This year, Boss has been releasing new stompboxes at a prodigious pace: two at Winter NAMM and three at Summer NAMM. All are reinventions of older Boss pedals. The DS-1X, released along with the OD-1X in January, is a revamped digital version of the DS-1. How does it compare to its predecessor? We tested them head to head as part of this review. read more…
On the occasion of our recently published Palmer Mutterstolz distortion pedal review, your favorite website decided to revisit some of the German brand's Root Effects, and here we review Automat, an analog distortion/auto-wah that saw the light of day in February 2012. read more…
Back in the day when fluorescent colors were in fashion, amps resembled fridges, all the songs on the radio had a guitar solo after the second chorus, and the Berlin Wall was still standing (Bingo!, the '80s), German brand Palmer made a name for itself among guitar players with products such as the very popular PI-03 speaker simulator in rack format with a gray and austere front panel. read more…
User reviews on Distortion products
Classic and Modern Metal Tones under one hood (nUX - Metal Core)
By MGR/Brian Johnston, 19/05/2019
You can produce two styles of tone/sounds with Metal Core: ‘classic’ that it emulates a 1980s style of Metal and ‘modern’ that emulates a more current Thrash Metal tone.
Regardless, the classic setting is pretty hard hitting and sits well with modern styles of heavy music. The modern setting has a touch more saturation and aggression. Both resulting tones have that high-energy sizzle, as opposed to a chunkier or meatier quality, like a Friedman amp or pedal. And certainly the adjustment of the Bass and Treble tone controls make a huge difference in what you hear, to the point that a slight turn of either suddenly becomes more pleasing or less pleasing to the ear (relative to the tone you’re trying to achieve). Fortunately there’s a ‘patch save’ option, to allow for the saving of one patch (of either the classic or modern setting). What also should be obvious is that different cabinets and microphones make a difference as well. In the accompanying demo I ran the Metal Core into the NUX Solid Studio (amp/cab simulator with various microphones). I went through only the Marshall 1960 4x12 with the same amp tubes (EL34) and microphone placement (center), but worked through all the various microphones (8 total) with some tweaking of the Gain, Bass and Treble of the Metal Core to offer some variation. I did this for both classic and modern settings. In many instances it sounds like a completely different pedal, which suggests the Metal Core could very well be an ideal inclusion on a Metal Head’s pedalboard and particularly if using a cab-sim to achieve different sounds.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Metal Core is a great bargain at $99 USD, and a usual offering from NUX (good quality and sound with very affordable pricing). Most Metal-based pedals offer one voicing while using Gain and Tone controls to sculpt the sound; conversely, Metal Core offers two voices, one that is more ‘classic’ or 1980s (thicker and heavier) and the other more ‘modern’ (biting and aggressive). Once you find an ideal tone you can save the patch (one only), and even find it later (through a switch and knob turning process) if you forget what the settings were and you set the controls differently thereafter. The Tone controls are extreme, in that you get a lot of variations in sound output with a lot of Bass and/or Treble, but more obvious is that a slight tweaking of either by a millimeter or two makes an obvious difference in tone output (which is why the patch save is important). There is great volume output with Metal Core and it does sound excellent with the NUX Solid Studio (particularly the Marshall 1960 4x12), suggesting that Metal Core’s development was done in part to work with other NUX gear (or vice versa). Regardless, Metal Core also sounds excellent and ‘current’ (not outdated like some Metal pedals) with other amp-cab simulators. If you like a hard-hitting tone that adjusts from thick to aggressive, then Metal Core is an excellent choice at an excellent price.
GENERAL USE: Simple enough to use, but the differences in tone achieved by tweaking the Bass and Treble in small increments is blatant. A good place to start is with both in the middle or 12-noon. From there Metal Core is very fun to use and you can’t help but chug as you experiment with the settings. Dialing in a lot of Bass or very little Bass, or a lot of Treble or very little does not result in anything too extreme (e.g., excessive muffle or brittle high-ends), but how those two work together is a sweet dance and relative to the amp-cab-mic used. The Gain is obvious even when turned all the way down, but hits a sweet spot between 10-o’clock and 1-o’clock; a good amount of drive, bite and clarity without too much saturation. The Volume control does make a difference, although it depends on what your other gear is set at, and so perhaps start with it at the 9-o’clock position. Lastly, do try fiddling with your guitar’s volume knob, as having Metal Core cranked and aggressive still produces some good crunch tones with the guitar’s volume dialed back half-way.
