Ashdown Pro-FX Retro Drive: What is it?
Officially titled the ‘Pro-FX 9 volt range’ by virtue of the pedals’ preferred power supply, the Pro-FX range was designed in the UK by Ashdown Engineering’s resident electronics whizz Dave Green, whose name you might recognise from Dr Green fame.
There are six in the series, each with a similarly rugged build and aesthetic. Three are voiced specifically with bass in mind, three for electric guitar – the Pro-FX Two-Band Boost, Pro-FX Vintage Fuzz, and Pro-FX Retro Drive.
All come with top-mounted jacks to allow for fastidious pedalboard curation, and steel enclosures with anodised fascias and rubber feet. While the price might suggest a budget build – or at least budget-conscious, as there are always cheap alternatives to boutique classics – the truth is, these are really well put together, and ready to assume their place on your touring ‘board. Ashdown has used Neutrik jack sockets throughout.
It might not surprise you, given its name, but the Retro Drive is an overdrive pedal voiced specifically like a vintage guitar amp – in this case, one with a British voicing. The format couldn’t be much more simple, with controls for Output, Gain and Tone, all doing exactly what they promise.
Ashdown Pro-FX Retro Drive: Performance and verdict
The Retro Drive is designed to get the best out of your amplifier. For some, that would suggest that it can be run as a boost, but that’s not really what Ashdown has in mind here. With the Gain dial set at zero, unity gain can be found on the Output knob at three o’clock, giving you three hours on pedal dial time to give your signal a bump.
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But what the Retro Drive lacks by way of clean boost it makes up for in its range of drive sounds. You can dial in subtle breakup that’s really just adding a bit of heat to your sound, and as you add in more gain, the Retro Drive performs much as an old amp might.
As you turn the dial, that grit becomes more pronounced, a little less sober, and can get down and dirty with Output and Gain maxed out. It’s a harmonically rich and musical sound, especially when pushing an already overdriven amp.
Perhaps, if it could talk, your amplifier might thank you for introducing it. And if said amplifier is a single-channel design, the Retro Drive could give you the option of a crunch channel. It will shade your sound with that NMV Brit amp flavour but that is not always a bad thing. Indeed, it can make all the difference. It might well be the missing ingredient.
MusicRadar verdict: Amp-like and amp-friendly, the Retro Drive is a modestly priced solution for adding vintage hot sauce overdrive to your tone.
Ashdown Pro-FX Retro Drive: The web says
“The Gain knob takes you through all shades of driven amp crunch through to the full-on raunchiness and harmonics reminiscent of a vintage non-master volume Brit amp with its volume knob maxed… A very decent drive and price: this vintage amp flavour won’t bust your budget.”
Guitarist (opens in new tab)
Ashdown Pro-FX Series: Hands-on Demos
Ashdown Pro-FX Retro Drive: Specifications
- ORIGIN: China
- TYPE: Drive pedal
- FEATURES: True Bypass
- CONTROLS: Bypass footswitch, Gain, Output, Tone,
- CONNECTIONS: Standard input, standard output,
- POWER: 9V DC adaptor (not supplied) 50mA
- DIMENSIONS: 873 (w) x 112 (d) x 58mm (h)
- CONTACT: Ashdown Engineering (opens in new tab)