Menatone Fish Factory Review

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by e-flat, May 18, 2015.

  1. e-flat

    e-flat Supporting Member

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    I ordered a Menatone Fish Factory from the Custom Shop a while back and it arrived last week. I’ve had plenty of time to get used to the variety of sounds that this thing produces so I figured I’d write a short review.

    Gear-wise, I run Teles & an Esquire through a couple of different amps, but the main amp I use these days is one that I built which incorporates the front end of a Vox EF86 based design and the power section of a Tweed Pro running into a Weber Blue Dog 30 watt and Silver Bell 15 watt 12” alnico.

    I’ve owned a couple of Blue Collars (older 4 knob PTP versions, one Skinny guy and one Fat guy for you Menatone connoisseurs) but never had a chance to play a Red Snapper. After talking with Brian about the possibility of getting the Fish Factory in a custom red enclosure like the old Red Snappers, I decided to bite the bullet and order one… I really wanted the RS, so the BC was sort of just a bonus in my eyes.

    BLUE COLLAR: The 3 knob version of this circuit seems a bit more open in the midrange and a lot less compressed at low gain settings than my old 4 knob BCs. I was caught off guard by that, and I find myself getting a TON of use out of this side as a result. This thing does great medium gain sounds and the TONE pot really lets you cut pretty deep into the high end without muddying up the midrange. The mids in this unit are terrific… My past BCs were voiced with a really smokey, slightly dark midrange that sounded great but always felt a little too compressed with my already compressed sounding setup (cathode bias, saggy tube rectifier, alnico speakers). This BC cops most of the flavor of the BC midrange but feels looser and clearer in the mids with a very gradual taper on the GAIN pot. It really maintains just the right amount of midrange clarity with my setup without losing that cool “rounded” high end that is the classic BC sound. Some great compression really starts to kick in around 1:00 on the gain pot, and you can get into the same chewy, smokey OD sounds as the old BCs I’ve owned… The real treat though is the surprisingly open low gain tones on this side. So cool.

    RED SNAPPER: My hopes for the Red Snapper were pretty high as I’ve been trying to score an old 3 knobber for quite some time. I love a very light and natural overdrive with no artificial diode clipping artifacts for playing weird rhythm chords and getting into that “dirty clean” region where I spend most of my time. The Red Snapper is voiced for clarity and cut, and can be quite bright with a bright rig. What’s nice about this aspect of the RS is that I can run the BITE pot anywhere in its travel & get useable sounds… If I need to get a flat EQ when I’m running a tele bridge PU with my amp set bright, I can dial the pot down all the way with no ill effect…Still plenty of clarity and no harsh breakup. If I’m running a darker amp & darker guitar, the BITE pot really comes in handy to add cut & presence. The BITE feels more like a treble boosting control to me, at least with my rig --- Seems like it adds highs from about 9:00 up. Very nice.

    Breakup of the RS is extremely natural and gradual, and the EQ of the mids and lows is pretty close to flat…. It doesn’t hype any particular frequencies if you set it with the BITE low, but can really cut if you need it to.

    STACKED: Honestly, I wasn’t anticipating that I’d use the two sides stacked very often. After discovering the beautiful mid-gain sounds of the BC side, though, I have really come to use this feature a LOT. I set the RS up for a light gain with no volume bump, then the BC is set up for a low-medium gain with a very slight volume bump. The two combined gives me a TERRIFIC medium gain rhythm tone that is still dynamic and cleans up VERY well with the volume pot on my tele. Crank the gain up on the BC and you can really get into some great legato sustained notes with this combo.

    TWEAKS!!! (I can’t help myself…)

    I have a small boatload of ICs laying around from building my own stuff, so I figured I’d try some chip swapping since both sides are socketed. The FF is terrific as-is, so there’s really no need to go crazy with micro-analyzing the differences between chips…. I did find two that I really love just a touch more than the stock 4558s, so I figured I’d share.

    RS- The old standby Texas Instruments NE5532 sounds really, really good in here.

    BC- Burr Brown OPA2107 for the win. Most noticeable difference was at higher gain settings… a bit more focus & balanced EQ. (NOTE: I just looked these up at Mouser and they seem to be crazy expensive now? I swear I paid about $5 apiece for mine, but they are listed at $16 a pop now. At that price, keep the stock chip in! NE5532 was pretty close, too, and costs about a buck.) EDITED: OPA2107 doesn't like to drop below 9V... will be trying some new OPAMPS in this slot ;)

    For the size, price, and performance of this overdrive, I honestly think it is a terrific OD option that more folks should consider. You basically get 3 useable drive flavors for the price of your typical hand-made pedal. I’ve been running this in my chain lately with a Honey Bee after it for coloration, and I’ve lost count of how many cool sounds I can get from all of the stacked combinations.

    Thanks to Brian Mena for a terrific OD with a cool custom finish.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2015
  2. cbpickin

    cbpickin Tweed Supporting Member Silver Supporting Member

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    It is a great pedal. I use a TS into my Red Snapper for my overdrive sounds. I kick the TS on for a bit more gain and volume and it adds a little compression to help with sustain. Ultimately, I preferred the sound of my 4-knob Red Snapper, but the RS in the FF sounds just fine as well. The RS is given some respect, but I think it deserves a lot more whenever low gain options are discussed around here.
     
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  3. flantrax

    flantrax Supporting Member

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    How long did it take for you to get yours? I ordered one(stock white) about a month ago and nothing yet...really looking forward to it...I had one back in the day and always missed it...the new small footprint is great looking...Thanks for the review...
     
