Zendrive 1 Vs. Zendrive 2 (and the Mosferatu)

As wordpress is so awesome (for those of you who don’t know, I started this site on blog.com and it sucked very much a lot), you can actually see what people search to get to your blog. And one of the biggest searches is for the Zendrive overdrive pedal. The Zendrive is like the celebrity of boutique overdrives right now, I guess. I remember when Alfonso Hermida first started building them, they were like the underground sleeper pedal that was whispered about in hushed tones…not too loud, so as not to ruin the magic. Now, it’s become the kind of in-crowd password into the ‘handmade, boutique guitarist’ world. ‘Hey, nice board there. Have you tried the Zendrive?’ ‘Dude! I’ve so wanted to. I’m on the waiting list.’ There you go. You’re in the club. But if you would have answered, ‘The Zendrive? What’s that?’ Automatic shun. Seriously, I’ve unfortunately seen it happen; and, regrettably, probably done it a few times myself. We guitarists are such snobs. It’s terrible. But anyway, I’ve been so surprised at the popularity of this pedal. Oh, ya, and there is another response to that question. It’s: ‘Ya, I’ve tried the Zendrive, but it just didn’t do it for me.’ Then you are automatically worshiped, because you’re too good for the celebrity pedal.

So, a few months back, I got the Zendrive 1 and the Zendrive 2 (same pedal, but with a 12AX7 tube in it), just to see what all the hype was about. And they were both good, but…they didn’t really do it for me………… Just kidding. When I first tried them, I was really hoping those would be my sentiments, so that I could be hailed as the guitarist who not even ‘independently built handmade boutique junk was good enough for’, but alas, they unfortunately sounded really, really good. 

And then I ran across, the older brother of the Zendrives, the Mosferatu. Sounds almost like the same circuit, just able to achieve higher gain levels and stay saturated. I found the Zendrives to like to be in that low overdrive, bluesy range. They sounded fantastic, too, at higher gains; they just would get a little more raspy and less full up there. So when I tried the Mosferatu, it was like a higher gain Zendrive. And that’s the one I decided to keep, as that was the application I needed. If money was of no consequence, I’d still have one of the Zendrives as a bluesy overdrive pedal. But it has been rare (if at any time at all) in my life that money has been of no consequence. So I put together a little video of the two Zendrives demo’d together, and then promptly sold them. And it wasn’t until after I returned from the post office, that I actually listened to the video. And it sucked…very much so. More accurately, my playing sucked. And if you’ve seen my videos, you know I’m not the greatest player in the world, and that I also screw up and hit clunkers or tune in the middle of a demo, or what-not. I’m not too picky. But with this video…well, let’s just say I didn’t want to be responsible for single-handedly killing the Zendrive craze. It was that bad.

But this past week, I was finally able to get my hands on the Zendrive 1 and the Zendrive 2 again, and do some ‘better’ videos. Oh ya, and the Mosferatu, which I’ve already had. See, the Mosferatu is my favorite, but it still gets forgotten. It’s like Adam, U2’s bass player. You just always forget he’s there. Sometimes I play a game with myself while looking at U2 pictures. It’s called, ‘Find Adam.’ And it’s surprisingly challenging. And you can play too, whilst gazing at photos of your favorite band (again, it’s entirely possible that I’m the only one who ‘gazes’ at photos of their favorite bands). Just find out who the bass player is, and then try to find him or her in the various photos. And if the band has a keyboardist (who isn’t the lead singer), then score! That adds a whole new level of difficulty. And bassists and keyboardists, again, my apologies. I love you, and everyone would go ‘What happened to the music?!’ if you weren’t there. But when you are there…well, you get the picture. It’s the life you chose.

Anyway, here’s the demo videos of the Hermida Audio overdrive pedals, the Zendrive 1, the Zendrive 2, and the Mosferatu. And for the interested parties, the Zen 2 has a Tung Sol tube in it, as opposed to the stock one.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

So hopefully the videos showed what they can do, and the differences between them. But to summarize, I’ll just say they are all 3 incredibly sounding pedals, in my humble opinion. Very lifelike, dynamic, and able to let your guitar’s and amp’s tones shine through, while adding their own respective flavors of really full-bodied, yet clear, overdrive. Here’s the rundown:

Zendrive 2: probably the bluesiest of the bunch, and the most amp-like. Good for low overdriven, saggy tones, and great dynamic response. Very touch sensitive, and if an amp’s bluesy, low overdriven tube sound is what you’re after, I’ve yet to hear a pedal like this one. Also has a blue led, which adds a lot to the tone…in my mind. Love those blue led’s.

