The Nova Drift Pedal by ALABS is a high-quality modulation guitar pedal with 9 different modulation types, selectable bypass modes, and an interesting automated mode.
In this review, I’ll walk through the main features, what the different modulations sound like, and how you can use this pedal.
ALABS Nova Drift Pedal Features
The Nova Drift pedal is one of four debut pedals in the “Adam Adventures” series from ALABS. All four pedals pack a lot of features and selectable modes, which gives you a lot of flexibility over the effects.
Check out my reviews of the other three pedals in this series here:
Here are the main features of the Nova Drift modulation pedal:
- 9 Modulation Types: Vibe, Chorus, Multi-Chorus, Phaser, Filter, Rotary, Flanger, Tremolo, Ring
- 32-bit Digital Signal Processor
- True Stereo Input and Output
- 5 controllable parameters (rate, depth, mix, tone, X)
- Tap tempo mode (with two beat division options)
- Automated expression control mode
- Selectable Analog Buffer Bypass or True Bypass Modes
- Analog Dry-Through
- External Power Supply Only (not included)
- 250 mA power draw (9V)
ALABS Nova Drift Pedal Ease of Use
All four of the “Adam Adventures” pedals have a similar set of features, so if you’ve read my reviews on the other three pedals (links at the top of this review), you’ll have a good idea of what to expect here.
The Nova Drift pedal is quite easy to use once you understand how to access the different footswitch modes. It’s not as straightforward as a typical modulation pedal due to the number of effects built in, but it is quite easy to dial in good sounds for every modulation type.
There are nine different modulation effects built into the Nova Drift. You can access them with the modulation type knob as shown below:
The modulation types are: Vibe, Chorus, Multi-Chorus, Phaser, Filter, Rotary, Flanger, Tremolo, and Ring.
I demonstrate all nine modulation types later in this review.
Once you set the type of modulation, you can control five different parameters for each effect: rate, depth, mix, tone, and X.
The X parameter is a different parameter for each modulation type. For example, it controls the regen function for the Vibe, Phaser, and Flanger. The handy manual included with the pedal has a table that explains what each knob controls for each modulation type.
The only thing that isn’t obvious at first with this pedal (and the other three pedals in this series) is how to access the X/Tone parameters.
As shown in the below photo, one knob controls both the X and Tone parameters:
The position of the toggle switch to the right sets which parameter the knob controls.
So if the toggle switch is in the down position, the knob controls the Tone parameter.
If the toggle switch is in the up position, the knob controls the X parameter.
When you flick the toggle switch, the current parameter settings will be saved in the pedal’s memory.
Tap Tempo Mode
When the toggle switch is in the upper position (labeled ‘TAP’), you can enter a tap tempo mode.
Hold down the footswitch until the LED turns blue. This lets you know that the tap tempo mode has been activated.
You can then tap the footswitch to set the modulation rate.
After five seconds of inactivity, the pedal will exit the tap tempo mode.
It’s a very simple system and works well. If you leave the toggle switch in the upper position, you can enter tap tempo mode at any time by holding the footswitch down.
An interesting extra feature with the tap tempo mode is that you can choose between two different beat divisions: 1/4 or 1/3.
This is more of an advanced feature with a bit of a learning curve, but if you want to dial in the perfect rate for your modulation to match a song, it’s handy to have.
Creative ∞ Mode
The “∞” mode is a unique feature found on all four of the “Adam Adventures” series of pedals.
This mode lets the pedal memorize or “record” any changes you make to the Rate, Depth, Mix, and Tone knobs within 5 seconds. Then you can “playback” those exact changes at any time.
So for example, you can get the pedal to memorize gradually increasing the Depth from 0 to 100% over five seconds. Then when you activate the “playback”, you will hear the modulation’s depth gradually increase over the five seconds as you play your guitar. As you can imagine, this can produce some intense and interesting effects.
If you like the idea of changing a modulation’s settings on the fly and digging into trippy sounds, you may enjoy experimenting with this mode.
This mode takes this pedal from a simple pedal to use to something a bit more complicated that is hard to describe in text. But it’s an interesting feature you might want to experiment with if you like playing with wild effects.
The Nova Drift offers two different bypass modes: True Bypass with signal relay, and Analog buffered bypass.
The buffered bypass uses analog dry-through circuitry to keep your original signal intact.
The way this works is that your original tone is kept analog and the digital pitch-shifted signal is mixed in for the output.
This means your original signal doesn’t go through analog-digital and digital-analog (AD DA) converters. It’s a nice feature to see included on a pedal with a low price point.
Both True Bypass and Analog Buffer Bypass are selectable bypass modes, so you have the freedom to choose which mode you prefer.
ALABS Nova Drift Pedal Sound Quality
One aspect that stood out for me for each of the four “Adam Adentures” series of pedals is the sound quality of the effects. The Nova Drift was the last pedal I tested and it sounds just as good as the other three pedals.
I personally love modulation effects and regularly use them in my playing. Often multi-modulation pedals do a good job at giving you a variety of modulation types, but only an okay job when it comes to the quality of each effect. The Nova Drift fortunately doesn’t follow this trend. It offers a nice range of modulation types and each one gives you a great quality effect.
Here’s the Vibe modulation, first played with a lower rate, then again with a higher rate:
When compared to the rest of the clips below, you can hear how the vibe modulation has a slightly darker and warmer tone with less high end. Of course, you can adjust the tone knob to dial in the right tone for you.