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  4. e-flat

    e-flat Supporting Member

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    If my mental math is correct, flantrax, it was just over a month. I think Brian had originally quoted me 2 weeks but things probably got busy around his shop or something. He was very responsive to my emails when I followed up with him to check the timeline... Maybe drop him a line to check?
    I'll bet you anything it's coming soon though! Pop in here and let me know what you think of it when you receive it!
     
  5. e-flat

    e-flat Supporting Member

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    cb,
    Has your 4 Knob RS beat out that sweet old 3 Knob PTP that you picked up?
     
  6. flantrax

    flantrax Supporting Member

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    Cool...thanks...yeah, he told me a couple weeks as well...but I thought the same thing that he got busy...I didn't want to bug him again...just curious on how long yours took...it looks insane in the Red...nice choice...
     
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  7. cbpickin

    cbpickin Tweed Supporting Member Silver Supporting Member

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    Yeah. I can get the same tones out of my 4-knob, plus some I can't get out of the 3-knob. The 3 knob has just a tad more mids, and the 4-knob seems a little more open.
     
  8. leighianson

    leighianson Supporting Member

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    I have a Gray ff on order and I can't wait. Thanks for the review
     
  9. fieldsroyal

    fieldsroyal Member

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    Greats review - I use an old white fish factory - some of my best gigs were played with just a fish factory for dirt - such a versatile unit.
     
  10. Clifton82

    Clifton82 Member

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    I have one now too. It is by far the best dual OD I have ever owned. Right now I have the Rockett Blue Note (favorite single OD to-date) running into the Fish Factory. What a great combination.

    I really want to try the Top Boost in a Can now for AC30 flavor.
     
  11. e-flat

    e-flat Supporting Member

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    For my taste, the TBIAC might be the best pedal that Brian makes. I fell in love with an old 5 knob back when that version was released and used it as my main OD for years. I later sold it to buy the 6 knob version, but didn't bond with it that well. I now own the small PTP 4 knob version (the series before his latest) and it is by far the best I've played. It does the chime / clean AC30 thing perfectly, but also gets the great mid-gain stuff and surprisingly will get into some hairy lead stuff as well (with some gritty fuzz when cranked)
     
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  12. Tonebender

    Tonebender Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the review!

    What's the construction like on these? Circuit board or ptp/eyelets?
     
  13. e-flat

    e-flat Supporting Member

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    These are PCB, Tonebender. Its a tight squeeze to get the board, jacks, etc in there but it still has room for a 9V battery.
     
  14. Tonebender

    Tonebender Supporting Member

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    Yeah, I figured..... Not to discredit the pedal at all.

    Always been really impressed with what Brian does.

    PCB or PTP -All good!
     
  15. e-flat

    e-flat Supporting Member

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    Agreed. Done right, PCB is just great for many circuits. The two Menatones I have & love right now are the FF and TBIAC.... My TBIAC is PTP small box, but sonically they are peers.

    I personally just hate working with most circuit boards when I'm building because they are dainty. Hah! Give me a big ol' turret or eyelet board and I'm happy. Lately if I do PCB its hand fabricated on G10 board with 2 oz copper trace. Burly stuff that is a pain in the ass to etch :)
     
  16. flantrax

    flantrax Supporting Member

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    I got my Fish Factory today...sounds killer...great versions of both channels...I've had a few different ones over the years and I really like how they're voiced...the Snapper side isn't super bright like some others I've had...now it's usable throughout the full Tone/Gain range...

    The BC is really nice as well...tons of range even though it's a 3 knob instead of the normal 4 knob...don't miss the Presence knob...

    Very impressed with this version...Brian was awesome to deal with...very responsive to emails...quick follow through...excellent experience all the way...
     
  17. dhdfoster

    dhdfoster Silver Supporting Member

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    I just got a Fish Factory from Truetone. Yes, I know I paid the regular price instead of his direct sales price, but the wait seems to be long from what I’ve read here.


    Anyway, I found it to be uncomfortably bright. I’m more of a rockabilly, country player who has no interest in creamy smooth Santana-esque tones, and I still find it piercing. It can be tamed somewhat with the tone knobs on the pedal and my amp, but I think it’s voiced oddly bright.


    Is this normal?
     
  18. Clifton82

    Clifton82 Member

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    It certainly is a BRIGHT OD no doubt. But the BITE knob will really tame the highs on the Red side. I love how it cuts in a mix however.

    I didn't find the Blue side quite as bright, but the TONE knob seems to work well.

    Usually TONE knobs on my OD pedals are near the top end, and on the FF - both are at noon or less most of the time.
     
  19. e-flat

    e-flat Supporting Member

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    I agree that the inherent character of both the Snapper and BC in the newest FFs is bright. I run a pretty bright rig, though, and just run the Bite / Tone knobs on each pretty low. For example, when I was playing earlier I had the Bite on the RS around 9:00 and the TONE on the BC around 10:00. I don't find that this kills the high end in either one, just keeps them in the same range of treble as my base clean sound.
     
  20. e-flat

    e-flat Supporting Member

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    I agree about the Blue Collar in this Fish Factory... I like it just a bit more than my old 4 knob PTP units I owned. Its a little less compressed, less congested at higher gain. Seems like Brian just kind of dialed in the Presence pot value that worked best to his ears and dropped it in as a fixed resistor (?).

    Simplicity: Dig it.
     

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