Xotic Effects SL Drive Review – Best Marshall Super Lead/Bass Pedal?

Reviewed by:
On August 28, 2013
Last modified:October 6, 2016



There have been countless effects pedal makers over the years seeking to emulate the sought-after tones of the legendary Marshall Super Lead and Super Bass amp heads. And now after the runaway success of the EP Booster and SP Compressor, guitar pedals inspired by the Echoplex EP-3 preamp and famed Ross Guitar Compressor, respectively, Xotic Effects have decided to tackle these holy grails of guitar tone with the brand new Xotic Effects SL Drive. Is this the best Marshall Super Lead/Bass pedal available? You’ll find out in our Xotic Effects SL Drive review.

The Marshall Super Lead and Super Bass amp heads need no introduction as they just might be the most famous guitar amplifiers ever made. Look up Marshall 1959, Super Lead, Super Bass, and Plexi for a history lesson about why this amp is so famous and the tone so sought-after. Legendary players such as Pete Townsend (whom we have to thank for the Super Lead’s existence), Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jimi Hendrix are a few of the noteworthy greats that played through Marshall 1959 Super Lead Plexi heads.

Xotic-Effects-SL-Drive-Best-Marshall-Super-Lead-Bass-Pedal-02Capturing that sound in a pedal may seem impossible as there are so many variables that factor in to emulating this legendary amp. But the idea to me seems to be able make a great amp sound as close as possible to that famous Plexi sound at a tiny fraction of the price of an actual Marshall 1959, new or vintage. And there’s also the idea of just wanting to infuse your tone with a hint of that classic Marshall tone for a cutting edge modern, yet classic tone. The Xotic Effects SL Drive may be the key to all of that and more.

Let’s run down the features of this pedal, and test out the Xotic Effects SL Drive for a full review.


Tone, Drive, and Volume control knobs.

4 internal dip switches for adjusting between Super Lead and Super Bass modes, adjusting high/mid frequencies, and providing a +6db boost.

True Bypass for letting signal pass unaffected when disengaged.

Powered by 9-volt battery or 9VDC power adapter. Can also be run at 18-volts with the Xotic Voltage Doubler.

Visit Xotic for more info about the SL Drive.

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Sound & Performance:

I was waiting to try this pedal for months before its late Summer release. For my testing I played a Fender American Standard Stratocaster and a Gibson SG and started with a clean, flat amp setting.

With the Volume, Tone, and Drive controls set to noon, I activated the SL Drive and was projected into instant Marshall territory. There is a surge of Volume as this setting which you can roll back  if you want a signal closer to unity gain.

The sound of the SL Drive is very Plexi-like, although its authenticity will vary depending on what you plug the SL Drive into. There’s a very distinctive character to that classic Marshall sound that every guitarist is familiar with whether they know it or not. This pedal will certainly hijack your tone with that characteristic Super Lead flavor. It makes you instantly want to bust out your best Jimmy Page licks.

Xotic-Effects-SL-Drive-Best-Marshall-Super-Lead-Bass-Pedal-03The Drive knob gives you the full range of gain control expected from the classic Marshall head. You can roll back the knob for just a bit of overdriven warmth or push it up around noon for that distinctive Marshall crunch. Pushing the Drive knob towards 3 o’clock and beyond brings the gain to its peak for a fully saturated Marshall drive sound. On any of the grittier Drive settings, the SL Drive cleans up smoothly when you roll back your guitar’s volume knob.

While not complete with a full row of EQ knobs, the Tone control on the SL Drive will allow you to hone in the area of your sound that you want to accentuate with the pedal. Since the SL Drive is meant to be used with an amp, you can combine this pedal with your amp’s EQ section for maximum tonal flexibility. But you mustn’t underestimate the deep tonal shaping this pedal offers. Xotic Effects added 4 internal dip-switches inside the SL Drive to achieve the sound of the Super Lead and Super Bass heads with flexibility to tweak the high/mid frequencies to your personal tastes.

After spending a lot of time comparing the sound of all possible dip-switch combinations, I ended up settling on the original default position. The factory setting of the SL Drive seems to provide the most well-rounded character and is still adjustable with the Tone knob if you want to boost the highs or darken the overall sound.

If you treat this pedal like a preamp for essentially transforming your amp into a Marshall Super Lead infused hybrid, you can use boost and overdrive effects in front of it with an expected amp-like reaction. I found it especially pleasing to use Xotic’s own SP Compressor, BB Preamp, and EP Booster pedals to achieve some great sounds. Definitely try your overdrive of choice to create your own original sounds.

