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Review: MXR Sugar Drive Pedal

Let me get this out of the way—I love the name of this pedal. The MXR Sugar Drive? Are you kidding me? Yes, please! I’ll take two. Maybe three. Just like a spoonful of sugar in my coffee, I can’t get enough of its overdriven sweetness! But wait, I haven’t even told you whether this thing is good or not. Well, then, let’s get right to the point: The MXR Sugar Drive is pure confectionary hard rock and blues in a mini-chassis pedal. It can whip up a full-bodied clean boost to “amp in a box” granulated crunch so refined it might send you into a diabetic coma.

(Image credit: Jim Dunlop)

I’m well aware the Sugar Drive is somewhat of a “Klone” pedal derived from another legendary pedal that rhymes with “Tron.” But honestly, I don’t hear it. While the Sugar Drive possesses the same transparency, I find the pedal to have more in common with vintage JMP Marshalls in its natural overdriven breakup, not to mention a firm low end with cutting midrange.

What makes the Sugar Drive fascinatingly unique is its voltage-doubler circuit found when you turn up the drive control, essentially giving you the high-ceiling headroom and dynamic response of an 18-volt pedal at 9-volt operation.

Rolled counterclockwise, you begin with a stout clean tone, and as you increase drive, the circuit kicks in to blend organic overdrive that has a classic broken-in crunchiness that reminds me of vintage AC/DC. For those who need it, the pedal has a side-mounted toggle switch for buffered or true-bypass operation.

No doubt, the Sugar Drive is smooth in its overdriven and boosted tones, but what’s just as important is that it sounds fantastic when stacked or paired with just about any other overdrive or distortion pedal. Kind of like adding more sugar to your coffee.

STREET PRICE: $119.99
MANUFACTURER: MXR, jimdunlop.com

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Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.