The X knob adjusts the Vibe’s regen parameter.
Here’s the Chorus modulation, first played with a lower rate and depth, then again with a higher rate and depth:
The mix in all of these clips are 50/50 wet and dry, so if you feel the chorus is too much here, it’s easy to dial it down for more subtle effects.
I’m quite impressed by the quality of the chorus and it sounds great in stereo. In the second half of the clip, you can hear that turning up the depth and rate can turn the chorus into a very detuned effect.
The X knob controls the chorus’ delay parameter.
Here’s the Multi-Chorus modulation, first played with a lower rate and depth, then again with a higher rate and depth:
Compare this clip with the Chorus clip to hear the differences between the two chorus options.
The second half of the clip highlights how the Multi-Chorus effect feels deeper and wider compared to the Chorus effect.
The X knob controls the multi-chorus delay parameter.
Here’s the Phaser modulation, first played with a lower rate and depth, then again with a higher rate and depth, then finally with a low rate and high depth:
This phaser is based on a 6-stage JFET phaser.
What I like about this chorus is the amount of control you have over it. Typical phaser pedals only have a rate knob (eg: the MXR Phase 90), so it’s nice to be able to have more control over the sound of the phaser.
The X knob controls the phaser’s regen parameter which affects the feedback you hear as you play.
Here’s the Filter modulation, with the rate turned up after each chord:
This effect is based on a ladder VCF used in synthesizers.
With this effect, the Tone knob adjusts the base frequency of the filter sweep. I wasn’t thrilled with this effect until I learned that you need to dial in the right base frequency to get ideal results.
The X knob controls the filter’s resonance parameter.
Here’s the Rotary modulation, with the rate and depth turned up after each chord:
Listen to the entire clip above to hear how different the effect can sound as you adjust the knobs. The first example may sound just like a typical chorus effect, but as you adjust the rate and depth knobs, it becomes clear how different rotary effects can be.
The X knob controls the rotary’s drum mix parameter.
Here’s the Flanger modulation, with the rate and depth turned up after each chord:
Flanger is often an effect that overpowers your guitar tone – especially when used with distortion or overdrive. In these clean examples, you can hear how it turns from a simple and subtle shimmer to a wobbly and pulsating effect.
If you like experimenting with wild modulation effects, this flanger is great when combined with other pedals such as delay or reverb.
The X knob controls the flanger’s regen parameter.
Here’s the Tremolo modulation, with changes to the rate, depth, and X knobs after each chord:
Tremolo has a bit of a learning curve – especially if the pedal gives you options for different wave shapes.
While I produced quite a few different-sounding tremolo examples in the above clip, you can set up many more completely different sounds.
The Depth knob adjusts the wave shape and the X knob adjusts the duty ratio. Once you dial in a good-sounding wave shape using these two knobs, adjust the Rate knob to set up the right tempo for the effect.
Of course, you can use the TAP function to use the footswitch to set the tremolo rate, which may be a better option when you want your tremolo to match a song’s tempo.
Here’s the Ring modulation, with changes to the rate, depth, and X knobs after each chord:
Ring modulation is often unusable and I was quite surprised by how unique this ring modulation sounds compared to typical modulation pedals.
It may not be something I’d use, but I feel it’s more usable than the typical ring modulator. You can hear a sweeping/swirling effect that has been combined with the typical digital modulation sound.
Overall Impression of the ALABS Nova Drift Pedal
Just like the other three pedals in the “Adam Adventures” series by ALABS, the Nova Drift modulation pedal packs in a lot of features and high-quality effects.
All nine modulation types sound fantastic and far better than typical budget guitar pedals. The range of control you have over each modulation type often surpasses the level of control you get from standalone modulation pedals. For example, typical phaser pedals only give you a rate knob, while the Nova Drift lets you control rate, depth, regen, and tone. All effects are in full stereo, which sounds fantastic if you use a stereo rig.
Extra features like the selectable footswitch modes (tap tempo and creative), selectable bypass modes (True Bypass and Buffered Bypass), and analog dry through make this a premium quality pedal and a great price.
If you like the idea of experimenting with different modulation effects, I recommend the Nova Drift. Even if you’re only interested in a couple of types of modulation (eg: chorus and phaser), the quality of the modulation effects in this pedal surpasses most alternatives at this price.
ALABS Nova Drift Pedal Pros and Cons
Here are the main pros of the Nova Drift Modulation pedal:
- Fantastic price
- Excellent quality and variety of modulation types
- Great sounding stereo output
- Analog dry-through
Here are the main cons of the Nova Drift Modulation pedal:
- High power draw (check your power supply before connecting)
- Doesn’t include a power supply and isn’t battery compatible
How to Get the Most Out of the ALABS Nova Drift Pedal
Here are some tips to get the most out of the Nova Drift Modulation pedal:
- Use daisy chaining to power the pedal
- Use a suitable power supply
- Experiment with different placement of the pedal in your rig (also try in your amp’s FX loop)
- Use the pedal in a stereo rig
Learn more about all the different modulation types and all other types of effects in my Guitar Effects Course. The course is designed to help you identify different effects by ear and combine them together. This course will help you understand the differences in modulation types in this pedal and how to use them in different ways.