Mosferatu: probably the best for a high gain, overdrive/distortion sound. Retains its full character at high gain settings. Can also do low gain settings very nicely. Some say this pedal in essence, ‘has a Zendrive in it’, meaning it can sound just like a Zendrive, but also get the high gain stuff. I didn’t think it was right on with sounding like a Zen at low gain settings, but it did sound great at low gains, with its own character. It also really opens up at 12 volts, as opposed to the 9. And it has a red led, which sucks, because I love this pedal.

Zendrive 1: probably somewhere in between the Zen 2 and the Mosferatu. Excels at bluesy, low overdrive sounds, but is a little stauncher sounding than the Zendrive 2, with less sag. This isn’t good or bad, it’s just for whatever your preference is. And it can cop some high gain sounds…not quite as good as the Mos, but still very good. Again, opens up and gets a lot more clean headroom when run at 12 volts. And another beautiful, blue led. Just shines.

And for what it’s worth, I’m keeping the Mosferatu. 🙂 But everyone’s different. Not everyone’s right, but everyone’s different. hehe I’m kidding, of course. If I had the money, I’d be keeping all of them. Maybe not to play, but at least to gaze at. Cuddle with only every once in a while. 


27 thoughts on “Zendrive 1 Vs. Zendrive 2 (and the Mosferatu)

  1. Heh, i can’t believe you beat me to it!
    I had a similar post/problem.
    You tube screwed my last post (they JUST put a limit of how long the vid can be: 10mins, and mine was 10:20). So I had to rerecord, my battery went out, i was out of tune when I started- then forgot what I was going to play—

    demo of the Zen, Mos, Distortion…. I listened to it, and it sucked more than it should’ve (but it was the 4th time I recorded due to other factors). Hehe…

    And then I just mailed off the Mos to a nice buyer, and I’m stuck with the vid. So I’m going to post with a big “i’m sorry it sucks, chalk it up to being my first vid!”


  2. btw, i love your list of tags for this article: Amp-like Overdrive, gear demo, Hermida Audio pedals, Mosferatu, U2, Zendrive 1, Zendrive 2

    whoa, U2? hehe

  3. automatic shun? haha! that’s hilarious man 🙂

    just tried out my Zendrive this morning which came in the mail while i was away on holidays. it sounds very good indeed! i love how smooth the gain knob is and the way it reacts as if you are rolling down the volume knob on the guitar. although i must say that my Seymour Duncan SFX-03 sounded very similar to it.

  4. Larry–bummer, bro! I can’t wait to hear your videos, too. And try experimenting with different camera placement, too…I’ve discovered that it’s kind of the same as mic placement. hehe 🙂

    And ya, I just started tagging the posts, and I tagged U2 because of my little tangent their way in the middle of this post. It’ll be horrifying later to go back and see how many posts mention U2 when the posts themselves have nothing to do with them. I have man-crushes…I’ll admit it. hehe 🙂

    Rhoy–good to have you back, bro! And congrats on the Zendrive! Your Seymour Duncan comment is interesting…do you still have it to compare side by side?

  5. hey karl, thanks for the welcome back and the note on my blog!

    yes i still have the seymour duncan in my board. my comment is based only on about 1/2 hour with the zendrive and another 1/2 side-by-side with the sd sfx-03 & the voodoo labs sparkle drive as well. i have to spend more time with these 3 to figure out how am i going to use them in context to what we do in the band.

    will let definitely let you know once i have more mileage with it.

  6. Great post Karl. Although I’m at work with our ridiculously low-band dsl ( a slight notch better than dial-up) and can’t download the videos without crashing our network. (did I mention that I work in the heart of Silicon Valley?) I can still hear them in my mind however. Well, except the Zen2. I’ll give it a listen when I get home tonight.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I have a Zen 1 and a Mosferatu. Independent they are amazing – but stack em… oh boy oh boy.

