary High control that adds gain/boost in the high frequencies, which adds bite to one’s lead playing, but also helps to clear up dark pickups.
I’ve gone through quite a few drives and distortions and I have concluded that the Maple Leaf Royal Drive is the best sounding I’ve heard (right up there with the company’s Red Scorpion 2). I base this not only on the quality of the tone produced, but that it offers enough variation in tones to accommodate anything from easy rock to Satriani leads. As impressive as the sound coming from the Royal Drive is how quiet this pedal is at full Drive. Everyone has those ‘standard’ pedals on his or her pedal board, and this pedal has reserved a top spot (alongside the Red Scorpion 2) on mine.
The build quality makes this a true boutique pedal, and I’m surprised not more people know about Aleks K Production. From the pedals paint to the transistors and diodes to the lead-free silver solder for better conductivity, the Maple Leaf Royal Drive is worthy of the name ‘Royal.’ Each pedal is hand-built, numbered, personalized (with your name inside), and then signed and tested by Aleks K himself. No assembly line with this boutique pedal builder.
EASE OF USE
You may have access to a number of tweaking possibilities, but it doesn’t take much to find a great tone no matter the mix. The Low control boosts the bottom end while sounding solid and thick, and definitely not muddy. The High control acts as a regulator between high and middle frequencies (which is different from usual ‘high’ controls). When turned down you get more smooth and thick middle end, and as you turn it up you get more high and less middle. All you have to do is place the Low and High controls at 12-noon and tweak a bit from there for great sound.
This pedal contains two Drives (which helps to make it so diverse in the tones it can produce) that work in parallel and can be mixed in any combination for a host of beautiful tones. Drive 1 is more thick and high-gain (if you want it to be), whereas Drive 2 produces a lighter or medium gain – ideal for soft rock, etc. When combined you can achieve all sorts of flavors, but when both are up full the tone is powerful and thick… yet clear (some drives become too saturated and they sound muddy or messy in the mix).
RELIABILITY & DURABILITY
This steel pedal has a US-made pearlized Violet metallic paint, the Maple Leaf Royal Drive utilizes the best parts in the industry. Backed by a 2-year warranty, it uses a Kobiconn power jack, Switchcraft in/out jacks, an Alpha footswitch, Alpha potentiometers with dust covers, the IC Chip is from Texas Instruments (and you get an extra one in case you mess up the power supply and fry the chip), the transistors and diodes are from Fairchild Semiconductors (USA), the capacitors from Vishay, and there are military-grade resistors from Vishay/Dale. The Royal Drive also boasts Canadian made PCBs with gold/nickel tracks, high quality tinned oxygen free copper wires and lead-free silver solder for better conductivity. As well, all components are RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) certified. The heavy duty aluminum knobs each include two set-screws for a solid hold, and I really like the groves in the knobs to optimize finger control, and they feel good to the touch. Finally, the Maple Leaf Royal Drive can operate on a standard 9V or 12V DC negative tip adapter or a 9V alkaline battery.
Brian Johnston is a guitar gear enthusiast who likes to develop reviews and demo videos on stuff he likes. His YouTube channel is CoolGuitarGear.