While the selling point of this pedal for many people may be to capture an authentic reproduction of the Marshall Super Lead or Super Bass, I find the SL Drive most interesting when used to infuse a different amp with some Marshall character for all-original hybrid amp sounds. Try it in front of your favorite tube amp or digital amp simulations. The SL Drive offers some great drive tones that might make it your Marshall-style distortion pedal of choice.

It seems like everything Xotic Effects puts into one of their micro enclosures is of the utmost quality. Not to be confused with the cheap, low-featured and sonically underwhelming efforts of many pedal makers trying to cash in on guitarists on a budget, the SL Drive, like the EP Booster and SP Compressor, is a top quality pedal for the most demanding professional musicians and tone connoisseurs.

UPDATE: I had a chance to got back and test the Xotic SL Drive with the Xotic Voltage Doubler (see video above). Essentially, running the SL Drive at 18-volts produces a slightly “hotter” sound. It gives the pedal added bite if you’re into the more aggressive or “hot-rodded” Marshall sounds. Definitely worth trying. If your power supply has an 18-volt output, try it with the SL Drive, or get an Xotic Voltage Doubler and run the pedal at 18-volts from a standard 9-volt output.

Let’s have the final result.



The Xotic Effects SL Drive continues the Xotic tradition of offering high quality effects for guitarists on any budget. If you’re looking for the best Marshall Super Lead/Bass sound in a stompbox format, definitely check out the SL Drive. The SL Drive is perfect for infusing your amp with Marshall-like character or using as your drive pedal of choice in front of a clean or dirty amp. The deep tonal contouring available in such a small pedal will ensure you find the perfect Marshall-style tones for your needs. If you’d like to add some of that classic Marshall sound to your rig, definitely check out the SL Drive.

That concludes our Xotic Effects SL Drive review. Thanks for reading.


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  1. This is a really nice pedal, with a punchy marshall distorsion. I tried it on a Vox ac 30 and it did the job quite well. If you don’t have much room in your pedalboard and want something good this can do the job. When money will rain I’ll get it!

  2. I will use use the above Strat clip audio as an introductory soundtrack to fantasy night with my wife. I’m 100 percent confident of a score. And play the Les Paul clip during the finishing move.

  3. I don’t have any overdrive pedals. noise/fuzz/distortion yes, but a true tone driver I do not. This one sounds like the one to try.

  4. My friend has about every overdrive pedal currently made and the funny thing is , he is totally enamored with this little Marshall in a box. Absolutely loves it and he is a tone fanatic like you have never seen.

  5. Great review like all I have seen yet!

    I really like the video examples so I am not just reading what it sounds like but also hear what it sounds like. All those three sound awesome but the drive pedal is my favorite!


  6. This Xotic pedal is great for lead tones. Very smooth. Even its smaller footprint is a good thing since it will fit right in my pedal board. The review of the pedal is great.
    Great job Xotic.

  7. The thing about the SL Drive is that it is actually what a guitarist is looking for tone-wise. It’s dynamic, natural and a real smoothness to it that makes is so easy for a (hard)working musician like myself to find the “sweet spot” you’re looking for. Whether you’re into country, rock, jazz, punk – it doesn’t matter. This pedal is what you need. I hope that Best Guitar Effects gives this pedal to (if not me then to) someone who really needs it because this is really one of the best pedals out there. Combine that pedal with the SP Compressor and you’ve got yourself THE tone.

  8. awww man this would be great for boosting the volume during some killer leads http://audiour.com/wc5ko51k 4:08
    The problem for me lies when the rhythm guitar is drowning the sound during solos which you want clearly and loudly heard. Sometimes I just turn up my amp but then I’m louder than the rhythm guitar and cant hear it the entire song… so yeah cant do that. Winning this contest would be a blessing from the sky !!! :D

  9. If its good enough for Guthrie Govan’s pedal board its good enough for me !

    nice and informative review, good job. I have a much better understanding of the pedal and its tone now.


  10. One tone I don’t have is the Marshall in a box, and this one sounds great. I especially like the idea of the small enclosure, since floor real estate is modest on many stages.


  11. Hands down one of if not the best Plexi in a box pedal out there. Who would have thought this little mini pedal would blow away pedals two and three times more expensive. Now if I can only win the contest for this january! Thanks.