    But now – I’ve gone right over the top. I now have Alf’s new “Distortion” which follows the Mosferatu. Every once in a while, when no one is home, and the neighbors are out to dinner – I secretly turn on all three. OH the blissful sustain and feedback that ensues. My hollowbody vibrates, shudders, and shimmers. My Les Paul rides the noise like a surfer riding a killer wave. My Jackson greedily gobbles up the glorious tones.

    Ok, so all three together is completely useless for worship. But i used the new Distortion just this last Sunday and it was mighty fine. Another very distinct pedal from Alf Hermida.

    I also have a “timmy” following all that. I’m still not quite sure what to do with it yet. I’m getting there though.

  7. Rhoy–definitely looking forward to hearing a definitive review on that! 🙂

    Tom–amazing. I’d love to hear that! haha You know, every once in a while for worship, I’ll get to stack fuzz pedals. On their own, the sustain and gain would be way too much. But it sounds so good, that if I turn my volume pedal on, and swell into the sound of the stacked fuzzes, I can get that sustained sound, but controllable. hehe Sorry, I’m just so stoked on the fact that you have and use ion your board 3 Hermida pedals (!), I’m thinking of any and all ways to use them in worship! haha 🙂

    And congrats on the Timmy!!

  8. Gtoma– agree— the Distortion pedal from Alf is awesome. I stack it and the Zen and it is bliss.
    Sorry to disagree with the Mos, it was too much like the Zen for me. I chose the sound I thought I would use the most then sold the Zen. I think they are too close to have both of them.
    BUt man, that Distortion is awesome. I played a couple of riffs last Sunday with that and It sounded the way my mind always said it was supposed to sound like!

  9. Hehe… hope you like it brother! 🙂
    Like i said it is close to the Zen for me…. I either would have the zen or the mos.
    The main difference is are you playing more low gain stuff, or using deeper gain?
    Answer that and take the proper choice then stack into the Distortion pedal— WHOA.

    hehe, feeback never sounded sooo… pretty.

  10. Hey Karl! I’ve been looking and reading on your site for the last couple weeks and I have to admit, its amazing! Its awesome that there is actually someone that shares the ridiculous obsession I have with U2. So, now that I have worked up the courage to post something, I will pose a question for you. So, I have the ts-9 tubescreamer and am looking to upgrade/add to my overdriven sounds. So is the zendrive going to be a good addition? Will it give me different sounds from the tubescreamer or is there something you suggest that would better contrast with the sound of a tubescreamer? I’m running it through a hot rod deluxe by the way.

    -Thanks a ton!

  11. I’m with Blake when it comes to the questions along with the appreciation. Waiting for your reply.


  12. Javier–thanks, bro. And sorry I saw your comment so late!!

    Blake–ah! Sorry to totally miss this comment! I think this is probably irrelevant now, but the Zen will give you a much more bluesy and real sounding drive than the tubescreamer. I think it’d be a great addition! 🙂

    Cjay–thanks, bro! 🙂

  13. what if the zendrive 2 uses the tube only in the clippingfeedback, and the circuit is the sameas zendrive 1.. anyway ALF is a genius… go buy the pedal .. sounds great…

    • Is that what’s going on in the circuit? I’m not a tech, and never opened the pedal. It does kind of sound like it’s just used in the clipping, though. Gives it that more amp-like feel as you push it. Either way, I agree, all 3 are fabulous pedals. 🙂

  14. It seems like these pedals have a HUGE amount of background noise when the guitar isn’t playing.

    Any comment on that?

    • I’d wager that’s the guitar (pretty much all strats have noise in the bridge or neck p/u position) and not the pedals. It’s probably a little more pronounced when they’re on because they’re, well, over drives.

  15. Jodo–they don’t seem to be any noisier in idle than any other overdrives I’ve played. The strat I was playing in this video though, was a particularly noisy guitar. Vintage spec single coils. hehe

    Ken–yep! haha You said that better than I ever could have. 🙂

  16. I have had all 3, and like the Zen Drive 2 the best. Mosfaratu is more of a lead pedal, Zen Drive 2 more of a bluesy pedal. I Ebay’d Zen Drive 1 because there was too much overlap. All three pedals have MONSTER volume. The Zen Drive 2 has a lot of low end.

  17. I agree with your assessment completely, actually! Mosferatu was my favorite for leads, but I’m beginning to think I need one of the Zen’s again.

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