The Horizon Devices Precision Drive delivers a tight and ultra modern tone!
We particularly enjoy doing these tag team reviews – and this is only the second one ever! But as it happens, the fine folks at Horizon Devices didn’t only send me one of these Precision Drives to try and review, but Jörg already owns one of these modern drives himself.
So that’s a perfect opportunity to give you two entirely unique perspectives of the Precision Drive. It is with no doubt one of the most popular drives among young guitarists, particular those who dabble in Djent. Which I do not. But of course it can do other things as well, or can’t it?!
- Attack Knob
- Volume Knob
- Bright Knob
- Drive Knob
- Built-in Adjustable Noise Gate
- Supports 9V Batteries and Power Supplies
Simon: The Precision Drive comes in a galaxy black type finish enclosure with blue lettering. When the pedal is turned on, the LED lights up in blue as well and the same goes for the noise gate button – when the gate does its thing, that is. Looks good!
The back of the pedal features a print of a sort of testimony by Misha Mansoor of Periphery, who was among the main developers of the Precision Drive. I haven’t really seen anything like it on a pedal, but I guess putting Misha’s name on something isn’t gonna hurt sales.
All knobs have a consistent and pleasantly solid resistance to them. The Attack-knob has 6 settings and they click in place without any flimsiness whatsoever. All of the cables I have plugged into the pedal had a snug, solid fit. Nothing to complain here.
If you’ve ever owned an MXR pedal, the Precision Drive should feel immediately familiar, because they are handling the production of all Horizon Devices units. I have an MXR SmartGate and the quality between both units is virtually identical.
Jörg: While I do have a certain kind of respect for Misha Mansoor, do appreciate his tones and really liked the solo stuff he did as “Bulb” back in the days, I certainly didn’t order the Precision Drive for his involvement, because I also don’t dabble in Djent.
But when Horizon Devices was launched and the Precision Drive was announced, it sounded great on paper. A versatile overdrive with an adjustable attack and a built-in noise gate? Built by MXR, a reputable, big player in the industry no less? That’s the stuff that gets a minimalist gear head’s blood flowing.
So in a kinda GAS-y mood I put in my pre-order and was pleasantly surprised to find they didn’t promise too much when I received it a couple of months later. The Precision Drives strengths really lie in the various tones you can get out of it. First and foremost, it’s a very modern overdrive pedal, catered to the needs of modern Metal guitarists, but you can also get juicy crunch tones out of it when you’re feeling a little bluesy. And it looks cool with its bright LEDs and the sparkly, dark housing.
Simon: I have tried the Precision Drive in front of an EVH 5150 III 50W, Omega Iridium as well as my Kemper and personally found its tone shaping capabilities best suited for digital applications. The Attack knob especially sounded a bit too clanky through my tube rigs.
All the other knobs do what you’d expect them to do. If you’re planning on using it like a traditional Tubescreamer, you’d want to crank the volume pretty good and turn the drive all the way down. Play with the Bright knob to taste and leave that Attack knob alone.
It’s worth mentioning that the Precision Drive does go beyond what a Tubescreamer offers. According to Horizon Devices, 1 o’clock on the volume knob is about the same as a maxed out volume knob on a Tubescreamer, so it’s cool you get to push things further.
I feel like the Kemper definitely reacted the best to the Attack knob, but I personally just don’t like what it does. It chokes sustain out of palm mutes and makes them super tight. That might be exactly what you’re looking for, but I find the result too harsh and prefer to leave it all the way off.
The clips I recorded are with the Precision Drive in front of an ERGLabs Kemper profile of a 5150III 50W/Mesa Boogie OS 4×12 rig. It definitely clears up some of the boxy low end of the profile and you can transform the overall tone pretty dramatically.
Here are three examples:
Attack: Off | Volume: 12 o’clock | Bright: 11 o’clock | Drive: Off
Noise Gate: 11 o’clock
Attack: 1 o’clock | Volume: Maxed | Bright: 1 o’clock | Drive: Off
Noise Gate: 1 o’clock
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Jörg: I can’t say whether the Precision Drive just takes a lot more getting used to in front of a “real” amp or if digital solutions like the Kemper or Axe FX are just a tad more forgiving in terms of what boost you run in front of them, but I’m with Simon on this: The Precision Drive clearly plays off its strengths in front of all sorts of digital devices. That’s what Horizon Devices promised when they announced the pedal – and that’s what they delivered.
That doesn’t mean that the pedal doesn’t sound good in front of your good ol’ 6505. Used well, it probably can help to get even the muddiest of amps to be super tight, but it’s not exactly a plug and play solution to fix your shitty tone.
As Simon already mentioned, the amps I tried the Precision Drive in front of didn’t react to the attack knob very well and got honky and unpleasantly shrieky rather quick. You might get away with dialing in the Attack knob at a higher setting in front of a Rectifier, but on an EVH 5150 III or 6534, you’re probably better off keeping it at a lower setting and rely on the Bright knob and the Volume boost instead. Which makes it work a bit more like a traditional Tubescreamer and sounds really nice, clean and transparent.
With that being said, the Attack knob is the pedal’s biggest weakness in my opinion, although the marketing pretty much revolved around it. It’s simply a tad too extreme. In a way, it does the opposite of the loathed 90s bathtub sounds, when mids virtually were nonexistent. Okay, wait a minute… actually it does what it’s supposed to… it makes everything sound more like Djent.
Anyhow, I like the idea of the Attack knob. I just wished it would’ve been executed in a little less extreme way.
Jörg: The practice of boosting a high gain amp with an overdrive pedal to make it sound tighter is – at this point – ancient. I mean hey, we’re even still recreating the tried and true guitar -> OD -> amp -> cab signal chain in digital modeling devices, in our DAWs and even in amp modeling apps on our phones.
Think about it: If we’re being honest, nothing really evolved in this department over the years. Gear heads debate over the best boutique tubescreamer to put in front of their amps and all the while the circuits didn’t really change all that much.
So its great to see small but ambitious companies trying to innovate in this department. And Horizon Devices currently is one of the most forward-thinking ones for sure.
While the most innovative and marketed feature of the pedal is the one thing I don’t completely like, I can appreciate the idea and applaud the guys around Misha Mansoor for pushing limits we kinda imposed on ourselves for decades.
If you’re after the honky, upper mid-heavy signature sounds of djenty bands, you should absolutely check out the Precision Drive. If not, you’re still in for a very good sounding, transparent and somewhat budget friendly overdrive pedal that can also replace your noise gate AND quite literally goes to 11 in the Volume boost department.
Simon: Look, I’m not a Djent guy and basically associate anything designed by or with Misha Mansoor with Djent by default. But despite the fact that I am not a fan, I think that Misha does know how to make stuff sound good.
I have tried his guitars and liked them, I have tried some of his pickups and liked them and after trying the Precision Drive, I can say that it’s a pretty solid unit as well. The Attack knob is where it kind of loses me, but if you just take that out of the equation, you still have a more modern and aggressive drive than a regular Tubescreamer.
It is clearly geared towards young, modern guitarists who are looking for an ultra tight tone, but if you show some restraint, it allows for other applications that work well for most Metal/hi gain tones rather than just Djent.
At any rate, it will clear up some undesirable low end rumble for you. Does that make it a unit you can’t live without? Not necessarily. But if you’re looking to go beyond that – into ultra tight and “djenty” territory – this is probably exactly the pedal for you.