I know tons of guitarists these days that often do shows requiring a plane flight, and their rigs must fit in their checked and/or carry-on luggage. And, whether you travel a few miles or across the country, there’s always the hassle of back-lined gigs where the provided amp is simply crap. How do you keep your head from exploding and your tone from sucking?
A bevy of excellent “fly rigs” now exist from many manufacturers, but one of the most clandestine and absolutely bulletproof is the JDX Direct-Drive ($199 street). Just the size of a conventional stompbox, the Direct-Drive can fit in a gig bag—or even a coat pocket—and it offers three amp/speaker emulations (a Fender Twin, a Marshall JCM half-stack, and a 4x12 cabinet miked with a Shure SM57), a Presence switch, Polarity and Ground switches for the XLR balanced output, a tuner jack, an unbalanced 1/4" output, and an unbalanced 1/4" Thru output that bypasses the amp emulations. If you have more room in your flight bag, you can even plug pedals right into the Direct-Drive as if it were your favorite amp.
The JDX 4x12 and Stack emulations are spot-on. A little ambience from your soundperson (or recording engineer if you’re using the Direct-Drive with a DAW), and it’ll sound like tube-amp wonderland. The Combo setting sounded less like a Fender Twin, and more like a transparent direct-guitar sound through a good studio preamp, but it gets the job done. The Direct-Drive is a fantastic tool for fly dates, studio sessions, and impromptu gigs where you can’t grab your rig. It’s also a Savior Machine, because if my amp ever goes down for whatever reason, I’m going to be thankful the Direct-Drive can be plugged right in to save the show.
KUDOS Super portable. Great stack sounds. Rugged and road ready. Good output options.
CONCERNS Combo sound a bit too clean.