  12. After reading the review, this pedal is EXACTLY what I need for my current board.
    The interesting dynamic this Booster will give me just may set me apart the way I have have looking for.
    Great review, keep up the good work. So nice to come to a site where you can find so much great information all in one spot!
    Hopefully I will be able to pick one of these up soon!

  13. This definitely sounds like a great pedal. From your review it seems like it will sound great and doesn’t take up much real estate on a much too small pedal board. Too many good pedals and not enough space.

  14. Sounds Amazing… a 1959 Marshall Super Lead in a miniturized package that also has the same characteristics of the famous Ross Compressor. How much should tone like those Holy grails put me back. Well hopefully not the ten grand or so for the Real McCoys that this pedal apparently emulates. Please allow me to let you know with MY REVIEW after being the lucky guitarist chosen for the XOTIC SL Compressor. I’d like to try out the THREE options for compression release also. Thanks for this Opportunity 3:-)

    • OOOppsss…In ALL The Confusion, I Commented On The Wrong Pedal erroneously leaving my comments for the SP Compressor on the SL Drive comments. Sooo My opinion about the SL DRIVE is that I do NOT have the pedal now but WANT to own one of each of these pedals so I can write a Proper review.

  15. I was skeptical of the smaller/compact pedals. After playing one, I was blown away.

    Half the size… double the sound quality.

  16. thanks for the giveaways and if it’s Xotic you know it’s gotta be good. I don’t have a Marshall type drive pedal in my arsenal and would appreciate the SL drive on my board!

  17. This pedal sounds awesome in demos! I have a Plexidrive and love it but for my smaller board would love, at some point, to get an SL drive.

  18. Hmmm………I bet, if played through the “clean” channel this would make for a great third gain tone for my amp. Me likey. Thanks again for doing the great reviews.

  19. I’ve got the SP compressor and it is one of the best pedals I’ve picked up, particularly in such a tight package. Would love to get this drive pedal on my board with it.

  20. I know this is based on the Superlead and Superbass Marshalls but I’d love to see how close I could get to a JTM45 type sound.

  21. No board should be without the EP Booster, the SL drive and the SP compressor, sadly enough my board is missing all three thanks to a thief that stole my board a couple days ago after our New Years gig…

  22. Love ya’ll’s work reviewing and demoing these products. Best support website on the net. I lean towards Drive Pedals and you’ve got me wanting this lil’ wonder, the Xotic Effects SL Drive.

    Thanks for your efforts,

  23. I would love to have a Marshall – like sound coming from my fender rig! This pedal sounds sick! I’ve got to get me one of these.

  24. Thank you so much for having these giveaways! I really dig this drive pedal, as well as these other Xotic pedals. I could really use any of these.

  25. Just picked up the SL drive last week, still foolin’ around with DIP switches. I run a PRS with Duncans into a Hughes & Kettner TM 36 and am having trouble getting either too little or too much bass response. Seems likely I’ll get this dialed in. Sounds more alive than my OCD did with this amp.

  26. Super Lead huh? Would love a pedal that could make my perfect fender clean go to that Marshall lead sound! I’m hearing that this pedal is then one. All reviews sound awesome.

  27. wow 4 internal dip switches in such a small enclosure – totally cool – I don’t have a Marshall anymore…. I’ll have to try this out

  28. This sounds like a pedal I need to try as I’m a huge fan of Hendrix,Page,Clapton and others who utilized Marshall amps to get their sound. I already own the EP Booster and BB Preamp and am very happy with the tones I can get from them. Xotic builds pedals of high quality.The SL Drive would make a nice addition to my pedalboard.

  29. One of the things I love about these Xotic pedals is the small size. They’re really good for tight spots on pedalboards.

  30. Interesting. I have a Sansamp GT2 that I have tried in front of my amp and it has a pleasing effect, though I haven’t used it in a DI situation yet (and that’s the point of it). But it’s also a bit noisy. I would be interested in checking this out.

  31. Seems like a cool pedal, perhaps it could give me some of the Hendrix sound through my Two Rock EXO 15… although, I do have a TC Electronic Mojo Mojo Overdrive, BOSS BD-2 Keeley phat mod and a Gigs Boson…. can one have too many overdrive pedals? :)

    Nice review!


  32. Xotic effects is a fine company.
    I have the EP, SP, & BB and all perform unique professional niches you can’t do without once u try them.
    I was most impressed that I didn’t hear much noise when u put the SL drive on full.
    Various crunch rhythm tones seem right on.
    Sustainy solos not sure.
    I’d love to put it side by side with Carl Martin single channel plexitone before purchasing:-)


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