“I don’t know that there’s ever been a JHS circuit where we experimented more”: JHS Pedals unveils Hard Drive distortion pedal after eight years of high-gain R&D

JHS Pedals Hard Drive
(Image credit: JHS Pedals)

It has been described by its creator as “mutt” of a distortion pedal, a all original circuit that has been in development for eight years, and it might well offer stiff competition the RAT, DS-1 or ShredMaster on your pedalboard as your high-gain go-to, and it is called the Hard Drive. Meet the new stompbox fresh out of Kansas from JHS Pedals, now available in black or white enclosures.

JHS Pedals supremo Josh Scott describes the Hard Drive as a “passion project” and it is a release that is freighted with a sense of poignancy knowing that it was head engineer Cliff Smith’s final design project before he died in 2021. Scott says the pedal’s design was completed just weeks before Smith passed away.

“I don't know that there’s ever been a JHS circuit where we experimented more,” writes Scott. “It was always a loose and casual approach to getting this right. I knew something great would come of it, so we just let it simmer…Cliff would call the Hard Drive circuit a mutt, and I agree – meaning this circuit is not a clone of anything in particular but rather an original iteration of tons of different inspirations and ideas, kind of like the Colour Box that he and I developed years earlier. ”

As with many a JHS-designed guitar effects pedal, some of those inspirations and ideas came from Scott’s record collection. The goal from the start was to develop a high-gain distortion circuit that could handle the gnarliest electric guitar tones of the ‘90s and 2000s, all that punk, grunge, alt-rock and metal. 

“I have vivid memories of Cliff spending entire weekends and nights tinkering and experimenting with this circuit,” continues Scott. “He would message me notes on the weekend when he got excited about something he stumbled into. This pedal was his hobby for a long time.”

What this all looked like after eight years of R&D is a pedal with cascaded gain stages, a hard limited circuit, and then a class AB amp section offering considerable tone-shaping capabilities courtesy of its “sweepable midrange” EQ and Baxandall Bass and Treble. 

There is a considerable amount of gain on offer, too. This is the heaviest pedal JHS has ever made. It looks like a fun stompbox for high-volume shenanigans. Scott says it is “an honour” to finally release it and realise the ideas that had been percolating on Smith’s breadboard all this time.

The JHS Hard Drive, Our Heaviest Pedal Yet! - YouTube The JHS Hard Drive, Our Heaviest Pedal Yet! - YouTube
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“As a passion project that became a real product through Cliff’s consistent work, I can’t think of a more fitting last release from us as a design team than the Hard Drive,” he says.

You might ask about the “sweepable midrange” EQ and what that involves. Well, in hardware terms, it comprises a pair of dials, one for Mid Frequency, i.e. selecting which midrange frequency you want to adjust, and Middle, to adjust how much of it you want, giving you a lot of control over those battleground frequencies, and whether you want to scoop them or give them a midrange hump.

Checking Out The JHS Hard Drive! - YouTube Checking Out The JHS Hard Drive! - YouTube
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Other controls include Volume and Drive, controlling overall output volume and the amount of distortion in your signal. Other things to note include the top-mounted jacks, the fact that it takes 9V of DC power from a pedalboard power supply, and draws 78mA. It has silent soft switching and a buffered bypass. 

Priced $/£199, the Hard Drive is available now. See JHS Pedals for more details.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.