HAO Rust Driver

One of the simplest pedals of the group, the Rust Driver ($135 retail/street price N/A) has but a Level control and a 3-position mini-toggle with Bright, Normal, and Warm settings. The compact, die-cast aluminum enclosure sports green hammer-finish paint, a status LED, and a 2.1mm jack for use with an external AC adapter (not included). The Rust Driver doesn’t feature a battery hatch, so you’ll need to get out a screwdriver and remove the bottom plate whenever a battery change is required.

In some ways the Rust Driver is like using a good single-channel amp—which isn’t surprising since it’s designed to replicate the sound of a ’60s-era plexi Marshall—and its level control unleashes a steady and predictable amount of grind and accompanying volume as you turn it up. Obviously it’s not the best choice for those who like to wick up the gain and then hold down the signal that hits the amp (or do the opposite and keep the level high while using very little distortion), but its simple controls provide buttery, dynamic distortion that can be easily tailored for optimum re-sponse with humbuckers or single- coils. In Bright mode, it brings out sparkling detail with a Les Paul—switch to the Warm position with the Level control maxed and a Strat’s bridge pickup sounds thick and explosive though a clean amp. The pedal has excellent touch sensitivity and really nails the less-is-more ethos of distortion pedal design.

Kudos: Simple. Excellent amp-style distortion.

Concerns: Can’t do high-gain/ low-volume or low-gain/high-volume tones

Contact: HAO Handbuilt Effects, dist. By Godlyke (866) 2godlyke; godlyke.com