Warm, articulate, natural overdrive and distortion tones offer an alternative to the same old OD blues. The PG Cascade Hosstortion review.
A characterful overdrive with great touch sensitivity, excellent clarity, and versatile EQ. An able recreation of a hard-to-find classic.
No major negatives, but it's worth knowing whether a MOSFET overdrive is your cup of tea before spending the cash on this one.
Cascade Pedals Hosstortion
Ease of Use:
Cascade, a creative pedal maker based in the western North Carolina town of Asheville, builds a lot of custom stomps. The Hosstortion, however, is a new entry into its growing production lineup. The circuit, as Cascade main-man Charlie Mostoller tells us, is a “modern reimagining" of the rare and sought-after Ibanez MT10 Mostortion pedal of the early '90s, a MOSFET-based distortion-overdrive beloved for its thick, warm mids, biting clarity, and walloping low end.
Although the CMOS op-amps used in the original Ibanez were discontinued 15 years ago, the creation of powerful new BiMOS chips enables Cascade to re-cast the Ibanez formula with more gain, while retaining the versatile EQ and basic voice of the MT10. Further nods to modern performance include a bipolar charge pump for added headroom and lower noise, and premium true-bypass switching.
Cascade's custom enclosures can be pretty creative. The company's Scooby-Doo Fuzz, for example, is housed in a repurposed toy Mystery Machine. The Hosstortion, however, is built in a standard enclosure and finished in striking sour-apple-green metallic with graphics that echo the MT10's original design motif. (Sadly, Cascade didn't use the Pac-Man-style knobs that distinguished the MT10.) Controls include dirt (gain), level, high, mid, and low. The bypass switch is held tight by an anodized lug nut. Cascade warns that the Hosstortion should only be used with a 9V center-negative power supply, and there's no 9V battery option.
It's worth noting that although the pedal has “distortion" in its name, it's not meant to be a screaming high-gain metal machine, but more of a medium-gain overdrive, or a vintage-style low-gain distortion. Starting at low gain settings reminds you that good MOSFET overdrives possess many distinct, individual characteristics. (Marshall famously used MOSFET overdrive to get as close to possible to tube-style distortion in their '80s solid-state amps, which have fans to this day.)
Even at conservative settings on the gain knob (around 9 to 10 o'clock), the Mosstortion is thick, rich, and juicy, and it's great for goosing a Tele-style bridge pickup into slightly gnarlier twang zones. And in this way, it's a fantastic pedal for switching on and forgetting—adding depth and personality to an amp when you can't crank it up into its sweet spot.
Throughout its gain and EQ ranges, the Hosstortion consistently delivers a very enjoyable blend of articulation, girth, and, at times, a raw edge that lends texture without getting harsh or blocky. Higher gain settings elicit smooth complex-but-saturated overdrive that tends more toward singing solos or chunky power chords, while retaining an edgy bark that is signature MOSFET. Even with the gain up to 3 o'clock, it's still extremely transparent. It's also very responsive to guitar volume attenuation, leaving you with a beefy but characterful near-clean tone when you turn down.
I don't have an original Ibanez MT10 on hand to A/B with the Hosstortion (and acquiring one on the vintage market would probably cost $400 to $600), but to the extent that memory serves me, the Hosstortion sounds and feels much like the Mostortion that I occasionally played in the late '90s, and it's an impressive encapsulation of the natural, warm-to-mildly-aggressive tones and response that made MOSFET overdrives appealing in the first place.
The Hosstortion isn't just a ruggedly built and cleverly conceived reimagining of the iconic Ibanez Mostortion of the early '90s. It's a characterful and dynamic overdrive by any measure. It maintains surprising transparency amid the thick, rich textured voicing, and it's an excellent alternative to the more ubiquitous TS-style template.
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