OTHER DETAILS: Metal Core is a regular-sized pedal, measuring 122 mm (L) x 72mm (W) x 47mm (H) with knobs (4.4 x 2.8 x 1.8 inches) and weighing 270g (9.5oz). It produces good quality sound with a sampling frequency of 44.1 kHz, signal processing at 32-bit and with an analog-to-digital conversion of 24-bit. The heavy duty black aluminum chassis has a silver face plate with white lettering. The four plastic knobs are of standard or typical quality and should withstand normal use and abuse. All knobs have good quality pots (smooth and solid when turned and no static-type noise). The footswitch (on/off) is a soft switch, viz., no click when engaged or disengaged – there is no popping or significant signal noise when switching. The toggle switch to select classic vs. modern Metal tones is solid when utilized. The cable input/output both are located on the sides and the power input is located in the back (some care to be taken when stomping to prevent damage to the ¼-inch jacks). Metal Core does run on a 9V battery if desired, accessed easily by a cover in the bottom (no screwdriver required). It also operates on a standard 9VDC power supply while requiring 7mA of current.
Boutique Flavor that Ranges from Easy Rock to Hard Rock (Doc Music Station - Dark Blue II)
By MGR/Brian Johnston, 12/06/2019
A classic sounding distortion, Dark Blue II produces a very decent range in output and drive. When the Distortion is low there is some grain to the tone and a hint of bite.
Once past 12-noon, however, and the Distortion has a fatter and grainier quality and remains surprisingly clear in the mix even when maxed out. Now, there are two stages or modes of distortion: Symmetric (II) and Asymmetric (I), the former of which has a warmer and more classic distortion sound, whereas the latter has a touch more saturation and sizzle. Overall, Dark Blue II is meant to provide a slight edge to your tone at the very least and hard rock when cranked if you decide to go there. It may not be a hi-gain pedal in the modern sense, but it does a good job at pushing an already dirty amp or signal (with Dark Blue II’s Distortion around 9-10 o’clock). As well, it cleans up nicely when dialing back on a guitar’s volume (a heavy rock tone can sound more easy rock). Both of these aspects are demonstrated in the accompanying video.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: An upgrade from the original Dark Blue, the new version of this pedal includes an input circuit to work under compression and to clarify the distortion (so that it cuts better in the mix and retains its tonal characteristics). This distortion pedal is based on a JEFT OP amp TL072 – this means plenty of warm and grainy textures to drive your signal. At 189 Euro it is a typically-priced pedal that has excellent quality of sound with a boutique flavor. You can choose either a warmer distortion or a tighter and more aggressive distortion via a toggle switch (selecting from a symmetrical to an asymmetrical distortion). The tone cleans up well when you crank the distortion and dial back on your guitar’s volume, and also adds a delicious bite to an already driven signal (while keeping Dark Blue II’s distortion around the 9-10 o’clock mark). Rhythms are very chunky and thick with a tight bottom end, whereas lead lines sound full and harmonically rich.
GENERAL USE: Dark Blue II is simple to use. The Level knob controls how loud you want the signal, and Dark Blue II does have some serious headroom and volume (start with this set at 9-o’clock). The Tone knob controls the degree of bass and treble in the signal and does not seem to exaggerate any particular aspect (the bass does not sound excessively fat and the treble does not sound shrill). The Distortion knob controls how much grain and drive you want, which varies from very modest at around 9-o’clock to exceptionally thick and heavy when cranked full. As well, you can decide on whether you want that distortion to sound more aggressive and saturated with the ‘I’ position (asymmetrical) or warmer and fatter with the ‘II’ position (symmetrical).
OTHER DETAILS: A standard-sized pedal, Dark Blue II measures about 113 mm (L) x 67mm (W) x 48mm (H) or 4.4 x 2.5 x 1.88 inches, and weighs 230g/8oz. The heavy-duty metal chassis has eye-catching alphabet graphics with white knobs. The three knobs (Distortion, Level and Tone) are heavy plastic and will withstand normal use and abuse. The toggle switch that controls the type of Distortion (Symmetrical vs Asymmetrical) has decent stiffness and snap when clicked from one position to the next. All knobs have exceptional quality pots (smooth and very solid when turned without any static or noise). The footswitch (on/off) produces a solid click when engaged or disengaged. The toggle switch is next to the Tone knob and is safe from a stomping foot. The output circuit has been redesigned from the original Dark Blue to increase output level, but also boasts high-end audio components (carbon resistors and Panasonic, Wima and Silver Mica capacitors), true-bypass Neutrik jacks, Alpha 16mm faders, and is protected against overvoltage and reverse polarity. The cable input/output and power supply all are located along the sides, and so some modest care is to be taken when used (to prevent foot slippage and possible chord input/output/power output damage). Dark Blue II does not run on batteries and requires a 9VDC power supply (I suspect under 100mA of power, although not clarified on Doc Music Station’s site).
