Hands-on Review: Maxon RTD800

(John Gorbe | Posted 2011-05-25)

Hands-on Review: Maxon RTD800

Maxon has been creating legendary effects for a long time. When it comes to overdrives and distortions they know them best. I’ve used Maxon pedals in the past and have always been very happy with them but nothing prepared me for what I was about to get myself into with the RTD800.

This unit is more than just a “Dirt” box. It’s actually 4 effect pedals under 1 hood! These aren’t just any effects thrown together either – every function of the RTD800 is designed to compliment the next and is very functional to the player. The pedal offers Overdrive, Distortion, Boost, and a Noise Gate.

Let me cover the details first. The RTD800 employs a real double triode tube, 2 independent circuits for overdrive and distortion, OD/Distortion switch, boost circuit with LED boosts output level by 5 dB, Selectable noise reduction with LED, Gain knob, Master knob, Bass – Mid – Treble knobs, True Bypass Switching using 4PDT mechanical switch and internal trim pot for more boost.

After plugging into the pedal I allowed the tube to warm up for about a minute. The manual recommends this for consistent tone. I flipped the OD/Dist. switch to Overdrive and turned the Gain to 12 o’clock with the Tone knobs flat (also 12:00). I instantly heard a warm, sustained sound pouring from my amp. It’s difficult to describe how pleasing this sound was to my ears but if you think of the creamiest, smoothest overdrive that melts chords into harmonic richness and milks notes for all they’re worth…you’ve got the idea.

I turned the Gain knob to about 3 o’clock and witnessed an incredible lead tone with my neck humbucker activated. I toggled through to my bridge pickup and was floored at the bite and aggressiveness of the pedal. I had to turn the Gain all the way up and sure enough got a TON of dirt! Personally, I don’t require this much grit on my sound so I didn’t even need to touch the Distortion side of this unit but for review purposes I kicked it in.

I turned the Gain down to about 2 o’clock and was borderline Overdrive/Distortion territory. I could tell I hit another gain stage as I struck a power chord. I was experiencing the same amount of warmth and sustain but with another level of gain being unleashed. I turned the Gain to about 12 o’clock and the sound was pure metal. Any hard rock or metal guitarist would relish in this setting, especially with the musical bass, mid and treble knobs. These tone knobs really make a huge difference in your sound although I usually keep them flat with my Minarik Lotus. When using my Strat I might just bump the bass and mids a bit.

Maxon really did a great job with the boost pedal, which is positioned to the left. It provided me with just enough boost to solo with at 5 dB. When activated, the blue LED will stay lit as a reference. There is also a trim pot inside the unit, which can be dialed in at 3 dB up to 9 dB! This was a feature that was really thought through.

Noise Gate
When you have a lot of high gain running through your amp you will suffer the result of noise. Even with a slight overdriven tone you’ll have some amount of hiss. If you’re a tone freak like me and like a clean amp you’ll love the noise gate feature on the RTD800.

There is a switch to turn the NG on and off and a knob to select the threshold. The further the knob is turned clockwise the more the effect is applied. For my taste I like the knob at 3 o’clock. This provides a natural sustain to my notes before cutting the sound off. With a band, this setting is perfect. My amp is clean and free of hiss.

Like the rest of the Vintage line by Maxon, this pedal is housed in cast aluminum that’s professional grade and is made to last a long time! Both footswitches are vintage mechanical style that feels secure under foot. The knobs and mini switches feel very tight and solid as well. Everything about this unit oozes quality. You even get the “wow” factor by staring at the orange glowing tube through the window found on top of the pedal.

The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a great versatile pedal for the rock genre this pedal had everything you need. I don’t know where you’ll find a pedal that sounds this amazing – on top of that you have all the functions you need as a guitarist including a Boost for solos, Noise Gate to tame the noise, Overdrive and a second stage for distortion. You can think of this pedal as adding 3 gain stages to your amp with the overdrive, distortion and boost…simply amazing.

The RTD800 lists for $435.00 USD and is available direct at http://www.godlyke.com

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