First Impressions: ProAnalog Devices Manticore v2 Overdrive / Distortion Pedal

Here’s something you don’t see every day. I recently picked up a second-hand Manticore v2, and spent a full week with it on the practice board at home.

How did I get on with it? Read on to find out.

This photo shows a ProAnalog Devices Manticore v2 pedal against a butcher's block wooden background. The pedal is finished in a very hard to photograph dark green.

The pedal's five controls are clearly visible: Level, Treble, Savage, Gain and Drive. Also visible is the single on/off stomp switch.

tl;dr

The Manticore v2 is one of the best-sounding pedals I’ve played to date, with an usual two-stage overdrive circuit and EQ control that delivers a stunning amount of clarity, and several sweet spots and sounds waiting for you to discover.

It has a severe low-end cut that robs it of warmth, and just enough built-in compression to limit your natural picking dynamics. To me, that puts this pedal in the ‘lead tone’ toolbox rather than the ‘rhythm guitar’ toolbox.

While it sounds great with Les Pauls and Telecasters, I found this pedal to be borderline magical with a Stratocaster.

I’ve never played anything quite like it, and I’m glad I have one. Just don’t buy it thinking it’s a Klon klone.

What Did You Buy?

I bought a second hand ProAnalog Devices Manticore v2, in an exceptionally difficult to photograph dark green finish.

Why Did You Buy It?

The original Manticore is often talked about as one of the best Klon klones out there on the market. As someone who really loves what the Klon can do, I’m always interested in trying out klones.

The other reason I bought it is because it’s a pretty rare pedal. I haven’t seen many of these turn up here on the second hand market, and with ProAnalog Devices having gone out of business over the summer, I’m not sure when/if I’ll see another one for sale.

ProAnalog Devices Are No More?

Yup, ‘fraid so. I couldn’t find an official notice anywhere about the reasons why, and while there’s plenty of speculation on the usual gear-related forums, I’d rather not post that here.

Suffice to say, it’s not because ProAnalog Devices made pedals that sound bad. Far from it.

How Does It Sound?

It sits somewhere between tweedy and fuzzy, without ever sounding like a tweed-tone pedal or sounding like a fuzz.

What makes it tweedy-ish? It’s got some of the mid-range of a tweed-tone pedal, but none of the warmth. The Manticore v2 has a pretty severe low cut on the output signal which gives it a coldness that I haven’t been able to dial out.

The overdrive has more attack than a tweed-tone pedal, without straying into Marshall-in-a-Box territory. To my ears, it completely nails that ‘fuzzy-because-it’s-overdriven cranked amp’ sound that I’ve seen used in some pedal manufacturers’ marketing over the years.

There’s a lot of flexibility here, due to the pedal having two gain stages and an unusual EQ control with the Savage control. I still haven’t figured out exactly what the Savage control is doing, to be honest.

Most pedals only have the one sweet spot, and the controls are there to help you dial in the pedal for the rest of your gear. The Manticore v2 isn’t like that. There’s a lot of different sounds in this pedal, and I’ve only just scratched the surface so far.

What’s It Like To Play?

There’s a couple of other points about the Manticore v2 that have stood out, even at this early stage.

The immediate thing that struck me was the clarity of the sound that comes out of this pedal. Each note has definition in a way that I don’t think I’ve come across before. It’s stunning.

Then there’s the compression. Even with low-output, vintage voiced humbuckers, this pedal compresses just enough that I can’t quite get a full range of dynamics out of it. More on this in a bit.

Is It A Klone?

Not to my ears, no. Not even close. Comparing it side by side with the real thing, the differences are stark.

It does have a mid-range boost at around 1 khz, just like the Klon does. But it has none of the Klon’s warmth, and the overdrive has none of the characteristics of the real thing. And that mid-range boost is pretty mild compared the Klon’s.

I’ve tried it as a boost pedal in front of other drive pedals, and it wasn’t for me. The low-end cut on the Manticore v2 is just too severe for that role, for my tastes anyway.

Is The Lack Of Low-End A Problem?

I think that depends on context.

In the room, just playing at home, the lack of low-end is quite stark. You’ll probably want to stick an EQ pedal after it (I used my MXR 10-band EQ, which is perfect for the job) to dial some warmth back in. And I mean “some”: it’s never going to get close to (say) the Lovepedal 5e3.

Just don’t boost around the 125 hz band, or you’ll rob the Manticore v2 of its magical clarity.

I haven’t tried it, but I’m confident that the Manticore v2 will shine in a mix or a live performance. That built-in low-end cut should help the Manticore v2 have a nice amount of separation from rhythm guitars and your bass and kick drum.

Why Use Post-EQ, Instead Of Pre-EQ?

The Manticore v2 seems to be a low input headroom pedal. As with the compression it provides, the input headroom is just low enough to make the Manticore difficult to boost with an EQ pedal in front of it.

Who Is This Pedal For?

Strat players. Unequivocally people who play with Fender Stratocasters.

That’s not to say it doesn’t work with other guitars. It sounds really good with any kind of guitar I’ve thrown at it so far. I expect to use this for lead guitar duties with both Les Pauls and Telecasters. It complements my favourite tweed-tone pedals really well, and I honestly expect to be perfect in a guitar-heavy mix.

There’s just something about it with Strats that’s on another level entirely. To my ears anyway, that’s where the voicing, the compression, and the overdrive characteristic just comes together in a way that’s borderline magical.

This might just be the best drive pedal for a Strat that I’ve played to date.

Are There Any Alternatives That Are Easier To Find?

Not that I know of, no.

The closest I could get was with an original Fulltone OCD with a lot of post-EQ (boost 1 khz, aggressively cut below 250 hz). It has a similar feel to the gain, but I can’t replicate the clarity of the Manticore v2.

Final Thoughts

For me, the Manticore v2 isn’t a pedal that’s going to stay on my pedal board all the time. As soon as I’d finished writing these first impressions over on Twitter, it came off the board and went back in its box.

I think it’s one of the best-sounding pedals I’ve ever played. So why have I taken it off the board?

I’m mostly going to use it for recording lead guitar parts. That’s something I rarely do, partly because I’m terrible at playing lead guitar, and partly because I haven’t recorded any music at home for months now.

It’s definitely a keeper. It’s just not an everyday pedal for me, a rhythm guitar player who’s more likely to be playing his Les Paul than anything else.

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