Heavy & Thick Distortion (Doc Music Station - Meuf II)
By MGR/Brian Johnston, 18/06/2019
A thick and heavy fuzz-type distortion (more distortion than fuzz, but definitely characteristics of both), Meuf II has a good amount of Distortion even when turned low.
On a clean channel it sounds grainy and thick with a touch of sizzle (very clear in the mix, even when turned up beyond 12-noon), making it an unmistakable distortion-fuzz combination. The tone becomes more saturated and thick around the 1-o’clock mark and beyond. The Tone knob ranges from a heavy and slightly ‘muffled’ or dark low with the bass full to a very clear tone (no shrill) when treble is full. Similar tonal characteristics are true if used on a dirty channel, although the amp would affect Meuf II more due to combining dirt from both sources. If used on a dirty channel, I suggest the amp’s gain ranges between 9-o’clock and 12-noon (and not too much higher), since Meuf II is fairly brutal. In the demo example I had The Kraken V4 Preamp around 12-noon, which was not at its ‘heaviest’ (being around 2-o’clock), but once I added the Meuf II at only 8-o’clock Distortion the tone fattened up with a grainy growl that made The Kraken more beastly.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Based on the Ram’s Head schematic, Meuf II has a dual-stage distortion that produces massive gain and great sustain. This second version of the Meuf pedal also has a bias adjustment to manage the attack and aggression so that the tone cuts through the mix better – you get a heavy grainy distortion with a fairly tight bottom end. At 189 Euro Meuf II is a typical priced pedal that is meant to work with clean amp channels. Although it can be applied to a dirty channel (with the pedal’s distortion on low), Meuf II really shines with its distortion cranked beyond 10-o’clock. Nonetheless, if you keep the gain on a dirty amp within reason (12-noon or less) you can add a hefty dose of thick dirt that sounds very nasty in a good way. Although this is part of the ‘fuzz’ collection by Doc Music Station, it does stand apart from the other offerings since it also combines an obvious distortion quality, thus making Meuf II a hybrid distortion-fuzz meant for hard rock and metal music.
GENERAL USE: Even on low Meuf II has some fairly serious distortion. And so, if you want moderate dirt then keep the Distortion around 8-9 o’clock and with the Level (volume) about 10-o’clock to start. If your amp is fairly clean and you want a harder driving tone, then begin at 12-o’clock (keep the Level around 10 and adjust accordingly). For a very dirty amp, I would keep the amp’s gain no higher than 10-o’clock with Meuf II’s Distortion at 8-o’clock (up just a touch). I then would tweak both the amp’s gain and Meuf II’s Distortion until achieving the desired dirty growl and thickness. I find the pedal’s Tone to sound pretty good around 1-o’clock, although this depends whether your amp/speaker(s) are dark or bright; consequently, I would start with the Tone knob at 12-noon and adjust from there.
OTHER DETAILS: A standard-sized pedal, Meuf II measures about 113 mm (L) x 67mm (W) x 48mm (H) or 4.4 x 2.5 x 1.88 inches, and weighs 230g/8oz. The heavy-duty aluminum chassis is powder coated a dark blue pattern with white lettering and multi-colored knobs. The three knobs (Distortion, Level and Tone) are heavy plastic and will withstand normal use and abuse. All knobs have exceptional quality pots (smooth and very solid when turned without any static or noise). The footswitch (on/off) produces a solid click when engaged or disengaged without any unusual popping or noise. The chassis is a Hammond 1590B aluminum case that provides shielding of the electronic card. As well, Meuf II also includes high-end audio components (carbon resistors and Panasonic, Wima and Silver Mica capacitors), true-bypass Neutrik jacks, Alpha 16mm faders, and is protected against overvoltage and reverse polarity. The cable input/output and power supply all are located along the sides, and so some modest care is to be taken when used (to prevent foot slippage and possible chord input/output/power output damage). Meuf II does not run on batteries and requires a 9VDC power supply.